Great News! Access to Provincial Parks opens May 1

I don’t know if there’s any skiable snow left in the mountains, but you can find out tomorrow(Friday).

“Vehicle access to parking lots and staging areas in parks and on public lands will be opening on May 1.”

“No washrooms or garbage pickup will be available within provincial parks at this time. These services will be available as soon as Alberta Environment and Parks brings staff back.”

Physical distancing requirements of two metres will remain in place through all stages of relaunch and hygiene practices will continue to be required of businesses and individuals, along with instructions for Albertans to stay home when exhibiting symptoms such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat.

Read more: Relaunch strategy from Alberta government

Back to the Hayfield trails

Freddie says “hurry-up” on the Forest Loop

Apr 6, 2020

This is the first winter in 14 years where I didn’t have Tessa the springer spaniel as my sidekick, and I’ve been missing her more than words can say.

Christine loaned me her dog for the day, so I returned to the Hayfield trails yesterday, this time with Freddie the springer spaniel in tow.

Cat tail trail

The weather was very different from Saturday. It was overcast with a moderate wind, so seemed a lot colder than the -5°C which registered on the car thermometer. In the big meadows the tracks were drifted in and the wind was brisk, but once down in the forest it was a lovely day.

I skied trails which I didn’t ski on Saturday, including the Forest Loop and the Cat Tail trail. 

I only met one other skier on the trails but there were four more vehicles in the parking lot with skiers preparing to ski when we returned to the trailhead. One of them was the groomer who mentioned that he might get back out today and do some tracksetting.

I’m enjoying the trip reports and banter, and seeing how creative people are at finding places to ski, and the new phrases which are being coined such as “Covid ski zombies.” I expect this pandemic will spawn a lot of books and movies. 

Beautiful conditions for April 4

The trailhead

The trails were trackset this morning. This is not in a provincial park or provincial recreation area. I wish I could tell you where it is, but I don’t want them to be overwhelmed during the pandemic. 

For now, I will refer to them as the “Hayfield Trails.” I covered 7K today and didn’t ski them all. 

Trails run through forest and meadows

If we’re not all dead by the time ski season starts this fall(either by virus or obesity), I will be happy to give this area some publicity with the start of the new ski season. 

Bonus: it’s dog-friendly. 

The temperature in mid-afternoon was -7°C  with a beautiful blue sky and no wind. I waxed with VR45(-2/-8) and had excellent grip. Although the sun was shining bright, the snow did not deteriorate today. 

Seven days without skiing makes one weak. I’ve been sitting at home, going for neighbourhood walks, and eating too  much. Getting out on the ski trails was beneficial for both physical and mental health. 

Thanks to The Norseman Outdoor Specialist for the following…

“Outdoor activity is a key component in our life, and as we move through these challenging times, we can feel lost and like something is missing. The Outdoor Council of Canada put together an article with information about how to enjoy the outdoors safely during this period. Practice social distancing and stay safe.”

Outdoor activity in the time of Covid19

Thanks for the tracks

April 1, 2020

Where would we be without the guys and gals who spend hours on their snowmobiles and snowcats, grooming the trails for us, at ungodly hours, sometimes exposed to extreme cold? We’d be plowing through some pretty deep snow.

Canmore Nordic Centre. Photo by Chris McKenna

It never fails to get me excited when I arrive at a trailhead and see new tracks. We’re very fortunate to have dedicated tracksetters who take a lot of pride in their work and make the trails so enjoyable for us.  All skiers are thankful for the excellent work and all the up-to-the-minute reports which you’ve given us.

Tracksetter Jody with chainsaw

Back on Nov 25 at the Pocaterra hut, I encountered PLPP tracksetter Jody heading out on a snowmobile to do some early-season tree-clearing and roller-packing with chain saw and shovel in tow. I suggested that we should call him “Chainsaw Jody.” Little did I know that one month later, the chainsaw would be in daily use on all the trails to clear trees after the Dec 20-22 snow and ice storm. 

I’ve posted photos below, but I’d like to mention the names of those I know about, but don’t have pictures…

Linda – Shaganappi golf course

Jamie Grant – Confederation golf course

Adam Aldridge – Canmore Nordic Centre

Stephane Wiseman – Canmore Nordic Centre

I hope the people who are missing from the gallery of photos will send me a picture.

2019-2020 the best ever

West Bragg Creek Jan 2, 2020. Photo by Steve Riggs

I am confident in saying it was the best ski season in the 12 years that I’ve been doing this blog. Even with the sudden ending. I thought it was fitting to highlight this post with a photo from West Bragg Creek, where conditions were excellent for most of the winter. 

Castle Lookout to Baker Creek. Jan 11, 2020. Photo by Chuck

Two years ago(2017-2018), we had an excellent winter but I think 2019-2020 tops them all. 

We had early snow, and very little bad weather such as rain, excessive wind, or extended cold periods. I don’t recall any “defensive” skiing, luge tracks, or snow fleas. Probably the biggest inconvenience was occasional tree debris. In December, the ice storm brought down a lot of trees, but the trail crews were quick to clean it up. 

Bill Milne. Dec 24, 2019

Worst to first

Conditions one year ago, 2018-2019, were pretty sketchy and I considered it to be one of the poorer seasons. Things turned around this year, however, and I recorded more “Best Days” in my log book as a percentage of trips than ever before. A “Best Day” is when I consider conditions to be perfect. 

We’ve lost two or three weeks of skiing due to the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world. I truly hope all my readers are safe and taking precautions. 

The photos below are the third set I’ve posted with the help of the professionals from Best Website Hosting from this remarkable winter. If you missed the first set of photos which I posted a few days ago: The Year of Winter Wonderland

…and the second set: People and Animals Along the Ski Trail

Don’t ski here!

Briony and Lyen at Tyrwhitt/Pocaterra/Lookout junction

Mar 28, 2020

Thanks for all the “pandemic” comments. We have a lot of thoughtful people following this blog. 

My final ski trip of the season last evening was wonderful, but sad at the same time knowing it would be the last one of the season, and possibly forever. Continue reading

Chuck deserves our support

This pandemic is bringing out the worst in a few people who are willing to throw around insults when they don’t have a clue. Decisions are made with the information that’s available at the time. It’s disengenuous to criticize anyone for breaking rules which are actually not in effect. I received the following email from Chuck: Continue reading

Alberta Parks update

March 27 @ 10 pm

I know this is already old news, but below is what was posted on the Live Grooming Reports and goes into effect at midnight tonight.

“Vehicle access is temporarily suspended at access points to Alberta’s provincial parks and recreation areas for recreation purposes until further notice. The restrictions are in place to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

If a car is required to access a park or recreation area, these areas will not be available so make other plans. Although, walking, hiking, biking, horseback riding and off-highway vehicle use are still permitted on designated trails, access points will be limited.”

Continue reading