Success! Kananaskis Grooming Update

March 4, 2021: Nordiq Alberta sent out this news release today and it shows that $60,000 was raised in excess of the required amount. An additional $22,000 in donations was also raised. 

In the comments, tell us what you would do with the excess funds. Keep in mind the Ribbon Creek snowcat will need to be replaced  soon. Alberta Parks owns the Ribbon Creek Pisten-Bully but leases the PLPP cat. A low-hour used machine costs around $200,000. Leasing is somewhere around $70,000 per year. (If anyone has more accurate figures, please let us know). 

The following should have also been included with the above announcement…


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  1. The Nordiq Alberta ski pass program has been a huge success. It has provided us with exceptional ski grooming plus the bonus of extra funds that could enhance skiing opportunities for next year.
    The value of those surplus funds are not enough to purchase much equipment or to build much new trail.
    So, my suggestion is to make better use of what we already have. Decades ago, Highway #40 was groomed for skiing from the winter gate to the Pocaterra “Back Door”… it was known as the Lionel trail.
    Given the popularity of the Moraine Lake Road, grooming Highway #40 should be a no-brainer.
    Ideally, the winter gate would be moved south by a few hundred metres to provide a paved parking lot. Add some portable toilets and a portable trailhead kiosk, and you’ve got a functional trailhead.
    I would suggest that the highway could be groomed for multiple uses. Classic track setting would create an ideal “easy” trail. And it would create an obvious loop with Pocaterra trail.
    A wide skate lane would provide an opportunity for skate skiers. A separate groomed lane could be created for fat-bikes, hikers, snowshoers, skijoerers, winter hikers, etc.
    That is a small infrastructure cost, no additional grooming equipment… but more grooming staff time… and it would produce a tremendous addition to the PLPP trail network

  2. Morning
    I would like the money to go towards obtaining the Fortress lease. That way the area could be managed more in line with the spirit of the surrounding area rather than what is planned.

  3. In this post I asked the question, “In the comments, tell us what you would do with the excess funds.” Please stick to the topic.

  4. While I like Skier Dougs’ idea of using “excess” funds to revitalize the Sawmill trails, I think that ship has sailed. The money should be held to cover any deficits in future seasons, or used to expand expand the frequency of grooming. Or- the grooming period at either end of the season, should weather and snow conditions be favourable.
    I think the success of the pass program- despite some naysayers who don’t accept that xc skiers should pay a small fee for the special services that we desire- bodes well for the future of groomed xc skiing in Kananaskis.
    Kudos to those who made it happen!

  5. First, thank you to Nordiq Alberta and all the volunteers! My main concern is to keep this funding and tracksetting permanently. There is a good possibility that volunteers will tire, and numbers of skiers (pass purchasers) will slowly decrease as Covid 19 becomes an unpleasant memory. Surplus should definitely allow equipment upgrades, I would hope even a used machine would last more than 3 years, so a purchase seems reasonable. Allowing for expected drop in numbers, I would favor a somewhat higher Season Pass, leave Day Pass the ame, as we want to encourage occasional skiers, and regular skiers are probably getting a very good deal already.

  6. The Nordiq Alberta program was certainly a success. Despite this, the government has yet to make any commitment for grooming next winter and beyond. Nordiq Alberta will hold in trust the sizeable surplus they are collecting, “pending further spending decisions regarding the use of the excess funds to support future investments in cross country ski trail grooming. … only to be spent, dispersed or utilized on the prior mutual agreement of both the Society and the Province.” See page 14 of the Alberta Parks – Nordiq Alberta Cooperating Agreement –

    Since the government hasn’t committed to grooming next winter, I wonder why the program wasn’t set up to terminate as soon as its funding goal was reached, rather than accumulating a surplus with no predefined plan on how to use it?

    • MikeW: “ I wonder why the program wasn’t set up to terminate as soon as its funding goal was reached, ” This was discussed a few times…. but the consensus was that it would not have been fair to those who paid in Nov, Dec, Jan and Feb to change it to “free” in March – esp season pass purchasers.

      • Thanks Ken, I figured that was the reason. Hopefully the surplus won’t become a future problem for Nordiq Alberta. Although the Nordiq initiative was publicized as a pilot program with no commitment from either party to continue it, a lot of people are assuming that grooming will continue into the future now that $210,000 has been raised. And in particular that the surplus forces the government to continue grooming in order to “disperse” the surplus. I hope they’re right. The alternative would be the surplus sitting in limbo forever with no way to use it as mandated by the Cooperating Agreement, or the funds being used in ways that weren’t expected by the donors, such as grooming Cypress Hills until the surplus is exhausted.

        I think I heard you on the CBC radio yesterday afternoon, saying that this winter’s program of having parking lot volunteers collect money for parking passes was unsustainable into the future. Was that you, and did you say that? I was busy doing something else at the time and have been unable to find an audio clip or transcript of the interview. Is one available?

  7. I’m all for any surplus going to whatever is needed to keep the grooming going. However, I wonder if we need to adjust our expectations. Assuming the operations cost of grooming is $200,000, and that the expensive equipment needs to be replaced from time to time (5 years?) at $200,000 a pop (need to save $40,000/yr). Funds raised this year around $280,000 would appear to cover both operations and a fund for equipment replacement. But it doesn’t look like there would be much leftover for any expansion of the program. I don’t know how reliable the funding will be and I think we should keep our minds open to the possibilities of less trail grooming, less frequent grooming, using less sophisticated equipment, etc. to have a sustainable budget.

  8. I hope that there is going to be some kind survey done after the season is over to get everyone’s view on this. Personally I would support a higher fee if that could be put towards more equipment so that the trails could get groomed on a more timely basis after each snowfall. After a fall last week the PLPP crew were able to groom 18km of trails, while at the same time (I think) the Bragg Creek crew were able to do over 70km. For the skate ski trails especially, it is important to get to them as fast as possible after each fall. Balanced against this is a wish to keep the fee as low as possible so that we don’t price people out of our great sport.

  9. I support the money going forward to ensure the sustainability of the XC ski grooming in Kananaskis next year and beyond. The voluntary pay system this year has allowed those with less financial means to still access the superb trails in this area and this is important that access for all is maintained. Although it would be lovely if the government took over paying for this again, I’m OK with contributing a small amount each year for superb skiing, and am so heartened that the fundraising goal was met!

  10. Invest in recommisioning the Sawmill trails for future trail grooming.

  11. Use surplus funds for future XC grooming services or equipment needed. Funds must be used towards XC trails. That is specifically why I bought a pass and made a donation. Kananaskis trails are key to early and late season skiing. Thank you for the great work on the trails so far, and to all the volunteers!

  12. I’m sorry to be the only dissenter here and honestly I love you Bob and all of the work that you’ve done for the cross country skiing community, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why we are volunteering to pay for a piece of equipment that the government of Alberta should be buying. They buy equipment (or hire contractors) for other facility maintenance, why should cross country ski trails be any different? I was livid that we handed them their operational funds on a silver platter without so much as a discussion amongst Albertans as to whether this is a public good or a user good and now we are proposing to buy equipment for them as well? Some options for the extra money from me:
    1) put it towards programs that encourage newcomers to try cross country skiing – maybe hire some coaches, schedule some dates, rent some equipment
    2) put it towards people who want to enrol their kids into cross country ski programs but who might struggle based on their income to do this
    3) put it towards training, coaching and equipment for young people to develop their cross country ski skills and athletic development
    4) put it towards volunteers who are willing to obtain various coaching levels who would volunteer a set amount of time to encourage cross country skiing within families of all income levels
    5) pay for those who would struggle to afford parking fees (but lets hope we don’t have to repeat this again)
    6) put it towards public engagement and lobbying the government so that ONE user group DOES NOT have to pay for trail maintenance in Kananaskis

    If we absolutely had to have a user pay system, then I would propose that we have a Park entrance fee to Kananaskis (by car not by person) that is set at a lower rate (because there’s a broader base of payers) making it more affordable for each individual. This would still encourage car pooling (charge by car not by person).

    Honestly, I hope we don’t assume that the “pay for cross country grooming via parking fees” program is going to happen again, now that there’s time to facilitate discussion amongst Albertans and even within the cross country ski community as to whether this should be a public or user pay system.

    I feel like I’m the lone wolf in this perspective. If our current government wasn’t so incompetent in managing the province’s affairs, I might feel a bit differently but on this one I really feel we completely threw ourselves into their trap setting a dangerous precedent and I’m surprised no one else is as upset by this as I am. CPAWS Alberta managed a great “Defend Parks” campaign and groups have also gained traction on the coal issues. I think Nordiq Alberta, while having their heart in the right place fell right into the UCP trap.

    • Hi Cindy…. you make some good suggestions for use of the surplus funds and donations. But your essential point that we should not pay for winter trail grooming does not seem logical to me. I distinguish between a ‘walk in the woods’ and skiing on a trail that has been groomed using expensive equipment and trained staff. You say …“They buy equipment (or hire contractors) for other facility maintenance, why should cross country ski trails be any different? ” .. but … we pay to use park campgrounds, and we pay to ski at the Canmore Nordic Centre. I think that there are limits to what the general taxpayer should be expected to support.

      • Ken.. The one thing that I don’t understand is why we have to pay for trail grooming in K-Country, while Alberta Parks is happy to provide free trail grooming in Cypress Hills, surely it should be the same everywhere. Do you have any insight into that?

    • And one other important point relating to use of the surplus funds — while there are lots of good projects that would be money well spent — we have to remember that most of this money is provided to support winter ski trail grooming – so I think there is an obligation to recognize that in decisions about the spending.

    • Thank you Cindy H.
      You are not a lone wolf.
      Chuck & Jeannette

    • Thank you Cindy, you are not alone, there is lots of support for an equitable solution to grooming Kananaskis on FB Cross Country Skiing YYC

  13. Bravo, and hearty thanks to the volunteers and to Nordiq Alberta. What a welcome success story. For the excess, ensure good equipment and consider off-loading some of the volunteer duties to a paid position.

  14. I would not mind seeing some funds used to better signage at the Ruthie / Skogan junction to clearly state that Skogan pass trails (and offshoots) are skiers only. An alternative would be to encourage snowshoers / walkers to buy a season pass (i.e. not limited to xcountry skiers) to raise funds to build a specific trail to go to Hummingbird Plume Lookout …and to avoid ruining Sunburst and High Level trails

  15. I need new pants.

    (Pay it forward to a backcountry skier who also bought a tracksetting season pass).

  16. With the extra money, the future of grooming in Kananaskis can be even better than it was before the government’s announcement. People are obviously willing to pay a reasonable amount to have groomed trails, and I bet they are willing to pay a little more than the paltry $50 to have more grooming(the snowcat could easily be operating a daily double shift in PLPP), and possibly open up some new trails. In retrospect, the government has done us a huge favour by “ending grooming” in Kananaskis. We’ve removed the threat of the government taking this away from us.

    A further benefit to skiers paying for groomed trails is that it will give us some clout when it comes to keeping the hikers off the groomed trails.

    • “We’ve removed the threat of the government taking this away from us.” Unfortunately, the government has not committed to continue grooming next winter, with or without a user pay model.

  17. Does anybody have sense of what happens next year and beyond? Continuation of the approach used this year?

  18. Put the surplus towards future ops and perhaps expanded service and equipment upgrades.

    Way to go Nordiq and volunteers! Thanks.

  19. Invest towards future gear so that grooming can be continued and even trackset fresh more frequently if not needing to share equipment between different regions

    • That is of course if not needed to put towards future year’s expenses. I’d like to see a sustainable model that guarantees grooming for years to come.

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