Grooming of Ski Trails at Ribbon Creek this Winter!

UPDATE – Not withstanding the letter below, Bob Truman reports that Ribbon Creek was groomed and trackset on Dec 19. A recent trail report explains: Kananaskis Country staff have been working to realign resources to find ways to groom ski trails in the Ribbon Creek area. As a result, some grooming and tracksetting will take place here as staff and resources permit. Thank you Kananaskis Country!

The letter below is self-explanatory.
From: TPR Communications <tpr.communications@gov.ab.ca>
Date: December 7, 2009 12:05:41 PM MST (CA)

Subject: RE: Ribbon Creek ski trails

Dear Steve,
Thank you for contacting Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation. The cross-country ski trails at Evan Thomas, Ribbon Creek, Skogan Pass and Sawmill in Kananaskis Country will not be groomed this winter.

Cross-country skiers who prefer skier-tracked trails instead of groomed will still be able to enjoy these trails this season. We understand this may affect some skiers’ enjoyment this ski season and we apologize for that. The decisions were necessary, as we have had to prioritize our winter trail program based on available resources.

Before arriving at the decisions, our staff also assessed which nearby locations can provide similar experiences. Nearby groomed trails include the Mt. Shark and West Bragg Creek cross-country trail systems, and trails at the Canmore Nordic Centre and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parks.

For the full list of groomed and non-groomed cross-country trails, visit Kananaskis Country trail reports at http://tpr.alberta.ca/parks/kananaskis/trailreport.aspx

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6 comments… add one
  • Paula Duncan Dec 28, 2009, 9:20 pm

    I agree with Alf, that we need to write our MLAs, and the Minister of tourism etc. I’ve written to them regarding their determination to create more ATV areas and staging sites, despite this being one of the lower priorities of K-Country users, according to the government’s own commissioned survey. (another example of undemocratic democracy!) It is my opinion, and apparently that of other persons who responded to the survey, that our tax dollars might be spent otherwise, say on hiking and ski trail maintenance. I also agree with the idea of a user fee, I would be happy to contribute, after all the years I’ve used the facilites for free.

  • Alf Skrastins Dec 11, 2009, 12:07 am

    Thanks for your follow-up on this issue, Steve.

    The cutbacks to trail grooming at Ribbon Creek and Sawmill would not have happened if there had not been a big anti-user fees campaign about 5 years ago. Following that experience, K-Country managers are too scared even to suggest this idea again. In the face of budget cut-backs, the only option left is to cut services. There wouldn’t be tracksetting at Bragg Creek either, without the dedication of the volunteers of the Greater Bragg Creek Trails association.

    I suggest that there is not much point complaining to K-Country management about the reductions of services. The funding for parks is a political decision, as is the question of user fees. Write your MLA and the Minister of Tourism, Parks and lack of Recreation to make your opinions know. If you don’t take some personal action on this issue, then you should not complain about the situation.

  • Steve Riggs Dec 10, 2009, 8:27 pm

    No argument from me about a trail fee.
    The idea was floated by K-Country about 5? years ago, but withdrawn after intense opposition. I was in favor of it then and continue to be, as long as it goes into actual trail work. XC skiers will need to realize that you can’t have it both ways.
    And yes, I have donated towards the volunteer group doing the grooming at West Bragg.
    FWIW, I was out this afternoon (Dec. 10) up in the Skogan Pass area. More like a backcountry tour these days, with a deep skier set track heading towards the pass . Must have been a “fleet of trailbreakers” ahead of me, when I turned off the beaten track at High Level the skins went on due to trailbreaking which was heavy at times. Never did slog all the way to the old lookout as I was distracted by the fine snow on the powerline, climbed it instead, then enjoyed a fun run with some good turns down the intertwining road to way below Sunburst (once known as Balam?) Good thing I was on my light tele gear, I would say that without grooming the Skogan area trails are not really suitable for light XC track skis and boots, and a number of craters on the steeper downhills would appear to confirm this. I would recommend using at least one of the BC systems and wider skis designed for some off trail travel, and maybe have a pair of skins for deep snow days.
    Kind of like a flashback to the early days of skiing at Ribbon in the 70’s.
    So, yes, I will continue to enjoy these trails.

  • g. dennis Dec 10, 2009, 12:43 pm

    One solution that would aid all these skiers who so love to ski at Ribbon and other areas…start charging a user fee in order to be able to ensure that there will be equipment and personel available to accomadate them. Grooming does not come free. It takes manpower, equipment and the maintainaince to keep everything running smoothly They are worried about costs to travel further, why not be pro-active and put the extra gas dollars into something constructive.

  • Steve Riggs Dec 9, 2009, 5:47 pm

    This is the letter that I have sent to Dave Neilsen (director of K-Country? )

    Mr. Nielsen,

    I am writing to voice my concerns regarding the decision to suspend grooming and tracksetting on the Ribbon Creek ski trail system. As the closest cross-country ski trails to Calgary with generally reliable snow conditions, the Ribbon Creek network has been particularly popular with families who appreciate the easier trails between Ribbon Creek and the village, close by facilities such as picnic areas, the hostel and the hotels.
    More experienced skiers also find that this network has a lot to offer, and as a bonus, the sunny aspect of many trails gives a warmer, safer alternative in arctic weather to the more shaded trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
    Thus it has been a bit of a shock to hear, that without any apparent consultation with skiers, K-Country has decided to abandon grooming at Ribbon Creek for the 2009-10 season. Yes, the trails will still be there for those skiers who want to break their own track, but the reality is that for most, cross-country skiing is done on maintained trails. Of course, West Bragg is an option, but with fickle snow conditions it cannot be relied upon. I understand that in these difficult economic times, some cost- cutting may be required, but I would question the real savings to be gained, when you consider the following:
    -Skiers will be forced to drive, at a minimum, another ½ hour each way to access groomed XC trails. How much does that cost?
    -What is the impact of all that extra traffic on the Kananaskis environment, and the wildlife?
    -If this is to be permanent, what will it cost to build new facilities to accommodate the increased use of the PLPP trails? For instance, the Elk Pass trailhead is already filled to overflowing on most weekends.
    -Will the lack of groomed trails cause tourists to look elsewhere for their winter vacation?
    Maybe even outside Alberta?
    I would be curious to know just how much is being saved by not grooming at Ribbon Creek, to enable a comparison with the impacts listed above. Hopefully, those responsible will be willing to take a second look.

    Sincerely,
    Steve Riggs,
    Calgary

    Commenting on the initial reply from K-Country, I would say that most recreational skiers, who generally want to tour to an interesting destination of sorts , or do a loop through scenic terrain, are not very interested in the loops to nowhere that characterize many of the trails at Shark or Canmore. Mt. Shark is also a much further drive, and on Saturday, Dec. 5, the Smith-Dorrien road was not plowed through to PLPP until at least 11 am, in one lane only. Add to that the fact that, according to the K-Country trail report, Shark has not been groomed for over 2 weeks now. Not much of an alternative to Ribbon I would say!

  • Gill Dec 9, 2009, 12:39 am

    Just a couple of comments. Cutbacks have also affected hwy. snow clearing. As some of you may already have discovered, the access road to Sawmill parking lot will not be plowed this winter. You will have to start your trips from Hwy. 742 where there is room for about 4 cars..
    One piece of good news: The Sandy McNabb X-C ski trail network in the Sheep will be groomed and trackset as usual.

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