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Yoho ski trails back on track

By: Justin Brisbane

  |  Posted: Thursday, Aug 16, 2012 06:00 am

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Groomed cross-country ski trails in Yoho National Park that were scheduled for closure have survived budget cuts thanks to a new agreement between the park and a handful of community members.

About 32 kilometres of popular cross-country ski trail, including the Emerald Lake loop, were slated to close, however, the community protested the decision. Parks Canada agreed to reconsider the closure and a memorandum of understanding was signed on Friday (Aug. 10).

“Parks Canada was open to working with the community of Field,” said Executive Director of Mountain Parks Tracy Thiessen. “We were concerned, so was the community. This is a great example of how in working with the private sector, we can come to a solution.”

According to the agreement, Parks Canada will provide the grooming equipment, repairs and avalanche safety advice. The other partners and volunteers will perform the actual grooming. The agreement is for one year and is designed to give the ski club and private partners a chance to prepare for the transition.

Initially, 15 kms will be groomed, down from the 34 kms usually available around the Emerald Lake area. However, all sides would like to increase the amount of cross-country skiing in the area.

“We’re open to additional proposals and to discussion,” Thiessen said.

The federal government planned closures and reduced services at several sites across the country. However, they were forced to delay several of these changes to allow for further negotiation. Closing the trails was only expected to save $8,000.

Marilyn Toulouse, president of the Kicking Horse Ski Club, said the new agreement is “fantastic” and credits Emerald Lake Lodge for pushing the issue forward. The lodge has agreed to provide gasoline for the snowmobile and help to maintain the trails.

For 25 years, Toulouse and the Kicking Horse Ski Club took care of the ski trails. Two years ago, Parks Canada took over trail grooming and maintenance, allowing the small club to focus on other activities. However, offloading trail care back onto the club came as a surprise. The club sold its snowmobile and groomer, and will now have to buy new equipment. They said they weren’t prepared for the upcoming year, but the new agreement should give them time to prepare.

“We’re not in the ski trail grooming business so we were able to let them borrow the equipment,” Thiessen said.

Toulouse said club membership fees, which were $10 a year, will likely jump to $40 or $50. The club offers free ski lessons for members, as well as moonlight ski trips. That could also change with new fees.

Track setting will be extended to Field, Toulouse said, however trails on Takakkaw Falls Road will likely disappear.

“That’s mostly ski touring and it’s used the least,” Toulouse said. “We’ll have to do some skrimping.”

After 25 years with the club, she’s looking for someone else to take over trail duties.


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