The idea of popular Kananaskis Country cross-country ski trails remaining ungroomed this winter didn't sit well with the ski community nor Canmore businesses.
That would have been the case after trail grooming was cut from the Alberta Government budget in February.
A partnership has been created between Nordiq Alberta and the Alberta Government that will see trails groomed this winter at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area, Spray Valley Provincial Park, and Sheep River Provincial Park.
It's now a voluntary user-pay model that will be financed through the sale of day and season parking passes at trailheads by Nordiq Alberta. A day parking pass is $10 and a season parking pass is $50.
Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin believes it was the right choice for users to cover the cost of trail grooming, but she also recognized its importance to both recreationists and the tourism industry.
When it was announced the government would no longer fund the grooming she promptly received 4,681 letters from people disappointed by the decision.
"As the MLA for Banff-Kananaskis, I could tell that these trails are important not only for the outdoor enthusiasts in our province but that their existence was critical to the sustainability of the many small equipment rental businesses in our area."
"The blunt truth is that our province is under tremendous cost pressure, and I've always believed that we need to begin divesting responsibility off of the general taxpayer, and on to the user in many incidences."
Several months of planning and numerous proposals later, the partnership was created.
Michelle Faerden, owner of Kananaskis Outfitters, expressed both relief and appreciation for the pilot project at the press conference.
"This February, when we learned that trail grooming would not take place in the 2021 season, it was devastating news for the Kanananski business community," she said.
"The economic impact associated with the loss of this service would have been great. This, paired with the pandemic, which has hit the tourism industry extremely hard, was setting the stage for a difficult winter season. This announcement today brings the Kananaskis business community great joy and relief."
Kananaskis Country has an extensive cross-country ski trail system that has been groomed by the provincial government for the past 40 years.
Nordiq Alberta advocates for the 4,600 members of 48 member clubs and hopes the pilot is a successful solution to keeping the trails groomed.
"Really, the effort now is for all of us to participate by either buying a parking pass or volunteering," says Nordiq Alberta chair Chris Reitz.
Passes are available for purchase here.