Author Archives: parkland

Covid-19 Financial Support

Government Measures as of Mar 20, 2020

The Provincial and Federal governments have announced a number of measures to help Albertan’s deal with the economic issues associated with COVID-19. Some are automatic, and some you must apply for. The list below identifies some of what is available as of Mar 20/20.  All websites referenced in this document as links are shown on the last page.

This information is not exhaustive and is subject to change and correction by the governments. Watch the following sites for updates and more information:

Provincial programs:

Federal programs:

  • for Covid-19 related information
  • Check here for a directory of services and programs
  • Call the toll-free number only if you absolutely cannot find what you need online (super busy) at 1-800 O Canada or 1-800-622-6232

government programs You must apply for

Provincial Emergency Isolation Support: You must apply – look for it at next week!

  • This will be a temporary program for working adult Albertans who must self-isolate because they meet the Government of Alberta’s published criteria for self-isolation, including persons who are the sole caregiver for a dependent who must self-isolate because they meet the public health criteria, and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while they are self-isolated.
  • It will be distributed in one payment instalment and will bridge the gap until the federal emergency payments begin in April.
  • The program is planned by the government to be accessible by a simple online application through next week and that funds will be deposited in the accounts of eligible recipients beginning at that time.

Provincial Banks and credit unions

ATB Financial customers impacted by COVID-19 – look here for more information

  • Personal banking customers can apply for a deferral on their ATB loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for up to six months.
  • Small business customers, in addition to payment deferrals on loans and lines of credit, will be provided access to additional working capital.
  • For other business and agriculture customers, ATB will work with customers on a one-on-one basis and further solutions are being considered at this time.

Alberta credit unions – contact your credit union directly

  • Credit union members will have access to a variety of programs and solutions designed to ease difficulties with loan payments and short-term cash flow.
  • Both individual and business members are encouraged to proactively contact their credit union directly to work out a plan for their personal situation.

Heat and power utility payment deferral – contact your providers directly

  • Residential, farm, and small commercial customers can defer bill payments for the next 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off from these services during this time of crisis.
  • This will cover electricity and natural gas, regardless of the service provider.

Federal Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits

  • up to 15 weeks of financial assistance if you cannot work for medical reasons. You could receive 55% of your earnings up to a maximum of $573 a week
  • you must apply for this – look here to find more information

government programs You may benefit from automatically

Provincial programs publicized to date:

Provincial student loans repayment holiday

  • The government will implement a six-month, interest-free moratorium on Alberta student loan repayments for all individuals who are in the process of repaying these loans.


  • The government of Alberta will defer the collection of corporate income tax balances and instalment payments, due after today, until Aug. 31, 2020.

Federal programs publicized to date:

GST Rebate

  • A one-time payment to low- and modest-income individuals and couples averaging $400 per individual or $600 per couple – scheduled for early May 2020.

Canada Child Benefit increase for the 2019-20 year

  • For families with children, who may also require additional support, the Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child – included with the May payment.

Federal student loans repayment holiday

  • The government will implement a six-month, interest-free moratorium on Canada student loan repayments for all individuals who are in the process of repaying these loans.

RRIF changes

  • Reducing required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020

Tax Payment and Filing Flexibility

  • For individuals (other than trusts), the return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020.  However, the Agency encourages individuals who expect to receive benefits under the GSTC or the Canada Child Benefit not to delay the filing of their return to ensure their entitlements for the 2020-21 benefit year are properly determined.
  • For trusts having a taxation year ending on December 31, 2019, the return filing due date will be deferred until May 1, 2020.
  • All taxpayers may defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18, 2020 and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 

Government Programs in the Works

For more information about assistance, please see the websites for each level of government listed above.

Income Support

  • Federal Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the CRA to provide up to $5.0 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment
  • EI Work Sharing Program, which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, by extending the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements, and streamlining the application process. This was announced by the Prime Minister on March 11, 2020.

Programs for Indigenous and Metis populations; people experiencing homelessness and people experiencing domestic violence are also being planned.

Let’s ski under the full moon!

Tuesday night’s “meeting” is a social ski and campfire at Little Chief Park. Bring your skis (or don’t) and anything you wish to roast over the fire. We will gather at 7:00 Feb 11th in the cook shelter and ski, chat, and have a good time. We’ll supply the hot chocolate – you bring whatever else you want (including reusable dishes and cutlery. We have lots of mugs. See you there! There will be no meeting at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre this month.

Cascade Fire Road 2020

Cold, cold, cold…

cold, cold, cold!

Ice climbers and skiers alike hung around the kitchen table at the Canmore Alpine Club clubhouse longer on Saturday morning than planned as we waited out the finale of our -30 week. Plan B involved heading in to Canmore for a walk along the river before lunch. Then we headed out to Lake Minnewanka in the afternoon for a shortened ski up the Cascade fire road. Our leaders (thank you!) were Dion and Linda. John, Amanda, Diane and I made up the rest of the group on Jan. 18th. Nice to get out!

The group split up after: a couple of us soaked in the Hot Springs while others headed back to Alpine Club House and heated up Amanda’s yummy dip for us. We had decided on a menu full of Mexican foods (heat!) to take us out of the -30 realities. Las cervezas, enchiladas, verduras y pasteles eran excelentes. Spent another relaxed evening around the fireplace.

Warmer temperatures welcomed us Sunday morning when we headed to West Bragg Creek Provincial Park. We found a diversity of trails to accommodate fat bikes, skiers, and snowshoers. And a diverse group of skiers…folks like us on classic skis, skate skiers, 10-year olds happily making their way on own. Many dogs too! Some had owners who could control them around other skiers and others have owners yet to learn how to do that! After a couple of hours skiing each day and we arrived back in Red Deer around 4:30. NIce to get away.

Submitted by Nancy Bain

Elk Lakes Hut 2018


Frequent communication and conjecture were the order of proceedings in the lead up to our departure for the Elk Lakes ski tour.  After communication via about 4000 text messages re: transport logistics we (Lisa Marr-Laing, Nancy Bain, Linda Dicken, Amanda Brosius and yours truly, Jane McCallum) were on our way to Kananaskis, with Kelly and Richard to follow later. I was excited as this was my first back-country ski trip in Canada; but disappointed that Peter was unable to come as he was ill.

Conjecture about snow conditions continued during the trip – should we bother with skis, skins, what wax, what type of skis?  Indeed, would there be any snow – should we take hiking boots, and if so, would we need ice crampons?  We consulted Skier Bob and made the call that skiing was the go (but take your hiking boots just in case).

The “take your hiking boots in case” approach is something we are very familiar with in Australia where the snow can be marginal to non-existent.  All the discussion about skins, wax, type of skis was a bit beyond me, as down under, an old pair of fish-scaled skis serves me and Peter well.

Capably chauffeured by Linda, we arrived at Ribbon Creek Hostel on Friday night after a detour to the University of Calgary to collect all, (well almost all), our rental gear.

Everyone was on skis, (well almost everyone), by 9:45am at the Elk Lake car park Saturday morning and we were off.

As snow, unfortunately, had not eventuated overnight, the discussion about snow conditions continued.  I was in heaven, on skis, with snow all around and thinking the conditions were pretty darn good.  Given that my ‘terms of reference’ re: snow quality are from a place where, in the snow ice, rocks, bare ground, and tree roots are the norm, I kept my mouth shut and listened.  The consensus was that the snow was ‘surprisingly good for the time of year’.  Light snow on Saturday night and until mid-morning on Sunday night made it even better for the return trip.

Saturday’s ski to Elk Lakes Hut was 12km with a few rest stops, one at the Blueberry Hill Trail picnic table to refuel, check the pulks and put on/pull off skins.

Lunch at Blueberry Hill turnoff 

We took a leisurely 3 hours 53 minutes to get to Elk Hut, ascending 343 metres.  Richard led the way, often leaving his pack at the top of an ascent and skiing back down to check on us. 

Nancy and Linda with pulks.

Everyone was incredibly impressed with Nancy and Linda’s ability to ski with great control both up and on some tricky descents with their pulks behaving well behind them.  More impressive was Lisa’s ability to keep up with us without skis.

“Skis are overrated…”

Our speedy and incident-free descent, (even though we encountered what Kelly called a ‘dipsy doodle), from Elk Pass to the hut followed the road as the snow conditions on the trail were a bit dodgy.

Our dinner at Elk Hut was sumptuous as well as copious – we all seriously over catered.  Appetizers, fabulous turkey with stuffing, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce, a great salad and yummo desert ensured we had sufficient fuel for perhaps the next year’s skiing.

Elk Lakes Hut is super comfortable with a wood burning stove, a large loft sleeping platform that doubled as a sauna (the fire sure warms up the place), two comfortable eating areas and a reasonably well-equipped kitchen with propane stoves, an oven plus propane lanterns.

The crew at the cabin before the return journey.

Light snow made Sunday’s ski even more enjoyable.  We had ample energy, fuelled by unbelievable breakfast pancakes courtesy of Kelly and Richard.  Cookies from Kelly plus Tim Tam biscuits, (famous Australian cookies, guaranteed to help you cope with Aussie accents and humour), at Elk Pass ensured that everyone’s energy levels were appropriate for the descent.  Four Tim Tams could be deemed excessive, but we all agreed tour leaders burn up lots of energy, especially when they are in hiking boots trying to keep up with skiers…

Sunday lunch at Elk Pass.

Almost tropical plummage!

Back at the car park with huge smiles on our faces after 3 hours and 48 minutes of skiing we set off for a very snowy trip back to Red Deer – thanks Linda for the great driving .

Bouquets to all for a terrific introduction to back-country skiing in Canada.  Looking forward to the next gig.

The author

Chikcadee/Boom Lake Tour 2017

Venturing into the playground along the Continental Divide – Chickadee Boom January 2017

Another cold weekend in the Canadian Rockies, but this did not deter a hardy band of skiers from Parkland Cross Country Ski Club on the first weekend of the New Year. The skiers met up at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre on the Friday night and enjoyed a bit of socializing before retiring. There were eight of us that evening, but two needed to bow out of the back-country tours arranged.

Chickadee Valley was on the agenda Saturday morning. After a good breakfast in the kitchen of the Lake Louise Alpine Centre (LLAC), we fired up the vehicles in the rear parking lot while the CP Rail diesel locomotives idled on the siding beside the mainline. It was -23° Celsius. Another beautiful blue-sky day in the Rockies!

We backtracked along the Trans Canada Highway to the turnoff for Radium and headed south, climbing out of the Bow Valley. Chickadee is the first valley across the Great Divide.

Gearing up


We were led by Ivan D. and assisted by Dion B., with Amanda B., Margo and George C., and Bill F. rounding out the complement. The trail was firm, having been packed down by various users including snowshoers. Eventually Ivan deviated from the hard pack to the left hand side of the valley, leading us on a trail-breaking exercise through the trees. Dion took a turn breaking trail and finding a path, and when it was Bill’s turn he remembered how much work breaking trail through deep soft snow really is. Ivan enriched the sharing of his knowledge of many years of back-country skiing by telling us how guides think and what they do for their clients. A guide will lead his or her clients directly across a frozen creek by sidestepping down the bank (and in so doing preparing an easier surface for climbing back up on the return journey). A guide will bring down snow on the opposite bank if need be with his or her ski poles so the clients have an easier time climbing up. Being a guide is hard work! We eventually found our way out of the trees and joined a main trail along the creek bottom. As the valley opened up with views of the surrounding peaks, we continued upstream until we reached the lunch spot. I think we overshot by about 10 m according to Ivan’s GPS.

A quick stop in the cold!

Lunch was quick, and eaten standing up, as we were still in the shadow of the mountains. One of the party expressed a desire to look for a sunny spot, but this didn’t happen. Bill amused the group by pulling out his trusty thermometer, which registered – 23.5° Celsius air temperature and – 23  ° C snow temperature. Unfortunately, it was too cold for Bill’s iPhone to capture the image for the trip report. Not soon enough for some folks, Ivan donned his signature poncho and led us back down the valley to catch up to those skiers who had already begun the ski out.

Ivan offered a couple of coaching tips to Bill, who has only had to pay for one skiing lesson in his life. When skiing out through the trees, remove your hands from the straps of your ski poles to prevent dislocating a shoulder. You might drop a pole once or twice and have to retrieve it, but this is preferable. Bill took Ivan’s advice after catching a basket a couple of times. The second tip has already proved its weight in blueberry tea. Ivan told Bill he was leaning too far forward which affected his balance. His descriptive analogy was to pretend “your ass is over the toilet” or as Bill considered this, “your royal bum is over the throne”. This resonated and Bill is still utilizing the technique even on skinny skis from Great Chief Park to Heritage Ranch. On the last part of the ski out, Ivan led Bill through more soft snow through the trees, which was way more fun than clattering down the hard pack.

Back at the hostel, Bill tucked into the rest of his lunch and poured out some tea from his thermos. Ivan asked, “Would you like some real tea?” And so marked Bill’s introduction to Ivan’s blueberry tea!  Bill had a pretty good idea what Ivan was like based on phone calls discussing options for mountain tours, so he was gratified his assumptions proved correct. After the tea party, we “tea-toured” over to Bill Peyto’s Restaurant for our Saturday night feast.

Sunday morning dawned even colder at minus 27 Celsius. At least one of the vehicles registered – 29° C in a cold pocket on the way back to the Continental Divide. This time we parked at the Boom Lake trai lhead on the Alberta side.

Sunday morning bluebird skies!

It was cold gearing up in the parking lot, but those finished first found a sunny spot by the Parks Canada sign. A group photo was taken and then Bill’s iPhone went into hibernation for the rest of the winter. On the ski in on the hard pack, Ivan entertained us by teaching us more guide logic. You might think a guide is just being chatty, but every time a guide meets someone coming out of the back country they inquire about conditions. An outgoing snowboarder told us that the slopes at the head of Boom Lake had already avalanched. Avalanche conditions were moderate as Bill recalls, but with persistent slabs and deep buried slabs being the main considerations along with terrain features to be cognizant of.  Along the way in, Ivan stopped and asked how many avalanche slopes had we already crossed. Turns out we had crossed one already while in the trees. This led to a lively discussion about runout slopes, tree scarring, etcetera. We reached the end of the hiking trail and skied onto Boom Lake which was just gorgeous. Of course no photos could be taken. Ivan shared the 10% angle rule of thumb for judging the extent of the runout zone.

After lunch in the trees to get out of the light breeze on the lake, the skiers headed out. Bill kept his skins on for the duration to maximize control on the ski out, which included crossing some icy patches on the trail where springs were continuing to flow. Ivan amused himself and stayed warm by skiing both ways several times so he could keep an eye on Bill. Bill felt safe knowing the guy with the first aid kit had his backside. Upon reaching the sunshine along Highway 93,

Ivan “Gandalf” Dixon

Bill noted “Gandalf” cut quite a figure with helmet, goggles, white beard, and flowing purple poncho. In fact, Parks Canada driving by took a second look at him to make sure it wasn’t Gandalf.

If you are lucky enough to go skiing with Ivan, expect to learn lots about safe touring in the backcountry and how to improve your skiing if you are up for it. If you’re really lucky, you might even enjoy some of his infamous “blueberry tea”!

Bill F.