New Winter Trails Approved for Chester Sawmill System

Good news! You can look forward to snowshoeing, skiing and winter (fat) biking on new trails at the Chester Sawmill trail system next winter. The Friends of Kananaskis, in partnership with the Chester Sawmill committee, and Alberta Parks worked on developing a CHESTER-SAWMILL WINTER TRAIL ENHANCEMENT PLAN in 2016, presented the plan to the Kananaskis Trail Committee on June 24, 2016 and have received approval for most of the recommendations put forward to Alberta Parks.
 
We’re going to skip ahead to the recommendations put forward and approved, however, you can read the entire Trail Enhancement Plan which includes a project overview and a series of maps by clicking on the plan on the right.
 
Plan's Purpose
The plan's purpose and process was to explore the Chester-Sawmill winter recreational opportunities and experiences that merit consideration while carefully considering the approved park management plan. It set forth recommendations to enhance and expand the winter trail system within the planning area.

Recommendations
The following recommendations were developed by the Chester Sawmill Committee based on field assessment and detailed discussions. All were approved except as noted below. The recommendations correspond with the  below map and numbers included in map.

1. Upgrading Existing Trails

  1. Widen and remove hazards from the hill portions of the Chester ski/summer trail, upslope of the junction with the “recommended one-way” ski loop segments. This is a safety issue (see Map 5, trail #1).
  2. Chester Snowshoe Trail, reroute sections of steep trail grade (see Map 5, trail #2).
  3. Designate and upgrade Rummel Lake trail, as per the 2006 PLPP/SVPP Management Plan (This recommendation was not approved. As per KTC decision document, the classification of the Rummel Lake Trail is on hold until the completion of the Trails System Plan, targeted for Summer 2019).
  4. In the lowest part of drainage of James Walker creek (that portion starting near the highway and leading no higher than the Snowdrift Trail), install permanent stakes with markers to indicate recommended snowshoe trail (see Map 5, #3).
  5. Brush the overgrown Mt. Murray view point (see Map 5).
  1. New Proposed Trail
    Map 5 outlines the proposed new trails. They include:
    Trail #4. Part of the former cross country ski system trail. Provides an easy short loop from the Sawmill Parking. Provides good view of the Mt. Murray mountain range, and connects with the High Rockies Trail. Offers more attractive options from the Sawmill parking.
    Trail #5. Creates two loops and provides two intermediate loop distances. This trail will offer a unique single track snowshoe experience through the forest.
    Trail #6. Creates two loops and provides two intermediate loop distances. This trail also offers good views of the Mt. Murray mountain range.
    Trail #7. Former cross country ski system trail, connects with the High Rockies Trail, provides good views and length for moderate loops from both Chester and Sawmill.
    Trail #8. Former cross country ski system trail, provide loop up to Mt. Murray viewpoint.
    Trail #9. Trail goes through a nice open meadow, provides an easy short loop from the Chester Parking.

    3. Shared Use Winter Trails
  1. Remove brush and overhanging trees from all trails to provide appropriate tread width. Remove loose rocks, debris and smooth trail surfaces as required.
  2. Separate snowshoers and winter bikers from xc-skiers on steep hills by providing an adjacent route option on hills for snowshoe/winter bike to avoid collisions and to provide adequate space.
  3. Ensure clear signage is placed at appropriate locations.
  4. It is recommended that most trails be shared use for XC skiing, snowshoeing, winter biking and winter walking.
  5. Suggested trail designation is outlined in Map 6 (This is not yet finalized; Alberta Parks to work with the Friends on confirmation of designations).
  6. Occasional winter grooming to compact and smooth the snow is desirable, but not required for this plan. The option of grooming/track-setting should be considered if economic and/or climate conditions allow (Winter grooming is not supported by Alberta Parks at this time due in part to a lack of resources to groom and trackset in the area).
  1. Separate Winter Trails
  1. Remove brush and overhanging trees from all trails to provide appropriate tread width. Remove loose rocks, debris and smooth trail surfaces as required.
  2. Ensure clear signage is placed at appropriate locations.
  1. Integration with High Rockies Trail
  1. Endeavour to use the High Rockies Trail corridor, wherever possible, in order to minimize duplication.
  2. Designate the High Rockies Trail west section between the Chester Lake ski trail and Rummel Lake winter trail to be snowshoe and winter bike accessible (see Map 6 in plan).
  1. Possible Future Trails and Infrastructure
  1. The installation of a seasonal winter warming huts at the Sawmill Day Use, provides opportunity to enhance outdoor winter recreation while also encouraging Environmental Education Programs for school groups, and Public Education. A 30’ diameter yurt (sq. foot 706), similar to the one in the right picture has an approx. base price of $10,800. (This recommendation was not approved by Alberta Parks at this time due to a need for further study in the area and concerns with wildlife attractants).
  1. To consider the possible reintroduction of cross country ski trail grooming on selected trails. (This recommendation was not approved by Alberta Parks at this time due in part to a lack of resources to groom and trackset in the area).

With these new approvals comes a Volunteer Plan! We estimate there will be over 10 volunteer days working on the Chester Sawmill trail system and installing signage this summer and fall. That means these new trails will need your help to get all brushed up before next winter. Most of the work will include brushing overgrown old logging roads and dormant trails that used to be included in the 1990 ski system. We’ll keep you posted on when we’re ready to start working!
 
A big thank you to the Chester Sawmill committee; Alf Skrastins, Don Cockerton, Maurice Gaucher, Bob Truman, David Mills, Jennell Rempel, Derek Ryder and Alberta Parks – James Cieslak, for their time and energy in creating the recommendations and trail enhancement plan.