Planning Your Winter Short Hike 

The Canadian Rockies and other outdoor locations offer picturesque views and having time outside while physically distanced during the COVID-19 pandemic can be beneficial. Before you set out, there are some matters to keep in mind. The following items may help, and these “just touch the tip of the iceberg” and are not definitive or authoritative. These items are based on our personal experiences. Before you begin your journey, please see:

  • Environment Canada weather reports https://weather.gc.ca
  • Road condition reports https://511.alberta.ca/#:Alerts and https://roadreports.ama.ab.ca 
  • Hiking trail conditions https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/randonee-hiking/etat-sentiers-trail-conditions and https://www.albertaparks.ca/parks/kananaskis/kananaskis-country/advisories-public-safety/trail-reports/peter-lougheed/ 

Pack most of your hiking items the night you set out on your journey. You could have bear spray in your winter hiking backpack, a satellite or cell phone, and personal heating packs. You may also benefit from ice cleats and hiking poles. A hiker reported that their hiking pole snapped! Please inspect your equipment and make sure that it fits its purpose. 

Don’t forget your sunglasses and to wear sunscreen. Hydration packs could freeze under winter conditions, and you should carry water and sealed or wrapped food, a first aid kit, a compass and trail maps. Days can become shorter during the winter than at other times of the year, and it is essential to have personal headlamps and spare batteries. You could bring two pairs of gloves, a hat, and a scarf. One thin pair of gloves is for you to have flexibility when you are, i.e. taking photographs. The thick pair of gloves is for additional warmth. Have warm socks and consider carrying spare pairs if, for example, your gloves or socks become wet. You could tuck your pants in your boots to avoid getting wet feet. Long John’s are often an excellent base layer. Snow pants, gaiters, and jackets could help. There are benefits to you having thermal or merino wool wear. Also see, https://www.albertaparks.ca/albertaparksca/learning/parks-stories/alberta-parks-guide-to-backpacking-in-k-country/ 

Let your ‘fingers do some typing’ and research your clothing options from various government and non-government sources. Remember your face mask, hand sanitizer, and have one-use Kleenex in your pockets for runny noses! Also, alert others about where you are going and when you expect to return from your journey. When you arrive at your destination point, if it is crowded, have alternative venue/s in place. You could eat in the car and avoid crowded eating areas. You may limit your visits to public bathrooms and go to the toilet before your trip. See this link on washrooms https://tridentfoundation.net/?p=5382 Public bathrooms can have high traffic. 

Winterise your car, consult with your mechanic and arrange to have roadside assistance. Also, have emergency contact numbers available for roadside assistance, families or friends. If your car breakdowns, it could take you a while with current COVID-19 conditions to get help from friends or emergency services. You may have such items as blankets, a spare tire, and an air compressor. You would benefit from having a well-stocked first aid kit with, i.e. bandages, and bandaids. Also, have flashlights, roadside bases, super grip gloves, a cable to have your vehicle towed, flares, an adaptor cord, a 12 VUSB plug, a safety hammer, and a shovel. These are the kinds of items that you would want to have in your emergency kit for your vehicle. Some people have recommended having antiskid sand for your car to give added traction can help. For additional information, please see https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/sfttps/tp201012-en.aspx.

 In summary, ideally, you would have practical knowledge and skills about alpine conditions. Please start preparing for your journey and be careful! You and others are not immune from becoming environmental conditions, including being infected by the virus, so please be careful, remember your hand sanitizer, face mask and enjoy your short winter hike!