March 28th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 13
Great Divide Trail info session draws a full house
Economic opportunity for Crowsnest Pass grows as trail popularity grows
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
It was a full house at Country Encounters where community members gathered to learn more about plans to relocate a section of the Great Divide Trail from its current location on the British Columbia side crossing Teck mine property, to a section just north of Crowsnest Pass. Pictured left is David Hockey, chairman of the Great Divide Trail Association.
Pass Herald Reporter
About 50 people gathered for a Great Divide Trail Association (GDTA) information session at Country Encounters on March 21 to learn more about the plans to relocate a section of trail just north of Crowsnest Pass.

There is a section along the Great Divide Trail (GDT) that crosses Teck’s Line Creek mine property that the group hopes to relocate to a Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ) more suitable to hiking.

The planned 44 km of new, relocated trail will begin at Chinook Lake, snaking through the alpine and follow the divide between Alberta and B.C. and connecting with the trail to Tornado Mountain at the Highways 40 and 940 intersection.

Right now, seven separate trips are set up for this summer between June and August that will involve volunteers building bridges, clearing a path for and then marking the brand new trail.

There are two main types of trips, the signature trip – where all food is included - and the hybrid trip – where volunteers are expected to bring their own food, but cooking utensils and a kitchen area are provided. While both these trips span several days, there may also be opportunity for volunteers to participate in day-long opportunities.

All hand and power tools are provided by the association, but volunteers are required to bring proper clothing, sleeping and camping items and personal toiletries.

A training session for volunteers is scheduled for May where volunteers will teach safety and technique to working with tools.
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“There will be a lot of tread work and brush work up in this section and not so much tree-cutting as it's high-alpine area. We really want to show what you do, how to operate the tools and how to use them safely. The trail will get built and we want you to go home tired, but we don’t want anyone to get hurt," says Hockey.

In the broader vision, the association is seeking to establish the very first chapter formation of the GDTA in Crowsnest Pass, a group of local volunteers and leaders and “boots on the ground”, as Hockey puts it, who will coordinate and perform ongoing maintenance of the section GDT work in the area from Crowsnest Pass north to Window Mountain.
“We would like to see a lot of the decision-making coming from the Crowsnest Chapter, not just out of Calgary although there will be tons of support from Calgary,” says Hockey.

Although some of the upcoming trips are already filled to capacity, there are still some spots left for those interested in volunteering. Email for information on which trips have openings, or visit for resources about the Great Divide Trail.

The GDT follows the hydrological divide between Alberta and British Columbia, spanning some 1,130 km from Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta to Kakwa Provincial Park in BC. The GDT varies from being a well-developed, marked trail to an unmarked, cross-country wilderness route where navigation skills are required.
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The majority of the trail is not officially signed consistently and the route is actually made up of several separate trail systems joined together by ATV tracks, horseback routes, old logging roads, wilderness routes and parts of routes from other established trails.

The Great Divide Trail Association (GDTA) is dedicated to the promotion and maintenance of the trail. The group organizes regular trail building sessions with the broad vision of having an entirely marked trail recognized by the provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia.

Economic opportunity

A streamlined, properly laid out and marked trail does more than just make the trail safer and easier for hikers to follow.

With 11 resupply spots along the 1,130 km of trail, hikers use these points in different ways along their journey, contributing to the economy of these towns to various degrees.

Coleman is one of those critical access spots and plays an important role in a hiker's journey along the GDT, providing a place to restock on food or supplies and make use of lodging amenities.

So what is the potential for Crowsnest Pass?

“Huge,” said GDTA director Doug Borthwick at the meeting.
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Sometimes, hikers send packages to local post offices to pick up along their hike, but most hikers use resupply spots in more engaged ways, like buying brand new supplies from local businesses and using local services like hotels and restaurants.

"There are a few hikers that just pick up a package and keep going, but most people will have a night in a hotel and a fairly large meal," says Hockey. "Some people don't send any packages and for any place where there's a town, they will buy everything they need for the next few days."
Especially along the Great Divide Trail, resupply points play a very important role as hikers may need to cover as much as 250 kilometres between accessible towns.

In fact, there are only four places along the GDT with stores that carry adequate food and supplies for long-distance backpacking, Crowsnest Pass being one of them, along with the Waterton townsite, Banff and Jasper. These areas play critical roles in planning and succeeding in long-distance journeys spanning several days along the GDT.

As the Great Divide Trail Association continues to work hard to promote the trail and hiker interest continues to grow, the potential for Crowsnest Pass increases.

In 2010, Hockey says there were about 20 people who hiked the trail in its entirety from start to finish. Last year, the number of thru-hikers was up to 60 and Hockey says he noticed an evident compounding growth pattern in interest on hits on their website.
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March 28th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 13
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