As Alberta’s Heritage Day long weekend approaches, Albertans are flocking to the U.S. to take advantage of the strong loonie, and to local campgrounds to take advantage of the warm, dry weather, The Calgary Herald reported.
Celebrated the first Monday in August, the three-day weekend gives Albertans a chance to travel and enjoy the summer.
With the Canadian dollar staying strong Thursday (July 28), closing at 105.09 cents U.S., as well as no sales tax in Montana and Canadian exemptions, Holiday Village Mall in Great Falls, Mont., expects lots of visitors from Alberta this weekend, said the mall’s general manager.
“We have noticed a lot more Alberta plates since December 2010. That was when the Canadian dollar exceeded par with the U.S. dollar,” said Devin Hartley in an e-mail, adding there’s been a strong Canadian presence year-round, particularly on weekends.
And with the start of school only one month away, many Canadian families are likely heading south for back-to-school shopping deals, said Mike Milne, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
On average, volumes of Canadians crossing the border increase by 25% to more than 30% on a holiday weekend, Milne said, adding his department will have extra staff on hand over the next few days to help minimize wait times.
Meanwhile, campgrounds have been quickly filling up in provincial and national parks leading up to the weekend.
“For the reserved sites, it’s pretty booked up,” said Camille Weleschuk, spokeswoman for Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.
She said people can still check for last-minute cancellations at the province’s 51 reserved sites, or try securing a spot at the 150 campsites where it’s first come first served.
Omar McDadi with Parks Canada said the national campgrounds are also getting booked up quickly and recommended that travelers arrive before 11 a.m. for a better chance to nab a site.
Those venturing out to Lake Minnewanka Trail in Banff National Park must now travel in groups of four or more and one person per group must be carrying bear spray, reminded Parks Canada.
Some campers headed out of town early to beat the weekend crowds, including Calgarian Ryan Turner and his kids Linden, 3, and Chloe, 6, who were lucky to secure a site at Paddy’s Flat in Elbow Valley west of Calgary on Thursday afternoon.
“The sign said the area was full but we saw someone pulling out. There was still smoke in the campfire,” Turner said. “This is the best time to come out. There’s a lot set up but no one’s here. It’s quiet.”
Amy Brett of Cochrane said she and her sister had been ready to give up and take off to Sundre before they found a pair of side-by-side sites at Paddy’s Flat Campground.
“This was our last attempt here,” Brett said.
It’s no surprise that campsites are packed with forecasts calling for warm and dry weather with “wall to wall sun” all weekend, said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.