Philip Turnbull booked the ever-popular Elizabeth Parker Hut in Yoho National Park back on November 1 — five weeks before social gatherings were banned and before COVID-19 cases rose dramatically.

“At the time small cohorts were allowed so we’d go with a couple of friends and try and be as safe as possible,” Turnbull says.

The hut is operated by the Alpine Club of Canada, a non-profit with chapters across the country aimed at building mountain skills and community. The club says it cancelled 29,000 user night bookings last summer as a result of restrictions. It later re-opened its popular hut system, but now instead of sharing with other guests, groups book the entire hut for two, three or six nights.

When Turnbull first booked the two night stay, he was going with his wife and six friends. He knew there was a “no refund” policy unless the hut was closed down.

But with just two weeks to go, he’s in a difficult spot — accept a $1500 credit (the equivalent of roughly 18 nights for two people) or break provincial health guidelines restricting non-essential travel and go with just his wife for an expensive getaway.

"Now they're saying that because the hut doesn't specifically have to close, even though I'm not allowed to travel to it, that they won't give me a refund," Turnbull says.

But the ACC says it operates most of its huts on a cost recovery basis. While some are profitable in normal years, such as the Elizabeth Parker Hut, the money goes to cover costs for chapters across the country. It pays for things such as insurance and mountain skills clinics.