CALGARY -- Albertans looking to escape the cold and head to warmer climes have plenty of travel options available: Mexico, Jamaica, Thailand or … Mars?

The highest temperature recorded on the red planet Wednesday morning was -17 C, according to NASA, which was still a few degrees above Alberta, where the warmest temperature recorded was –21.2 C, at Nakiska Ridge in Kananaskis Country.

In Calgary, it reached a low of –31.2 C early Wednesday, according to Environment Canada, while in Edmonton the mercury dipped to –34 C.

And along with Mars, Alberta was colder than a number of other well-known spots, like Siberia, which sat at –11 C Wednesday morning, and Nuuk, Greenland, where it was  –12 C.

The extended cold snap is bringing its share of issues for Albertans to deal with.

The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) said Wednesday it has received 30,700 calls for assistance since Sunday, which is about six times the usual volume.

"People's safety is our top priority," said Brandon Klassen, a manager with AMA Automotive Services, in a statement. 

"We’re prioritizing calls to ensure people in emergency situations receive help as quickly as possible and thank Albertans for their understanding as we work around the clock to reach those in need. It's absolutely all hands on deck over here."

With forecasters saying a reprieve won't come until the weekend, AMA offered tips for motorists, including:

  • Prior to driving, plug in your vehicle for at least four hours when the outdoor temperature is –15C or below
  • If you have any doubts about your battery’s health on a cold day, consider alternate transportation until a test is completed or new battery is installed
  • If your vehicle doesn't have a block heater, switching to synthetic oil in the winter will help the engine turn over
  • Ensure your gas tank is at least half full and consider using gas-line antifreeze
  • Make sure you have an emergency roadside kit on hand. It should contain, at minimum, a warm blanket, warm clothing, basic first aid, water, a snow brush, and a cell phone charger
  • If your vehicle breaks down, your safety comes first. Please get to a warm place and don’t wait in your vehicle, as extreme temperatures make it dangerous to be outdoors (even inside a car)
  • Drive to conditions, keeping in mind that roads are extremely slick and additional stopping distance is required
  • Ensure your tires are properly inflated, as most tires lose one pound per square inch for every 5 C drop in temperature

The cold is also making life difficult for city crews as they deal with a number of water main breaks in Calgary, affecting more than 200 homes.

And Winsport has decided to keep the ski hill at Canada Olympic Park closed through Friday because of the cold, with the reopening expected Saturday.

But relief is in sight. According to the Environment Canada forecast, it will go from –21 C on Saturday to 2 C on Sunday in Calgary, while in Edmonton, it will go from –24 C on Saturday to –4 C on Sunday.

And anyone thinking of making the interplanetary trip to Mars should take note, while the warmest temperature on Wednesday was –17 C, the coldest temperature on that planet was –101.3 C.