I gave jvw a quick tutorial on QGIS, via sharing my desktop remotely. I think he figured out what he wanted to do. To import the XYZ data, use Layer->Import raster. You need to set the coordinate system for the layer. In his case, it was UTM 11N. Also, set the coordinate system for "on-the-fly" projection, bottom right corner. You want that in the same system so your view is not distorted.
If you double click on the layer, you can change the "Symbology". E.g. instead of a grayscale image, get colors from blue to red based on elevation. You can control the range of colors, etc. Lots of options there but a bit of a learning curve.
To see contours, use Raster-> Extraction -> Contour. Enter the spacing between contour lines. In his case, the elevation was in meters. If you make the distance too small, you will get very many contour lines and it will look a mess. Too few and you don't see the "lay of the land".
Contours show up as a separate layer. You can drag the layer above or below the raster layer. You can also change the color and transparency of the layers by double clicking on the layer.
If you want to see quarter section boundaries, QGIS can do that too. For Alberta, go here to get the "shapefiles" that contain the spacial vector data (free download after you register):
In the file I downloaded, the shapefile with the quarter sections is "V4-1_QTR.shp". In QGIS, do Layer-> Add vector.
To see quarter section properties, use the "Identify features" tool (View -> Identify features). You should get a box on right that shows feature properties. In there will be the legal land location (qtr, sect, twp, rng, mer).