Castle Lookout to Baker Creek – superb!

Castle Lookout to Baker Creek

A couple things before I start my report.

Chuck would like me to remind everyone that on single tracksetting, downhillers have the right-of-way. That’s very important on Cascade Valley(beyond the 6K bridge) where Chuck was today, also on the Castle Lookout to Baker Creek trail where I was today. I’m pleased to say that everyone was following the rules on my trail. 

Castle Lookout to Baker Creek

What did Chuck mean when he said “you’re already one year older than your grandfather?” Look at his amazing photos to figure it out. (Hint: count the points on the elk antlers). 

Couch-builder MaSid 

I just finished reading Helen Read’s trip report and had to laugh. When I met MaSid on the trail, we were both wondering where Helen was. Now we know. She was long gone by the time I started, and MaSid(first one on the trail today) was probably at the Baker Creek end when Helen was turning around at the end of the railway tracks. 

Everyone I met on the trail today read the news about new tracksetting. The Castle Lookout parking lot was pretty well full when I arrived, but one early bird just left and gave me their spot. 

Sophie and Bajoue

The air temperature was -6°C and the snow was -8. Yesterday’s blue wax(VR40) worked well all day. 

I can’t think of anything they could do to make the conditions any better than they were today. I was even able to stop before reaching the road on that first downhill as you leave Castle Lookout. That would be the only place where I would advise caution on this entire trail. 

Cassandra, Debbie and dogs Odin and Joe

I guess if there was anything that could be improved upon, maybe steady sun throughout the day. I had a mixture of sun and clouds while I was on the trail between 12:30 – 3:00. This trail has stunning scenery and it displays best in full sun. Oh yes, and more dogs. 

If the hill down to the road is too scary, simply remove your skis and walk down. It will probably be scraped bare by tomorrow unless there’s new snow overnight. 

Cheryl, Leslie, and dog Billie

The first bit of this trail winds through the forest but at 1K you are suddenly greeted with a magnificent view of Castle mountain. Soon you will start the gentle and short climb on the first hill. Be aware of descending skiers. There is only one track and the downhillers have the right-of-way. I moved over a few times, and when I was descending, approaching skiers were quick to clear the track for me. 

Castle Lookout to Baker Creek

The views from the ridges of both hills are among the best you will find along a ski trail in MAAD’s Great Canadian Rockies. The day wouldn’t be complete without a train going by far underneath. 

When you finish descending the second hill, you will feel the cold air coming from the dark and cold “tunnel.” The tunnel is exactly 1K long and it’s possible that you’ll see a train on the other end. 

I stepped to the side for Jeannie and Brian

Skiers were telling me about a cow moose and her calf around the Protection Mountain campground area but I was too late to see them. There were moose tracks everywhere. 

It was a good day for seeing dogs and I enjoyed talking with the dog’s owners. In my photos, the dog Odin had just stuck his face in the deep snow. The photo of Cheryl, Leslie and Billie was taken in the dark and cold tunnel. 

Don’t get confused. There are two trails which depart from Castle Lookout. The Castle Lookout to Castle Junction trail, which goes east from Castle Lookout, has a few places where it gets “sporty.” The downhill through the trees is the one that always has me on edge. 

Friday photos

Hay Meadow on Jan 14. Photo by Alf Skrastins

Alf Skrastins’ photos from his Hay Meadow – Ruthie’s – Screamer – Skogan – Sunburst – High Level – Skogan Loop trip were remarkable. I was amazed to see the pictures of Hay Meadow without any bootprints. 

Hay Meadow. Photo by Alf Skrastins

A caution had been posted about the conditions below the Marmot junction because of the rain, but the grooming seemed to mitigate any issues…

Hummingbird Plume. Photo by Alf Skrastins

“The snowcat tiller had worked it’s magic on the ice crust an Hay Meadow was impeccably groomed. The snow was firm and fast, but the corduroy was still “edge able”. There was no problem with grip on Ruthies and the Skogan Screamer, and then things just got better above the old Marmot Creek junction.” -Alf Skrastins

With warm temperatures today, the snow may be getting wet and soft. The thermometer at Hay Meadow is already indicating +6°C this morning. 

Castle Lookout to Baker Creek

On my way to Lake Louise yesterday, I stopped at Redearth Creek and skied up a couple kilometres and have posted a couple photos below. On my way home, I took the Bow Valley Parkway and observed brand new tracksetting on Baker Creek to Castle Lookout and continuing to Castle Junction. That’s a 15K stretch of trail with new tracksetting. 

Mt Shark

On Thursday, 10 to 15 cm’s of snow was mixed in to the base as all ski trails at Mt Shark were groomed and trackset.  No new snow fell during the grooming. The base continues to improve at Mt Shark, and in some places this has led to some snow laden pine branches encroaching the edges of the trail- mainly on parts of the 15k loop, and especially the extra 5k of this loop.  Some of these were removed and this process will continue over the coming weeks.

Jan 14: Bill Milne, Wedge Connector, and Evan Thomas renovated to loosen up the frozen rain affected snow, groomed, and trackset this evening. Though more spring like, conditions remain good, but as always ski with caution.

Lake Louise tracksetting on Jan 14: Lake Louise surface; Moraine Lake Rd; Bow River Loop; Campground Loop. 

Dog-friendly, beautiful, peaceful, magical Pipestone

You’ve already read about Pipestone from Chris and Karl. I met them as I was starting out and they were finishing on Pipestone #20. They started early in cold weather but I waited for the temperature to warm up and for the snow to speed up. 

Hector

Chris and Karl mentioned that the parking lot had not been plowed. I’m glad they made it in okay. Getting out is easier because you’re going downhill. Fortunately I have winter tires for these occasions. 

I was on the other side of Pipestone Pond, but it was easy to spot MaSid’s couch in the bright sun. It looks like you could enjoy the sun until at least 3 pm. I’m hoping Steve and Jo have photos of the couch because they had lunch there. 

The air temperature when I started at 1:10 pm was -6°C and the snow was -8. The sun was shining and the air was calm. The trails were trackset yesterday and were in excellent shape.

Steve, Jo and Piper

The downhills still had enough loose snow to control your speed. There were a few wayward pine needles on the trail but nothing to be concerned with. I had no debris embedded in my wax at the end of the day. 

“Peaceful Pipestone” I only encountered eight other skiers on my 13.2K loop.

“Magical Pipestone” I love the ambience of this trail system because it feels so remote and secluded. The sun shining through the snow-laden trees gives an aura of an enchanted forest. 

Pipestone

“Beautiful Pipestone” is self-explanatory when you look at the photos. 

The best for last: “Dog-friendly Pipestone” The skiing was terrific but it made my day to meet Piper, the friendly golden retriever. At the other end of Piper’s leash was Steve Riggs along with his wife Jo. Steve, being the trendsetter that he is, was sporting an impressively cool covid-19 haircut. Steve is an original SkierBob trip reporter from 2008. 

Coming home on Hector

Baker Creek to Castle Lookout

I took the Bow Valley Parkway on the way home and saw brand new tracksetting on the Baker Creek to Castle Lookout trail. The fresh tracksetting continues from Castle Lookout to Castle Junction, so you have 15K of trail with excellent tracks for tomorrow. 

Pipestone couch. Photo by Steve Riggs

Redearth Creek

On the way to Lake Louise, I made a quick reconnaissance ski on Redearth Creek. It looks like about 4 cm of new snow from the recent storm. I skied for 2K and was pleased to see no tracksetting on the first 1K of trail which is mostly steep hills with turns. The little bridge has lots of snow at both ends so you can take it at speed with no problem. The fresh snow on the multi-use lane has been packed but the tracks, which start at 1K, are still from a previous tracksetting. About 400 metres in, there’s a fallen tree across the trail where you have to remove your skis to get over. 

The Bill Milne, Evan-Thomas and Wedge trails are being trackset tonight. 

Post-storm grooming updates

Jan. 14, 2021

Core trails have been groomed at WBC

West Bragg Creek

Loggers at WBC

1-3 cm of snow fell yesterday after pouring rain early in the a.m. This evening we were able to renovate all of the skate lanes and there is new track setting on West Crystal, Loggers and Hostel Meadow (not Loop). Conditions on these trails are actually quite good. Elsewhere, it will be a mixed bag with conditions ranging from good to poor depending on each trail’s exposure to the elements. Caution is advised on any trails not recently groomed. –Boomer Groomer

Skogan Pass

All Skogan area trails groomed and trackset this evening and everything above the old Marmot Junction is in excellent condition. New snow depth quickly starts to build up at this point with upwards of 15cm new snow at higher elevations. Below this point ( Skogan Screamer, Lower Skogan ) expect to find the conditions very firm and slightly rough due to last nights rain at low elevations. Ski with care.

If you begin skiing at Ribbon Creek or Hay Meadow, it would require about 3K of skiing on firm, slightly rough conditions to reach the Marmot junction. 

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

On Wednesday, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark for most of the day, approximately 10-15 cm’s of snow fell in the Park (with more at higher elevations).  With the exception of the trails groomed on Wednesday night, expect all trails to be covered with this new snow. Along with the snow came strong winds, so expect snow bombs and other tree debris on the trails, and heavy drifting in open areas.

Last night’s tracksetting included…

  • Pocaterra from  the hut to Packers junction
  • Lynx
  • Come-Along

Yesterday, the single-track trails of Fox Creek, Boulton Creek and Moraine were trackset. 

Banff

  • Tunnel Mountain trails were trackset.

Lake Louise

  • Pipestone
  • Moraine Lake road
  • Great Divide
  • Tramline

 

Wednesday wanderings

High Level on Dec 28, 2020

It didn’t take the Ribbon Creek crew very long to start grooming the fresh snow. The Skogan Pass trails are being groomed tonight. You can follow the snowcat’s progress on Skitrails.info. I’m not sure who’s in the ‘cat, but he’s just finished Sunburst and High Level as I write this at 6:30 pm. 

Update 7:16 pm Just received this note fron Tracksetter Jeff:

“The new snow starts at the Marmot gate on Skogan. I’m afraid below that it is rain soaked snow which will soon be ice. We will do our best to at least make it safe once it cools off.”

Wayback Wednesday: Marmot Basin/Gate is the trail which branches off Skogan near the top of the Screamer. This is the last blog post I wrote about Marmot Basin trail  before it was destroyed in the 2013 floods. Loved that trail. 

Thanks for the trip reports. We don’t get as many on a day like today, but the ones we get are more valuable than ever. It seems like most places had wet snow, although Jeff G said the snow was drier after about 2K on Redearth Creek. 

When I looked at the West Bragg Creek webcam at 5:20 pm, it didn’t look like they received much snow. It’ll take some groomer magic to fix the horse damage with only 1 cm of new snow.

Helen Read brought my attention to this unusual ski trail report from Parks Canada regarding Lower Telemark at Lake Louise. Can you pick out the peculiarities?

Lake Louise tracksetting today…

  • Pipestone trails
  • Moraine Lake road
  • Great Divide
  • Upper and Lower Tramline

PLPP Tracksetting today…

  • Boulton Creek
  • Fox Creek
  • Moraine

Poor conditions at West Bragg Creek

 It’s raining with strong winds at 8 am in Calgary. 

The mountains have received some snow, but unfortunately not in West Bragg Creek.

Equestrian damage at WBC. Photo by Boomer Groomer

Jan 13 at 7am: West Bragg Creek update from Boomer  Groomer…

“Heavy chinook winds will have left debris and possibly trees down on the trails system. Conditions will be variable and skiers can expect glazed tracks, ice/crusty snow, and natural hazards. Caution is advised. Snow would be welcome at this point!”

Equestrian damage at WBC. Photo by Boomer Groomer

Update 8:10 am: “Two days ago it was heaps of equestrian damage on all the ski trails. This morning it just started to rain. Skiing is not recommended at WBC.

Also, a trip report from RichieRich…

“WBC late afternoon skate outing report:

It’s gonna be ice ice BB!!

Equestrian damage at WBC. Photo by Boomer Groomer

Had a good skate there from 330-5’ish today.  They did an amazing job refurbishing and tracks look great but two days near 10C have them heavily glazed as was the grooming for skate when we finished it was sure crusty and getting slick and fast.  Not good for beginners right now.    Spiked tires needed for FB I’m sure. 

Just under 13km. SUPER windy and gusty and so even on flats going into that wind was tough.  However the tailwind back on Mountain was pretty awesome.  Will see evidence of the wind by way of more debris.  They might get snow tomorrow… hopefully not rain.  Will need a major refurbishment IMO before it’ll be worth going again (or just above zero to soften things).”

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park trail report

Jan 13 at 6am: With temperatures hovering around 0°C and snow continuing to fall, 10cm of fresh snow was measured on the ground at Pocaterra hut. Expect all ski-trails in Peter Lougheed park to be covered in at least 10cm new snow with greater depths at higher elevations.

Confederation golf course

Coverage remains good on the trails thanks to the hours of snow farming by volunteers! There are a few spots where grass is coming through but it easily avoided. Snow is highly variable with the warm weather and how exposed the trail is to the sun. Expect hard icy conditions in the morning and evening and softer mid day. We do less grooming during the warm conditions as it accelerate melting during warm weather. Ski with care.

Overnight Snowfall 

PLPP Pocaterra hut: 10 cm and snowing

Mt Shark: At 5:30am this morning with temperatures hovering around -1c and snow continuing to fall,  there was approximately 8cm of fresh snow on the ground.

Nakiska 4 cm

Lake Louise 11 cm

Norquay 10 cm

Golden, BC: 8 a.m. we had 14cm of snow overnight, currently raining and windy 

The race is on…sort of

Lake Louise to Banff Loppet in 2016

Normally at this time of year we’d be getting prepared for loppet season. While a few loppets are still on the books, the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet which is first on my list is cancelled but the organizers are hoping to do this in its place…

“Dear Loppet participants,

Castle Lookout to Castle Junction in the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet in 2019

Please stay tuned here for information related to a Virtual Challenge. We are hoping to open registration for a self-sufficient race on the original Loppet course from Lake Louise to Castle Junction sometime next week (Jan11-16). We are waiting for final grooming permit confirmation.”

The distance from Lake Louise to Castle Junction is 36K. A permit from Banff National Park would be required for the stretch between the Campground Loop in LL and Baker Creek. 

According to Darrell’s report, Baker Creek to Castle Lookout was being trackset this afternoon. 

The trip reports indicated some snow had fallen today in the mountains. When I looked at the Lake Louise webcam at 5 pm, it appeared to be snowing there. Should be a few more cm overnight.

Beginner skiers – here’s help!

I didn’t have a clue about anything ski-related when I was a beginner skier. I enjoyed the process of discovering the trails and learning about waxing, etc, but I remember tackling some trails that I shouldn’t have been on(luckily I was going up suicide hill that day, and not descending!). 

This comment from Grace is telling me that beginner skiers are needing more guidance:

“I skied on the Kananaskis Village side of Ribbon Creek recently and noticed a lot of skiers struggling on downhills that were in near perfect condition. I’m assuming they were newbies who didn’t know the trail system, and I was curious to see why they selected the trails they did. Turns out that the trail maps don’t indicate difficulty (the two trail signs I checked didn’t have small paper winter maps underneath). I think it would be great if Parks could make official, securely attached winter maps with this information to help newbie skiers choose trails that fit their abilities.”

Until Parks comes up with maps, we can help. I’ve created a page Beginner Skiers – Ask Before You Go where you can ask about trail difficulty or any other question that’s on your mind. This blog’s readers will be more than willing to offer their advice. 

I’ve also created a page specifically for raw beginners that discusses the absolute easiest trails on which to find your ski legs. Beginner Trails 101: where are the easy trails for beginners? 

On the sidebar, there is a banner where you can click to go to the questions page. 

Ready for some new snow?

Packers. Jan 10, 2021. Photo by Alf Skrastins

Jan 11, 2021: Alf’s photos from the north end of PLPP illustrate the incredible trail conditions and grooming. $50 for an entire season of skiing on this? What a fantastic deal if it was just PLPP, but it also includes Ribbon Creek, Mt Shark, and Sandy McNabb. 

Pocaterra Jan 10, 2021. Photo by Alf Skrastins.

The wind is powerful and howling this morning in Calgary. A wind warning has been issued for Canmore and Kananaskis, so we’ll certainly need some snow to cover the tree debris. Fortunately, we are expecting snow on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The wind at Nakiska ridgetop this morning: WSW 94 gust 118 km/h.

Rolly Road. Jan 10, 2021. Photo by Alf Skrastins

The imminent snowfall is going to be a more traditional winter storm where the higher elevations receive the most. As always, the various weather forecasts differ widely with their predictions, so I’ve done the averaging and here is what we can expect:

  • West Bragg Creek 11 cm
  • Sandy McNabb 12 cm
  • Ribbon Creek 14 cm
  • Canmore 14 cm
  • PLPP 20 cm
  • Banff 16 cm
  • Lake Louise 19 cm
  • Yoho 32 cm
  • Calgary 5 cm

Last night in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, the following trails were trackset:

  • Amos
  • Meadow
  • Wheeler
  • Woolley

The temperature at the PLPP maintenance compound is -4°C. At Hay Meadow it is +1.

The other Baker Creek

Baker Creek scout cabin. Photo by Chuck

Don’t get this confused with the trackset trail which runs from Baker Creek to Protection Mountain campground along the Bow Valley Parkway. Chuck says this backcountry trail, which actually parallels Baker creek, is a secret and skied only by locals, so after reading this, forget that you ever saw it here. Be sure to look at Chuck’s photos.

The meadows. Photo by Chuck

I dug up my book by Chic Scott “Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies” to read the description of the trail. 

“A popular trail with pleasant views of Protection and Lipalian Mountains. The meadows make a superb place to sit in the sun and have lunch. 

Distance: 12 K to the meadows return

Allison, Maureen, Sarah, and Evelyn.  Photo by Chuck

Elevation gain: 210 metres

Options: You can continue skiing farther up this valley. The trail crosses the meadow, gradually climbing and staying above the creek, then contnues another 5K to a campground. Really keen skiers can carry on for another 12K to Baker Lake then descend via Boulder Pass to Lake Louise.”

That extended version sounds like a trip for MAAD or Normand. 

Wouldn’t you know it, the day I look at Chic Scott’s book, there is a photo of him skiing at Emerald Lake. It’s posted on the Kicking Horse Ski Club’s website along with fresh wolf tracks. 

My book is an older edition, but the fifth and latest edition is available at Rocky Mountain Books.