The neighbour in the white house

Mountain View east at WBC. Photo by Steve Riggs

Thanks for all the trip reports. It looks like conditions were excellent, even on ungroomed trails. We have 16 reports already from nine different venues. All are informative and interesting, and a few are funny. Steve Riggs’ photos from WBC are remarkable.

Kudos to G for following through on the Maple Ridge golf course issue. G talked to the city and was assured that the golf course is open for skiing, but they didn’t say if access would be made more convenient. “Right now the hole in the fence in the alley is the best access.”

The neighbour at Maple Ridge in the white house is creating quite a reputation for himself. As Herbert Kruschke remarked, “Ah yes, the neighbor in the white house… I too have felt his wrath. Maybe he should take up woodworking or some such.”

Spring Creek trails at Cypress Hills

I was thrilled to get Courtney Tripp’s report from Cypress Hlls…

“Fantastic day at the Spring Creek Trails in Cypress Hills Provincial Park. -12 and sunny. Skier packed. Great to see so many friends out so early!”

A rocky section on Ridgetop trail

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I frequently visit my brother in Medicine Hat and I enjoy skiing at Cypress Hills which is close by. Last winter I skied all the trails over a four day stretch on very good conditions.

Cypress Hills last summer

One of the trails at Cypress Hills, Ridgetop,  had a lot of rocks on a steep hill where I had to remove my skis. I went back this summer with my bike, leather gloves, and a pry bar and removed 5500 rocks from the entire length of the 7K trail. Yes, fifty-five hundred! The pry bar was only required on about 1% of those. Most of the rocks were on the steep hill over a 400 metre distance. Now, even with a low snow pack, it might be skiable. 

The groomer at Cypress Hills has been given the green light to groom the trails when the snow depth is sufficient. He uses an old Pisten-Bully that was originally used at Ribbon Creek. 

I received an update from Warren Smith who grooms the Little Red trails near Olds, AB. He’s already been packing a few of the trails and gave this warning…

“If you are skiing in November, we advise that you wear bright colours, as that is hunting season.”

Sunday morning update

West Bragg Creek: Iron Creek on Oct 25. Photo by Boomer Groomer

Cold snow, sunshine, and groomed trails. The sun rises on a beautiful day for cross-country skiing. Conditions should be fantastic, if chilly, out there. Thanks to Boomer Groomer at West  Bragg Creek for the photo and report…

“Another beautiful morning in the creek! All skate lane have been renovated and new track setting on Elbow N., Iron Springs and Iron Creek. Over 40 hrs of grooming in the last 3 days means lots of opportunity for great skiing on 65 km of trail.”

The photo of the WBC parking lot shows an early skier preparing his skis. I’ll bet he’s applying green wax. 

Maple Ridge golf course

Thanks to G for this update…

I talked to 311. Maple Ridge Golf course is open to skiing, they didn’t say if they would be changing access into it though so more people may need to call 311 to get that fixed.  Right now the hole in the fence in the alley is the best access.

If the neighbour in the White House on the corner tells you it’s trespassing or closed he is not correct.

Lake Louise: Moraine Lake Road and the Great Divide are trackset. 

Who is going to check out the “Backdoor to Pocaterra” today? Looking forward to a report tonight. 

 

Moraine Lake road is trackset

Moraine Lake road. Photo by Chuck

Thanks to Chuck for the photos and report from Lake Louise. The damage created by the vehicle driving on the road has been repaired and the trail looks to be in great condition. Now I’m hoping we’ll get a report regarding conditions on the Great Divide. 

Click for larger image

Parks Canada will be closing the parking lot at Moraine Lake road for a significant length of time this fall. Unless parking is allowed on the road(Lake Louise Drive), your access will be from Upper Tramline which starts at the Parks Canada parking lot at the lake. It will add 1.6K to your trip one way. Skiing to the end of MLR will become 10.6K or 21.2 return. When I say the end, I mean the end of the grooming. MLR carries on for a few kilometres further but it’s not groomed due to avalanche hazard. 

The final sentence on the notice doesn’t make sense to me. “The Moraine Lake road traffic gate will remain closed during the seasonal winter road closure.” I hope that’s a mistake. 

Update: According to Chuck the parking lot will not be closed once the gate is installed. “It just means that the Moraine Lake road will continue to be closed to vehicle traffic for the remainder of the winter season (after the improved gate is installed), as usual.”

Backyard Skiing

In addition to the first tracksetting on MLR, every fall I look forward to Steve Riggs’ photos from his Urban Tour in Calgary

Backyard skiing. Photo by Steve Riggs.

 

 

West Bragg Creek and Lake Louise update

Sat Oct 24 @ 12 noon: Thanks to Boomer Groomer for the report and photo of West Crystal Line…

The following trails have been re track set as of 10 am Saturday morning thanks to about 5-7cm of snow overnight:

Mountain Road, West Crystal and links, East Crystal, Loggers, Sundog, Mountian View, Moose connector and Hostel Meadow. All other trails had been track set the previous day with the exception of Telephone (roller packed only) and Elbow South (which we do not groom) Conditions are lovely, but expect it to be soft and some hazards exist although they are few and far between.

Lake Louise

After reading Mike’s trip report, mentioning the groomers were at the Great Divide yesterday afternoon, I checked the Banff trail report for Lake Louise. It indicates the Great Divide is “Groomed.” I don’t know if they mean it is trackset or just rolled. Last week, when the trail was rolled, they referred to it as “packed.” So perhaps “Groomed” is a step up and might mean trackset? I’m hoping for a trip report from someone who was there today. 

A vehicle has driven down Moraine Lake road so I’m guessing it’s in rough shape. 

Friday night update

Helen and Kai at the Crystal Line/Loggers junction

Update Oct 24 at 8:30 a.m: The snowfall warning for Calgary and Bragg Creek has ended.

I enjoyed some wonderful sking today at West Bragg Creek, and by the number of WBC trip reports which have been submitted, it appears that a lot of other people were having fun, too. 

Eric and David on Mountain road

I was thinking that the parking lot at WBC would be crowded tomorrow(Saturday), but will the snowfall warning keep some people away, or just bring more out? The snowfall warning is for Calgary and Bragg Creek with 10-20 cm expected. Snow will continue overnight tonight with the snow tapering off late Saturday afternoon.

David and Mazi at the high point on Loggers

Not all the forecasts are predicting a big dump. For example, Windy.com is only expecting 5 cm in the next 24 hours. 

The snowfall warning is not in effect in the mountains. I hope we get a trip report from someone who skied at Lake Louise today. I would be surprised if Parks Canada didn’t groom Moraine Lake road and the Great Divide. 

Winter Wonderland on Loggers

The temperature in late afternoon at West Bragg Creek was -10°C with light snow falling. My day got off to a great start right in the parking lot when I encountered K2 and Loki, two former sled dogs who are now retired. It was a precursor to a day filled with beautiful soft falling snow, trackset trails, many smiling faces, good conversations and lots more dogs. 

Just a reminder, dogs are allowed to run off-leash at WBC, but are required to be leashed in the parking lot. 

Upper West Crystal Line

I’m still using VR40(-4/-12) and it’s working well, but with tonight’s low of -15, you might need to dig out the green wax. Imagine, green wax on trackset trails in October!

Backdoor to Pocaterra is an option for the weekend. Here’s an exerpt from an email I received from Carl regarding PLPP high elevation trails…

Loki and K2, sled dogs who have retired

“We skied across to Pocaterra and up the last bit of it, the full length of Tyrwhit to Elk Pass, down Hydroline to Lookout, up Lookout to the fire lookout and down to the Pocaterra/Whiskyjack junction, and back to the cars (18km).

The snow was amazingly good, a full foot of snow that was heavy enough to barely, if at all, hit any rocks.”

Frozen Thunder is in full swing at the Canmore Nordic Centre and should be in excellent condition with the snow and cold weather. 

Mother Nature is smiling on us right now. We lost a month of skiing last spring due to the plague, but the Snow Gods are compensating us with this incredible early season. 

Earliest ever tracksetting at West Bragg Creek

Colleen, pictured above on Loggers, read my mid-afternoon update about the tracksetting at West Bragg Creek. She grabbed her gear and headed out to indulge in the early-early season snow and grooming. 

Tom on Lower West Crystal Line

We’ve already had a number of reports from WBC, thanks everyone. I’ll add a few photos and give you another glowing report. 

I did the West Crystal – East Crystal loop which is about 8K. It was all trackset and in great shape. I did not see one rock, and there was very little grass poking through. Just a few slushy spots which were of little consequence but I did stop and shovel snow onto two of the larger ones. There’s plenty of extra snow on the side of the trail. When I ran into Eduard he reported seeing two rocks as he was coming up West Sundog.

Groomer Jeff, aka Boomer Groomer.

Of course with all the snow and the first grooming, conditions are a little soft but going slow is almost mandatory in such a beautiful place. 

For wax, my VR40(-4/-12) which was on my skis from Sunday at Lake Louise did the trick. The temperature in late afternoon was -9°C and it dropped one degree while I was skiing. It was also snowing when I left. 


This happy dog’s name is Dex.

I’m posting the photo of the fat biker because I want to remind everyone that these trails are “multi-use” until the end of November.  All trail users should try to be polite and accommodating with each other. You might see hikers, bikers, snowshoers, and horses. They are designated as XC skiing only, from Dec 1 to Mar 31. 

As long as everyone is willing to share the trails and accept some compromises, we can all enjoy the early season bonus.   The alternative is that the government makes us live with hard and fast rules… and then nobody is going to be happy with the resulting lack of flexibility.

West Bragg Creek update

West Crystal Line on Oct 22. Photo by Groomer Jeff

Thanks to Groomer Jeff for the photo and report…

“XC ski grooming is well underway in West Bragg. Most of the trail system has been roller packed, and track setting has commenced as you can see from the photo of West Crystal. Conditions should be very good on core trails till it warms up next week. Come and get it!!”

Snow and grooming forecast

Iron Creek at West Bragg Creek on Oct 21. Photo by Alf Skrastins.

Oct 22, 2020: This cold weather which is now upon us should put an end to the slushy spots which skiers have been reporting. That might allow more packing and grooming to occur before the weekend. 

Great Divide at Lake Louise on Oct 21. Photo by Randy Perry.

We have photos and reports from West Bragg Creek which show that significant snow has fallen over the past few days. Normand’s photos show that PLPP has also received its share. Lake Louise has received enough to refresh last week’s grooming. 

There’s more snow in the forecast for Friday and early Saturday. The high temperature on Saturday at West Bragg Creek is predicted to be -12°C according to Windy.com.

Pocaterra – Whiskey Jack junction in PLPP on Oct 20. Photo by Normand

What should we expect on the grooming front? I can only make educated guesses, but I’m pretty sure we’ll see more grooming before the weekend at Lake Louise. West Bragg Creek – maybe. I don’t expect any grooming to happen in PLPP or Ribbon Creek until the government makes the long-awaited “announcement.” The Pocaterra Back Door conditions should be pretty good with the new snow and cold weather. 

Elk Pass in Kananaskis Country. File photo

Kananaskis Grooming

After the overwhelming response to my question What do you like about skiing in Kananaskis, I’m not even entertaining the idea that the government could pull the plug on grooming. We are eagerly awaiting the announcement that grooming will continue in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park(PLPP), Ribbon Creek, and Mt Shark. The post from a few days ago has elicited 97 comments to date.

Skiers enjoying the tracksetting in Kananaskis Country in 2018.

Below is the comment from Shulamit…

I rediscovered cross country skiing in PLPP in 2013, and it was a game-changer to my well-being. I went from being depressed in winter to loving it. From couch-potato to a fit, active person. PLPP gave me a place to escape life’s stresses and replenish my spirit. I then put my kids on skis, and it became our place of choice to enjoy time outdoors together. It would be such a personal loss if this resource were lost to us.

I can think of ten reasons at least why I love PLPP:

1. The groomed trails are accessible to everyone, young and old, beginner or advanced.
2. It’s BEAUTIFUL there.
3. PLPP retains its snow long after many other parts of Kananaskis are ruined by Chinooks.
4. It’s not too far from Calgary.
5. The trails are designed to take you places – you’re not stuck accumulating kilometers by skiing in circles.
6. The trails are busy enough that I feel safe there, even when I ski alone.
7. Speaking to safety again, the groomers keep the trails in great shape, and this adds a layer of safety.
8. The trails are not so busy that it feels crowded (except during the Cookie Race :)).
9. Every skier that I meet on the trails is always smiling.
10. I often meet people visiting from outside the province or Canada who tell me what a gem we have here.

 

Beginner skiers

Great Divide at Lake Louise on Oct 18, 2020. Groomed only. Not yet trackset.

With all the early snow, some beginner skiers are itching to get out, so I’m posting this earlier than usual. Let’s go over some helpful information which will get you going on the right foot.

Great Divide with tracksetting on Nov 9, 2015

Fortunately, the ultimate beginner’s trail, the Great Divide(aka “Old 1A”) at Lake Louise, has snow already and has been groomed(but not trackset). It’s wide, mostly flat with a few gentle hills, and usually has excellent snow. Follow this blog’s updates and the trip reports to be notified when tracksetting occurs. It’s a lot easier to start skiing when you have good machine-set tracks. 

Just as important as an easy trail are snow conditions. Cross-country snow and trail conditions are at the whim of the weather, so it’s always good to check before you go out. As I mentioned, the Trip Reports page will give you first-hand information from skiers who have been on the trails. The link is always on the main menu. In fact there is a report from JR who skied the Great Divide today. 

You can ski on easy terrain for 6K on the Great Divide. It then goes downhill for about 600 metres to the big arch. The hill might be more than you want to bite off for your first time out. In fact, a 12K round trip might be more than you want to do as a beginner. I’ve posted some archived photos of the Great Divide at the bottom of this update. 

The first 2.6K on Moraine Lake road at Lake Louise is also suitable for beginners. The easy part ends at Paradise Creek. 

The following information I have previously posted. It is too early in the season for a beginner to ski on any of these trails right now, but file it away for the future. 

Wheeler in PLPP

I wrote an article back in 2014 which is still applicable today. Beginner Ski Trails in Canmore and Kananaskis. A couple places which this article omitted were West Bragg Creek and Mt Shark. Mountain road at WBC is great for beginners, as is Watridge Lake road for 4k(don’t go down the steep hill). 

The groomed golf courses in Calgary have easy terrain and are suitable for beginners when they have good snow conditions. 

Wedge Connector in Kananaskis

Mountain road at West Bragg Creek

There’s a link on the sidebar under Categories titled Beginner Skiers where you can read posts I’ve made about trails that are suitable for beginner skiers. Ignore anything before June 2013. The floods destroyed two of the best beginner trails, (old)Pocaterra and (old)Ribbon Creek. 

The Resources tab on the main menu is a wealth of information. It has info on trail steepness, skate ski trails, and skiing videos of the local trails. 

There a page which lists ski clubs and others who give Ski Lessons

Want to go skiing with your dog? Dog-friendly ski trails.

It would be helpful to read the 27 comments on this post Cold Weather Gear. 

I want to caution anyone who is using new gear to not overdo it on your first time out. New boots? Go a short distance your first time out(remember, you also have to return), and gradually increase your distance each time out to make sure you can ski without getting blisters. 

Skier killed near Robertson Glacier

Beware of skiing on rocky terrain with thin snow cover. The following was posted on Facebook from Kananaskis Public Safety…

On Monday October 19th near the Robertson glacier there was a fatality involving a backcountry skier. Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded to the incident around 1430 hr.

The incident happened due to the low early season snow coverage and related hazards in very low angle ski terrain wherein his skis bottomed out, and he pitched forward into a rocky area suffering severe trauma. The subject was not wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. This was not an avalanche incident.

10-30 cm of snow currently exists at treeline and this does not cover the rocks or any of the ground debris, if you do fall in these areas you will likely get hurt. The chance of hitting something and getting injured is quiet high. The days are getting shorter so be aware of darkness setting in. Once its dark, any evacuation is more complicated.

While in the field yesterday forecasters witnessed many loose dry avalanches off steep terrain not running very far but still active, Alpine terrain was getting affected by winds so we suspect slab development to be ongoing in these areas. Consequences of being caught in even a small slid would result in injury due to the lack of snow and the chance of a ride over rocky terrain.

Our condolences go out to those involved,

-Kananaskis Public Safety Team