Nice conditions for Nov, but watch for rocks on the Canmore end
I usually review this trail starting at the Canmore end, but I started out at the Banff Springs Hotel yesterday. My goal was to ski up to the Goat Creek trail and check out conditions on the new tracksetting. The Spray River west side is the trail you take for the initial 9.5K. The Spray has good snow cover, but the tracks are getting washed out after 10 days of skiing and lots of fresh snow since it was groomed. At 5.3K, you arrive at a bridge where you can cross the Spray and return on the Spray River east side. I ran into Joad further down the trail who had sterted from the golf course, and he said the east side was in good condition, no rocks.
You’ll see spectacular scenery in the middle section of the trail. This is one of my favourite places to ski on a clear, sunny day.
At 9.5K there’s a junction, immediately after which you descend to the Spray River. There’s a steep winding hill to ascend from here, and I’d like to say thank you to the first skiers over the trail for removing a lot of the rocks. I was able to dislodge a few more and chuck them to the side. There are still some rocks frozen into the trail which you’ll need to manouevre around.
Proceeding further, a short time later you come to the Goat Creek bridge. Once you cross the bridge, there were at least a dozen rocks on the short, steep section leading up the other side. No problem if you’re climbing, but if you’re descending, it would be best to remove your skis and walk down.
About 15K from where I started, who should I see coming down the trail from the Canmore end:
Cheryl had started out at the Goat Creek trailhead on the Smith-Dorrien road. The tracks along this section are good, but there are still a lot of rocks. The Banff trail report describes it as “Early season conditions” and I think that’s analogous to saying “watch out for hazards.”
At this point I turned around and we skied together back to Banff.
We removed our skis to descend the steep, winding, rock-covered stretch down to the Goat Creek bridge.
When returning to Banff, there’s an enjoyable, prolonged downhill as you descend to the Spray River junction(picnic table). Before proceeding, I had stopped to put on some warmer clothes, knowing it can get quite cool in all that fresh air, and Cheryl left me behind, never to be seen again until we met up at the car. I was worn out after four hours on the trail(tired but feeling great!). One of the best features of this trail is that when you finish, you’re only a few minutes away from the Hot Springs.
Goat Creek is NOT a beginner’s trail. You should be a seasoned intermediate skier to do this trail on less-than-ideal snow conditions.
Thanks for all the comments over the weekend. I see from the Banff trail report(and Liz’s comment) that Cascade Fire Road is trackset to the end. There’s an invigorating, endorphin-releasing 30K for you.
I also enjoy it when skiers stop to say hi, and mention this blog, sometimes with heaps of praise. I’m always willing to slow down and listen to that!
How far is it?
If you occasionally find inconsistencies in the distances I quote, it’s because most of the maps, brochures, guide books and trail markers have differing numbers. The Spray River is a good example. There’s a trail marker at the 9.5K point. Ski a further 30 metres, and a another trail marker says you’ve gone 9.9K. That’s a very short 400 metres.
Peter Irwin sends this report on Skogan Pass
Hi Bob! My wife and I skied to Skogan pass yesterday (Nov 27). We started from from Ribbon creek parking lot and went uphill on a snowmobile packed trail to the junction with the Hidden trail. Hidden had only been snowshoed and walked on so it was a bit bumpy. We followed it to Nakiska day lodge and continued across the ski area (really rough in places) to where the trail continues to the junction with Skogan pass trail. Skogan Pass trail was skier set and hadn’t been groomed in a while. At the top of this trail we met the Marmot basin road which was snowmobile packed and shortly were back onto the Skogan pass trail (skier set). Sunburst and High level trails looked well used and skier set and also Skogan loop. Beyond the northern end of Skogan loop the trail narrowed to a single track and showed no signs of any grooming. The snow depth also increased substantially beyond this point all the way to the top beside the powerline. We stopped for some hot tea and a snack here. After we skied back down from the powerline to the official Skogan pass and continued for a short distance down the other side (no tracks and lots of snow!) The return was fast and made substantially easier by the fact we had telemark gear! ( I know thats cheating!). Instead of following the Skogan pass trail all the way down we stayed on the Marmot basin road back to the ski area (alot faster) and then back onto Hidden and to out to our car just before dark. All in all a really nice day! Better then my last time 13 years ago when Skogan was all ice and I had my cheap Canadian tire skis on!
I skied Cascade Fire Road on Sunday (November 28) and it was excellent, as Bob said in an earlier post. There was fresh snow from the night before but tracks were still clear. Blue sky and sunshine! Terrific way to spend a day in the mountains.