We used to refer to it as Cascade fire road, but the name has officially changed to Cascade valley. It’s a beautiful 14.5k one-way trail with the trailhead at Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so many Banff trails in such great shape this early in the season. Goat creek, Redearth creek, and now Cascade. Sensational, remarkable and glorious: What wonderful adjectives to be using at this time of year.
It seems that everyone had skied here before I had a chance to try it out. From the looks of it, hundreds of skiers have been on here, but for all the heavy usage, it is in surprisingly good shape. It’s obvious that a lot of new snow came after it was trackset, but the tracks are still reasonably good and they get better the further you go.
For the first 6.5k to the campground, there are a few places where the tracks get a little wider than they should be, wavy I would call them, and it feels like you’re surfing. On a fast hill, it adds a sense of adventure and surprise. You can see an example of this wonky track in the photos.
The skating lane has been well-packed by all the skaters and looked to be in fine shape too. I skied all the way to the end of the tracksetting, and made a detour to the warden’s cabin on my return.
A special thanks to Joey and Cathy for lending me a cork on the trail today. I forgot to put one in my backpack when I set out. I was using VR40(-4/-12) and it performed well, and even better once I corked it in. The snow temperature at the end of the tracksetting at Stoney bridge was -10°C.
When I started at 11 a.m., the air temperature was -8, but it felt a lot milder with the sun shining through the few clouds, and not a breath of wind. On a sunny day, this ski trip produces some of the best photo opportunities.
If you decide to go to the warden’s cabin, take the second turn-off; the first turn-off at 13.1K is steep and narrow; much better to climb it on the way back.
Just as I was starting out, I met four skiers pulling sleds who had been camping in the backcountry for three days. You’ll see a couple of them in the top photo. I don’t know this for sure, but I have a feeling it was a military exercise.
On the return trip I stopped on the crest of the big hill and phoned Paul Karchut with my ski report. You’ll be able to hear it on CBC Radio around 7:40 a.m. starting tomorrow, for the duration of the winter, every Thursday.
Canmore Nordic Centre
For anyone interested in skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre this weekend, I’ve updated the CNC page with the latest info. The Banff trail will be trackset up to the mine meadow. Night skiing starts Saturday.
Photos from Cascade valley: