– The tracksetter was preparing to set a new track on Healy creek –
I phoned out to PLPP and got the news I expected. The pocket of warm air which I enjoyed yesterday had been displaced and at noon the temperature was -15°C. If you were willing to climb to the Kananaskis Fire Lookout, however, according to Frank it was -9°C. That’s often the case when you get up into the higher elevations.
I waited for a while, hoping the temperature in Banff would become more bearable, but with time running out and the thermometer at -17°C, I headed for the Healy creek trailhead, with a new package of toe-warmers, hoping to ski a good chunk of Brewster creek. It was trackset three days ago.
As I arrived at 3 pm there was lots of activity at the trailhead. Most skiers were finishing their day including Helen Read who made it all the way to Sundance Lodge. Wendy was also finishing up. She left a trip report about Redearth creek yesterday which had me considering it, but since I hadn’t been on Brewster creek this winter, I was more interested in checking out a new trail.
A couple minutes after I pulled in, who should show up but the Banff tracksetter. He laid down new tracks on Healy creek which I skied in for 1.9K to the Brewster junction. There’s been 8 cm of new snow on Brewster creek since it was trackset but the track is still in good shape.
From the Healy creek junction it’s a steep climb for the first 2.5K. You’ll gain 190 metres of elevation over that short distance. Ten minutes after starting the climb, I was down to my undershirt and a thin shell. (As Bernard said in his trip report today “Always amazing how -16 doesn’t feel quite so cold once you get up that first hill.”) The snow temperature was -11, and I started out with Swix green(-7/-13), but I needed one layer of VR40(-4/-12) on top to get the best grip for climbing. A lady at the trailhead said she was using blue and I should have listened to her.
I was thoroughly enjoying the ski and saw a long stretch of trail inviting me to go further, but with daylight waning, I turned around at 5.4K. The Brewster creek trail is 8.7K and ends at Sundance Lodge.
I can easily say the trip back down was the best skiing I’ve ever had on this trail. There are a lot of sharp turns on the steep section but they were negotiated quite easily with all the fresh snow. I’ve skied Brewster creek in icy conditions and it’s treacherous.
I noticed on the PLPP trail report that Tyrwhitt is open again, and it was trackset yesterday.
Beginner skiers & Skiing in cold weather
Good snow conditions can mitigate some of the challenges associated with the fast downhills and tight corners, but Brewster creek requires expert snowplowing ability in any event. Healy creek doesn’t have any big hills, but it sees a lot of foot traffic and the tracks get obliterated quickly. These trails are probably not the best choices for a beginner skier.
Skiing in -15°C requires different clothing than skiing in -5°C. For example, today I started out with heavier gloves, heavier toque, two layers on my lower body, toe-warmers in my boots, and a buff. I also threw a light fleece sweater in my pack. I always carry a down-filled jacket which I actually wore for the first 20 minutes. It’s important to shed layers if you start sweating, as you don’t want your warm clothing to get wet. As mentioned, after climbing for 10 minutes, I made a wholesale clothing change; lighter gloves, toque, no more buff, and my light shell in place of the down jacket. On the return, before I started the fast downhill, I put on all the dry, warm gear again.