We’re zoned in

 – Exceptionally good conditions on Spray river and Goat creek –

Can you ski anywhere in the mountains right now where conditions aren’t great? Every day I go to a different trail and they’re all terrific. It’s a challenge for me to try and keep up with the Banff tracksetter. All these wonderful trails which usually have marginal conditions at this time of year continue to be trackset regularly. In the past two days, Redearth creek, Healy creek, Sundance, and Brewster creek have all been trackset.

A group of skiers from Saskatchewan were enjoying the hills on Spray river west

In PLPP, all the trails on the west side of the road(Braille, Lodgepole, Sinclair, Meadow, Spruce road) were trackset yesterday. I noticed that John in Lake Louise was even out tracksetting Pipestone and Moraine lake road on Christmas day!

I’m playing catch-up, and today I skied the trail in Banff with the oldest tracksetting, Spray river west and Goat creek which were done on Dec 23 but are still in remarkably good shape.

The Spray river bridge at 10K. This is where Spray river west ends, and Goat creek begins

I started at the Banff Springs Hotel, which is the trailhead for Spray river west. Air temperature was -6°C, and the snow was -9. Still using VR40 for grip, but with the warmer temps I’m up one notch with glide wax, Swix CH6, rated for -6/-12.

The first person I met was Helen Read, as she was just finishing. I don’t think she was referring to my late start when she asked me what time the moon rises, as she’s making plans for a moonlight ski tomorrow night. As I drove home, I could see the moon poking it’s face above Grotto mountain at 5:45 pm.

The crash site at the end of Goat creek where skiers are unable to make the turn

A little further down the trail I came upon a group of four skiers from Regina and had a nice visit with them. I grew up a little ways south of Regina, and can tell you there are no hills of this magnitude in that area of Saskatchewan. Come to think of it, no hills at all!

With the warmer temperatures, the tracks are a lot faster, and the skiing was exceptionally easy. I didn’t have to herringbone once, anywhere. I ran into Eric who was doing the trip one-way with his family from the Goat creek trailhead above Canmore, and he reported the trail was in good shape all the way. The usual situation near the start, with the trail a little beat up from walkers and snowshoers.

Don and Joan at the Goat creek bridge

About 8K  along, a very considerate moose was in the area, walking along the side of the groomed trail and not in the tracks(see photos).  I originally only planned to go 10K, but when I reached the Spray river bridge, the trail kept pulling me along further, and up the other side, and onto the Goat creek trail.

I took a photo of all the tracks which plowed into the ditch at the last corner of Goat creek as it speeds down to the bridge, evidence of many skiers not being able to negotiate the fast turn. I remembered this on my return, and even being prepared for it, I had to work hard to make the turn, so I can see why a lot of skiers ended up in the deep snow. There’s lots of loose snow for snowplowing and no rocks on the downhill.

Would anyone like to try some “snow on a stick?”

12K along, as I screeched to a halt at the Goat creek bridge, who do I see coming across the bridge but Don Gardner and his wife Joan. If you’ve skied in this area at all, chances are you’ve skied on a trail designed by Don.

I turned around and headed back to Banff, but enjoyed Don’s company for a kilometre, until he turned around and headed back to Canmore.

More waxing advice

“Hello Bob, hope you are doing fine. Love reading your blog and info on your site

Question from a very green x country ski person. I bought waxless skies but I keep reading about coloured waxes that I might be needing. Can you give me the quick go over if I need wax or are wax less skies really wax less?

Thanks for your time”

I imagine a lot of readers are wondering if waxless skis need waxing. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the answer is yes. The tips and tails of waxless skis require glide-waxing like any waxable ski. If you ski a lot, like I do, I try to glide wax at least every 100K, but the more you wax, the better your skis will perform. Harder waxes, like green and blue, for cold snow, will last longer. Softer waxes for warmer temps should probably be re-waxed every 60K. If you don’t ski much(less than 100K in a season), you should still have your skis glide-waxed at least once before the season starts. Over the summer, skis should be stored with “summer wax.”

Lifesport will be sponsoring a contest on this blog for a home waxing set-up; all you need to get started with glide-waxing. Watch for it in the new year. Start thinking about waxing horror stories in the mean time.

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  1. Six of us left the Goat Creek parking lot at 7:45 p.m. for the full moon ski on Dec. 28th, 2012. What a magical mystery tour! The moon came up over Ha Ling about 8 p.m. and shone down on us like a street lamp for the duration of the journey. We stopped half way to the Banff Springs for hot tea, hot chocolate, brandy filled chocolates and mince meat tarts, one with a candle in it for our birthday girl. The ski was fast & easy, the tracking wonderful. Thank you to Skier Bob for a preview of the fantastic conditions.

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