What are the options for this skate skier?

Hi Bob,

Love your site and the updates, etc. You certainly seem to be the “hub” for the XC community in the Bow Valley and beyond!

I am writing to ask about skate skiing. I just picked up gear this year so I could cross-train and enjoy a fantastic sport that I used to do when I was a kid in eastern Canada. Looking for places to go, I see on your site lengthy discussions about skate skiers on trackset trails and the equipment they use, that people can find at sites like MyProScooter online. When I look at the grooming report, it seems like everything close to the city is trackset. What is the deal? I have heard people say that skate skiers should go to COP, Canmore Nordic Centre or Morraine Lake. Option 1 isn’t too interesting, Option 3 is too far to get a quick ski in, and I would rather go to K-country for free rather than pay at the nordic centre, especially since I am just learning, tire quickly and don’t want to pay a day rate for 1 hour of use.

This whole issue has kind of been a rough re-introduction, and while I don’t want to upset anyone, I also want the opportunity to enjoy the same trails as the classic folk. It seems a lot like the skier/snowboard conundrum.

Being new to the (new incarnation of the) sport, what are my options? If I see that something has been groomed+trackset, am I not allowed to use the trail?

Thanks for your advice, and keep up the great work on the website! I really appreciate it.


A couple suggestions: Cascade valley is groomed for skating and is just as close to Calgary as PLPP. Ditto for Spray river west.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Once again, I see place names all over this *excellent* blog but darnit, don’t know where they are. I must be dumb. I have to search up thoroughly a half-dozen maps to sometimes no avail. Cascade valley… sounds good, I wanna go there, but WTH is it? I typed “Cascade Valley Alberta” in GoogleMaps with no results. I’ve been living in Calgary for about 10 years but apparently it’s not long enough, as we are all supposed to know by heart where all those remote places are. I guess oh well, I’ll have to stick to COP and Canmore. Yes, I’m upset. I’m very sorry; I don’t want to offend anybody but gee this is frustrating. Am I the only one?

    • Alan,

      Cascade Valley trailhead is by Lake Minnewanka. It is a trail that takes you up the Cascade river. You can find trail conditions at the Parks Canada website. You get there by taking the TransCanada to the Banff townsite turnoff and instead of turning into Banff you turn right. The road winds around Johnson Lake and the closed Two Jack Lake campground to a parking lot about 5-6km out where the trail starts . Be careful on the drive up as there are a lot of Elk and sometimes Sheep along the road . The Cascade valley trail is a wide fire road double track set with lots of space for skaters.. It is about 6 km to the first bridge and then another 8 km to a further washed out bridge. I skied it this past weekend and it was in great shape

  2. Hi Chris,
    I skate ski in Fish Creek, its great! If you can find a path where the parks trucks have been driving; I find the snow packs down and makes for an excellent base, also even with a few centimeters on the pathed path works great, just watch for bare spots and pedestrians of course, although I find fish creek is never really all that busy when its below -5.

    Oh and skier Bob rules!

  3. Hi Chris,
    First of all I want to thank you for asking the question before going out and just ski skating on the track set trails. People have been giving you a lot of good suggestions concerning places to ski skate without going on the track set trails. A couple of more would be the Bill Milne trail around the Ribbon Creek area, when the snow is good this trail is one of the best for ski skating. It is about a 2 to 5% grade heading south and coming back the slight downhill allows you to really pick up speed as you skate. It is great for getting used to speed and control with your skating stride. It is groomed only from Ribbon Creek parking to MT Kidd RV park, a distance of about 8km one way.
    The second area is the Terrace trail north of Woody’s Pub parking, this trail is groomed with two set’s of tracks and a full skating lane on the side. It’s a short up and back 2.5 km one way and has lots of snowshoe and hiking traffic on it. During the Christmas break there are horse and sleigh rides on this side but after New Years that traffic is minimal.

    While it is possible to skate between some of the track set trails and there is no restrictions to ski skating on any trail in Kananaskis Country. I would recommend sticking to the trails mentioned by other users. Skaters will destroy a newly track set trail breaking down the center wall with every stride and even well set up tracks can be broken leaving small lumps in the track. If you read the blogs from last year concerning ski skating http://skierbob.ca/2011/04/its-a-losing-battle/. You will see its better to try other places than skating over the set trails.

    • Thanks for the suggestions. I did read the blogs from last year and that was one of my main concerns and reasons for wanting this discussion. There were certainly (strong) opinions on either side. The Bill Milne option sounds great. I will certainly check it out. As far as Terrace is concerned, it sounds pretty short, but it may be a good place to hone technique, rather than accumulate volume.


  4. I’m okay with skaters on any trail. We’ve done both for many years and I’ve always felt the skaters were just as welcome as classic skiers. Track-set trails are set so deep that I’ve rarely seen cases when skaters actually impact on the classic skiing experience. That being said, it is possible to learn how to skate on the narrowest of double-tracked trails and avoid the tracks whenever possible. Have some great skiing!

    • That is what I was hoping to hear. As I am just learning, I am trying to figure it all out, but eventually I would like to get more proficient at skiing tight trails without affecting the trackset part. I usually head out at odd hours so I don’t get in anyone’s way.

    • Skating on Classic trails, great idea, one more score for selfish, ignorant guys.

      • I asked the original question to avoid being ignorant. Many people have responded in a fair, non-emotional way. Thanks for elucidating your opinion in such a poignant way. Message certainly received!

        • Hi Chris; I’m glad you’re paying attention, I wasn’t being emotional, just wanted to be poignant. I guess you don’t know how much effort it takes to put these trails in, the skate trails are done special for skate skiers altho other users will walk, snowshoe, or shuffle along on bigger skis, it doesn’t hurt the skate trail. The occasional fellow will feel entitled to go there with his four wheel drive, he probably doesn’t think he’s hurting any thing, is that ok?. So… the classic trails are made at great effort thru the woods on small trail, cut lines or just a route thru the trees. They take up to hundreds of hours of shoveling, bridging, cutting trees, snowshoeing, getting the sled stuck and unstuck when they should have been on snowshoes. The next element is the different esthetic, between classic and skate skiing, skaters go as fast as they can, and it’s largely about the exercise and speed, I’m sure they enjoy the scenery etc.too. the classic skiers move more slowly along the trails, many are beginners, or older folks. The excercise factor for them is milder, and many of them are out to spend time with friends and family, hope to see wildlife or tracks, maybe chat with people they meet along the way. Now one skater or walker or snowshoer really doesn’t hurt the track much, and unless the ski track is fresh and hasn’t had a chance to harden yet. The bigger problem perhaps is that all the other people may see these tracks and think its a good idea, and very soon the track is gone. I have seen walkers, shoers, and skate skiers coming along a very fresh track. The walkers and shoers are usually just ignorant, but now I finally come to the point I want to make. I’m sure Ray might be a great guy, I don’t know, but some people feel a strong sense of entitlement to do that are beyond what most other people would consider reasonable, fair, considerate etc. Just watch the news!. When Ray or other agressive skiers make their mark on a classic trail, just like people who ski powder love to make first tracks, or paint taggers etc like to make thier mark, it’s just all about him, nobody can catch him or stop him, so he feels good, powerful. So you can do it to , ’cause you can, but it dosn’t make it right.

  5. Cascade Fire Rd. near Banff has enough room between the tracks for skate skiing, also Elk Pass Trail in Kananaskis. I don’t object to skate skiing on trackset trails unless the skate glide cuts across the tracks.

  6. Thanks for the thoughts. I would love to have classic and skate gear, but budget is a big concern for me. I just had to make a choice at the start of the season. I will keep my eyes open for other comments. They are all appreciated. Love the sport and I sure missed it over the past (many) years.

    Look forward to seeing you all out there!

  7. try Mount Shark Trails, I believe it’s groomed for skating as well

    • Skied today at Mount Shark…freshly groomed and tracked yesterday. Pristine with little traffic (today) , all trails up to and including the 10 km are groomed for skating and classic. Great views on a clear day.

  8. Two thumbs up re Cascade fire road. It is glorious, and actually considerably quicker to get to than PLPP in my experience
    I hope you haven’t abandoned the “old incarnation” of the sport. It’s the greatest, and does get you into way more terrain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *