This is one of my all-time favourite trails, and I’m reluctant to ski it when conditions are poor. When it’s good, it’s fantastic, but when conditions are poor, it’s disappointing and a let-down, not to mention dangerous. Dawn Giffen from the Norseman is planning a ski trip to Goat creek, so I thought the least I could do was to scout it out for her.
I set out at 4 pm with low expectations and my rock skis. Right off the bat, the snow was colder than I expected and I don’t know what wax was on my skis, but I had good grip in the few places where I needed it on the first 7K to the Goat creek bridge. When I finally had to rewax on the return, I used Swix VR50(0/-4) and it was adequate.
The first 2K of Goat creek is pretty well bullet-proof. It’s very hard-packed from all the foot traffic, but there is still a shallow track and I had no trouble on the downhills despite the conditions being very fast. Although it was very firm, with a lot of tree debris, I would not consider it icy, and I was still able to get an effective snowplow going if necessary.
After 2.5K, conditions improve considerably. The tracks are deep and well-defined and the snow isn’t so hard. The downhills are fast and fun without being scary.
With my confidence on an upswing, I started down the steep hill to the Goat creek bridge with my skis on. This downhill has a way of sucking you into the vortex of doom as you descend, so based on my previous experiences, the conditions, and the creek temperature, I stopped about one-third of the way down and removed my skis. Judging from all the tell-tale tracks on the last-chance-to-bail hillside, many skiers acted like daredevils and regretted it.
Now safely across the bridge at 7K, I easily climbed the ensuing hill on nice cold snow and kept going to the Spray river bridge at 9K. The descent to the bridge was safe and in control, even on the last sharp turn.
Now I’ve gone this far, I might as well check the Spray river trail, even though time is running out. I skied for 1K on the Spray river west side and found it to be in nice shape with good tracks and I still had grip. I expect that as you get closer to Banff, there will be some sketchy spots along the trail where there is a lot of debris and thin, washed-out tracks. I hope I’m wrong, and if it hadn’t been so late, I would have kept going.
Here’s the modus operandi for Goat creek in it’s present state: After two weeks without tracksetting and lack of new snow, any fast downhill which requires snowplowing will be devoid of tracks and the ridge in the middle will be scraped clean. On the easier, gradual downhills, the tracks are in good shape, so have faith and just go with it and enjoy the ride. The ridge is still there, so it would be almost impossible to snowplow anyway.
I had a good time. It’s not in perfect condition, but still enjoyable with a little care and caution. This is not a trail for beginner/novice skiers, especially in its present condition.
I don’t imagine we have any irresponsible people who read this blog, but tell everyone else to please stay away from Black Prince. Read the Trip Report from James the Grizzly Trackin’ Ski Bum for more details.
Friday Feb 8 is the last day of registration for the Huckleberry loppet at Golden.
Photos from Goat creek: