Grooves in the snow desired by skiers

by Bob Truman on January 4, 2014

in Banff

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This trail was trackset yesterday, but with 6-8 cm of new snow overnight, the tracksetter was back at it again today.

I read on the Banff trail report that Spray river east and west had been trackset yesterday, but you’d hardly know it with all the fresh snow. The tracks weren’t much better than a skier-set track. Greg has already left a Trip Report regarding the Spray river loop. He said 5 cm, but I think there was even more than that.

This contraption can work wonders on fresh snow

This contraption can work wonders on fresh snow

I quickly moved to the side and let the snowmobile and tracksetter pass. The Banff tracksetter is all business and I’ve not been able to waste his time by chatting with him except for once on Redearth creek. When I asked him if I could use his name, he said “Banff tracksetter.”

This finished product looks very inviting, but I didn't ski in those lovely new tracks

Beautiful grooves in the snow for skiers! This finished product looks very inviting, but I didn’t ski in those lovely new tracks

Which side would you choose?

Which side would you choose?

As I continued on in the old tracks which were wobbly and a bit soft, about a kilometre along I saw where other skiers had skied in the new tracks.  On a brand new track, the snow is still quite soft. You can often feel your skis sinking into the snow. After tracksetting, it takes a few hours for the tracks to “set-up” properly.

It doesn't take much for the new tracksetting to be messed up

It doesn’t take much for the new tracksetting to be messed up

If there was only one track, I admit that I’d ski in it myself. Quite often, with a snowcat laying down two tracks at once, you don’t have a choice, but in this situation, I’ll choose to ski in the old track, at least for a while.

If you can’t keep your skis pointed absolutely straight ahead and inadvertently hit the side of a new track with your ski, the wall of the track will easily collapse.

Someone had already walked in the brand new tracks!

Someone had already walked in the brand new tracks!

Tomorrow, these new tracks should be very firm. That is, if we don’t get another dump of snow tonight.

Further down the trail, as I was within a kilometre of the golf course, I saw footprints in the new tracksetting. The walker didn’t appear to make much effort to avoid the tracks at all. Luckily for the inconsiderate jerk who did this, I didn’t see him.  This is so frustrating for me, can you imagine how the tracksetter feels?

Spray river west

Spray river west, about 500 metres from the trailhead

It was -13°C at the Spray river west trailhead near the Banff Springs Hotel at 2 pm. The snow was also quite cold. I was using Swix VR40(-4/-12) and it was giving me a little more grip than I really needed.

The scenery and ambience was spectacular with the snow-covered trees and a fine mist in the air. The trails were busy with skiers.

Spray river west at 6.5K. This side is wide enough for skaters

Spray river west at 6.5K. This side is wide enough for skaters

At the junction between the two loops at 5.7K, I continued on for about a kilometre up the west side. The snow seemed even deeper but the tracks were more well-defined, probably due to the fact there’s always 95% less traffic past the junction. It was a tough slog for the skater who had to break trail in the middle.

Approaching the new bridge across the Spray river which heads down the east side

Approaching the new bridge across the Spray river which heads down the east side

After climbing three small hills I turned around and had a nice bit of downhill back to the junction, albeit slower than usual because of the soft tracks.

I finally got to cross the river on the new bridge. It looks very similar to one in Chuck’s photos.

The connector – beware

Spray river loop connector

Spray river loop connector

If you’re doing the loop, do you know how to get back over to the west side? As you start down the hill to the golf course, you’ll see a trail marker on your left. A connector trail which is 1.2K will take you there, if you know exactly where you’re going. It’s easy to take a wrong turn, so follow the signs.

The connector trail had thin snow cover and exposed rocks

The connector trail had thin snow cover and exposed rocks

The connector trail is usually not in very good shape for skiing. It does not get groomed, and the snow cover, even today after all this snow, was still quite thin.  You’ll encounter rocks, dirt and possibly people walking. In either direction, you’ll have a steep uphill and downhill on a narrow trail, finally emerging from the valley onto the Spray west trail with 700 metres to go to the trailhead.

The Spray river loop, including the connector, is 12.5K. Net elevation change is minimal, but there are a lot of ups and downs.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John January 9, 2014 at 11:09 am

Thx for this post Bob. Glad to see you have changed your stance on skiing in fresh tracks. An hour often makes a world of difference on track quality and durability.
Grooming can take a beating in this neck of the woods by users other than skiers, I imagine things get absolutely shredded in the parks at times.

I’m not sure what you’re talking about – I haven’t changed my stance at all. -Bob

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2 Henry January 5, 2014 at 8:56 am

Bob, you write, “The scenery and ambience was spectacular with the snow-covered trees and a fine mist in the air. The trails were busy with skiers.”

Need one say more as to why many of us visit your site?

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3 Steve Riggs January 5, 2014 at 7:33 am

Bob, good points about being considerate of freshly set tracks, before the snow has had a chance to set up. At West Bragg on Friday, it was disappointing to see that a number of skaters in particular had already chopped up many stretches of virgin track setting. :(
But, they were not the only ones at fault- what is with the skiers who have to herringbone up every little uphill, and snowplow the grooming into oblivion on even the tiniest downhill?
Folks, learn to wax properly, and take a lesson if need be to appreciate the joy of schussing the descents. It’s way more fun that way :)

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