Beware if you’re skiing Goat creek to Banff

by Bob Truman on February 19, 2014

in Banff, Goat Creek

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The newly trackset Spray river may be tempting you to ski Goat creek and Spray river from Canmore to Banff. You’ll be walking on thin ice.

The ice has been undermined on the Spray river at the point where you walk on it. (Click on photo for a larger image)

The ice has been undermined on the Spray river at the point where you walk on it. (Click on photo for a larger image)

The washed-out Spray river bridge is 9k from the Goat creek trailhead, and 9.9K from the Spray river west trailhead in Banff. If you approach the bridge from the Goat creek end, the arrows show the steps involved in accessing the bridge. 1) Coming down the Goat creek trail; 2) Skiing parallel to riverbank; 3) Climbing down the steep bank onto the river; 4) Walking or skiing on the river ice; 5) Climbing onto and crossing the bridge. Steps 3 and 5 are a lot more difficult than they look.

Val and Mary on Spray river west, about 3K from trailhead

Val and Mary on Spray river west, about 3K from trailhead

I don’t have Chuck’s knowledge or experience(or nerve) when it comes to crossing ice-covered rivers, so I’m not sure how safe it is, but I wanted you to be aware of this situation: The river ice has been seriously undermined exactly at the place where you’ll be walking/skiing on it, and you can’t see it if you approach from the Goat creek end. 

Kate and Joanna at the Spray loop junction

Kate and Joanna at the Spray loop junction

Conditions were fantastic on Spray river west this afternoon. It had been trackset and groomed this morning. Spray river east was just being finished by the tracksetter when I arrived at the Spray loop junction between east and west. About 3 cm of fresh snow had fallen last night for the tracksetter to work with, but there are still bits of debris on the first 3K as you ski out from Banff. Thereafter, the snow and tracks were excellent. 

This photo was taken as I was standing on the washed-out Spray bridge

This photo was taken as I was standing on the washed-out Spray bridge. The trail is not trackset for the 200-metre downhill to the bridge

As you know by now, the aforementioned Spray bridge was washed out in the June floods. The 2K portion of Goat creek between the Goat creek bridge and the Spray bridge is not being trackset this winter, but people are skiing on it anyway. I did it once myself.

Spray river west

Spray river west at 8K, my favourite section of trail

The air and snow temperatures were both -3°C at 12:30 pm when I started up the Spray river west trail. I was using VR45(-2/-8) and it performed well for the entire 9.9K out, and for about 7K on the return. I had to top it up with VR50 as I was approaching Banff. The tracks had become quite slick in places by 2:30 pm.

My favourite section of the Spray west trail is between 7K and 9.5K. It twists and turns with gentle uphills and downhills. It’s very wide, and is a lot of fun in both directions. It feels very secluded and peaceful. Around each corner there is a new mountain in close proximity, staring down at you. Today there was only one other skier beyond the Spray loop junction.

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