Goat creek was trackset yesterday and was in excellent condition. I can’t blame the woman from Calgary who didn’t want her photo on here because she was playing hookey in order to enjoy these fantastic conditions. A notorious public figure (notorious in a good way I might add), who I was thrilled to meet on the trail. She obviously has her priorities in order.
Suffice it to say that conditions were sweet on Goat creek and Spray river west today. It was -9°C when I started at noon at the Goat creek trailhead. The snow was much colder because my polar wax from Sunday was still giving good grip. I had to add wax half way at the Spray River bridge where I did take the snow temperature. It was -11, so I used VR40(-4/-12) which worked well for the remainder.
Met a lot of other skiers, mostly on the final 5k into Banff, but the first skier I met while still on the Kananaskis side was Dave. He was the first one on the trail this morning. I ran into Craig and iron man Chuck O’Callaghan who gives us so many detailed trip reports. As usual, Chuck was doing the trail in both directions for a total of 38K. I was spent after 19K.
I’ve never seen so many animal tracks. Moose, deer, coyote, wolf, cougar and some smaller weasel tracks were all evident. That’s one of the advantages of getting out on the trail immediately after grooming.
It’s rare to have such good conditions on this trail, so I jumped at the opportunity for this early-season ski and it truly was fun and very enjoyable despite falling twice. The ridge in the middle of the trail tripped me up a couple times when I let myself get going too fast on a couple downhills and was desperately trying to slow down.
There were no exposed rocks on the fast, winding downhill to Goat creek bridge at 7K. In years past, that downhill to the creek has been littered with rocks, waiting to gouge your skis or send you crashing. It’s possible that some will become exposed as skiers snowplow their way down to the bridge.
The long downhill(approx 1.4K) to the junction where east meets west was in great shape and I had an enjoyable cruise without any issues; no thin spots, good tracks without any wobble, 39 kmh.
The snow was excellent for the 9K of Goat creek although soft and very cold which means it was also slow. There was a bright blue sky, no wind, and the snowshoers and hikers were nowhere to be found.
Don’t be under the misconception that Goat creek/Spray river is downhill all the way. In the first 7k, you’ll lose 180m of net elevation. From the Goat creek bridge to Banff you’ll lose a further 100 metres. Over the entire 19K to Banff, however, you’ll still have a total ascent of 240 metres, so there is considerable climbing.
Upon crossing the Spray bridge at 9K and climbing the river bank, the trail is officially known as Spray River West Side, where it becomes wide enough to accommodate a skating lane. It’s 9.9K from the Spray bridge to the Banff Springs trailhead.
It’s not an easy trail, mostly because of the steep, twisting downhills which end at narrow bridges. Mind you, that’s also what makes it a lot of fun. The scenery is breathtaking. The ridge in the middle makes it difficult in some of the most precarious places. If you’re a novice skier, I’d recommend getting more experience before you tackle it.