From the Cave and Basin in Banff, it’s 13.9K to the end of the groomed trail at Sundance Lodge. It was an enjoyable day with stunning scenery, even with breaking trail in 4 cm of fresh snow for most of the way.
Before the floods of 2013 washed away the Healy creek bridge, the preferred start to Brewster creek was the Healy creek trailhead which is accessed from the Sunshine road. It used to be an easy 1.7K ski to the Brewster creek junction. Now, we have to start at the Cave and Basin and ski over some marginal conditions for 5.2K. I hear that the Healy Creek bridge will be back in place for next winter.
The air temperature at the Cave and Basin parking lot was -5°C when I started at 12 noon. I took the long walk past the Cave and Basin and eventually came to the Sundance Canyon ski trail. I knew the trail was slightly downhill, so I didn’t even bother to wax my skis. I double-poled and skated all the way to the Healy creek junction at 2.3K.
Sundance Canyon gets beat up mercilessly by walkers and gets wind-blown in the open spots so I had low expectations. It was better than I expected. Other than the 80-metre section where it was very icy and thin with exposed pavement, and the usual 100-metre section where the wind creates moguls on the trail, it was great. 🙂
The Healy creek trail begins with a steep hill, so I stopped and waxed with VR45(-2/-8) which served me well for most of the day. My concern about Healy creek is pine needles but it received the snow on Sunday so there wasn’t any excess debris on the trail. It hasn’t been trackset for a while, but the tracks were still in fair condition.
At the top of one of the wind-exposed hills, the snow was thin and the trail was a bit icy. In another place, I observed three exposed rocks. All the hazards can be easily avoided if you’re being careful.
After skiing for 2.9K on Healy creek(5.2K from the start), I came to the Brewster creek junction. The first 2.6k on Brewster creek has a net elevation gain of 170 metres, so let the climbing begin.
Someone had skied, perhaps a couple days ago, for 1.9K up Brewster creek. Thereafter, I was the one breaking trail in the fresh snow which I believe was from the Sunday morning flurry. I knew that Amy and Jocelyn weren’t too far behind me, and I was tempted to stop and wait for them to pass me, but I soldiered on.
After topping out, the trail undulates all the way to Sundance Lodge with lots of up and down, and many twists and turns. The total ascent from the Cave and Basin to the lodge was 400 metres, with a net elevation gain of 180 metres.
The wolverine tracks started when I was about 5K from the lodge, and they disappeared into the forest about 300 metres from the lodge.
I hadn’t been up this trail since the floods, so it was my first look at all the new features. First, you see two new bridges which weren’t there before. Brewster creek used to be an innocuous little stream, but on June 20, 2013, it carved out a very wide channel and left a lot of fallen trees in its path.
The sun was shining, the air was calm, the scenery was spectacular, occasionally a thunderous roar would be heard from an avalanche breaking loose, and I was pretending to be Helen Read as I plowed through the fresh snow. The nice thing about ungroomed fresh snow is that you get to see all the animal tracks, and there were plenty.
At 13.9K I reached the end of the groomed trail at Sundance Lodge. I didn’t follow Chuck’s example by skiing a further 12K to the warden’s cabin.
It would make sense, as Chuck suggested to Sally, to stay overnight at Sundance Lodge and do your exploring from there. According to their website, Sundance Lodge is now open from Thursday to Monday. Read more about Sundance Lodge.
Cascade Valley and Upper Bankhead were trackset today.
No problem. Until you’ve seen a lot it can be confusing. There’s the 3print that will appear, sometimes it takes a bit of following, and they often travel on lightly used trails. They deek off to tree wells frequently, checking for or leaving scent marks. Depending on sex, time of year and likely age class this is at various frequencies.
Also, lynx are observed more often crossing trails, but rarely walk long distances one.
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Can’t tell with other pictures/ but the tracks in 3rd row/3rd column have to be wolverine ! The diagonal 3 print is distinctive! Lucky you.
I knew they weren’t wolf or cougar, so I thought the only other possibility was lynx. Wolverine didn’t cross my mind. I’ve looked at some wolverine prints online, and indeed, the diagonal three print is trademark wolverine. These were the tracks I was following most of the time. I don’t claim to be an expert on tracks, so I appreciate your input. I will correct the report.