Question from a reader:
“Can you recommend some beginner trails, that is, ones that don’t have really steep runs and perhaps maybe would only appeal to other beginners?”
I want to preface this with a word about snow conditions. For a beginner cross-country skier to have a satisfying ski experience, favourable snow conditions are essential. There’s no substitute for a trail with plenty of cold snow which is machine-groomed and has well-defined tracks to follow. As a beginner, you want to stay away from thin snow which may have ruts and dirt, or slushy, wet snow. Don’t go near icy trails. Check the trail reports and this blog before you go out.
If you’re willing to make the long drive to Lake Louise, the Great Divide trail, also known as Hwy 1A, would be number one on my list. You can ski a long ways, about 7K, before you encounter a significant hill.
Not far behind, also at Lake Louise is Moraine Lake road. Slightly hilly, but the hills are gradual, not steep, and the trail is wide. You can ski for 2.6K, to Paradise creek, before encountering the daunting big hill.
I wrote an article which covers MOST of the beginner trails in Canmore and Kananaskis. I was limited in the number of words, so there is one more trail I’d like to add…
A trail with no hills does exist- Spruce road and William Watson Lodge(WWL) access trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park(PLPP).
Starting at Elkwood Amphitheatre, you’ll ski about 100 metres at which time you have to remove your skis and cross the road. Now on Lodgepole, ski a short distance, and you’ll come to the junction of WWL access trail.
The WWL access trail is super easy and is 600 metres long. It soon connects with Spruce road which is an 800-metre loop. Total distance would be 2.4K return. These trails were groomed on Thursday night, so should be in good shape. On the WWL access trail, you will pass the Braille junction. Braille is also easy for the first 700 metres.
A recent development which didn’t exist when I wrote the article is the Rolly Road training grid near the Pocaterra hut. Start at the Rolly Road trailhead, accessed directly from the Pocaterra parking lot, close to the outdoor biffy. Take the easy trail for 200 metres at which time you’ll come upon an eight-lane training grid in a thicket of trees. Practice to your heart’s content. The access trail is probably as useful for training as the grid itself. When you have your technique perfected and your confidence up, go skiing on Pocaterra trail.
You can ski on easy terrain on Pocaterra for 700 metres. Stay left onto Come-Along where you can ski a further 900 metres before coming to the huge hill on Come-Along, for a total distance of 1.6K. (In my article I said 1.2K which is incorrect. I was stopping too soon, at the old Pocaterra /Come-Along junction.) There is one small hill on Pocaterra, about 200 metres from the hut, which has an elevation gain of about 8 metres. If you’re not ready for the climb, or the downhill on the other side, just take your skis off and walk it.