The Goat Creek/Spray River trail from Canmore to Banff is my second-favourite ski trip of all time. Now, with a few changes to the tracksetting, it will be even more fun and a lot safer.
Goat Creek is a wonderful trail with lots of variety and magnificent scenery which runs from the Goat Creek trailhead above Canmore to the Spray River bridge at 9K. From the Spray River bridge you can go a further 9.9K on Spray River West to Banff.
Last winter we had a very limited window with good conditions. It was not trackset until Dec 14(although we had enough snow since Nov 14), and in mid-January the weather changed dramatically. Thereafter, it rained, turned warm, we had little fresh snow, and Goat Creek became icy and not very skiable.
Goat creek has historically been double trackset by Banff National Park with a ridge of snow in the middle which makes it difficult to snowplow on fast downhills, or to change lanes. It becomes treacherous when hard-packed or icy.
Any reader of this blog will know that I have been a critic of the infamous “ridge.” You can see the ridge in some of the photos I’ve posted, but I also created a video which illustrates the problem.
For further background, click on this link to read a post from last winter which generated 23 comments A predicament on Goat Creek and the remedy.
Goat Creek gets heavy use by skiers, snowshoers, walkers, and fat-bikers. Last winter, it was suggested on this blog that it would make a lot of sense to groom/trackset the trail to better accommodate the non-skiers, and do away with the annoying ridge. It would make it a lot safer for skiers, too.
Today I had an informative meeting with Banff National Park’s Visitor Experience Manager, Greg Danchuk and his sidekick, Eric Baron. I requested the meeting to address not only the Goat Creek issues, but the tracksetting plans for the upcoming winter. As you may recall, last winter there was very little tracksetting in BNP. It occurred only on weekends, and as mentioned, some trails were not trackset until well into December.
Greg assured me that tracksetting would occur whenever there was enough snow. Goat Creek will be single trackset and will have a lane of corduroy for all the multi-users. The ridge will be gone!
There are a number of other initiatives which BNP is undertaking to address the growing number of multi-users. I won’t get into a lot of detail, but for example, they are planning to encourage multi-users who are setting out from Banff Springs Hotel to use Spray River East and leave Spray River West to the skiers. Signage is being prepared to facilitate this, and possibly even “trail ambassadors”(that’s my name for them) will be on hand to suggest to users where they would have the best experience.
In addition to being a terrific ski trail, you’ll often see signs of wildlife on Goat Creek. Many times I’ve seen wolf and cougar tracks. Twice in the summer I’ve encountered bears(not just their tracks).
With the limited window of opportunity last winter, I still managed to ski Goat Creek eight times on very good conditions. My life will be complete if I can ski Goat Creek a dozen times this winter!