I’ll admit it was a rockfest but I’d do it again. There are at least 70 fewer rocks on the first 7K than when I started out this morning, and thanks to the other skiers who were also pitching in, it’s probably closer to 100.
I enjoy this trail so much that I spent about 2 extra hours on the Goat Creek portion digging out rocks. You don’t have to feel left out, though, because I’m sure there are a few left over for you!
The snowpack is the shallowest I’ve ever seen on this trail, but I’m surprised but happy they groomed it.
I got off to a foreboding start. Right out of the gate, on the first downhill from the trailhead, I hit a rock and fell. I hadn’t gone more than 50 metres! This served as a forewarning and I was a lot more careful the remainder of the way. I, of all people, should know that first downhill is a minefield in the early season. Luckily I was using rock skis.
It was -9°C when I started out around 12:15 pm, full of excitement at my first trip down Goat Creek this season.
The first 900 metres, being in K-Country, is not groomed but it’s very well packed and the few rocks are easy to avoid.
The grooming and tracksetting starts at the Banff boundary and it was my first look at the new grooming configuration. It’s trackset only on one side, and the other side with corduroy is for all the multi-users such as snowshoers, hikers, and fat bikers. Not enough width for skate-skiers. It’s a great improvement! Congratulations to Banff National Park for making this change. As you know, it used to be double trackset with that dangerous ridge of snow down the middle.
Here’s what you can now expect for rocks. From the boundary, the first 800 metres will keep you on your toes. There are 8 rocks embedded in the tracks. To dig them out would require a mini-excavator(or at least a pick and shovel). They are very visible and can be avoided simply by lifting your ski or stepping into the corduroy.
From 1.8K(starting at the trailhead), to 5.5K, the tracks are clear of rocks. You’ll still see the odd one in the corduroy, and at the 4.3K dipsy-doodle, you have to thread your way around a couple but there is a path.
From 5.5K to 6.9K there are three rocks in the tracks. At 6.9K, at the turn to go down to Goat Creek bridge, you should remove your skis and walk. This 100-metre portion down to the bridge was the motherlode and I dug out at least 20 rocks, but there are still lots which can’t be removed.
The worst is behind you and conditions improve considerably once past the bridge at 7K. On the 2K section to the Spray River bridge, just the final descent to the bridge has rocks and I managed to not hit any by going slow.
At 9K after crossing the Spray River bridge, you are now on Spray River West. After climbing the hill you’re in for a treat. I continued on for 2.8K on beautiful conditions to the high point where I turned around. It was difficult to leave this behind but I knew I had work to do.
You can read more about Spray River West in Chuck’s Trip Report. I also talked to John McIsaac who had come from Banff, and he confirmed what Chuck reported. If you start at the Banff end, you might be disappointed in the first few hundred metres, but at 700 metres, all the multi-users have to turn off the trail, and conditions improve.
I was surprised at the lack of multi-users on Goat Creek today. Were they all taking part in Boxing Day madness? From the sound of Andrew’s Trip Report, maybe at West Bragg Creek? I saw evidence of one fat biker who turned around at 3.6K. No snow-shoers. You can see in the photos that someone walked in the tracks when they were still fresh yesterday from all the post-holes.
Just a reminder, Space Dogs Ski Club is offering free lessons and they start on Dec 28.