-Everyone can smile and be happy on Goat Creek with the new configuration. Lots of room for snowshoers, and good tracks for skiers.-
This was one of my best ski trips of the winter. Good tracks, snow which is still cold, beautiful scenery, minimal rocks, debris-free, and the lunch special at Silver Dragon.
When I say conditions are remarkably good on Goat Creek and Spray River West, bear in mind it’s relative. For a low-snow pack, heavy use among skiers, bikers, snowshoers, and hikers, with snowmobile grooming(no Pisten-Bully here), I couldn’t have asked for better conditions.
Yesterday at the party, Nikolai, one of our stalwart trip reporters, said he was able to make it one-way in 75 minutes recently. My time was a little slower, but well under two hours, which can only mean good conditions.
On the way up to the trailhead, there was an SUV overturned on the last right turn coming down the Spray Lakes road(photo to come). I’ve lost count of how many vehicles I’ve seen go over the side there. Later, driving home, we saw the flatbed tow truck hauling a very damaged SUV.
The temperature at 12:15 pm at the Goat Creek trailhead above Canmore was -3°C. I was happy to get out of the car and find no wind and a partly sunny sky. It’s been a long time since I used VR45(-2/-8) wax.
At 5k on Goat Creek, I stopped and talked to a group of three Europeans(2 Swiss and 1 Czech). One had very wide skis and the other 2 were snowshoeing. They said they were on the way to the cabin, and were going to return. I am not aware of any cabins in the vicinity that you could do as a day trip, especially at the speed they were moving.
There are still a few(very few, and I don’t recall any in the tracks) wayward rocks on the first 7K but they are easy to see and avoid, except on the downhill to the Goat Creek bridge. At least a dozen were poking through the snow on the final 100-metre descent. You know the drill – remove your skis and walk down.
The first hill down from the parking lot still has a few rocks, but if you don’t snowplow you can miss them.
In the old days, with double tracksetting and a ridge in the middle, the tracks for the first 4K of Goat Creek would have been completely obliterated after a weekend of heavy use. Now, with only one track, the multi-users have enough room to ply their trade and not wreck the tracks. It was pure genius on the part of whoever thought of this new configuration!
From 9k at the Spray River bridge, to 13.3K at the East-West junction, the trail is as close to perfect as it can get. On the long downhill of 1.5K to finish this section, I was actually able to stay in the tracks the whole way. They’re usually too wobbly and washed-out, but not today.
The final 5.6K into Banff is double trackset and the usual tree canopies create a few thin spots on one side of the trail. Easy to move into the middle or into the other set of tracks. I was amazed at how nice the trail and tracks were after a weekend of heavy use. Keeping the multi-users on Spray East has really produced good results.
Conditions aren’t bad near the trailhead where everyone gets to use the trail for the first 700 metres. My ride was waiting, and we high-tailed it to the restaurant where we arrived with 10 minutes to spare.
If the weather forecast is accurate, I fear for the fate of these wonderful trails. Depending on who you believe, the highs for tomorrow could be anywhere from zero to +6. The snow showed no sign of deterioration today, and the temperature is supposed to drop to at least -4 overnight.