It’s looking more and more like I may be able to attain my goal of skiing this trail a dozen times this winter. Peter joined the fun today on Goat Creek and Spray River to Banff on my ninth trip.
Conditions on Goat Creek remain very good(with the usual caveats: be extra cautious on the downhills to the two bridges). The snow is cold and the tracks are in good shape.
I was reminded that it’s been a while since Peter has been down this trail. Today was the first time he’s seen the new bridge over the Spray river at 9k, and he seems to have forgotten how treacherous the final descent to the bridges can be.
The air temperature at 11:30 a.m. at the Goat Creek trailhead was -7°C and the snow was -8. We both started out on VR40(-4/-12) with good results.
At 4.3K we ran into Joanne and Al from Regina who are here on their annual ski holiday. I’ve taken their photo a couple times before, and Joanne spotted me from a mile away.
The first 7K has lots of downhills and some of them are quite steep and fast, but there’s still enough snow to snowplow if required. The final 50 metres of the downhill to the Goat Creek bridge is an exception.
When I saw how fast Peter was descending to the Goat Creek bridge I held my breath(yes, I warned him!). No matter how hard you try to snowplow, if you start out with too much speed, you’re toast. Luckily there is still a lot of soft snow at the side of the trail where he was able to bail before impaling himself on the bridge rail, or landing in the creek, and no harm was done.
As you continue from the Goat Creek bridge, conditions get even better. Beyond the Spray bridge at 9K the tracksetting on Spray River West from Thursday is still in excellent condition, but the 1.5K of thrilling downhill to the Spray Loop junction can be a little precarious because the tracks tend to meander slightly. It’s quite noticeable at high speeds.
It’s only when you’re about 3K from Banff that you’ll notice the tracks are a little slick but we still had decent grip. I had upgraded to VR45(-2/-8) by this time but Peter still seemed to be doing okay on the Vr40.
With all the multi-use traffic on the last 700 metres into Banff, I was pleasantly surprised that it was still in reasonably good shape.
As we were leaving Banff after lunch, the snow started falling and was coming down pretty good, but it stopped on the outskirts. It is snowing lightly in Canmore as I write this at 7:20 pm.
A Great Improvement
Take a look at the photo on the right where Peter has stepped out of the tracks to pass another skier(me!). This would have been impossible last year with the old grooming configuration where the trail was double trackset with a big ridge in the middle. The ridge would be icy and hard and impossible to cross after the last meltdown. The tracks would have been completely obliterated by hikers, snowshoers, and bikers because they didn’t have anywhere else to go. Skiing would be dangerous and almost impossible if this was last year. Thanks to Banff National Park for this wonderful improvement.