Soul-mending rhythm of XC skiing

Too bad my friend Chip, who coined the above phrase, went to Mexico for the month of January. He is not only having to endure hot weather, but he’s missing out on some fabulous skiing. Chip is a birder, so I’ve included a picture of a bird in the gallery just for him. 

The Cascade Valley trail is single trackset beyond the bridge at 6K.

It was easy to get into the “zone” today at Cascade Valley. I did my longest ski of the winter in wonderful conditions at Cascade Valley and Upper Bankhead. The Banff trails may not get the “Pisten-Bully deep track” treatment, but the snow, as Doug Connery mentioned about Redearth Creek, is silky smooth, offering great glide and good grip.

Asha and mom Sandy get ready to ski at the Cascade Valley trailhead.

It sounds like the conditions are at their best just about everywhere and the weather is so agreeable. The temperature at the Lake Minnewanka parking lot was zero at 12:30 pm. I used the VR50(0/-4) from yesterday and didn’t have to give it another thought. When I took a snow temperature at the high point on Cascade Valley, it was -5°C. The high point is about 12.3K  with a net elevation gain of 200 metres. 

This skier was enjoying the fast downhill as I was climbing the big hill

The parking lot, while miniature in size compared to the West Bragg Creek colossus, was almost full nonetheless when I arrived. Many skiers were already coming back down the big hill as I started the climb up. Sometimes the big hill can be scary while descending, but on these great conditions, everyone looked pretty happy and relaxed. 

Cascade Valley is double trackset with a skating lane to the 6K bridge

After cresting the hill it’s pretty easy to get into the “soul-mending rhythm” mode on this trail with its pleasant undulating terrain. I had only planned on going as far as the Cascade River bridge at 6K, but I couldn’t make my skis stop. I went a further 6.3K, turned around and enjoyed all that fabulous, gentle downhill back to the bridge.

Upper Bankhead

Descending the big hill was as easy as it looked two hours earlier when I saw all those happy downhillers.

I made a side trip to Upper Bankhead before I started the Cascade Valley trail. I saw lots of kids on this trail which would be a great place for novice skiers to practice. 

With regards to the shallow/deep track issue, I’ve learned to adjust my expectations. 


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  1. Consider it my Monday’s Bragg Crk ‘trip report’, mis-filed. Definitely felt less Gumby the next/past few days -we’ll see what form I’m in for tomorrow’s ski!

  2. This was wonderful to read! Who hasn’t been in that situation – but you expressed it better than most of us could. We are truly blessed to have all the beauty around us that we do. Thanks to this website we find new places and then chat with all the friendly skiers out there and decide where to explore next. Thanks for this great trip report and this awesome website! Wishing all health and happiness and staying upright your skis in 2018!

  3. A soul mending soliloquy.
    The moment when: the sun beams across the open expanse glistening off the snow and the bridge of one’s nose. Just cresting a long, steep climb your legs are relieved to be back into a double polling rhythm, so you deep breath, relax your back to slip into that comfortable acceleration, now downslope. Wind whips, wiping the sweat from the brow as you quicken; a nod to the threesome chatting trailside on their up. The track disappears behind as you rapid-fire scan the snow surface 10 yards ahead and hot-step the side-slip keeping savvy control. Relaxed on very fast skis, now gaining a comfortable pace -and then some. A glorious Nordic moment to behold: HF skis make water. Your senses now heightened absorbing the sights and sounds in sun soaked surroundings. A thought? A dream? No, an edge. At once, your cognizant of the inaugural gravity defying moment experienced by the Wright Brothers. Time suspended -like Gretzky explained of being “in the zone” -or so it seemed. The distance over the ground could have been 852 feet in 59 seconds -it wasn’t. Finally, ground contact and an unfamiliar feeling of now breaking the land/snow speed record for: “a human body pitched forward on the left face”. Upon coming to a rest after said skid, time resumes. Score: 9.8 out of 10 on dismount. DQ on landing. A quizzical gaze from your K9 companion, a bruised ego and thank goodness, equipment all intact. Far up hill is a divot -but not too far you return to fill it.

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