Wednesday night update

by Bob Truman on January 10, 2018

in XC

Update Thurs Jan 11 @ 8:55 a.m:  It’s -29 in Canmore this morning and I see the sun’s glow on Grotto mountain across the valley. The entire Mt Shark trail system was groomed and trackset last night. Apparently this area didn’t receive as much snow from the recent storm:

The Mt Shark system received significantly less snow than many other areas in the last 48 hours, with a total snowfall of only 5 or 6 cm’s. The Mt Shark ski trails have a fairly thin snow base compared to normal for this time of year and some early season hazards remain throughout the system, particularly on the Yellow 10km loop. Use caution and watch for brush, rocks and dirt, uneven terrain, and water crossings with possible open water or ice. 

Andrew is interested in skiing a backcountry trail and is wondering if anyone has information about it:

“Hi Bob,

Thanks for the great website/blog I am wondering if you have ever skied to the goat creek Trail via crossing the Spray Lakes Dam. I knew there used to be a maintained trail in there many years ago. Can you help me out please. I am really hoping to ski it this coming weekend but I cannot find any info on if it is still maintained or groomed.

From the archives: Ribbon Creek in Feb 2013. This portion of the trail was wiped out by the floods of June 2013.

Can anyone help out Andrew? I might have my trails mixed up, but wouldn’t this now be the High Rockies trail? I’ve rode it on my bike, and it would be about 11K from the dam to Goat Creek. Hugh Burton skis here sometimes and reports that some of this stretch is groomed by the dogsled crews. 

The weather forecast is predicting ideal skiing temperatures for the weekend, and when all this new snow is trackset, the conditions will be at their best. 

Lots more snow coming down in Canmore tonight. It’s been so windy that it’s difficult to know how much accumulation we’ve had but I would guess at least 10 cm since it started yesterday.

From the archives: This trail was also destroyed by the floods of 2013. What trail is it?

Thanks to Helen we know that Spray River was trackset today. I’m surmising that Goat Creek probably had enough snow to trackset as well. Any tracksetting will be covered in fresh snow by tomorrow morning.

Martine was breaking trail in 15 cm of new snow in PLPP today and Diana had fresh tracksetting for her day at the Pipestone trails. Thanks to everyone for the trip reports on this cold day. 

The snow is supposed to stop sometime tomorrow(Thursday), and I’m guessing that’s when the Ribbon Creek crew will be out grooming the trails.

Nipika loppet

I haven’t seen any updates from Calgary but there should be enough snow to top up the golf courses. Likewise, West Bragg Creek. 

Nipika Mountain Resort posted the following around noon today:

“A fresh 10 cm blanket of new snow! Steve is currently out packing the trails. Conditions will be amazing for the weekend and breathtaking for the Ski Week happening January 14-19!”

There should also be fantastic conditions for the Nipika Loppet on Jan 27 and 28. 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew January 10, 2018 at 8:42 pm

Sorry I should have been a bit more specific. I did some research and the results I found for the “High Rockies Trail” have been showing me a completely different route then I am seeking. Maybe my sources are poor. But the Trail in question runs through the Valley between Mount Nestor and Mount Turbulent, and proceeds North West behind Old Goat Glacier and links up with Goat Creek once the Mountain Range splits into another Valley.


2 Chuck January 10, 2018 at 9:07 pm

I know the route that you are thinking of well, but you are right that it is no longer maintained. The route is on the west side of the valley, and we have used it as a route between Banff and Assinaboine. Bob has contacted me directly for my advice. I would not recommend it. It would take at least two days of difficult travel.


3 James Kohut January 11, 2018 at 12:58 am

Andrew, are you thinking about crossing Spray Lake to access the mid section of the Spray River Valley? The mid section of the Spray River runs from Spray Lake Reservoir (dam site) to basically the bridge across the lower Spray River, close to the Goat Creek ski trail junction at the end of the Spray River track set ski trail. The Goat Trail junction is about 9 km up the Spray River Valley from the Banff Springs Hotel.

You can access the mid section of the Spray River 2 ways: (1) crossing Spray Lake, which I personally would not do particularly in dangerous ice conditions or in potential white out conditions. (2) The safe route by parking at Mount Shark and skiing: past Watridge Lake, crossing the bridge on the upper Spray River section near the mouth into Spray Lake, crossing the bridge on Bryant Creek, proceeding a couple of hundred meters or so and turning right at the junction. If you follow that trail it will lead you to the “upper” mid section of the Spray River Valley trail close to Spray Lake. The trail can be a challenge to find in winter if you do not know where you are going or don’t have a good topographical map. The trail gets covered in snow so look out for blazes on trees. I skied up Bryant Creek last week and I did not notice a skier cut trail to the mid section of the Spray River, but it was not on my mind to do so at the time. There are actually 2 trails that come off of the Bryant Creek Trail that meet up with each other which head to the mid section of the Spray River. Signs exist at both. I prefer the second junction trail normally. Currently it would be fairly difficult trail breaking up into the mid Spray River unless you are on fat skis and are packing light. You can expect a dense layer about 15 cm or so from the top of the snowpack that will put a lot of drag on your legs if you break through it.

I enjoy skiing this trail as it offers some nice scenery between the old Spray River backpacking camp sites Sp 16 and Sp 35. I prefer to be up there when there is not so much ski penetration as there tends to be a lot of depth hoar in the valley due to the coldness of it. Most years in January you can expect knee deep ski penetration, or worse, if the trail is not broken or if there is not a strong rain crust in the snow pack to keep you afloat.

The advantage to parking at Mount Shark and skiing in that way is, if the trail breaking in the mid Spray is difficult you can turn around and ski up Bryant Creek or the Upper Spray River. These are 2 good options whereas crossing Spray Lake you don’t have much for options other than skiing the old west side road which may not be broken. I broke trail in the Upper Spray River roughly 10 days ago beyond the second Spray River bridge past Whiteman Creek, so there is good skiing to be had up there. The further up the nicer the scenery.

I hope you are a tough SOB with fat skis and do break a nice wide stance straight trail into the mid section of the Spray River so I don’t have to!


4 LizD January 10, 2018 at 8:26 pm

On the Gillean Daffern blog they have all sections of the High Rockies Trail laid out so you can research it that way. The first section is used for dog sledding and snowshoeing so beware if skiing. Also Alf Skrastins chimes in to say which sections he feels are skiable.


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