With strong winds and warm temperatures in the forecast, Peter and I went early, hoping to ski the Bill Milne trail before the weather took its toll.
We met at Ribbon Creek at 10 a.m. to howling winds and a temperature of -6°C. Knowing we’d be in for strong winds on the exposed section of Bill Milne, we headed for the Evan-Thomas trailhead and the protection of spruce and pine.
It worked out
well fantastic. There was no wind in the Evan-Thomas parking lot and the snow temperature was -10°C! Peter had never skied the Evan-Thomas trail before, so I warned him to expect lots of footprints in the tracks due to all the hikers who use the trail to access climbing areas.
We started out on the double-trackset trail and there were lots of boot marks which were, for the most part, not in the tracks. I was amazed.
At 1.9K the grooming on Evan-Thomas ends and for 100 metres we had to maneuver a narrow snowshoe trail over the McDougall creek bridge. The final 50 metres requires removing skis because of a steep downhill to the Evan-Thomas bridge and the start of the Wedge Connector.
From here, things continued to get even better. The Wedge Connector was in exceptional condition, probably as good as I’ve ever seen it. After 2K on Wedge, we arrived at the Bill Milne junction where we could continue on to Wedge Pond or take the Bill Milne trail towards Mt Kidd RV park. We chose the latter, but did take a side trip to the pond on our return.
The Bill Milne trail between Wedge and the highway crossing is extremely enjoyable with a few small hills with some fairly easy twists and turns. There are lots of warning signs on this section such as “High Collision Location” but I think they are aimed mostly at cyclists.
After crossing the highway and continuing on to Mt Kidd, we finally felt our first blast of wind in an open area – and turned around.
On the way back, as we skied through the forest, we encountered the first wind effects with some minor debris on the trails. I hate to think what it will look like tomorrow after the beautiful conditions we had. Luckily, there’s 5-10 cm of snow in the forecast, so hopefully any debris will be covered with fresh snow.
When skiing out on the Evan-Thomas trail, the 50 metres of elevation gain is imperceptible but you sure notice it on the way back when you can cruise the whole way with barely a stride.
If I was taking a beginner skier out for the first time, I’d take them to Wedge Pond and ski out from there if the conditions were acceptable. It is the ultimate, perfect trail for a beginner skier. It starts out flat for the first kilometre then has a few very small hills. The first 400 metres leading out from the pond is officially the Bill Milne trail. In the summer it’s a paved bike trail. The trail has some nice views and ends in an open area at the bridge over Evan-Thomas creek.
After skiing, the temperature was up to +1. We had lunch at the village and at 2:30 pm, the wind seemed to have calmed down but the temperature was now up to +4. Peter went back out onto the Bill Milne trail on his skate skis.
It looks like conditions will be excellent for Saturday’s Grizzly xc ski loppet and relay at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
As Bob had skied a long one yesterday, he departed after we found the only 200 m piece of the Bill Milne trail he had never skied, starting right from the Delta Kananaskis parking lot. I switched to skate skis, and descended to Hwy 40. This is not for beginners. You have to take your skis off and walk a couple times until you get to the valley bottom, where the trail is quite flat. The whole trail is wide enough to skate, but some short sections near the Ribbon Creek parking lot are double track set, so you either double pole or have to skate across the tracks.