I don’t think I could have picked a better day to ski in Cypress Hills. Beautiful weather, fresh tracksetting and a new and exciting discovery(Ferguson Hill).
Cypress Hills is about a 45-minute drive from Medicine Hat. The main trail system, the Spring Creek trails, is a short drive up the hill from the town of Elkwater, and is at an elevation of 1430 metres, about the same as the Canmore Nordic Centre.
I was happy to meet Tracksetter Darwyn as he was grooming the Spring Creek trails with the Pisten-Bully snowcat which was formerly used at Ribbon Creek.
The temperature at 12 noon was -6 and as you can see in the photos, it was a bluebird day. Blue skies and blue wax. There was a breeze at the hut when I started out but once in the trees, the air was calm.
Unfortunately the wind is bringing in warm air, so I don’t know how long these wonderful conditions will remain.
It was a pleasure to run into a former Foothills Nordic Ski Club member, Peter Butler, who lives in Medicine Hat now. In the photo, you can see Peter on the access trail. To reach the Spring Creek trails, there is a 1.1K groomed trail(not trackset) from the hut and parking lot.
The Spring Creek trails would be considered easy. There are no big hills, but there some long inclines which are very enjoyable to descend without white-knuckling it or even snowplowing. There’s an 80 metre elevation difference between the high and low points.
The perimeter loop, including the access trail, hut to hut would be 9.3K but you can add to the fun by doing the two trails which criss-cross the system. You can also make a shorter loop.
In addition to the Spring Creek system, there are other groomed trails at Cypress Hills and I was thrilled to discover Ferguson Hill today. If the trails at Spring Creek are too easy for you, check out Ferguson Hill.
Ferguson Hill is a gravel road in the summer, so it requires a lot of snow to be safe, which I had today. It starts in the Elkwater townsite and climbs 225 metres over a distance of 3.2K.
The first 700 metres of distance has a net elevation gain of 100 metres. That’s Skogan Pass or Kananaskis North Lookout steepness. The remainder of the trail is very pleasant with a constant elevation gain but nothing scary on the way down, just enjoyable cruising.
Ferguson Hill is groomed but not trackset, which is standard fare for steep trails, but with the gravel base, I think tracksetting would end up exposing some rocks and dirt.
With warmer temperatures in the afternoon, I added a layer of VR45(-2/-8) and didn’t have to herringbone, not even once, on the climb.
The climb took 45 minutes. The descent took 12 minutes and I was being very deliberate on the steep part. My GPS said my maximum speed was 40 KmH, but I could have easily reached 60 with some risky behavior.
At the top of Ferguson Hill, the trail turns left onto Murray Hill road which is also groomed and connects to the Spring Creek trails. It was very windy by this time at the high elevation and being somewhat exposed, I didn’t proceed any further.