Cuthead cabin saga continues

Cuthead cabin on Feb 20, 2020. Photo by Chuck

Jan 22, 2021: The powerful winds of the past few days have deposited significant tree debris on most of the trails in the empire, but I see we have a lot of determined skiers around here, willing to face the needlemania.

I’m amazed at the number of trip reports we received yesterday, with most of them mxed bags of good and bad conditions. Thank you!

Lynx near the Elk Trap on Jan 24, 2018. Photo by Chuck

I’d like to acknowledge Sara M’s epic ski trip of Chuck-esque proportions up the Cascade Valley, past the Elk Trap, and beyond to Cuthead Cabin. 50K round trip with 21K in backcountry conditions and breaking trail for some of it. All in seven hours!

A rare sighting of Chuck. Mar 15, 2019

Sara remarked in her trip report “The wolves returned to the road a couple times, which helped a lot.  My track is a bit curvy in places because I was either following the wolf track, or feeling around trying to find the shallowest/most solid section of the road.”

I’m really enjoying the Cascade Valley – Cuthead Cabin saga. Chuck, Mike W, and MAAD have all taken turns at extending the tracks with fascinating photos of wolf-eaten elk carcasses. Yesterday it was Sara M’s turn to follow the wolf tracks and complete the trip. 

Elk bones in Cascade Valley. Jan 18, 2021. Photo by Chuck

Over the years, Chuck has made an annual trip to the cabin and provided us with amazing photos of wildlife, including the Lynx photo which I’ve displayed. 

For anyone who would like to try this adventure, Chuck describes the route…

“The route to Cuthead Cabin is straight up Cascade Valley. Just a little further than we usually go! Starting at Lake Minnewanka, the route is trackset for the first 14 km to Stoney Creek.

Flints Park comes into view on the way to Cuthead cabin. Mar 15, 2019. Photo by Chuck

Continuing further up the valley, past a few minor creek crossings, you should notice the Elk Trap at 17.5 km off the trail on your right. Continuing north you will reach that sign that says you are 23.6 km from Minnewanka. Continue north for another 1.4 km towards the Panther River, and the Cabin is at the end of the skier set trail on your left (25 km from home).”

On March 3, 2016 Chuck was lucky enough to experience this rare sighting…

“Abundant wildlife between Stoney and Cuthead including Wolves, Moose, Lynx, Cougar, Grouse, Woodpeckers, but the highlight was actually seeing a Wolverine bolt across the trail in front of me while I was stopped for a snack.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. The Cuthead cabin saga looks very tempting but also a bit daunting for an old timer, I just need to convince a friend of mine to accompany me! Thanks for sharing this adventure SaraM , Chuck , Mike W and MAAD
    I remember a post from Chuck (correct me if I am wrong) from a couple of years ago of an extraordinary trip of 80k to where bisons have been released, this would set the bar higher….

    • I heard both MADD and Mike W thought to them selves if I was only 20 years younger (maybe 25 for MADD) when Sara put out the 7 hours 1 min challenge. As a fellow old timer I doubt I will see the Cuthead Cabin on skis again but so enjoy the trackset treasures we have here in the Skier Bob Domain.


        If you can ski to Stoney Creek non stop, then you can likely make it to Cuthead Warden Cabin as long as the trial is well broken in or it is hard spring conditions which are my favorite to ski or skate on METAL edged XC skis.

        Make sure you bring plenty of water or a water filter and water bottle. Water can be obtained at the small creek crossing roughly a couple of kilometers before Elk Trap. If you bring a water filter and large water bottle, that will reduce the weight you need to carry for water which will make skiing easier. Pack high energy light weight dried foods, although I have a hard time resisting bringing in 4 oranges to gorge on.

        In spring I carry 4.5 liters of water to ski into and out of the Cuthead Cabin. On a cold winter day I can get away with 3 L as long as I drink 1.5 L at the car and am well hydrated before that. It is highly important to be well hydrated at least 24 hours before any long ski or backpacking trip to get maximum performance. If your pee is as yellow as the column you enter your blog in below or above (before entering “Post Comment”), you are likely somewhat low on water and not at optimum skiing or backpacking hydration or performance levels.

        Also, as you ski or backpack, breathe in from your nose and exhale through your mouth. This will help save your body hydration. This will also help you create a better travel pace that is efficient.

        I usually start skiing in the afternoon and ski out at night with a headlamp or by moon light. Traveling at night also saves on water, particularly in warmer spring temperatures. In spring the Cascade Valley can get some real nice sunset colors which I love to watch disappear into the moon lit night sky.

        • Hard to tell by the indenting of messages, but the “Fake News” comment is in reply to Back-In-The-Day’s 11:21am comment above!


      If you want a short cut to where the buffalo/ bison roam, approach the fast moving Panther River from Mountain Aire Lodge on the Forestry Trunk Road.

      This is about a 20 km ski or backpack from the Shell oil facility road, but it can be highly dangerous due to nasty drowning hazards on the numerous Panther River Crossings in both summer and winter. Within 40 meters of where you park is the first of a number of scary river crossings. This year has been too warm to make way for safe frozen river crossings in the area so far.

      While backpacking up the Panther River earlier in the century before the sacred return of the bison, I nearly drowned on the last Panther River crossing before Banff National Park. This particular crossing was a wee small looking crossing well above the Dormer River, but the the gravels broke loose under my feet and I almost got washed into a cutbank by the powerful current. If you get washed under the ice or into a cutbank, your exposed body parts (face?) will become food for the 25 lb Dolly Varden that eat off the bottom in that river system.

      Only experienced people should venture into the dangerous river drainage of the Panther.

      PS. Watch out for the big huge Panthers up there. They ain’t no down stream cats.

      • The Panther River trail was also damaged in the 2013 floods. I did a backpacking trip in that area a few years ago and had to cross the river many times to stay on the new (and sometimes very faint) sections. I think getting to Windy Warden cabin, where the bison were originally penned before being released, from the Trunk Road would be incredibly challenging in the winter. Also, I believe the bison roam free now, so there’s no guarantee you would even find them in that valley anyway!

      • OK, we’ll never have a bona fide democracy if everyone who does your trips drowns and gets eaten by fish!


        Lets hope that the Eastern slopes around the Panther River / Red Deer River drainage are not set to be undemocratically stripped by the Premier Kenney sanctioned coal mines from foreign corporate hell.

        These drainages, once a part of Banff National Park, had coal exploration occur in them back in the 1970’s by one of my old geology instructors. There was huge erosion damage created as a result as well as aquifer damage. The real Conservative PC Lougheed Government put a stop to the eastern slope coal strip mining to protect and conserve our watersheds. Premier Kenney has reversed the smart conservative policy of Premier Lougheed.

        Stop the United Coal Party (UCP) from stripping the mountain landscapes of Alberta for the benefit of foreign steel production. The selenium, radioactivity and heavy metals associated with coal are not worth polluting our rivers as Lougheed clearly understood way back in the 1970’s. Selenium is bad like arsenic.

        Internet search Alberta coal petitions to find a petition to sign. There are several of them including one from fly casting fishers.

        Keep Alberta’s watersheds contamination free and free of new coal mines to preserve our clean drinking water and food irrigation water supplies.

  2. Just wanted to note that the final part of the track I set to the cabin differs from Chuck’s description. Instead of heading north at the 23.6km junction and then cutting through the forest to reach the cabin, I turned left towards Flint’s Park and then took the trail the branches off to the right at Cuthead Creek to the cabin. So if someone wants to do a little more trail-breaking, Chuck’s route from the junction is still available!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *