Jan 21, 2021: Over 125 skiers have already signed up for the LL to Banff virtual challenge which starts on Saturday Jan 23. So much for my theory that most people would register for Leg 2 – Baker Creek to Castle Lookout. I just received an update from chief organizer Heidi Widmer…
“The 36k category is the most popular thus far with 54 registrants. And 18 registered for the 72k Corona Challenge.
The tireless efforts of our grooming volunteer team together with Baker Creek and Castle Chalet staff completed the track yesterday. Cold temperatures should set up the track nicely. Reminder to time yourself and dress warm.”
Flagging has been placed at Castle Junction to denote the end of 36K, or the turnaround point for 72K.
I’ve participated in this fascinating event 13 times and did the first leg on 10 of those occasions. I often wanted to stop and take pictures in a few of the scenic locations but with other racers breathing down my neck, I was only able to steal fleeting glimpses of the beautiful surroundings.
Without having to stick to a defined starting time, or even a specific day, hopefully you can ski when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. I’ve included a map which shows my picks for the most scenic spots on Leg one. As we all know, Leg 2 from Baker Creek to Castle Lookout which is trackset all season long, has incredible scenery.
There’s an 11K stretch of trail on Leg one which is only trackset once per season and it is now ready. The most scenic location on that stretch is the well-known Morant’s Curve, which anyone can see by driving the Bow Valley Parkway. Another place which is remarkable in the mid-morning sun and rarely observed, is little-known McNair’s Pond which comes around kilometre 10-11 as you leave the campground and ski towards Corral Creek on the Bow Valley Parkway.
By the way, there is no tracksetting at Morant’s Curve itself. When you emerge onto the Bow Valley Parkway at Morant’s Curve, you can ski on the road, and get a free stone-grinding, or remove your skis and walk the 300 metres until tracksetting resumes above the curve.
From Morant’s Curve to Baker Creek it’s 9K of double poling on a flat stretch of trail along the railroad.
Below are photos of the various sections of the loppet. Thanks to Chuck for providing many of these pictures. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chuck is out there skiing the first leg and giving us a report today or tomorrow. A few of these photos are from the original 71K course which are no longer part of the race.