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Beginner trails 101: where are the easy trails for raw beginners
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I tried skiing Cascade valley yesterday and found it icy in the morning and soft an hour or so later. I think my wax was too hard ( it was a really tough day of sliding all day) , so have ordered some purple and red wax. Is my ski season done for the year? Are there any other waxes that I need for these conditions? I’d love to keep skiing as long as possible!
Hi Alex, red and purple waxes are required for these conditions, but they can still present some challenges. With spring skiing, the snow conditions are seldom uniform. That is, you’ll encounter softer, warmer conditions in sun-exposed areas, and colder snow in shaded areas. The red wax might be working fine in the softer snow, but will stick when you are on the colder snow. The only good answer is to get a set of waxless skis. Skin skis are all the rage right now but fish scale waxless also work well in spring conditions.
Thank you for your reply! I did find that coming down Cascade – I would zoom down in a patch of shade, and then come to an abrupt halt (my skis stopped, but my body still had quite a bit of momentum!) in in the sun.
There is limited stock (and limited budget) for skis, so might have to wait until next year for a pair of waxless to extend the spring ski season.
Can I extend my skiing by visiting the Canmore Nordic center? Or will I have the same problems with the snow as I encountered on Wednesday?
Thank you so much!
p.s. Any suggestions for blister prevention. The backs of my heels are getting quite beat up!
Alex, check Hugh’s trip report from the Canmore Nordic Centre today. It will give you some helpful information. The man-made trails at the nordic centre have lots of snow that will last well into April, but they can still be wet and soft. The dreaded klister is the best thing for wet snow. It really works but it’s messy to deal with.
My first thought regarding the blisters is that your heel must be moving up and down in your boots. Maybe try a heavier insole and/or thicker socks?
Thanks for the excellent suggestion on the boots. And I just saw Hugh’s helpful post too!
Another thing I’ve been trying to sort out this week is my wax. How should the ideal wax feel? Especially for trails with lots of ups and downs. I was doing pretty well sorting out wax for the flats. And now that I’m adding in elevation, sometimes it feels too sticky or not sticky enough for the uphilks. Thanks again!!!
Hi! Thanks again for this wonderful portion of the site! I’ve been out enjoying great skiing this week. But I’ve also developed quite this blisters on my heels, and On the bottom of my second toe. Any suggestions?
Hello,how are you. My wife and daughter and I live in the Okotoks area and are beginners to novice skiers. We are looking for a nice user friendly course relatively close to Calgary. As well we will need to find equipment to rent. We are planning just a day trip,so we’d need to rent for just the day. Can you direct me to the best way to go about this? Thank you
Hi Dale, if you’re looking for trails close to Calgary but not in Calgary, Sandie McNabb would probably be your closest, but I don’t think there’s anywhere to rent gear. The next closest would be West Bragg Creek and you can rent gear at the Moose Mountain General Store in Bragg Creek.
Thank you Bob. You have been very helpful and I appreciate it very much. Good skiing 🙂
Thanks Steve! Sounds great!
P.s. We live in Cochrane, so if there are any other trails close to us for the busier work/school days, that would be great to know too!
Hello! My family is new to Calgary and my 9 year old daughter is new to skiing. We’ve been loving WBC and working up through the trails. Moose loop was beautiful on Sunday, if a little slow. Technically the trail was perfect for my daughter, and she is excited to go again, but the length was at her upper limit. Any suggestions for the next set of trails for us that would have nice mountain or trees or any nature scenery views? We are willing to drive a couple of hours. Thank you! Happy skiing! And happy Chinese New Year!
It sounds like the ” Village” trails at Ribbon Creek would be a good fit. A very nice 10 km trip is to park at Ribbon Creek. Across the creek from the parking- go up Terrace to Kovach and all the way up and along it to the hotel area. Then back up Kovach for a bit, and take Aspen back to Terrace, turn right and head back down to the trailhead. Nothing harder than Moose there, with lots of fun moderate hills. If you want more distance- (and more challenging hills!)- turn left after Aspen and finish on Link and Ribbon Creek etc.
Check out the maps here on SkierBob for a better idea of what I am describing
Absolutely new to cross country. Have never tried and really want to try. I am a single mother and have a very athletic and coordinated 9 yr old and was hoping there was a place I could get a quick lesson or an intro lesson for half of a day ( a couple of hours ) in the Canmore area
Does such a thing exist ?
Check out “Ski Lessons” in Bob’s “Resources” menu. In particular, Trail Sports at the Canmore Nordic Centre offers lessons – https://www.trailsports.com/service/lessons-winter/.
Hello – I have had a number of hip surgeries and walk with a cane, however I have been able to do some limited skiing on nordic trails. As part as my rehabilitation I would like to get back on x-country skis. I need flat trails as even the slightest incline can throw off my balance. I did ok at the East Village Loop in Calgary and I have read that the Wedge Connector may be good for me in Kananaskis. If anyone has any other thoughts on where to find very flat tracks for me to practice and get my confidence up — please share!!
If you ski in the Kananaskis Valley, my recommendation would be to park off the Kananaskis Golf Course road in an area under the power lines and ski the Bill Milne trail back (north) toward the the Kananaskis Village.
This will provide flatter longer trails than the Wedge Connector.
Keith – Thank you so much for this. You’re directions are very specific which helps a lot! I will definitely try this
Hi Julie, there are training grids at Pocaterra Hut and the Canmore Nordic Centre, which might be good confidence builders. You can’t go anywhere at those locations on a trail, however, without encountering hills. The Wedge Connector is flat for about 1.5K. You will encounter some very small hills at that point.
Keith’s suggestion is also a good one. The Bill Milne trail, starting at the golf course going north, would be a possibility but there is one small hill about half a kilometre into the ski. Perhaps you could walk it? Other than that hill, you’d have about 2.5K of flat trail. There is an incline as you reach the river crossing.
Thanks for your reply. I have tried the Nordic Centre years ago so I could try again.
I think I can manage a small hill and if not, yes I will walk in order to avoid any injuries (doesn’t take much with all my hardware!) I am intrigued with the Wedge Connector
I like the idea of being out in the mountains.
South Glenmore Park is a great place for you to practise within the city as well – there are no hills at all on this loop. However, I haven’t been out there this year, so am not sure whether or not they are grooming and tracking it.
It is nice to have various places in Calgary to go to. I will check out South Glenmore Park. My husband made his own trail in the East Village Loop yesterday and I followed behind him! We could try the same in SGP.
Confederation Golf course has several substantially flat lengths as well. I would suggest however parking by one of the on-street access points rather than the clubhouse because the clubhouse is on a hill.
Thank you! We went there the other day and found a good flat spot!
Hello. I’m looking for trails that are the next step up from “Beginner Trails 101 – The easy trails for raw beginners”. I’m comfortable on the intermediate trails at West Bragg Creek and I’m looking for somewhere else to ski for a change of scenery, ideally not too far from Calgary. Any recommendations would be appreciated. Thank you! Rachel
Hi Rachel, the trails at Kananaskis Village including Terrace, Kovach and Aspen sound about right for you. The Canmore Nordic Centre’s Banff trail and Meadowview would be suitable. Going a little further, in Banff, you could try Cascade Valley or Spray River West. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park has a lot of suitable trails in the north end of the park including Pocaterra, Lynx, Woolley, Amos, Wheeler, Meadow, Lodgepole and Braille.
Hello, I am an advanced skier, however due to a head injury I am very limited as to what o can ski for now. My limit is about 8km on a good day, but usually only 4 or 5 km. Elevation is difficult, can handle only about 100m. I am from Jasper and will be visiting the Banff area for 3 weeks. Can anyone recommend some dog-friendly trails that fall within my limitations. Thank you so much for your help.
Leanne, there is nothing in Banff with good conditions right now. You could try Mt Shark, or the Castle Junction to Baker Creek area. Also the Bow River Loop at Lake Louise. http://skierbob.ca/dog-friendly-ski-trails/
I’m going to head out for my first time tomorrow and try the “Great Divide/old 1a” trail. I was planning to stop at the Lake Louise visitor centre to pickup some winter trail brochures so that I have my own copies to keep in my pack. It looks like the visitor centre is closed tho.
Would anyone know where else I can pickup copies of the brochure maps?
Any advice is much appreciated. Thank you.
Deryl, the Parks Canada website indicates the Lake Louise Visitor Centre is open daily from 9-5. https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/banff/visit/installations-facilities In any event, you can download the Lake Louise map online. On the main menu, under Maps, click on the Lake Louise tab.
Perfect, thanks Bob.
My bad, I had looked it up just a while ago and it said it was closed. Which I guess meant “closed for the evening”. I made a quick assumption that it meant “closed because of covid and for the foreseeable future”.
Thanks for snapping me back to reality! 🙂
I am an intermediate skier new to kananaskis area thinking of do a loop starting from Ribbon creek parking lot along ribbon creek, link, and kovach back to parking lot. Just wondering whether there is any really big hill/tight area along the route. Thx
Hi Michelle, if you ski Ribbon Creek counter-clockwise, there’s a substantial climb to the high point. It’s about 90 metres net elevation gain over 1.5K. The descent is incredibly steep with tight turns. This video shows the descent but it’s even more difficult than it looks.
There’s another big climb to the Kovach Lookout, but with a less difficult descent.
You can avoid the Kovach Lookout by taking Aspen.
Clockwise on Ribbon Creek, you have a little bit easier descent, but it is still very fast with one very tight turn. Of course, you’ll be climbing up the extremely steep side.
Hi everyone, can anyone describe for me the beginner-friendliness of the trails that are marked as Green from the Pipestone area (Hector, Drummond, Merlin?) This is my first season but I’ve been out a lot and had some instruction, I can manage long gradual hills or steeper short ones but I would prefer to avoid longer, steeper hills or hills with turns.
Hi Jenn, From what you’ve described of your ability, I think you would be able to manage the green trails. The blue trails have some scary downhills with tight turns and tend to get dished and scraped to hardpack. The trails are very narrow, so there’s not much room for error. If you skied to the end of Merlin, you could turn right and test out the blue Pipestone #20 for 1.4K as far as the river(the extreme north end) without encountering anything too formidable and you would experience some of the nicest views in the whole system. Of course, the best time to go would be after a recent grooming and/or a snowfall. Good snow conditions makes everything easier. The trailhead for Hector #21 is at the north end of the parking lot.
Hi West Bragg Creek Skiers,
Had a number of close calls when yesterday when coming down steep hills and almost running into dogs. I know they are allowed to be off leash. But if they are really playful and friendly this can be super scary for those who are not confident skiers. I know it is great to let them run and they look so happy. Please just be mindful to call them back, especially before slopes.
I put the leash back on our retriever when ascending the faster or narrower hills at WBC, just in case I need to reel her back in. For shorter uphills yes, calling the dog back is good- but do it before someone approaches and the dog potentially runs across right in front.
Hi, brand new skier here. I’m wondering what the proper etiquette is when the trail is only a single set track? Who is “supposed” to get off the track to allow a faster skier to pass, or another example would be when one is coming down a hill in the tracks while someone is coming up.
Any feedback regarder proper ski etiquette in general is also welcome 🙂
Rick, on a single track, the downhill skier has right-of-way. If a faster skier is approaching from behind, the onus is on him to go around you if there is room. If you are on a very narrow trail such as Fox Creek, both of you will need to make accommodation for the other. If I was by myself on a narrow single track, and two or more were approaching from the opposite direction, I would move over to let them go by.
Bob – can you please clarify which side of the tracks you think you should move to? and which side you are assuming the tracks are located?
Reason I mention this is because if there is only 1 track on the right, and the left side is smooth, and I am going UP the track then I believe I have right of way to anyone coming down to my left (their right). If we are talking sharing of a common narrow’ish route then typically the downhill skier would have right of way. That said there’s no excuse for reckless or obstinate behavior on the part of either when common sense and courtesy is the simplest and safest action.
It’s almost as if a simple diagram… or blog entry on the subject… would help the discussion.
Can you clarify the situation you describe? As I understand it, you’re going uphill on a trail with trackset on your right and smooth snow on your left. You’re skiing up the trackset on your right, while a skier in the opposite direction is skiing down the smooth snow on your left. In that case neither of you needs to give way because you aren’t in each other’s way! Are you saying the trail is too narrow for you to pass each other without one of you stepping off the trail? Or that the downhill skier is in the trackset that you’re skiing up?
One thing I would like added to the recommendations is where to park (for example north side of lot) and where to start the trail (example -once you park on the north side, the trail starts on the far east side of the parking lot). I was a beginner fairly recently and would stand looking stupid in the parking lot until someone helped me out.
Thanks for this website as it is very helpful to all skiers.
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