Good news abounds

Snowcat heads up Elk Pass

Just a reminder to purchase your Kananaskis parking pass

Another reminder:  if you’re looking for up-to-date trail conditions, check the Trip Reports on the main menu. Some even have pictures. 

Nov 18: I arrived at the Elk Pass parking lot at 2:45 pm to a temperature of -2°C and lots of fresh snow on the trail. A couple minutes later, James arrived on the Upper Lake access trail in the snowcat.

“Blading” on Hydroline

I can tell you the trails on which James is hoping to accomplish grooming this evening, but let’s not get our hopes too high.  Murphy’s law has a way of interfering with expectations. Elk Pass, Hydroline, South Lookout to the creek, Patterson and Blueberry Hill. I can vouch for the grooming on Elk Pass(2K), Hydroline, and Patterson because I actually observed it. 

After three passes, the finished product

Grooming trails, especially early in the season, requires many passes with the snowcat on each trail. For example, I was skiing up the first grooming pass on Hydroline when James was already coming back on the second pass. You can see the snowcat “blading” the snow from the side of the trail into the middle. This procedure requires two passes, one for each side of the trail. No tracksetting yet.

I took a side trip on South Lookout, which had already been groomed, to the Creek. When I arrived back at Hydroline, the third pass was complete and the trail was now trackset. 

James will be in for a long night if he gets all of it done. Blueberry is always a challenge near the top in the early season. There’s a tree down on Elk Pass which will have to be removed before he can proceed through. 

The creek on South Lookout

I skied down Patterson on the new grooming. What a fun trail when going downhill. I was surprised that I didn’t encounter any bumps or rollers. 

The downhill on Patterson was wonderful

I finished by taking Elk Pass on the ungroomed snow back to the Hydroline junction, then continuing on the new Elk Pass grooming back to the trailhead. It was dark by the time I reached my vehicle. I felt totally safe coming down the big hill in semi-darkness beacause I could see there were no hazards or significant bumps when I climbed it earlier. 

The South Lookout trail to the creek is a very pleasant 1.1K with an elevation drop of 40 metres. I should say, pleasant for 1.08K. The final 20 metres is a steep drop to the creek with open water. Be careful. 

I had excellent grip with VR45(-2/-8). 

Tracksetter James at Elk Pass

There were fifteen vehicles in the Elk Pass parking lot and most were displaying a parking pass. 

It was snowing lightly at Elk Pass when I left around 5:30 pm.

The tracks which Alf made on the Hydroline snowshoe trail are completely filled in. Hopefully some kind soul will re-establish a trail for the snowshoers to follow. Maybe even a snowshoer!

This weekend the Elk Pass parking lot will probably fill up. You can park at the Upper Lake and take the 900-metre Upper Lake access trail which is now groomed to the Elk Pass trail. 

Pocaterra hut

Pocaterra hut is open

The hut will be open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8 pm. There are fewer tables due to the pandemic along with hand sanitizer and lots of signage about social distancing. A sign on the door requests that you wear a mask but they are not mandatory. 

As MaSid observed earlier in the day, there was even more new snow at Pocaterra Hut then at Elk Pass. I would estimate about 15 cm. There were skier tracks heading out on Pocaterra trail in the deep snow. 

PLPP Discovery Centre reopens on Nov 28. 

Little Red trails. File photo

Little Red trails near Olds are tracket

Do you remember last spring when I was calling these the “Hayfield trails” because they were being kept a secret? Here’s a report from Warren Smith…

”Today Bill and I trackset Hayfield, Timothy and Harriman trails, while Arlene tested the trails.  Town trails will be repacked or set in the next couple of days. If you ski all three the distance is 6.7 km. Firepit and picnic table are fcfs, no reservation required. Remember, as you dress for skiing, to be bright and shiny-it is hunting season.”

Oh,oh. Another acronym. FCFS. 

K-Country parking information signs

Elkwood parking lot in PLPP

Parking information signs were distributed throughout Peter Lougheed Provincial Park(PLPP) lots yesterday, including the Upper Lake parking lot. 

Self-pay station in Pocaterra will be operational this Sunday, and the one at Elk Pass parking will be working next week once contractor work is completed.  We are investigating whether self-pay can be implemented at the soon-to-be-reopened Visitor Centre.  Sales at retail shops should be underway by Saturday, Nov. 21.

You can still buy your parking pass online.

More grooming In PLPP

  • Kananaskis Fire Lookout groomed north side from Lookout to Pocaterra.
  • Pocaterra groomed from Lookout Trail to Packers Trail.
    Take note the above trails have been groomed only, not trackset. Grooming leaves a corduroy surface. 

Steve Riggs brought up a good point. It’s possible the Back Door was roped off due to the necessity of parking the truck and trailer which hauls the snowcat. Considering the trails which were groomed yesterday, this is a very likely scenario. 

Back to reading the Kananaskis trail reports

There’s been lots of concern about there being no Live Grooming Reports. Nobody seems to know anything except for the fact that it’s not functioning. I’ve added links on the main menu to the individual reports in Kananaskis(PLPP, Ribbon Creek, and Mt Shark). Main Menu>Trail Reports>PLPP etc.

Some good news: PLPP Discovery Centre reopens on Nov 28. 

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Shaganappi Golf Course

November 19th, 2020 Shaganappi Point nordic skiing update:

The gates to Shaganappi were opened for the winter as of November 10th. 

Skiing is not recommended until there is a compacted base, although some skiers have been enjoying Shaganappi by carefully choosing where they ski.  

  • Skis on snow with no compacted base likely will go right through the snow down to the ground hitting grass, asphalt, and the shale cart paths, which can permanently damage your skis.

Feel free to go for a walk or snowshoe.  After grooming and track setting has begun, please do not walk, bike, or snowshoe on ski trails.

  • Sunken footprints/bike tracks act as a heat sink and also get frozen in place and are then a fall hazard to skiers traveling at speed.

Grooming and track setting for cross country skiing at Shaganappi will begin in December.  

  • Shaganappi Point golf course and Confederation Park golf courses have two different microclimates.  Shaganappi has significantly more year-round sun and wind exposure compared to the Confederation golf course. (Confederation has longer frost delays during the golf season due to receiving less sun exposure than Shaganappi)  If the snow above the turf at Shaganappi is machine compacted for skiing in November, freeze/thaw cycles of November Chinooks create an ice layer that remains in place all winter preventing air exchange within the snowpack, which kills the turf underneath.  Turf death in the spring directly equates to lower visitor numbers and revenue loss at golf courses, as golfers in general prefer to play at golf courses that are in pristine condition.

  Please stay off tee boxes and greens (at all golf courses), as the fragile turf is easily killed by compacted snow.

  • All greens are  roped off at Shaganappi. Tee boxes and greens in general are flat areas with a hill around them. Some tee boxes are roped off, but not all. (roping off greens at Shaganappi are the Golf course’s responsibility, roping off tee boxes near ski trails are SNO’s responsibility.  There are 80+ tee boxes, and 27 greens at Shaganappi).   

Triple header

Yoho Valley Road

Nov 18: Tonight’s update will include details on Yoho Valley Road, Moraine Lake road and Tramline. Most of what I’m writing will be obsolete by tomorrow morning because of the 10 cm of snow which is expected by noon tomorrow(Thursday). 

Slick tracks made for fast downhills on Yoho Valley road

As Canmore Chris mentioned, it rained in Yoho yesterday. Along with warm temperatures today, the snow was very wet.

Wax would have ben useless so I used my Fischer twin skins and they worked flawlessy. 

Moraine Lake road

The tracksetting was still in good shape and it was fairly pleasant skiing as long as you were on level ground or going uphill. The downhills were scary fast and snowplowing wasn’t possible because of the crusty, wet, heavy snow.

As Kicking Horse Ski Club mentioned, they are waiting for more snow and cooler weather to trackset YVR again. Should be very soon if the weather forecast is correct. 

The snow in Lake Louise was in much better condition. When I skied in mid-afternoon I was able to use VR45(-2/-8) for grip. The temperature was zero. 

Beautiful new tracksetting on Tramline

The skating lane on Moraine Lake road was groomed and new tracksetting occurred on the inbound track. 

Tramline was trackset in its entirety for the first time this season and is in great shape except for the hikers who postholed from the bottom to the top. Thankfully they stayed out of the tracks. 

Hikers post-holed the snow on Tramline

Tramline is 4.8K in distance with a very gentle grade. The section from the lake parking lot to Moraine Lake road is 1.6K and is known as Upper Tramline. This is the trail you are supposed to use to access Moraine Lake road. There were ten vehicles parked on the shoulder of Lake Louise Drive from skiers who were skiing MLR. 

Mt Shark is packed

The trail report for Mt Shark indicates the Mt Shark trails have been roller packed, and we also have confirmation of this from M.A.D…. “The trail from Mt. Shark to Watridge Lake, along with other Shark Trails, have been roller packed. Thin but good base.”

PLPP

More good news from Alberta Parks. The Peter Lougheed Discovery Centre is due to open for the season on November 28th.

Lake Louise update

Great Divide

With new snow at Lake Louise, the tracksetting was refreshed on the Great Divide, Moraine Lake road, and Upper Tramline today. DonC has provded a trip report from his day on Moraine Lake road and Fairview. 

New tracksetting on the Great Divide

Christine, Rick and I had a late afternoon start on the Great Divide where the new tracks were firm and well-set-up from the morning tracksetting but there was already a skiff of new snow to slow us down, and it was continuing to snow. 

The skating lane was still quite soft and skiers were sinking a couple cm into the snow. 

Great Divide

The sky was overcast, temperature was zero, and I probably could have used wax but I went with the Fischer Twin Skins today. Fresh snow falling with the temperature around zero makes me leery to use wax. 

If you’re a new skier, the Great Divide is the perfect beginner’s trail. It has no significant hills for the first 6.5K, it’s wide, and very scenic on a sunny day. 

Work on the summer gate at Moraine Lake road has finally started but vehicles were still parking on the road near the trailhead. The preferred way to access MLR is from the lake parking lot and skiing down Tramline for 1.6K. 

I’ve included photos of Moraine Lake road and Tramline in the gallery below. 

The Banff/Lake Louise trail report still shows the last tracksetting on the Great Divide as Nov 11, but I hope my photos prove otherwise. 

Grooming Reports

Alberta Parks is listing its grooming operations on its website.  You can get to it from my main menu: Trail Reports / Kananaskis / Peter Lougheed (in this case) and then scrolling down. We’re still not sure if the Live Grooming Reports are going to function this winter. 

Kananaskis day passes now available

Grooming Elk Pass on Nov 16, 2020. Photo by Steve Riggs.

To date, only Season Passes have been available, but now that grooming in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park has commenced, Kananaskis Day Parking Passes are now “live” at KananaskisGrooming.ca.

The following information comes from Nordiq Alberta:

Passes will also be available at local retailers by the end of this week (delayed a bit by printer error).   List of retailers is also at kananaskisgrooming.ca along with contact info and store hours.   And just to assist folks, we also have a link at that web site to the specific parking lots that fulfill the web site descriptor “serve as trailheads to the more than 190km of groomed ski trails in Kananaskis”.

Please be prepared to use the Upper Lake parking lot when Elk Pass parking is full – which it will be frequently in the next few weeks.   The link from Upper Lake to Elk Pass is 900m, and has been groomed, albeit somewhat “twiggy”.    (Parking outside Elk Pass lot on Kananaskis Lakes Trail is dangerous, and a sure invite to ticketing or towing).

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This comment from MaSid regarding Back Door parking is worth reading:

“The west side has a guard rail that doesn’t provide enough shoulder without encroaching into drive lane. East side has no guard rail but the shoulder drops off. Saw one car having trouble getting back onto road after parking on east side due to snow and ditch grade. No real safe spot to park other than in the tiny lot, and definately worse when cars on both sides. There is a wider pull out on the west side a bit further north. Maybe it’s not an issue now that things are getting groomed, or perhaps why things got groomed so quickly. As helen noted, best way to deal with parking issues this year is go early and if you can’t do that go to a large parking lot with the expectation that there might be a longer access route involved. It’s OK to ski more, or adjust ones objective. Have alternate plans and be adaptable.”

The most beautiful sighting

Grooming Elk Pass. Photo by Steve Riggs.

Nov 16, 2020: After a summer of wondering whether we would ever see this incredible machine again in PLPP, Steve Riggs spotted it today on Elk Pass as it was starting out. Steve remarked…

“A surprise encounter with the groomer at the end of our trip, on lower Elk Pass trail a half km up from the trailhead! Best guess might be that Elk, Blueberry and Hydroline get groomed tonight. Maybe even trackset up higher where there is much more snow?”

The machine was sent away this summer when they “went out of business.” Today it was returned and put to work immediately. Everyone in the SkierBob empire must be jumping for joy at this development. 🙂

This early in the season, the trail is usually groomed only(corduroy surface) for the first couple kilometres, and as Steve suggested, tracksetting may occur at higher elevations. 

Get your parking pass!

Parking at Elk Pass

Mike W noticed the grooming was also on the Upper Lake access trail. When the Elk Pass parking lot becomes full, please park at the Upper Lake where there is a large parking lot. The ski trail from Upper Lake to Elk Pass is only 900 metres long and it sounds like it will be groomed. 

I hope someone who goes to Elk Pass tomorrow will take a picture of their parking pass being displayed on their dashboard and send it to me. 

Mt Shark

“Sources” tell me there was a snowmobile at Mt Shark doing some packing today. Not sure if it was snowmobile packing or roller packing. Who’s going to check it out?

Lake O’Hara fire road

Rose, Kat and Maia on Lake O’Hara. Photo by Chuck

I’ll give you one guess as to who skied up to Lake O’Hara today. Yes, Chuck went all the way to the lake and provided this report…

Lake O’Hara snowcat. Photo by Chuck.

“Good conditions with cold snow on a solid snowmobile packed and skier tracked trail. No thin areas and absolutely no rocks. No tracksetting yet.

Details available in the photo descriptions here:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/JCTd8bjfPkJ8zx4m8

Rodi Blue -2 to -6 kick wax was perfect, and metal edges were nice on the return.”

Lake O’Hara fire road. Photo by Chuck

If you read the captions on Chuck’s photos, you’ll know that avalanche danger exists at 6.5K along the trail. You can see the remnants of the 2017 avalanche.

The shelter at the end of the trail is not open due to to the pandemic. The Lodge will not be open this winter, but I hope we get some grooming from the big snowcat which is owned by Lake O’Hara Lodge. 

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Blog Instructions 

Welcome to all the new readers of this blog. I’m thrilled to see all the new names leaving Trip Reports and asking questions. 

If you’re looking for skiable snow, check the Trip Reports for first-hand accounts from skiers who have been on the trails. 

Click on Maps if you’re looking for maps of the trails. 

Want to ski with your dog? Click on the Dog-friendly trails tab. 

The Resources tab on the main menu is a wealth of information where you can get information on… 

  • Skate Ski Trails
  • Trail Difficulty and Steepness
  • Ski Lessons
  • Ski Videos of the trails in the SkierBob domain
  • and the newest addition, Acronyms which are commonly used on here. 

Monday morning update

For readers who are unfamiliar with the acronyms used on this blog, please refer to the Acronym Page. It’s the first item under “Resources” on the main menu. 

Back Door update

Lower Elk Pass now has lots of snow. Photo by Alf Skrastins

As you may have already read, Conservation Officers were handing out tickets to skiers who were parked on the highway near the Back Door entrance to PLPP. Alf Skrastins has provided photos and a report which show you don’t have to use the back door…

“There is now enough snow on the trails at the Elk Pass and Upper Kananaskis Lake Parking lots, that there is no need to use the “back door” trail access.  There is 15-25cm of light snow over a very supportive rain crust. Travel conditions are excellent on and off-trail.”

Skiers prepare the snowshoe trail in PLPP

Making first tracks on the snowshoe trail. Photo by Alf Skrastins

It’s a common occurrence for showshoers to use the Elk Pass ski trail rather than the actual snowshoe trail along Hydroline, to reach the top of Elk Pass. I’ve taken pictures of the snowshoe trail in mid-winter covered with pristine, untracked snow. 

As you can see in the photo, Alf Skrastins and his group have skied-in the trail so the first snowshoers have a packed path to follow. A ski track is a magnet for snowshoers, so it should attract the first snowshoers of the season. 

The snowshoe trail had no snowshoe tracks on Feb 17, 2016

Alf’s photos also show the lower sections of Elk Pass with lots of snow, so it bodes well for grooming to begin soon. The trail was snowmobile packed with the early snowfall back in October, so there’s a firm base which should allow the snowcat to do its thing. 

The leased snowcat was sent back to wherever when the grooming was cancelled and they are awaiting its return this week. 

Canmore Nordic Centre

Great news this morning from Georgie Fear: “Hot news!!! Snow guns are ON at the Nordic centre!!!”

Kananaskis Season Pass Sales

Removing blowdown from Fox Creek. Photo by Alf Skrastins

Over 1500 season passes have been purchased. Ken Hewitt also remarked, “Volunteer recruitment is strong – most weekend shifts in PLPP are now filled, and we are concentrating on weekdays, as well as at Ribbon Creek and Mt. Shark.   Volunteer training will begin in about 2 weeks.”

Top Photo

When I saw the raptor imprint photo, it reminded me of some of the photos which readers have sent me from our trails in the SkierBob domain. I know MaSid has encountered these imprints in the snow around the Elk Pass meadows. 

Irony

The Conservation Officers were concerned with vehicles creating a dangerous situation at the Back Door by parking on the highway…

Yoho Valley Road(YVR)

Yoho Valley Road. Photo by Chuck

Nov 15, 2020: Thank you to Chuck for the photos and report. The tracksetting on YVR(not to be confused with Vancouver airport) ends at about 5.5k. You can ski further on the ungroomed trail, but there is avalanche, icefall, and rockfall danger at about 6.5K, just before you arrive at the switchbacks. 

Yoho Valley road. Photo by Chuck

As you can see in Chuck’s photos, there is already about 10 cm of fresh snow over yesterday’s tracksetting, and if you venture past the tracksetting, you’ll be in 25 cm of ungroomed snow. 

Yoho Valley road also goes by the name Takkakaw Falls road. 

Dogs are allowed on-leash on YVR.

If you enjoy skiing in Yoho National Park, please consider making a donation to Kicking Horse Ski Club who are responsible for grooming the trails. 

By the way, I’m enjoying all the new acronyms that people are coming up with LOL. 
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Back Door parking issues

We’ve had reports that Conservation Officers(COs) were ticketing vehicles parked on Highway(Hwy) 40 in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park(PLPP) at the Back Door, officially known as the Kananaskis Fire Lookout Access road. 

Update: I no sooner posted this when I received a call from a PLPP CO explaining that vehicles were encroaching on the driving lane. I suggested that a warning could have been the first course of action but she was adamant that this is unacceptable and it sounds like they wanted to set an example. The CO said the situation there has been dangerous for pedestrians and other motorists the past few days.

Hopefully, now that we are paying for grooming, we will soon get some groomed trails starting at the traditional parking lots in PLPP where we can park without being fined. it appears from the trip reports that Elk Pass has plenty of snow at the trailhead now. 

This parking situation is going to be a problem this winter with so many people wanting to access the trails in PLPP. For example, the Elk Pass parking lot will fill up fast on the weekends and parking will not be allowed on the road. You have the option of parking at the huge Upper Lake parking lot and skiing 1K on the pleasant, groomed Upper Lake access trail to Elk Pass.

Winter wonderland in PLPP

Elk Pass. Photo by Steve Riggs

Steve Riggs found 20 cm of new snow at the top of Elk Pass!

Update from Tanya: There is now plenty of snow at the traditional Elk Pass trailhead if you want to avoid the back door entrance. Tanya remarked, “Plenty to groom in my opinion. Great coverage and not a single rock.”

For anyone thinking of going into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park(PLPP) through the back door(aka Fire Lookout parking lot), be sure to read today’s trip reports. I’m posting JV’s report below(which was posted on the “Contact Bob” page)…

Tyrwhitt. Photo by Tanya

“We were third vehicle to arrive at fire look out parking lot. Arrived to a fresh dusting of 10cm of light and fluffy snow. Only 1 set of touring tracks heading up to Elk Pass was before us. Temperatures and wind were perfect for the 7.5km climb. We saw no one on the way up to the Elk Pass arch. Skier track was solid and the glide up was fantastic with the new BC skin skis picked up this summer.

Way back was significantly different. Lots of people out enjoying the fresh snow, and everyone happy to be out of the city. 51 cars parked in the lot and on the road when we left. Busy for Nov! But nice to see so many people out enjoying the trails we almost lost. Hopefully they all purchased a pass for what promises to be an amazing season in PLPP!”

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Last weekend, I noted that Cypress Hills was going to receive the brunt of the snowfall, and indeed they did. It’s unusual to see an avalanche warning in that area. 
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What does it mean?

Readers who are regulars on this blog often use acronyms which may be confusing to our new readers. If you’re wondering about the meaning of acronyms, I’ve created a list. This Acronyms page is under “Resources” on the main menu. I’ll add to it as we come up with new ones.