Who made these tracks?

There are some non-skier tracks we enjoy seeing on the ski trail. I know the ski tracks were made by Rory, but he was wondering which animal made the other tracks on Rolly Road in PLPP. Rory didn’t see imprints of toenails. 

Lake O’Hara. Photo by Chuck

Thanks for all the trip reports and photos. I realize it isn’t funny, but I had to laugh at Mike W’s encounter with the walkers. I know this sounds ruthless, but would taking a photo and shaming them on the internet solve the problem? Just the threat of it would likely be enough to deter them. Can these people really be lost with so many trail markers and signs? 

Brewster Creek. Photo by M & J

Chuck provided photos from his trip to Lake O’Hara, including a shot of the avalanche path at 6.5K. 

Parks Canada posted a photo of yesterday’s Borgeau size 3.5 naturally triggered avalanche which released around 5 pm. It ran over the ice climb and the powder cloud dusted cars in the parking lot.

The Bill Milne trail is being trackset this evening. I would imagine Wedge Connector and Evan-Thomas will also be completed. 

Mountain Road at WBC. Photo by Steve Riggs

Healy Creek and Cascade Valley were trackset today. M & J were on Healy Creek and Brewster Creek today. As you can see in their photos, there’s lots of fresh snow on Brewster Creek but I am guessing it will be trackset tomorrow by Sundance Lodge. 

Tracksetting at Lake Louise today included Great Divide, Lower Telemark, Campground Loop, and Fairview. 

There are wind warnings out tonight for the mountains, so you can expect some tree debris on the trails tomorrow(Thursday).  Fortunately the windy weather will be followed with significant snowfall on Friday for most of the empire. 

The snowshoers had to step around this sign

Feb 23: The snowshoers had to step around this sign. Photo by Ian and Darlene

Feb 24, 2021:

It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Thanks to Ian and Darlene for the above photo. They also included a photo of the mess on the Screamer which will be dangerous and difficult for anyone descending. 

Feb 23: Iron Springs at West Bragg Creek. Photo by Steve Riggs

Thanks to Steve Riggs for the photo of Iron Springs at West Bragg Creek. Nice to see the pristine snow and tracksetting, absent any boot prints. 

Tracksetting Feb 23/24

Castle Lookout to Baker Creek was trackset on the 23rd. 

Lake Louise: Moraine Lake Rd, Upper & Lower Tramline, Bow River Loop, Lakeshore, and  Pipestone. 

West Bragg Creek

“A number of trails have been tuned up since yesterday’s snow and track setting. Temp this morning is -14 to -17C.  Conditions early today should be firmer than yesterday but will soften with daytime temps on the rise. Watch for isolated icy and wet patches.”

Check Nordic Pulse for more details. 

PLPP: (According to Alberta Parks website)Lodgepole, Braille, Sinclair, WWL Access, Spruce road. 

The Nordic Pulse website gives different information for PLPP, but I don’t think we can put our full trust in it yet. 

Banff National Park: Cascade Valley, Upper Bankhead, and Tunnel Mountain trails.

West Bragg Creek

Moose Loop

Feb 23 at 3 pm. Photos and report from Boomer Groomer…

Moose/Telephone junction

“Seven cm of new snow overnight got groomed and track set on most trails in West Bragg.

Conditions are very soft due to warm daytime temperatures, so expect tracks to get beat up fairly quickly. Due to the previous days warm temps, there are ice flows (Moose/Telephone intersection, Telephone), and free standing water (Mountain Rd.) in a few areas.

West Bragg Creek: Mountain Road

There are also a few areas of ice just under the surface of new track setting (North Moose Loop), so be aware and be careful out there. 

For the most part, skiing should be great as the problem areas are fairly isolated.”

See more WBC grooming details on Nordic Pulse. 

The mid-afternoon temperature at West Bragg Creek is +1°C. 

Banff National Park: Cascade Valley, Upper Bankhead, and Tunnel Mountain trails were trackset today. 

Lake Louise: Pipestone trails were trackset today. 

Snowfall and grooming update

Moraine Lake road was trackset yesterday but will be covered with fresh snow. File photo

Feb 23, 2021

Overnight snowfall

Calgary 3 cm

Ribbon Creek 3 cm 

Canmore 5+ cm

Lake Louise 7 cm

Yoho 9 cm

Mud Lake 8 cm

PLPP 5 cm by midnight. (probably closer to the Mud Lake amount by morning)

Kananaskis Fire Lookout was trackset last night but will be covered with fresh snow. File photo

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Trackset last night: Elk Pass(partial), Hydroline, Lookout, Tyrwhitt. 

“Heavy flurries rolled into the park late Monday evening, with approximately 5 cm of snow (and counting) accumulated at the Elk Pass trailhead by the time grooming finished around midnight. With no signs of letting up, expect ALL trails to be covered with this fresh snow. Very strong winds brought with the storm will cause significant drifting in some places, and likely will be dropping a lot of tree debris as well as many large (especially at higher elevations) tree bombs.”

The temperature at the Lower Lake at 8 a.m. is -10°C. 

West Bragg Creek

WBC received a few cm of snow overnight and grooming has started. It shows Telephone Loop is being groomed this morning. Check Nordic Pulse for details. The temperature at the trailhead is -9°C. 

Lake Louise

There will be fresh snow on the tracksetting at Canmore Nordic Centre. File photo

The following trails were trackset on Monday, but will have fresh snow on top: Moraine Lake Rd, Great Divide, Upper & Lower Tramline, Lower Telemark, and Townsite. 

Canmore Nordic Centre

The natural snow on Banff Trail was trackset. Check the CNC trail report for more details. 

Emerald Lake Tree Hugger trail. File photo

“Snow continued to fall through the night expect a 5cm layer of fresh snow on freshly groomed trails. CAUTION: Groomer found trees down on trails he set out to groom – they have been cleared however, trails which have not seen a groom might have trees down.”

Yoho/Emerald Lake

“Feb 23: We got almost 10 cm of fluffy(finally!!!) ….Joe is out track setting now—left Field Info this AM—up to Emerald trails on the Connector and maybe do the Kicking Horse if he has time and all goes well!   Come ski it’s beautiful!”

Groomed trails with avalanche risk

Feb 22, 2021: All the photos I’m posting in this update are historical photos. 

Avalanche risk is high right now, but for those of us who stick to groomed ski trails, the avalanche danger is minimal although there are a few trails where it could happen.

Redearth Creek at 3.7K and 4.7K. Also, on a previous update, Normand made this observation… “there are some high potential for devastating slides all the way down to the ski trail between km 7.5 and 9, after RE6 going up. There are what appear to be ancestral and only partially overgrown slide paths coming down from the SSW flank of Copper Mountain.” The ancient pamphlet Nordic Trails in Banff National Park confirms Normand’s observation. 

Tyrwhitt experienced an avalanche in April 2012. The zone is approximately 200 metres past the high point if traveling south which is right at the beginning of the meadows. The avalanche path is very narrow, around 20-30 metres.

Spray River West. I’m attaching a map which shows the locations. There are two of them. Approximately 3.7K and 5.2K from the trailhead. Both are before you reach the East-West junction, better known as the Bus Stop junction. 

Elk Pass has been closed a couple times in recent years to assess avalanche danger. The location is approximately 2.2K from the trailhead, just past the first Hydroline junction. I don’t recall any avalanche happening during my tenure. 

Moraine Lake road beyond the tracksetting. At 9K there is a warning sign.

No avalanche, but Elk Pass is occasionally closed to assess avalanche risk. 

Yoho/Emerald Lake. One section of the Emerald Connector has been rerouted after the 2011 avalanche. There is still a section on the Connector with risk and you’ll see the sign when skiing there. The Horse trail has been rerouted due to avalanches in recent years. That’s why you now have to ski on the lake for a short distance to access the horse trail and the alluvial fan. 

Present day sign on the Emerald Connector

Lake O’Hara Fire Road isn’t groomed this winter, but it has experienced avalanches in the recent past. 

Boom Lake is not a groomed trail, but it sees a lot of traffic. See previous post for details of Sunday’s avalanche. One individual ended up in the lake and another was partially buried. The trail crosses several avalanche zones as you approach the lake, and also on the lake itself. 

Boom Lake, Mar 2019. Photo by Chuck

Regarding Boom Lake, Chuck remarked, “To be clear, the avalanche path in question is not off the headwall at the end of the lake, but rather about half way along the lake at the base of a huge avalanche path, as seen in pictures number 5 & 6 in this photo link from March 2019:
This avalanche regularly breaks the lake ice on impact and should never be approached. Any pictures taken should be with a long zoom lens like mine!”

Banff  Yoho Kootenay Avalanche Bulletin

Kananaskis Avalanche Bulletin

Snowfall, grooming, and avalanche update

Avalanche Forecast for Monday Feb 22

“One individual ended up in the lake and another was partially buried”

Boom Lake: Icefalls at the headwall. Photo from 2019 by Chuck.

For anyone heading to Boom Lake, please read about the avalanche incident which occurred yesterday. I’ve posted more information and a link at the bottom of this update. 

Lake Louise Ski Resort is reporting 18 cm of overnight snow at the lower elevation. The web cam is showing lots of snow on the highway. On Bow Valley Road Conditions, the following was posted around 9 a.m: “Flipped car westbound on trans Canada between sunshine and Red Earth. Tow truck just arriving but down to one lane for now.”

Nakiska, which is near Ribbon Creek, is reporting 5 cm of overnight snow. 

PLPP: The grooming report indicates about 1 cm of new snow while tracksetting Amos, Wheeler, Woolley, and Meadow(partial) last night. The Mud Lake weather station shows 10 cm in the past 24 hours, and about 4 cm overnight. 

Shaganappi golf course

I’m re-posting this Grooming Report from Shaganappi golf course, as it explains some of the challenges presented by the weather:

February 22 Shaganappi Point golf course in Calgary grooming update: No grooming!

+8 Sunday +temps overnight = no grooming at Shaganappi

Sorry to report, we are opting for snow preservation over grooming at Shaganappi right now so be warned! The skiing may not be enjoyable.

The temperature at 8pm Sunday was +8 at the airport. There is a very shallow base of snow on most sections of trail at Shaganappi, so we are choosing to not groom until below 0 temperatures return. The temperature dropped this morning from +3 at 6am to 0 degrees with a windchill of -4 at 7am at the airport, but it is +2 in the community of Shaganappi.

If you venture out to Shaganappi today, do let us know what the skiing is like and what time you were there…how hard or soft the snow was, whether you were on classic or skate skis, whether your skis sunk down into the snow and how deep…the skate lanes likely will be rough from Sunday’s ski and foot traffic.

Avalanche at Boom Lake Sunday Feb 21

From Avalanche Canada:

A word of warning to all the folks who visit Boom Lake in the winter. Today we encountered three individuals walking across the lake back toward where the trail ends. They had been involved in an avalanche accident. The avalanche came down to the end of its path, broke through the ice and continued some distance across the ice surface. One individual ended up in the lake and another was partially buried (although we are unclear how buried they were). It appears they were near a frozen waterfall in the middle of the avalanche path when the avalanche reached them. The three of them were shaken and the one that ended up in the lake was very cold. They appeared to have little knowledge of avalanche safety. A photograph of the path and the hole in the lake ice is included. Avalanche conditions were considerable/moderate/low. All the paths on the north side of the lake had run, many of them full path and some had reached the lake edge. This should be a somber warning to all the users of this area, including us, who have sat at the end of the trail and eaten lunch. This is a backcountry area and caution/knowledge is required.


Sunday morning update

Emerald Lake: participants in Yoho virtual nordic challenge. Jessica, Susan, Sarah, and Mike W.

A wind warning has been issued for Lake Louise, PLPP, Kananaskis, Canmore and Banff. Heavy snow is predicted tonight for higher elevations, and rain/snow at lower elevations. 

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

The usual Saturday night schedule of Whiskey Jack, Upper Pocaterra, Lower Lake, and Packers was completed. 

Feb 20: Cascade Valley near the warden’s cabin. Photo by Chuck

The trail report contains these remarks…

Strathmore golf course on Feb 20. Photo from Tracksetter Ed Meyer

“A few very light flurries moved in to the Park just before midnight on Saturday, with barely a trace of snow by the end of the grooming shift.  In the early hours of Sunday morning, very light snow was falling in the Boulton Creek Parking Lot, under a partly cloudy sky.  At that time, there was just a trace of snow on Friday night’s grooming, and all  other trails had 1 to 3cm’s of snow on top of the last grooming.  Strong winds have been causing some drifting in places, as well as dropping numerous and large (especially at higher elevations) tree bombs.”

On the Alberta Parks website, Packers does not show up when you do a specific Feb 20 search but it shows up on the general report, and on Nordic Pulse

West Bragg Creek

A few of the core trails were trackset early this morning and you can see them on WBC Nordic Pulse. 

Lake Louise

Pipestone trails were trackset on Saturday.

Shaganappi golf course

“All trails were groomed on this beautiful moonlit Saturday evening.  The Chinook wind is forecasted to be persistent tonight, so expect drifting on the trails and especially in the track setting.  It might just be a case of see if you can even find the track setting on some stretches of trail!”

Confederation golf course

Yellow and Purple were groomed and trackset. 

Yes, I own metal-edge skis!

These skis were made for trails like Brewster creek. File photo from 2016

Ulrike was asking about Brewster Creek and what kind of skis she should use. Thank you to MAAD and Jean-Francois for their input. It sounds like the snowmobile ridges have been smoothed out for now. 

As someone who has done it on both skinny “plastic” skis and wider, metal edge skis, I’m going to vote for the metal edge skis when the trail has snowmobile tracks in the snowplow lane. 

This trail is fun, has lots of variety, creeks, bridges, animal tracks, scenery, and an invigorating climb. It can, however, get quite “interesting” when returning. I wrote about it back on Jan 13, 2016 when I used metal-edge skis…

Brewster creek at 8.6K. File photo

Descending Brewster creek with all the steep downhills, sharp turns, snowmobile tracks, ridges and whatnot, I actually think I was faster than on my skinny skis. I was truly amazed at how confident and fast I could be on a sketchy trail with the right skis.

Let’s put this in context. Back on Dec 1, I skied Brewster creek with skinny racing skis and wrote the following:

Wolverine tracks on Brewster Creek. File photo

“I turned around at the end of the tracksetting and had a harrowing trip back down. The snowmobile leaves a lot of ridges and ruts, and coming down those steep hills with turns can be scary. It’s imperative to stay in control, which means going slow. At the bottom of Brewster creek, I had to pry my legs out of the snowplow stance. With the trail in this condition, it would be a good idea to use wider skis and metal edges wouldn’t hurt, either.”

Snowmobile ridges on Brewster Creek. File photo

The skis are wider, but not real wide. The dimensions are 59-49-55 compared to my skinny skis which are 41-44-44. Granted, the skis are slower but on a trail like Brewster creek that’s an advantage. Going slower, I didn’t have to snowplow very much at all, and when I approached a corner with some speed, it was still easy enough to slow down and turn. Riding over the numerous bumps in the trail was like floating over small waves on the ocean. Fun, and safe.

The Strathmore golf course is looking good. Tracksetter Ed Meyer sent the following video…


Friday night update

Virtual Birkie racers on Castle Lookout to Baker Creek. Photo by Chuck

Update: Feb 19/20 Tracksetting

PLPP tracksetting included Pocaterra from the Hut to Packers, Rolly Road, Come-Along, and Lynx. Saturday morning temperature at the Lower Lake is -7°C. 

Bill Milne, Wedge, Evan-Thomas, and Ribbon Creek. 

Confederation golf course: Blue and Green Loops. 

Shaganappi golf course: Groomed and trackset. 

West Bragg Creek: Check Nordic Pulse for the details. 

This weekend you have a choice of three virtual loppets which are ongoing…

Virtual Yoho nordic challenge goes to Feb 24. 

Dawn Mountain Challenge goes to Feb 28

Virtual Canadian Birkie goes to Feb 28

If you’re skiing in the Baker Creek area, Chuck noted that “no more tracksetting west of Baker Creek, and no tracksetting in Protection Campground as Olivia is denning in the area.”

From today’s trip reports, it sounds like conditions were pretty good. Hopefully the wind won’t cause any damage overnight. 

Meadows on Little Pipestone River looking to east side of Mt Hector. Photo by Rainer A

When you’re considering skiing a trail which you are unfamiliar with, it’s easy, and sometimes important to research it. On the sidebar, under Places to Ski, click on the trail you’re interested in and you’ll see the updates which I’ve written over the years. 

We’re hearing about some amazing trips which skiers are doing. Sara M completed an epic ski trip to the Sundance warden’s cabin yesterday with nine hours and 45K, and today’s trip report from Rainer A and Gary M on Skoki-Pipestone was 13 hours.  

Ridgetop trail in Cypress Hills

Ridgetop trail in Cypress Hills

I posted that photo knowing nobody would guess it, but thanks to Sara M, Martin, Sophie and Getsaround for at least making an attempt. 

Starting out on Ridgetop

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading today’s trip reports and seeing the photos. Amazing distances that some of you have covered. Nice to see the Sandy McNabb photos from M & J with such excellent conditions. 

Ridgetop in Cypress Hills

I’m on my annual trip to Cypress Hills/Elkwater which is just a short distance from Medicine Hat where I have a brother. The kids are out of school so it’s a lot busier around Elkwater than I’m used to. 

There’s a nice system of trackset trails here known as the Spring Creek trails but they weren’t on my agenda for today. I had one thing in mind, and that was to ski Ridgetop from the south end to the viewpoint. It was the only section of trail here which I had never skied, but I biked it several times last summer and fell in love with it. 


While biking the trail last summer I spent a lot of time removing rocks, so I was happy to only see a couple embedded rocks on the trail. 

I didn’t get on the trail until 4:15 pm but I figured I could make it to the viewpoint and back by sunset. The distance to the viewpoint from the south trailhead is 6.2K with very little elevation change, although there is one fairly steep downhill to a creek and back up the other side. 

Ridgetop: Whose tracks? 

The trail is groomed but not trackset. It would be a skate skier’s paradise. The elevation at the trailhead is 1430 metres which is very similar to the Canmore Nordic Centre. 

Arriving at the viewpoint where you can see Elkwater lake

The first 300 metres is extremely exposed to the wind and had thin snow cover. Most of it was skiable, but there are some gravelly bits where you have to be careful. I did remove my skis and walked for about 20 metres. As you can see in the photos, there are some trees along the trail, but if it’s a windy day like today, you’ll be fighting the breeze. 

The air temperature was -7°C and VR45(-2/-8) worked well for the few times I needed it. 95% of the time I was double-poling. The snow was abrasive so the wax wore off by the time I reached the viewpoint. On the way back, I skated wherever I needed some grip. 

Ridgetop: Setting sun on the way back

Last summer, every time I reached 5K, I was greeted by a hawk circling overhead and whistling  which was beautiful to see and hear. There was no hawk today, but I saw numerous deer tracks. I’m surprised with all the deer tracks that I didn’t see any cougar tracks. Cypress Hills is known to have a large cougar population. 

I’ve added a few photos from last summer. 

Tracksetting update

Who will be first? Stoney trail(the Mystery Trail) is being trackset tonight. When I skied it on Sunday, it had only been groomed but it was a lot of fun. It is also a trail that’s quite exposed with wonderful scenery but tonight’s winds might fill in the tracks in places. The closest trailhead is the Stoney trailhead which has morphed into the Troll Falls trailhead. Hay Meadow is the shortest way to acces it. 

The Skogan Pass trails are also being trackset along with Hay Meadow and Ruthie’s. 

The Tunnel Mountain trails in Banff were trackset yesterday.