Goat Creek: What a wonderful surprise
This afternoon, we decided to stay close to home and ski at the Canmore Nordic Centre. On our way, we first decided to drive 5K up the hill and check out Goat Creek.
There were a few cars in the Goat Creek trailhead parking lot. As always, from the parking lot down to the bridge, about 100 meters, there were plenty of exposed rocks, but that’s the case even when conditions are excellent. It’s advisable, if you have good skis, to carry them for the first 100 metres until you’re past the bridge. The first 1K is never trackset because it’s not in Banff National Park, and the Banff tracksetter will only go as far as the border. The snow had been skied on and was well-packed. When we reached the Park boundary, we could clearly see the trail had been trackset, probably just this morning. We skied a short ways down the trail, and except for all the hiker’s bootprints in the tracks, it was in great shape. I didn’t even take a camera along today, so I have no photos to share.
Cheryl volunteered to go back to the car and drive to Banff where she would ski out on the Spray River trail and meet me as I was coming towards Banff. Only one time before have I seen this trail in such good condition.
About 2K down the trail I caught up to the culprits who were walking in the tracks. They didn’t hear me coming, and as I approached them and screeched to a stop, they began shrieking and scattering to the side of the trail. Now that I had their attention, I politely explained the trackset trail was for skiers but they were free to walk in the middle or on the sides. As Steve Riggs has pointed out on here previously, shortly after tracksetting the snow has not yet “set up,” and it’s very soft and subject to damage. Near the trailhead, they were not the only ones who had walked in the tracks, but after I passed them, there were no more footprints.
At approximately the 7K mark, there is a steep hill with a winding turn that goes down to a bridge over Goat Creek. As the trail gets skied on more and more, this downhill gets very glazed with very thin snow. Once you’re halfway down, there’s no turning back because you can’t stop. As you approach the bridge, what makes it really exciting is that you have to make a quick right turn to cross the bridge. If you have a full head of steam, chances are you’ll not make the bridge. Your choices then are to bail before you impale yourself on the bridge railing, or go for a swim in the icy waters of Goat Creek, neither of which are great alternatives, but if the snow on the edges is soft, bailing is your best bet. Many times I have removed my skis at the top of the hill and walked down to the bridge. My motto is to be safe and live to ski another day.
Fortunately, the conditions were so good today that I didn’t have to take a second look. There was still enough snow on the trail to slow myself down in order to make the bridge with no trouble. There are a couple other tricky spots where you have to make sharp turns at the bottom of downhills. Today, it was just pure fun and pleasure.
A lot of people are under the impression that Goat Creek is all downhill from the Canmore end. I can tell you that in spite of a net elevation drop of 280 metres, there’s still an accumulated elevation gain of 210 metres with all the ups and downs. The total distance is 19K. You finish at the Spray River trailhead which is just a few metres from the Banff Springs Hotel.
The forecast is calling for 2-4 cm of snow tonight, so there’s going to be some fresh snow in the tracks tomorrow.
Robertson Col & Boom Lake
Thanks to Duane Kohut for this report:
Besides the Nordic Center that we skied on Friday Dec 26 (which you know about), I back country skied up to the top of Robertson’s Col on Saturday Dec 27 (over Robertson Glacier). It was a long trip, having to break on through wind-filled old tracks. But, it ended up being better than expected, apart from white-out conditions. There is still considerable wind crust which is sometimes breakable, but there was a few centimeters of new light powder on some unbreakable crust that was almost pleasurable. Fortunately, we were all on alpine touring equipment, as telemark skiing would have been very tough. The snow is still thin through the moraines below the glacier, so abundant caution is required.
On Sunday Dec 28 we did a more mellow trip up to Boom Lake on xc skis. The conditions were very good, including a sight seeing trip to the end of the lake and back. Numerous snowshoes were packing the trail quite nicely for those that need to do a little snowploughing on skis on the way down.
Sorry, no pictures. Too snowy.
Administrator’s note: If you are going to Boom Lake or Robertson Col, check the avalanche reports on the sidebar under “Backcountry.”