Can I pre-ski the trails?
The Lake Louise to Banff Loppet is only one month away. Already there are 133 of a maximum 160 skiers registered for this unique event. It looks like we already have enough snow to do the entire 71K. I wonder if they’d consider holding it this Sunday instead?
Just kidding, but it brings to mind a question I was asked by a skier who is registered to race in the loppet for the first time: “Can I pre-ski the trails?” She’s registered on a team, and is skiing the third leg.
There’s no easy answer to that one. Yes, no, maybe, somewhat, partially could all apply here.
Some of the trails which the loppet uses are designated(trackset throughout the winter as a matter of course). Let’s look at them as we ski each leg. The distances are my estimates; this is not official. Referring to the Course Overview would be helpful as you read this:
Leg 1(21.3K): Starting on the lake at Lake Louise, you can pre-ski about 9K all the way to the end of the Lake Louise campground on trackset trails. The remaining 12K which runs mainly along the Bow Valley Parkway is not trackset until a couple days before the race.
Leg 2(9.7K): From Baker Creek Chalets you’ll be skiing on a designated trail for 3.5K to Protection Mtn campground. The remaining 6.2K, which in my opinion is the most scenic and enjoyable section of the loppet, is trackset a couple days before the race.
Leg 3(12.9K): From Castle Lookout to Castle Junction, approx 6K, you have a designated trail. The remaining 7K is trackset a couple days before the race.
Leg 4(6.6K): From Johnston Canyon campground to Sawback, this is never trackset until a couple days before the race.
Leg 5(9.9K): From Sawback to Muleshoe, approx 7K, this section is trackset a couple days before the race. The remaining 3K is never trackset. Period. Approx 1K on the frozen Bow River, then another 2K through the Backswamp. Count on a blizzard suddenly appearing as you ski here. You can also count on race volunteers magically appearing out of nowhere to help you find your way. This is a memorable section of the race course, even on a pleasant sunny day.
Leg 6(10.8K): The initial 8.5K on Healy Creek and Sundance Canyon is designated trail. The remaining 2K is on the river, trackset if possible just before the race.
If you went out today, you could pre-ski 27K on designated trackset trails.
New maps now available
If, like me, you were still using the old trail guide for Banff National Park, there are new maps now available for free from the Banff and Lake Louise Visitor Centres:
More trails ready
The Kananaskis trail report shows a lot of new grooming on the Ribbon Creek trails and the PLPP trails. The Banff trail report shows that all the Pipestone Loops in Lake Louise have now been trackset as of Dec 21. For all you dog lovers who ski with your faithful companion, here’s a list of the trails in Lake Louise where you can take your dog:
Dogs are allowed on the following:
Lake Louise shoreline
Bow River Loop