We started out the new year with what I consider to be the most scenic, trackset trail in the Rockies. It’s the Emerald Lake horse trail and alluvial fan. Now for the first time ever, we skied on the east side of Emerald Lake which is also trackset. It allows you to complete an entire loop without re-tracing any steps.
The new trail is actually the snowshoe/walking trail which starts out by the Peaceful pond. I believe they are using this as a ski trail because of the avalanche path on the horse trail. No longer allowed to ski out directly on the horse trail, you are required to ski the first 300 metres on the lake. This is not an imposition normally, but the lake can become slushy/icy which compromises the beginning of the trail.
To find the east side trail, start on the Emerald connector. In about 100 metres you’ll take a left turn where you’ll also see a sign which recommends that you shouldn’t ski on this trail. Go figure, but I understand why. There are some pretty steep hills, albeit small, on the first 500 metres, ending with a fast descent, followed by a sharp turn as the trail winds down to the lake. On good snow conditions it’s not an issue, but it would be very difficult for a novice skier to negotiate. It would be a simple matter to remove your skis and walk, especially since it doubles as a walking trail anyway. Once past the hills, the trail is trackset, mostly level, and easy.
Despite this being a snowshoe and walking trail, the tracks were in very good condition and it was a pleasant ski with occasional views across the lake. It emerges at the north end of the lake where it joins the alluvial fan loop. Upon completing the alluvial fan, you can take the horse trail on the west side of the lake back to the trailhead at the Emerald Sports rental shop.
Also for the first time, the alluvial fan trail is double trackset which makes it a lot more convenient when meeting other skiers. By the way, you won’t find any horses on the horse trail.
I’ve included photos of all sections of this ski trip which would be about 8K.
The Kicking Horse River trail and the Emerald Connector were also in excellent condition. The last kilometre of the Connector is not trackset because of the avalanche path, but you are able to ski through at your own risk. Obviously a lot of people are doing so, because there is a good skier-set track through the avalanche path.
An incident occurred while we were out skiing on the Kicking Horse River trail. When we started out, the trail and tracks at the trailhead were pristine and in perfect condition. As we were returning, about 200 metres from the end, it looked as if a herd of elephants had trampled the trail and tracks.
My guess is that a tourist bus stopped at the Natural Bridge, and the unknowing(or uncaring) tourists started to walk out onto the ski trail and completely emaciated the tracks. There’s a big sign at the trailhead indicating that it’s a ski trail and not for walking. Look through the photos ’til you find the one entitled, “Where did this herd of elephants come from?” to see for yourself. I’ve never seen so much damage in so short a time. No dogs were involved.