We’re experiencing some wonderful early-season skiing. In the past three days, I’ve skied on good conditions at Ribbon creek, Elk pass, Goat creek, and now, Redearth creek. All that, and I haven’t even been to Cascade valley, or climbed up Whiskey Jack.
The first kilometre of Redearth creek is normally covered with land mines early in the season. Not this year! Upon climbing the first hill, about 200 metres in, I was astounded to see beautiful, deep, machine-made tracks meandering through the forest, and not a rock, twig or blade of grass in sight. No significant bumps, no uneven ground.
Usually, we only have a packed trail with very sketchy conditions in November, and there might be a trackset trail with fair conditions by Christmas. This will go down in history as the best early-season conditions I’ve ever seen.
The air temperature was -4°C at the trailhead with the snow at -7°C. As I always do for the first ski on this trail, I used my rock skis which were already waxed with VR45 from Saturday’s Goat creek trip. Grip was good and I barely needed to herringbone at all as I climbed the steep hills on the first 1.5k.
At the 1K spot on the trail I noticed something was missing. No snowman! Last year, a blog reader and his kids built a snowman which watched over the trail for the entire winter.
There were six skiers on the trail including myself, but no one had ventured to the very end, leaving that honour for me. Two skiers who were returning had gone about 9k and turned around. Two others, Larry and Jeanette, had gone as far as the campground. The trail is 10.6k to the warden’s cabin with a net elevation gain of 332 metres. Accumulated elevation is 411 metres.
The tracks were excellent all the way to the campground at 7k. Beyond, it was only snowmobile packed. I am guessing, but I think there was too much snow to set track and it needs to consolidate before a track will be put in successfully. The base was still very soft, and it was quite rough in a few places as I neared the end.
At 10.3k, at the turn-off to Shadow Lake, the snow is very deep and if you go that direction, you’ll be breaking trail. I continued on for a further 200 metres to the warden’s cabin.
The return trip was fast and fun on the excellent snow. As the Stampeders were kicking off at the grey cup game, I was flying down the final 5k of the trail.
In seasons past, it was a regular occurrence to remove my skis and walk down the steep hill, knowing there was a small bridge at the bottom that could launch you into the air, if you had managed to dodge all the hazards to that point. No problem this year, full speed ahead.
Nan had just returned to the parking lot a few minutes before, and we both agreed that today’s skiing was far better than watching football.
As with Goat creek, this is not a trail for beginners. The first time I skied on Redearth creek, I encountered a woman on the trail who had broken her leg on the way back, on the steep hills, about 2k from the trailhead. My copy of Chic Scott’s trail guide, Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies, is dog-eared from years of use. I think it gives very accurate descriptions of most trails, but regarding Redearth Creek I have to respectfully disagree with his description of this trail as “easy” and “a good place to practice your skills in a safe environment.” It’s narrow, with fast hills that get scraped bare, and sometimes there are ruts created by other skiers that can send you flying when you’re descending. Be prepared to walk down some hills if you have any question about your ability. As with all trails, when snow conditions are perfect, it makes it a lot easier, but be prepared for less-than-perfect conditions.