LL to Banff loppet preview

-Larry Hulsman skiing on Morant’s curve, part of the Lake Louise to Banff loppet course-

With the snow conditions I saw today, we could run the Lake Louise to Banff loppet tomorrow. According to Environment Canada, there’s lots more snow on the way over the next 24 hours, so if we don’t get a heatwave, there should be enough snow to ski the entire 71K.

Preliminary packing has been completed on Leg 2 of the Lake Louise to Banff loppet course

I didn’t see Tracksetter John today, but I know he was out packing the trail on Leg 1 between Morant’s curve and Baker Creek. I also saw very fresh packing on Leg 2 between Protection Mountain and Castle Lookout. The stretch from Castle Lookout to Castle junction is already trackset and in great shape.

From the lake at Lake Louise to Castle junction, it’s 36K and you could ski it right now on 18K of trackset trails and 18K of snowmobile packed trails. It’s good to see they’ve got a headstart on the packing because if we get the 15 – 20 cm that’s forecast, it would have made for a very soft trail.

Leg 5 can always benefit from more snow but it looked better than I’ve seen it in some previous years. In 2011, we actually had too much snow, and it was like skiing in a narrow tunnel where it was barely wide enough to plant your poles.

As I was driving past Morant’s curve, I saw Larry skiing along the narrow ledge above the train tracks. On a sunny day, you’ll often see tourists stopped here to snap photos, as it really is a picture postcard setting. Larry had started at Coral creek and was just out for a pleasure ski.

I skied at the Pipestone trails and on Moraine lake road today, but I’ll do a separate update on them. If all that snow comes tonight, my trip report will be null and void anyway.

Loppet virgins

Will this be your first loppet? Do you know what you’re in for? With Ivo retiring last year, I think I now own the longest streak of consecutive loppets, with nine under my belt, so let me share some thoughts.

All of these things won’t happen to you in one race, but over the course of nine loppets, I’ve seen a lot. (Yet I keep coming back!)

  • Gong-show starts from the parking lot.
  • Pole baskets busting through soft snow.
  • Pile-ups at bottlenecks on Tramline.
  • Losing a pole in the melee at the first road crossing
  • Not enough snow
  • Too much snow
  • A blizzard blowing in on leg 3. In your face.
  • Skiing on gravel on leg 4
  • So much snow on Leg 4 that the snowmobile got stuck
  • Skiing on gravel on leg 5
  • Crotch-grabbers on leg 5(now you’ll all want to do this leg?)
  • The lurker in the backswamp
  • Skiing on glare ice in the ‘swamp
  • As you stumble through thick brush and forest, wondering how they ever found an opening wide enough to ski through in the ‘swamp
  • Running in your ski boots for 800 metres
  • Skiing on glare ice on the Bow river with a gale-force wind(with luck, it will be at your back)
  • If you’re still reading, then watch this video The Backswamp

As a first-timer in 2011, Will Ratliffe wrote an excellent review of his experiences as he did the entire 71K: It was as close to a perfect ski day as you could get.  The list above notwithstanding, Will also said “If you only do one big event in your life, do this.”

In the interest of brevity, that’s just a short list. You can see this isn’t your average loppet and that’s what makes it fun. If you’re a loppet veteran, feel free to add to the list.


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  1. Henry,
    I’d love to see the “high tea…” video. I’ve found it on youtube but it’s locked – “private.” Where did you see it? Do you have a copy by any chance?
    You can email me at bruce at bruceelkin dot com

    • Bruce, sadly I have not been able to find that youtube video since last year.
      It must have been removed or renamed. I wish I had a copy.

  2. I have skied this event many times on relay teams and once as a solo racer. This
    race has tremendous potential but it will remain a quirky, often very frustrating affair. The restrictions disallowing the proper trail clearing, maintenance and grooming that would turn this event into a truly unique ski event are preventing the achievement of its potential. I’m sure there are some that love its current state but I know there are many others like myself who don’t cherish the thought of ruining a good pair of skis and spending 50+ K of poles sinking a foot each time we pole due to lack of proper trail grooming.

    As someone who enjoys good, firm tracks, I know where you’re coming from, but Parks Canada is doing us a favour by allowing it at all. In some ways, I like its unique character, and its totally different from all the other loppets where we ski on well-groomed trails. The fact that it was sold out in 55 minutes is telling. -Bob

  3. Okay, before you all start fighting about who gets to do leg 5, let me explain what crotch-grabbers are. They are the small bushes and trees, about 30 cm high, which are between the tracks. If you want to keep both skis in the tracks, you have no choice but to ski over them, dead-centre between your legs.

  4. I can’t get over how you found such a great sound track for your Backswamp video.
    It’s priceless. Who is the artist, BTW?

    The group is Boozoo Bajou, but the singer is Tony Joe White of “Polk Salad Annie” reknown. Wouldn’t you know it, he’s from Louisiana. -Bob

    • Who can forget Polk Salad Annie! Thanks Bob.

      Though not related to skiing, I’ll mention that while watching the Backswamp video, I noticed another youtube video called ‘High Tea Banff National Park’. It’s a nice video featuring Joy Kimball and her daughter, and it’s about Joy raising her family at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.

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