Beginner skiers: Where to ski?

The Great Divide at Lake Louise

The Great Divide at Lake Louise

We’ve talked about many different trails on this blog so far this winter, but haven’t given the beginner skiers any advice on which trails would be suitable to try out this wonderful activity.

By far the best trail for beginners would be the Great Divide at Lake Louise. It’s wide and almost flat. You will get into some gradual hills but still quite easy and safe. If you make it to the 7K mark, just don’t go down the steep hill to the actual divide. 7K out and 7K back would be a long ski for a beginner anyway.

Moraine Lake road, also at Lake Louise, is suitable for the first 2.6K where you will reach Paradise creek. It’s a big climb thereafter. Be aware that sometimes you may be adept at climbing, but not descending, so don’t go too far until you know for sure that you will be able to return on a downhill. You should be able to snowplow before doing steep hills.

The trails at Lake Louise have lots of nice soft snow to make it a little gentler when you fall. If you don’t yet own a pair of skis, Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise will rent you a pair.


Wheeler trail in PLPP is a good one for beginners

Closer to Calgary, we’ve lost Ribbon creek to the floods but Terrace trail starting at Kananaskis village is pretty good. Again, it is wide but has some very small hills. Drive a few kilometres further and the Wedge connector is an excellent beginner trail but it’s not yet trackset. It starts at Wedge pond.

In PLPP, Pocaterra is beginner-friendly for the first 600 metres except for one small hill, and you can go a further 600 metres on Come-Along for a total of  1.2K. There’s also a five-lane practice grid in front of the Pocaterra hut. Wheeler is also a good one for beginners. Spruce road is the easiest, flattest trail I’ve ever seen. Wheeler and Spruce road can be accessed from the Elkwood Amphitheatre parking lot in PLPP.

The Canmore Nordic Centre has a 10-lane practice grid in front of the Daylodge that lets you find your ski legs before you tackle anything more difficult. Banff trail has nice, wide easy terrain but you’ll have to negotiate a few hills on the Banff trail loop to get there.

If anyone has other suggestions, or advice for beginners, please leave a comment.


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  1. Last year was my first year skiing and I really love the Bill Milne trail. It’s nice and flat and yet gives you a good long distance so you can go far and feel like you have accomplished something. Ribbon creek area is perfect if you’re departing from Calgary. It’s easy to do a quick drive out early on a Saturday or Sunday morning and have a nice long ski on an easy trail then head back to the city again. I did my first real ski on the wedge connector and it was nice and quiet and a good place to fall over a few times without a crowd of people watching.

  2. We skied from Pocaterra hut up to Packers along Pocaterra trail. 2 people went as far as Whiskey Jack. The first part of Poccaterra from hut to Lynx intersection was skier track set. There were a couple of twigs still showing but for the most part the snow was good. From Lynx intersection to Whiskey Jack the trail is track set. My friends checked Whiskey Jack and it was track set. Packers was not track set but the ski-doo passed us while we ate lunch. I would like to give great thanks to the groomers at PLPP. They did an excellent job on the trails and our group had a great time. It was a great day to be skiing.

  3. Also in the Ribbon Creek area, the Bill Milne trail is as flat as trails get in the mountains and very open and scenic. At Lake Louise, the River and Camground loops are good for beginners, though the River trails are a bit narrow. At Mt Shark the Watridge Lake trail is gently rolling for the first 3 km or so.- not track set yet though.

  4. I would second the suggesting for starting at Elkwood in PLPP. If you head from there over to Amos you have some very user friendly trails. You could then head down Wooley for a short distance, turning around before the big hill. Or you could turn right on Amos and go to the Wheeler Jct. Or you could head back and catch the other side of Wheeler. There are all sorts of easier options. In addition the views along Amos are quite nice. The only downside of starting at Elkwood (beginners or not) is that there is not a warm place to go back to, which could be important for youngsters or those who might be struggling. Give it a try if you have folks who are just learning the craft! The only warning for starting at Elkwood? Don’t turn left and head down Meadow – too many options for “yard sales” down there – fun for experienced skiers but not for those just starting out!

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