Goat Creek and Spray River

Martina on Goat Creek. She was skiing 38K today.

I don’t know about you, but I eagerly anticipate reading all the trip reports every day. Chuck did the epic ski to the elk trap today. Not sure how many Ks he did but it must have been around 40. Make sure you check out his photos. 

500 metres in, Goat Creek was well-packed by multi-users.

I encountered Martina on Goat Creek who was doing the double header. Banff to the Goat Creek trailhead and back, 38K. 

Goat Creek at 6K. Making the skier track wide enough for snowshoes, too!

The air temperature at the Goat Creek trailhead at 1:30 pm was +1°C and the snow temperature was -6. For wax, I went with whatever was on my skis, I think it was VR45(-2/-8), and it worked well to the Goat Creek bridge the few times I needed it. 

With conflicting information on the Banff National Park’s trail report, I still didn’t know what I would encounter. Was Goat Creek trackset or was it not?

Goat Creek

The first 7K to the Goat Creek bridge is not trackset but it’s easily skiable. There’s about 6 cm of fresh snow from this week’s snowfall which has been well-packed by skiers, hikers, bikers and snowshoers. It’s basically a free-for-all down to the Goat Creek bridge with everyone doing their thing wherever. 

Good tracksetting started at 7.2K on Goat Creek

Starting at 4K, I occasionally had a reasonable skier-set track to follow despite  the snowshoers who were in front of me, walking in the tracks. I knew that Goat Creek was trackset on the other side of the Goat Creek bridge, so I politely asked them not to walk in the tracks when they got to the other side. 

Rundle mountain from the Spray River bridge at 9K

I only encountered one easily avoidable rock on the final 100 metres down to the bridge. With lots of climbing on the final 12K to Banff, I knew I had to add wax. The snow temperature at the Goat Creek bridge was -3, so I used VR50(0/-4), and had amazing grip and surprisingly fast glide for the remainder of the trip. 

Cougar or wolf?

As I expected, the machine-set tracks started at 7.2K. About 5 cm of snow accumulated after it was trackset, but the tracks were well-defined, firm and fast. I saw about five rocks on the trail as I started the final descent to the Spray River bridge at 9K. They were all in one little spot, so easily avoided as long as you weren’t snowplowing for an instant. 

Jeff, Stuart, Nancy, and Katie at the Spray east-west junction

Soon after I started up Spray River West, I followed cougar or wolf tracks between the two bridges(9k – 13.3K). If Barb Banff is reading, she might be able to confirm what they are. 

The tracks on the long downhill to the east-west junction were still in good shape and I had a fast, enjoyable 1.5K without having to worry about crashing. 

Skiers from St Paul on Spray River West

I talked to a couple skiers from St Paul who were having lunch at the junction and they reported good conditions on Spray River East from whence they had come. 

The final 5.6K to Banff on Spray River West was excellent despite heavy skier traffic. The signage is keeping the multi-users off this side for the most part, and directing them over to the east side. 

Although I’m only running on three cylinders, this was a very enjoyable day. Perfect skiing weather, lovely snow, and lots of friendly skiers to talk to. It took me about half-an-hour longer using only one pole, 2 hours and 15 minutes(moving time). 


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  1. Bob, regarding your comment about firing on only three cylinders.
    As the old saw goes;
    -if you lost one more cylinder, it would add 30 minutes to your trip.
    -losing the third would cost you perhaps another hour.
    And heck, if you lost the next one, you might be out there all day.

  2. Canis Lupus have claws (like Tessa) poking into the snow off the front two paw pads, feline (?) do not.

  3. Re: animal tracks
    Well, I’d say not a cat (cougar) – too much drag and shape not right.
    Hard to tell size from picture, but a large dog can be hard to distinguish from a wolf. Then behaviour is important. Did it travel on trail for a long distance without taking off to explore? Or did the trail disappear in the woods, and not return. Wolf is likely to walk in the track, but a trained dog along the side..
    My 2 cents worth… to bad about your shoulder!

    • The tracks came in and out of the forest a few times and eventually disappeared back into the forest. They were on the trail for about 2K. I have some more photos which I’ll post in the gallery.

      • I skied here on Jan 11 afternoon and ran into a woman who said she saw a cougar (she thought female) around 7.5k from the Springs at around 3:30 in the afternoon- but the cougar ran off as soon as she saw her. There were tracks (not sure if they are the same ones) both on the trail around 7.5k and farther up around 9k going in and out of the woods. The woman thought the cougar had been stalking two deer, at one point you could see the tracks following along obvious deer tracks… I am no wildlife expert though, this was her interpretation that I am repeating second hand :).

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