What’s your criteria for a good ski trail?
Visitors to the SkierBob empire often ask questions about what trails we would recommend. For example, two recent comments…
“my wife and I are heading to Banff for a wek of winter fun any am a regular visitor to this great website . Any suggestions for some must ski trails next week would be great” – Kevin Fox
“Hello – we are excited to come ski in the mountains next weekend as we are from Ontario and very little snow here for good X country skiing. We have visited Lake Louise 3 different years and skied many of the trails around Lake Louise. Last year we skied Lake O’Hara which was unbelievable. I was hoping for a response for a few good suggestions that might be a good 3-5 hour ski or a favourite ski that might include a break for lunch!!” – Jennifer Ferguson
There are 23 on my list and I’ve probably forgotten a few. When conditions are good, just about any trail would qualify as a “must ski,” but it’s difficult to make recommendations for other people when we don’t really know what their criteria for a “must ski” is, or what their ability and fitness are. Are you willing to ski a trail with spectacular scenery on sketchy conditions, or would you prefer a less-scenic trail with excellent conditions?
Some other factors to consider:
- Is spectacular scenery important?
- Do you want a strenuous workout or easy, flatter terrain?
- Do you want a loop or an out-and-back?
- Are you comfortable with steep trails which involve lots of elevation and fast downhills?
- How important are the conditions?
- Is proximity to a warm daylodge necessary?
- Driving distance to the trail.
Here’s my “must ski” list with the proviso that conditions would be near-perfect:
- Tyrwhitt Loop(PLPP)
- Goat Creek to Banff(BNP)
- Climb Whiskey Jack followed by 6K of fast downhill on Pocaterra(PLPP)
- Skogan Pass summit and/or Hummingbird Plume(KV)
- Cascade Valley(BNP)
- Lake O’Hara fire road(LL)
- Kananaskis Fire Lookout(PLPP)
- Mt Shark: Watridge Lake road to Spray bridge and the 5K Green(MS)
- Blueberry Hill(PLPP)
- Moraine Lake road(LL)
- Redearth Creek(BNP)
- Healy Creek and Brewster Creek(seldom has good conditions)(BNP)
Easier ski trips:
- Bill Milne, Wedge Connector, Evan-Thomas(KV)
- Emerald Lake Alluvial Fan(Yoho)
- Fairview Loop at Lake Louise(LL)
- Castle Lookout to Baker Creek(LL)
- Great Divide(LL)
- Kananaskis Village Loop(KV)
- Any Loop at the north end of PLPP(PLPP)
- Spray River Loop(BNP)
- Bow River Loop at Lake Louise(LL)
- Bow/Meadowview loop at Canmore Nordic Centre(CNC)
- Emerald Connector(Yoho)
PLPP: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
KV: Kananaskis Village
MS: Mount Shark
BNP: Banff National Park
LL: Lake Louise
Biggest bang for the buck…
If you are a beginner skier who wants an easy trail with no hills, have less than an hour to ski, and want spectacular scenery, Hay Meadow in the Ribbon Creek trail system would be my recommendation. It’s only 1.6K(3.2K) return. It features panoramic mountain views, open meadows, a stretch along the Kananaskis river, and a short but pleasant ski through the forest.
What would you recommend to a visitor?
Boom Lake, on a nice day when the lake is well-frozen.
Just finished our first day in this winter wonderland skied the Goat creeek trail to the Spray junction and back Guess the cold kept people away only saw a few people . Just a glorious day great snow awesome scenery
On top of what Bob proposed, my favourite is to go Skoki lodge as a day trip or at least to go to Boulder pass. The scenery is spectacular and the downhill fast and fun.
That sounds great! How many km is the trip and how long does it typically take to do a round trip. We are in good shape and fairly competent cross country skiers. Also is it tracked?
It’s not trackset (just snowmobile and skiers going to the lodge (most of them take backcountry skis). To go to Boulder pass it’s 17km return and 600m elevation gain, it takes ~ 2 hours to go the pass / Ptarmigan lake) and ~40 minutes to go back. For Deception pass you add ~8km return and 40 minutes one way.
If you go to Skoki the full trip is ~30km with 1100m elevation gain and usually I make in 5h30 to 6:00h.
The only “tricky” part (at least for me) is going down Deception pass on the return trip.
including the captions!
I would reiterate ElaineB’s recommendation, but starting at the train station and going up tramline to MLR and around the Fairview loop and back down the full length of tramline, and can add a visit to the lake and the chateau. The descent down tramline is very nice at the end of the day and is not so steep. And of course, any ski that provides a couch visit on a sunny windless day is a great bonus. That being said, my favourite is the west elk meadows. Pure magic in the right conditions. It does require about half a km of off trail travel, best done when the trail is broken already and preferably with light touring gear when not. As an off trail route it’s not for everyone, but those who do it love it immensely.
I like to ski Fairview CCW because I love the ski down-hill to MLR when conditions are perfect.
I would add the Fairview/Moraine Lake Road/Tramline Lower to Village. If you wanted to add extra you could do some Bow River Loops. If you did this loop you would want a car shuttle. Bonus is a visit to a MaSid bench on Fairview.
I’m also a big fan of the Bow River & Campground loops which you can extend to up to 15 or so kms.
This will probably be the first of many that I forgot. I’ll add to my list as I get reminded, thanks!
All of your suggestions are good Bob. Personally, a loop (for sense of purpose and accomplishment) with scenery and great, reliable & predictable snow criteria that are hard to beat; so I would concur that Fairview/MLR/Tram (up or down!) is always a winner in my books. PLPP south end (so long a s it includes Boulton or FoxCr.) a close silver!