Snowfall update

Kananaskis Fire Lookout. Photo by Normand

Sat Nov 7 @ 11:40 pm: Only a couple cm in Calgary so far, and a couple more expected overnight. Normand sent in a lot of nice photos from his excursion through the Pocaterra Back Door where he encountered 10-15 cm of fresh snow on Tyrwhitt, Elk Pass, Hydroline, and Lookout. Check the Trip Reports for more details.

Open water on Tyrwhitt. Photo by Normand

From Normand’s photos, it’s easy to see why it takes a lot longer to begin tracksetting on Tyrwhitt as compared to Elk Pass. 

I’m looking forward to hearing from everyone tomorrow with their snowfall amounts. 

It appears that the southeast corner of the province is getting the brunt of this storm. Cypress Hills is still on tap for 50 cm tonight and Sunday, and a further 10 cm on Tuesday. 

After reading the Great Divide trip report from Canmore Chris, it’s obvious why a Snow Rabbit would be of great benefit to any trail system. The snowmobiles and implements they pull can’t do much when there is an icy base and Chris did a good job explaining the situation on the Great Divide today. 

Further to Charles’ trip report on the Great Divide today, here is an email I received from him…

“I believe that it was last year when I vented my spleen about fat bikes on ski trails in Banff National Park. Well, today I had a chat with one fat-biker and, I have to say, it was a real revelation. Seeing him approaching from the opposite direction, I slowed and mentioned politely (as politely as I’m able) that fat bikes really messed up the skiing for hundreds of skiers. He very politely asked me what he could do, as he had Cerebral Palsy and was unable to handle the narrow fat-bike trails in places like West Bragg. I was moved….Really moved. Here was a guy (he said that he is a motivational speaker) who was trying his darnedest to achieve, overcome and stay fit despite challenges that most of us will never face. And, he was being very respectful of the trail, staying inside of and close to the track so as not to trash the skating lane.

I had planned to go to Parks Canada with a written complaint about fat bikes. I’ve changed my mind. If everyone on fat bikes could behave as Matthew did today, we might be able to be inclusive about our activities on these phenomenal trails. That’s a BIG “if”!”


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  1. A few years ago, when switching to studded bike tires, all the local shop had were 2.2, which was much narrower than the 2.8 stock tires. Because I had already switched our SUV to narrower winter tires and noticed a significant improvement, I decided to give the narrower bike tires a try as I normally bike on plowed roads. (Plus the price of studded fat tires is eye watering). However, you do end up biking on seasonally closed roads after large snowfalls that have not yet been plowed, or ones that are still not too deep such as the dog loop at the end of the golf course road in Banff. It became apparent that I was able to keep a straighter line, and proceed through unpacked snow better than fat bikes due to the narrower tires that do not push a wall of snow up in front of a fatter tire that pushes back. Fat bikes do require a packed surface because they can only sink so much before they cannot be controlled and require a huge amount of effort to push the wall of snow. That’s why you see them favoring ski trails – up to a point. You’ve probably seen signs of this: evidence presented by spaghetti tracks that they tried for awhile biking on a groomed trail and gave up and turned back (as I did last year early season on the Great Divide Trail when all there was were 2 tire tracks from a truck). I get the impression that someone that’s new to the concept of Fat Bikes does not fully appreciate their limitations, and discover that they are largely also limited to plowed roads, or packed ski trails. Hence it is likely that packed trails will see an increase in this type of use every year, with the bikers being forced to find some sort of packed surface to ride on. And if there are no other alternatives, the track, or the skate lane, may be the only options for the determined biker (or snowshoes).

    • I think your forgetting a key point. A fat tire bike does so much better on a soft packed trail by spreading out the contact surface and being able to run at very low psi. A narrow tire bike on the same surface will leave a rut. I’ll take your word on new snow resistance but my guess that’s assuming you don’t break through the base. We are grooming snowshoe trails for fatbiking now in more and more places. Fat tire bikes on a groomed ski trail don’t really do any damage if it’s groomed firm enough to support a skier.
      Lots of room on a ski trail for everyone if we do it right.

  2. Is a Snow Rabbit a cheaper alternative to the Piston Bully?

    • Frank, I believe the most attractive feature of the Snow Rabbit is that it is not as wide as a Pisten-Bully and can groom on narrower trails. The tiller is the magic wand for grooming icy trails. I don’t know how it compares cost-wise with a larger snowcat such as a Pisten-Bully.

      • A snow Rabbit is about 180k to a new PB which is very close to 300 k now. The smallest version of the PB is about 2.8m across the tracks and just over 3 m on the tiller with all the wings. The Snow Rabbit comes in at about 2 m.
        The PB has significantly more horsepower almost twice the Rabbit.
        Grinding ice takes a lot of power but with the narrower tiller metal tracks on the Rabbit it should require less. Also a good blade operator should be able to Break some of that hard pack into manageable chunks.

  3. Managed to swing by elk pass parking lot on Saturday. Only a few inches on the ground at the trailhead, barely covering gravel. Snow amounts at highwood dissipate rapidly below the elevation of the pass. The snow that fell has also settled very quickly in that area.

    • Appreciate you making this side trip down to Elk Pass parking lot, Martin. Saves me a trip today, but still hoping for that blizzard on the Prairies to bring some overnight snow tonight.

  4. I also had a very pleasant chat with that young fellow and certainly echo Charles’ comments. One important detail I would add is that his fat bike was not affecting that firm surface in any way at all. Zero damage to the skating track.

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