It’s amazing what an adequate amount of snow can do for a gnarly trail like Goat Creek. I’ve never seen it in such great shape. Beautiful, well-defined, firm tracks which nobody has walked in; crisp, cold blue-wax snow, and none of those early-season rocks and roots.
Before I go any further, I’d like to caution all the new skiers reading this blog that Goat Creek is not an easy trail. On the excellent snow conditions right now, it is very forgiving, but be especially aware of the scary descent to the Goat Creek bridge at 7K.
If it’s your first time, I’d suggest walking down the 100 metres to the bridge. The descent starts out innocently enough, but from the top you can’t see the challenge which awaits at the bottom, and you might be going too fast to make the sudden turn onto the bridge.
There’s tracksetting equipment sitting at the side of the trail just as you start the descent, so you’ll know when you’re approaching the drop of doom.
The descent to the bridge was easy today, but that will change quickly after a number of skiers have snowplowed, scraped down to hardpack, and dished the trail going down to the bridge.
The air temperature was -5°C with blue skies and calm air at the Goat Creek trailhead at 2:20 pm. The parking lot was about half-full, but I expect it will be overflowing tomorrow(Saturday).
The snowshoers and hikers have done an admirable job of using the multi-purpose part of the groomed trail and staying out of the tracks(so far). My mantracker skills told me that only about 25 people had been down the trail since it was groomed and trackset yesterday.
Goat Creek is 9K and ends at the first Spray river bridge. I continued for a further 9.9K on Spray River West and ended at the trailhead near the Banff Springs hotel.
The various sections of Goat Creek and Spray River from Canmore to Banff are not always groomed on the same day. That’s why the section(4.3K) between the two Spray river bridges had 10 cm of fresh snow over the tracksetting.
The first 900 metres of Goat Creek is in Kananaskis Country and the Banff tracksetter doesn’t groom that part. It has excellent snow coverage and has been packed down by snowshoers.
Thanks to Helen, we know that Cascade Valley has now been trackset all the way to the end near Stoney Creek(14.4K). Most skiers end at the Stoney cabin at 13.6K.
Skied Banff to Goat Creek return today. Came across a couple who broke a binding in a collision with the 7km bridge and opted to post hole the 11-12 km to Banff including at least an hour in the dark. Heed Bob’s warning on the steep downhill followed by sharp turn on to the bridge!
It was so nice to finally run into you on the trails yesterday! What a beautiful X-mas ski! Thanks for the lovely photo and writing this blog! Hopefully I will run into you again on another ski trail in the “Empire”!
Meeting you was the start of a fabulous day on Goat Creek! -Bob
How is the parking at Spray River West trailhead? Do you have to arrive early to get a spot?
Lisa, yesterday(Dec 25) there was plenty of room in late afternoon, but I don’t know what it will be like this weekend. I hope someone who was there will let us know.
Thanks for the pic of me at the bridge. I wondered if that was you when you were taking pictures! Would have loved to give thanks in person for all the great information!
Chris, glad to know who is in that pic. I normally would have stopped to talk, but I wanted to get back before dark!