Jan 21, 2021: Over 125 skiers have already signed up for the LL to Banff virtual challenge which starts on Saturday Jan 23. So much for my theory that most people would register for Leg 2 – Baker Creek to Castle Lookout. I just received an update from chief organizer Heidi Widmer…
“The 36k category is the most popular thus far with 54 registrants. And 18 registered for the 72k Corona Challenge.
The tireless efforts of our grooming volunteer team together with Baker Creek and Castle Chalet staff completed the track yesterday. Cold temperatures should set up the track nicely. Reminder to time yourself and dress warm.”
Flagging has been placed at Castle Junction to denote the end of 36K, or the turnaround point for 72K.
I’ve participated in this fascinating event 13 times and did the first leg on 10 of those occasions. I often wanted to stop and take pictures in a few of the scenic locations but with other racers breathing down my neck, I was only able to steal fleeting glimpses of the beautiful surroundings.
Without having to stick to a defined starting time, or even a specific day, hopefully you can ski when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. I’ve included a map which shows my picks for the most scenic spots on Leg one. As we all know, Leg 2 from Baker Creek to Castle Lookout which is trackset all season long, has incredible scenery.
There’s an 11K stretch of trail on Leg one which is only trackset once per season and it is now ready. The most scenic location on that stretch is the well-known Morant’s Curve, which anyone can see by driving the Bow Valley Parkway. Another place which is remarkable in the mid-morning sun and rarely observed, is little-known McNair’s Pond which comes around kilometre 10-11 as you leave the campground and ski towards Corral Creek on the Bow Valley Parkway.
By the way, there is no tracksetting at Morant’s Curve itself. When you emerge onto the Bow Valley Parkway at Morant’s Curve, you can ski on the road, and get a free stone-grinding, or remove your skis and walk the 300 metres until tracksetting resumes above the curve.
From Morant’s Curve to Baker Creek it’s 9K of double poling on a flat stretch of trail along the railroad.
Below are photos of the various sections of the loppet. Thanks to Chuck for providing many of these pictures. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chuck is out there skiing the first leg and giving us a report today or tomorrow. A few of these photos are from the original 71K course which are no longer part of the race.
Thanks for this great description of the loppet trail! I plan to do the 36k this year (the virtual challenge is perfect for a skier like me who loves a challenge but does not like the big crowds of loppets!!). Wondering if you can answer a couple questions as I will be skiing this on my own:
-I have only skied around Castle Junction once-will the trail from Lake Louise to Castle Junction be easy to follow and self explanatory. I know the website says there will be flags but those can go missing….
-For phone reception-is there generally good reception along the trail-I hoping to give my husband updates on my pick up time
-The website says finish where the ski trail meets the Bow Valley Parkway at Castle Junction-is this where the gas station and Castle Mountain chalets are (just want to make sure I get picked up in the right spot!)?
Thanks Bob! Love your website!!
Hi Jenn, getting lost is part of the fun! I know it’s happened at the area which I’ve discussed below. It’s the only way I could get ahead of the faster skiers.
I’ll answer your questions in reverse order.
1. The finish is where you have described.
2. I believe there is phone reception for most of the route but there are occasional dead spots.
3. Let’s hope the flags are in place. The most likely place to get lost is when you are leaving the campground in Lake Louise. It’s a convoluted trail for the next 300 metres. The first time I skied the loppet, I was fascinated by this area, and how they managed to find a way through it. Once you’ve found your way to the highway underpass, the remainder is quite clear and easy to follow all the way to Castle Junction.
I’ve taken the map from the loppet website and made a few notations which might help. I’ve drawn in the railroad tracks to give some perspective. The critical spots are…
1. Make sure you leave the Bow River Loop. There should be a trackset trail branching off to the right.
2. The tracksetting will end at Fairview Drive(Campground road). Cross the street, pass through a row of trees, and the tracksetting should resume on a road that will be easy to spot. Follow the tracksetting for about 100 metres at which time it will end. You’ll now be on a road. Turn right and cross the railroad tracks.
3. Soon after crossing the railroad tracks, the tracksetting will resume on your right. You are home free from here on. The highway underpass can be littered with rocks, so you might want to remove your skis.
4. After the highway underpass, the tracksetting will resume. You’ll climb a small hill and proceed through some of the most beautiful scenery for the next kilometre towards the Bow Valley Parkway.
I hope you have fun!
Thanks so much Bob!! Your directions will be tucked in my pocket for my ski!
Can you tell me if this means that we will not be able to ski westbound on this trail for the next 10 days?
Diana, the trails are open to the public at all times. I expect there will be a lot of recreational skiers on the trails.