Still skiing at West Bragg Creek and more snow to come

West Bragg Creek on April 19. Photo by Alf Skrastins

The recent snowfall produced a flurry of activity yesterday. Thanks for all the trip reports.  

West Bragg Creek. Photo by Alf Skrastins

Alf Skrastins at West Bragg Creek…

 “Did a short ski around the Crystal Line trails at WBC. The 12-14cm of new snow on the remaining base was enough for an enjoyable tour.  This year saw lots of warm breaks, with marginal conditions… but 7 months after the big October dump, skiing is still possible.  Might be even better at the end of this week.”

Helen Read

Farewell to ski season from Helen Read...

“A final salute to a spectacular season thanks to ALL my ski friends, ALL the groomers for whom I could not bake cookies this year, for the excellent adoption of Nordic Pulse timely grooming reports, to Nordique Alberta and Ken Hewitt and volunteers for making our season even possible, and for skierbob whose website I am going to miss more than you will ever know. I am humbled with gratitude.”

Perhaps a 91st trip is in Helen’s future. As Alf alluded to, there is a lot of snow in the forecast.  Snow-Forecast.com is predicting 30 cm of snow between Thursday and Sunday in PLPP along with cooler temperatures. West Bragg Creek is expected to get almost as much. 

Canmore Nordic Centre update:  

“Lots of bare/dirt areas appearing on trails along with thin spots.  Conditions vary from icy and hard to soft and slushy.  There is no further grooming occurring on the natural snow ski trails moving forward due to melting/thinning/disappearing snow base. Have fun and please use caution when skiing as trail conditions are changing hourly.”

BC has announced new travel restrictions. This is relevant to anyone who is skiing the Great Divide from Lake Louise to the Lake O’Hara parking lot in BC. See below…

Moraine Lake road avalanche

Moraine Lake road avalanche. Photo by Chuck

“It was a big one” – Chuck

Moraine Lake road avalanche. Photo by Chuck

All season long we caution skiers who go beyond the grooming on Moraine Lake road that you will be crossing avalanche paths. Now you see why. Thanks to Chuck for the spectacular photos. 

In addition to the avalanche photos, Chuck’s pictures show tracks in the snow from five different animals as well as a magnificent shot of Mt Temple. 

There is no more grooming on MLR, but as Chuck’s photos display, there’s still the warning sign when you reach 9K. Now that the avalanche has occurred, it was safe for Chuck to cross the runout and continue to the lake. 

Chuck further elaborated…

The debris across the road was actually only about 20 metres… I’ve seen it a lot wider and higher!
The avalanche path is about 500 metres beyond the warning sign, and it is not visible from there.
It probably occurred on Saturday, when temperatures hit 20 degrees.

We can consider the above my fourth instalment of favourite photos. 

The winter of social distancing

Keeping their distance: Dec 15 at Elk Pass/Hydroline/Tyrwhitt junction

April 18, 2021: Today’s snowfall should extend the season a bit. Thanks to Normand for his PLPP trip report. 

We’ve had the Year of Winter Wonderland 2019-20

the Year of the Pine Needle 2012-13 

the Year of the Deep Freeze 2016-17

the Best Ever Year 2019-20

This past winter will go down in history as the Year of the Pandemic.

Fortunately, xc skiing is an activity that is very safe and we were able to enjoy it without too much covid-related inconvenience. The Pocaterra hut wasn’t available and the PLPP Discovery Centre had shortened hours. Back on Dec 15 I wrote, “Matt made a point of stopping at the steepest part of the trail to have a chat, from a covid-approved distance of course.”

The biggest impact was felt, however, when attractive women stopped me on the trail to take a selfie. We couldn’t hug.

I’ve already posted, on March 12, and April 5 some of my favourite photos from the past winter. I’m adding some more in the gallery below:

Grooming is finished but the snow keeps falling

April 17, 2021

A snowfall warning has been issued for Kananaskis and Canmore. Snow-Forecast.com is predicting 11 cm for PLPP and 8 cm for the Canmore Nordic Centre on Sunday. 

Grooming Elk Pass on Nov 16, 2020. Photo by Steve Riggs.

The high temperature in PLPP is predicted to be -1°C on Sunday, April 18. 

As I write this at 10 pm, the final grooming shift in PLPP has begun. If you venture out on Sunday, the tracksetting will probably be covered with fresh snow. 

“Blading” the snow on Hydroline on Nov 22

We’ve enjoyed five solid months of grooming in PLPP(the first tracksetting on Elk Pass was on  Nov 16). Last year at this time we didn’t know if there would be groomed trails in PLPP for the 2020-21 season, but this year, all signs indicate that grooming will be back for next season. It’s a relief to not have to worry about that situation over the summer. 

Thanks to tracksetters James, Jody and Dylan for the excellent tracksetting in PLPP this winter. Looking forward to seeing you next season. 

With the new snow, I hope we see a few more trip reports in the coming week. Thanks to Mike W and Dave for today’s reports from PLPP and Lake Louise. 

I don’t know when the Canmore Nordic Centre will end grooming, but with this new snow, I expect it will continue for a few more days. 

Two more days of tracksetting in PLPP

April 16, 2021

Grooming has concluded for the season on the Mt Shark trails.

As long as everything goes according to plan, there will be grooming in Peter Lougheed Park until the night of April 17th.  

Canmore Nordic Centre: The man-made snow on Banff Loop, Banff to the meadow, and Bow trail was trackset overnight. 

Last night’s tracksetting in PLPP included…

  • Pocaterra from Lynx to Lookout
  • Whiskey Jack
  • Packers

The temperature at the Lower Lake at 7:30 a.m. is -8°C with a forecast high of +9. 

“Grooming on Thursday night took place under clear skies, as the icy base was broken up and tilled, with a little fresh snow to mix in, mainly in shady areas at higher elevations.  There are a few places on this recent grooming where the base is down to the ice layer, and the set tracks will be thin in a number of places, mainly at lower elevations. 

Polar bear having a snack. Photo by Jeannie McBroom

The base is very thin and/or down to ice in quite a number of places in the north end, as well as some of the middle trails.  Use extra caution on any trail north of Packers, as there are likely many sections of ice, with expanding bare spots in some areas. Use extra Caution if skiing Lower Lake Group Camp trail, as the snow bridge about 200m west of the KLT has almost fully collapsed (about one meters width left on which to cross on Apr 4th) and the remainder could collapse at any time.  The sun exposed hill above Boulton Bridge parking is also getting very thin and narrow (and other marginal spots are likely on Boulton Trail).”

“We were being watched”

Mountain goats on Birdwood Circuit. Photo by Steve Riggs

Even with Steve Riggs’ secondary camera, his photos are spectacular. Yesterday, on the Birdwood Circuit, he captured the rare sighting of mountain goats. Steve posted 27 photos with his trip report, and every photo is amazing

Birdwood circuit. Photo by Steve Riggs

I’m always fascinated by mountain goats’ ability to survive at high elevations with the scarcity of food. On the other hand, they avoid predators by living high above the valleys where the wolves and cougars roam. They also avoid being photographed very often. 

I’ve added Steve’s photo, and a few more from the past winter, to the Animals along the ski trail photo gallery below. Thanks to Chuck for providing so many of these wonderful photos. 

 

“Such amazing conditions” – Nikki

Thanks for all the trip reports and photos today, very interesting and entertaining. It truly is amazing to see these conditions in mid-April. 

Elk Pass. Photo by M&J

Stanley Glacier. Photo by Chuck

East Elk Pass meadows. Photo by M&J

Helen Read in Patterson meadow. Photo by M&J

Fantastic conditions for the finale!

Vanessa and Colin on Upper Pocaterra

It’s wonderful to end on such a high note. I enjoyed incredible conditions for my final ski trip of the season. I stayed on last night’s tracksetting and with the cold snow, it was all fun. Almost too good to be true for April 11. 

Starting out from Boulton creek

The temperature around noon at Boulton Creek was -3°C and it didn’t get any higher than -2. There was no wind but the sky was mostly cloudy, which is a good thing. 

Whiskey Jack

The conditions while climbing Whiskey Jack for the 203rd time were excellent from the get-go. I had good grip with VR45(-2/-8) and no clumping whatsoever. The S-turns and steep hills were not icy and it appeared that downhillers would have no trouble negotiating the turns. 

Happy skiers on Upper Pocaterra

Descending the steep hill on Packers was fast and controllable. The ice flow was completely covered and not an issue. Usually by this time of year, edge-creep is starting to encroach on the trail but no sign of it yet. Near the bottom of Packers the tracks were somehat glazed but it only added to the exciting and fast descent. 

As a further bonus, I did not see any collembola(snow fleas) in the tracks on any of the trails. 

Arriving at the Pocaterra/Packers junction 

I was having a wonderful time heading downhill on Pocaterra but I screeched to a halt at the Backdoor access trail to take a photo and to relive some early-season memories. I also thought I might see Helen coming up the trail after reading her comment last night. I should have skied over to “Lionel” because she was indeed on the trail. I ran into her at the Pocaterra parking lot after she completed the 18K loop and I was happy to thank her in person for all the trip reports this season. 

Getting ready to tackle Whiskey Jack

There were lots of friendly skiers to chat with at every junction and photos to pose for.  Natasha and her friends mentioned seeing bear tracks on Rolly Road. I’ve posted a couple photos in the gallery. 

I had one last objective before calling it a season, and that was to ski the “secret” trail which I’ve known about for years but never ventured on to. Now I can say I’ve done every groomed trail in PLPP. 

This was a mediocre ski season regarding overall conditions. We’ve had worse but the contrast with last year is significant. It was unique, however, for a few reasons…

  • The fact that we were skiing on groomed trails in Lake Louise by Oct 18, and West Bragg Creek on Oct 22, the earliest ever. 
  • The first year where we paid for skiing in Kananaskis
  • So many important people retiring.

I’m looking forward to #204! Hopefully in November. 

Sunday morning update

April 11, 2021: Could this possibly be a blue-wax day?

The overnight grooming in PLPP should be in near-perfect condition today for some excellent skiing. The trails which were trackset last night, shown in green on the map, were Whiskey Jack, Upper Pocaterra, Packers, and Wheeler. There was no fresh snow on top of the new grooming, so the trails should be fast. 

Wheeler. File photo

If descending Packers, watch out for the ice flow which only has a thin covering of snow.

The temperature is staying cold enough for wax. The Lower Lake this morning is at -17°C with an expected high of -1. 

Moraine Lake Road at Lake Louise was trackset yesterday. Thanks to Dave for the unexpected good news. 

Some snow flurries are in the forecast for this afternoon. 

At Canmore Nordic Centre, trails on man-made snow were trackset overnight. 

The easiest, longest, most scenic beginner trail in Kananaskis

Lionel: Plenty of room for double tracksetting and a skate lane

Lionel

This trail would create thousands of happy skiers every winter. Wider than Moraine Lake Road, exactly the same distance, without the long drive to Lake Louise. Alf Skrastins has explained the logistics of bringing it back to life in today’s trip reports. Alf started at Pocaterra hut and skied an 18K loop back to the hut. He found the old Sounding Lake trail in order to access Lionel, which is actually Hwy #40. Check Alf’s comment on the Trip Reports for a detailed photo story on how to get to Hwy #40 from Rolly Road/Pocaterra Hut, and how to complete the 18K loop. 

Lionel. The guard rail could separate the ski trail from the snowshoe trail. Photo by Alf Skrastins

Alf further elaborated in an email…

“The closed portion of Highway #40 is the Kananaskis Version of the Moraine Lake Road. It’s a wide, easy ski with plenty of snow and no hazards.  It would be the best “green” ski trail in all of Kananaskis Country.

The new snow on top of the melt-freeze crust got deeper with every southward kilometre. After about 6 km, you could see the “back door” entrance to Pocaterra… which also used to be part of the Lionel trail.

Returning on the groomed Pocaterra trail

The “back door” segment had the deepest snow.  It joins Pocaterra Trail at a T-intersection.

For snowshoers, it would be very easy to set a separate trail (and pack it by snowmobile) at the west edge of the road cut, adjacent to the forest.  In a few places, you could duck in and out of the forest, just to add some variety. And at the major creek crossings, you would bring the trail up to the west side of the guard rails.  The guard rails would provide an obvious physical separation.

It seems like re-activating Lionel as a ski trail should be a no-brainer.  The highway is much wider than Moraine Lake Road, so adding a skate lane should be no problem.  Even if this was the only skate ski trail in PLPP, it would be a good length(9K) from the winter gate to the “back door”.  If the winter gate was the only place where skate skiers could park, then you would only need “classic XC skiing only” signs at the junction where Lionel joins Highway #40 and where the “back door” branches off.  But at least that way skate skiers who drive all the way down to PLPP have somewhere that they can go… rather than turning around and driving back to Ribbon Creek.”