Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Family Spring Ski Touring Weekend in Banff

We just spent a weekend in Banff based out of the HI Castle Mountain Wilderness Hostel and enjoyed the proximity to great ski trails from our location at Castle Junction in Banff. We've been building up to light ski touring as a family all winter, and from the hostel, had several great options of trails to choose from.

Ski Touring in Paradise Valley, Lake Louise

Introduction to Ski Touring (how is it different from cross-country skiing?)

Cross-country ski trails are usually groomed and track-set, making them enjoyable and relatively easy (with experience) on skinny skis designed for speed and glide. The hills have pretty corduroy grooming, and the trails are usually wide enough to accommodate two ski tracks (one for each direction.)

Cross-country trails also have a wide groomed area in the middle for skate skiing or for use when skiing up and down hills. The wide trails make it easy to herringbone climb up hills with a large "v" or to snowplow down hills in the traditional "pizza."

Skiing the Fairview Trail at Lake Louise (a traditional x-country trail)

When we head out for a day of light ski touring, we are choosing trails that are ungroomed and that are not track-set. The trails are either summer hiking trails, winter snowshoe trails, or all-season multi-use trails (sometimes even summer mountain biking trails.)

A ski touring trail is narrow (think of your average hiking trail,) and there is very little room to execute a good snowplow when going downhill. If the trail has been popular with snowshoers there could also be a good trench that you are skiing through (meaning that your skis have to go in a straight line and can't go out to the side when climbing or descending hills.)

Climbing narrow steep hills on cross-country skis is not an easy thing to do (Ross Lake Trail)

Ski touring requires incredible finesse if you choose to use cross-country skis. Below are just a few of the skills you'll need to master:

  • You must climb hills that are often too narrow for the traditional herringbone technique (as shown in the photo above.)

  • Hills are steep, twisty, winding, and again - narrow! It's often not possible to snowplow down them. The only way to stop is to either launch yourself into a soft pile of snow, or to drag a ski through soft snow beside the trail.

  • Skiers must be able to avoid natural hazards (tree stumps, logs down across the trail, tree wells that trap you with your skis high above your body so that you can't get out, small trees partially buried by fresh snow, etc.

  • If skiing near or across creeks, there are other risks associated which could include falling in the creek if not careful or trying to cross snow bridges (deciding if they are firm enough to hold you.)
Tree well on the Ross Lake Trail

Last weekend we encountered everything above (including logs or trees down across the steepest of hills out of sight around a sharp corner.) And we definitely navigated some sketchy snow bridges along Paradise Creek Saturday.

And note: skiers must also know if and when they are in avalanche terrain, and have the required skills to ski in this terrain if they choose to enter it. (We chose to stay out of avalanche terrain this past weekend and only skied as far as was safe.)

Skiing beside (and often across) Paradise Creek at Lake Louise

Trail Number One: Paradise Valley, Lake Louise 

Paradise Valley has always been one of my favourite ski tours. The trail is never overly narrow or steep and the scenery is stunning as you ski beside Paradise Creek between bridges. 

Skiing up the Paradise Valley Trail at Lake Louise 

Approach: There are two approaches for this one but both start off from groomed cross-country ski trails at Lake Louise. Approach one starts from the Moraine Lake Road which you'll ski for approximately a kilometre and a half before turning off onto the Fairview Loop. The Paradise Valley trail takes off from here at the top of a steep hill before the Fairview Trail starts turning right to head for Lake Louise. 

We prefer a different approach, starting from the Lake Louise parking lot up at the lake. We jumped onto the Fairview ski trail from here until we came to the junction with the Paradise Valley Trail. This saved us a bit of height gain and was more interesting than skiing up the Moraine Lake Road. When we finished our ski tour we just dropped down to the Moraine Lake Road and then continued on the Tramline Trail ending at the Village below. (My husband climbed back up to the lake for the car.) 

For complete directions please invest in the book Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies. (Affiliate link to a book I swear by! It is my favourite ski reference guide.) 

One of the snowy bridges along the Paradise Valley Trail 

How far we skied: We skied up the Paradise Valley trail until we came to the first bridge (shown in the photo above.) Here we were able to follow the creek instead of the hiking trail. In the summer there is no trail up the creek, so it is a winter trail only and requires good snow coverage if you want to avoid swimming. (Right now it's perfect.)

Skiing up the valley beside Paradise Creek 

We were able to follow other ski tracks up the valley without having to break trail (thank goodness!) We chose the ski trail to the right of the creek on the way up the valley (mistake!) and had to cross several snow bridges. On the way back we chose the trail on the other side of the creek (left side if looking up the valley) and it was a much better choice. 

We stopped at the second bridge (I think there are four bridges total.) Beyond here, it starts to get steeper and you eventually enter avalanche terrain.

The Second Bridge on the Paradise Valley Trail

Highlights of this ski tour:

Off-Trail Ski Touring in a Winter Wonderland - Seriously look at the photo below. This is not a trail in summer. 

The Snow! Seriously, this is March - late March! And there is still this much snow. 

The creek is stunningly beautiful to ski alongside. And the mountains! This is a ski to save for those gorgeous bluebird days.

The bridges were a lot of fun and were so pretty 

We loved the bridges! They were so snowy and you could hardly see them. 

You can hardly tell that my boys are on a bridge here! 

We loved how easy it was to ski up the valley once you got there. The hiking trail is a bit challenging at the beginning up to the first bridge, but then you're just skiing up a valley that's relatively flat and easy to follow. And we've always had other ski tracks to follow, showing us the way.

This is one of the best ski tours in Banff

The Ski DOWN is so much fun! Check out the video below for a quick glimpse at the trail from the first bridge back down to the Fairview Ski Trail. (It's really short and just taken on from my phone so don't expect anything too awesome.)

Total Trip Distance: Roughly 16 km from Lake Louise with the Fairview Trail, Paradise Valley extension, Moraine Lake Road descent, and Tramline descent down to the Village of Lake Louise.

We  skied for about 3 km at the most (one way) on the Paradise Valley Trail.

Happy Skier in Paradise Valley 

Trail Number Two: Ross Lake Circuit, Yoho National Park 

Disclaimer: I know Yoho National Park is not exactly "Banff," but the trailhead is located just over the British Columbia border and is a 10 minute drive from Lake Louise.

As for the Ross Lake Trail, this was one of those decisions that you look back on and say, "Hmm, maybe we should have tried it without kids first, hey?"

It was challenging and I have to admit we won't be repeating the circuit anytime soon! The one-way up/down route we'd happily do again next winter.

Ross Lake, Yoho National Park 

Route One: The Ross Lake Circuit: We started at the Lake O'Hara parking lot and skied up the Lake O'Hara road for 2 kilometres (skiing on a wide snowy road that's often track set) At the 2km mark, we turned off to our left on the signed "Ross Lake Trail."

Trailhead off the Lake O'Hara Road
Once we got on the Ross Lake Trail, we climbed for 200 metres on a very narrow trail. I had climbing skins on my skis but my boys didn't. My sons skis are short enough that he was able to herringbone up the hills but I'm still not sure how my husband got up. The trail was steep enough that you definitely need climbing skins (or else might have to take your skis off and walk sections.)

We finally got to the high point above the lake and then had a terrifying descent down to the lake (only terrifying because snowshoers had carved a deep trench in the trail and you couldn't snowplow or do anything other than point your skis straight down and follow the steep twisty luge track with no way to stop.) My son used the "my body's still young" method of stopping which involved lots of falling and getting back up again, my husband used skill (he's a backcountry skier and used to trails like this,) and I tried dragging a ski through soft snow above the trail to slow down (somewhat successfully.)

We had lunch at the lake and then descended a different trail down to the Great Divide (an old highway that is now a groomed ski trail in winter.) The descent down to the Divide was actually a lot of fun and wasn't as steep as the previous trail. I was actually able to snowplow in spots and there were far less wipeouts.

The narrow climbing trail up to Ross Lake

From the Great Divide Trail we turned left and followed the road back to the Lake O'Hara Parking Lot. Total distance is 9km for the loop.

Trailhead sign from the Great Divide Trail

Route Two: The Ross Lake Circuit in Reverse: Do the loop as described above in reverse. This would mean a better climb to the lake on a trail that's far less steep from the Great Divide Trail. It would however involve a much steeper descent down to the Lake O'Hara Road.

Tree well crash after falling off the narrow hiking trail

Route Three: Up and Back from the Great Divide: This is the route you want to do with children!! It is a much more gradual climb, (and descent) and reduces the overall trip distance to roughly 5 km round trip. We'll be repeating this one next winter. The full circuit can wait until we get backcountry skis.

Access to the Ross Lake Trail via the Great Divide Trail

And again, For complete directions please invest in the book Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies.

And for a fun look at a part of our descent from Ross Lake, check out the short video below. (again, just taken with my phone.) - Most of the time we were going way too fast to stop and take any videos.

Weekend Accommodations 

As much as I love my own bed, driving to Lake Louise and back two days in a row is a bit much. It's also a long drive for the day from Calgary (why this is the first time we've skied in the Louise area all winter.)

We chose to spend the weekend at the HI Castle Mountain Wilderness Hostel because of its central location between Banff and Lake Louise. From the hostel we could easily be at Louise in 15 minutes, or be back in Banff or Canmore even if conditions looked more favorable there. And when it comes to spring, you want the option of flexibility.

HI Castle Mountain Wilderness Hostel

I've written all about the HI Castle Mountain Hostel in a previous story here: Winter at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel with Kids.

In a nutshell though, what you need to know:

  • The Castle Mountain Hostel is OPEN. It was scheduled to close at the beginning of 2018 but I can assure you it is very much open (and will be through the end of this year for sure.)

  • From the hostel, you are 15-20 minutes from both Banff and Lake Louise. You're also close to Canmore and within easy reach of either Yoho National Park or trails along the Icefields Parkway. It's the perfect hostel in Banff for convenient access to everything!!

  • From the hostel you are a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Johnston Canyon Trailhead. There are also great cross-country ski trails right outside the door.

  • Children must be 6 years of age or older to stay at this hostel. Sleeping is in communal dorms separated by gender (so I got to sleep by myself in the women's dorm while my boys found bunks in the men's dorm.)

  • There is a communal kitchen complete with two ovens, a microwave, a toaster, all the dishes and cooking supplies you'll need (perhaps minus sharp knives,) and space for a large group of guests.

  • The hostel is very comfortable for a wilderness hostel. It has indoor plumbing, electricity, heat, and showers. There's also a lovely fireside room with fireplace, several games, a house guitar, and plenty of seating.

  • There is a manager on site in case you have questions, want trail suggestions, or need an introduction to hosteling. This is the perfect hostel for "first timers."

  • You can book the entire hostel (read the story here) if you want to stay at Castle Mt. with a group of other families (with kids of any age allowed.) 

Fireside room at the Castle Mountain Hostel 

Read more about our adventures in this area here: Ice Caves and Frozen Waterfalls in Banff National Park.

Other Recommended Reading 

Family X-Country Skiing at Lake Louise

Family Backcountry Ski Touring in Banff (Boom Lake Trail) 

Parting Shot: Ross Lake Ski Tour 

Disclaimer: Our stay at HI Castle Mountain Hostel was provided for us compliments of Hostelling International. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Yes, Take the Kids out of School for the Day - and Go Skiing!

I've always been a big supporter of regular school attendance and would never have considered pulling my son from classes for the day - to go skiing! That is until this year, when I did it for the first time, and realized how much fun it was to spend a day at a ski hill without the weekend crowds!

Nakiska Ski Resort really does look like this at 9am on a Friday!

My son gets out of school at 12:40 on Fridays and so I decided one week that we'd just skip the morning, and go skiing instead. We got to our local hill, Nakiska, by 8:30, got dressed and ready to go, and were on the lifts by 9am - ready to greet the day and ski the fresh corduroy.

The glorious run shown in the photo above was our first run of the day, and that perfect corduroy was ours for the taking.

See all the people on the hill? Me neither!

5 Reasons You'll Love Midweek Ski Days

  1. Fresh corduroy till noon! (Seriously, we were skiing groomed black runs off the gold chair at Nakiska at noon, and still had fresh corduroy.) - and if you prefer fresh powder, just go out after a big dump of snow. The hill will still be yours.

  2. No crowds! We walked into the mid-mountain lodge at one point and there was one other person in the lodge. One!

  3. Plenty of parking! I'm pretty sure we were parked in the first row of the closest parking lot at Nakiska. Try to do that on a Saturday!

  4. No lineups. We never waited for a single chair. We skied right on to every lift.

  5. The hill was quiet. You know that feeling when you go cross-country skiing, and it's just quiet. Peaceful. Serene? Well, that's what you'll get at a ski resort as well when you go anytime other than over a weekend.

A boy and his private mountain. 

Working with the School for Planned Absences

It doesn't hurt to show a bit of respect to your child/children's teacher(s) and ask if they will miss anything special on that particular day or if it would be better to choose a different day.

I told my son's teacher that we were going to take the morning off to go skiing, and was given a solid green light! (and tons of encouragement!) The principal even jokingly asked if she could come along.

And yes, I realize you don't technically "have" to get the teacher's blessing, but I used to be a teacher and I know it can be a pain in the butt trying to catch children up on projects or work they've missed while away.

Happy to be skiing for the day!

Otherwise, if you're not comfortable taking the kids out of school for a day, choose to go skiing on a PD day or go over Spring Break - when the hill will be busier for sure, but still much quieter than it would be on a weekend. 

And if your child gets those half days on Fridays, these can be an amazing time to head to the mountains. 

What Nakiska looks like on a Friday

Spring Skiing and Sunshine Ahead 

I know a lot of you have moved on from winter and are just waiting to bring the bikes out. And that would be me too (ready to start biking,) but I'm not done with ski season yet.

We have at least 5 more ski days planned (hopefully more,) and are looking forward to some awesome mid-week spring skiing days!

Hopefully we'll meet some of you on the slopes over the next couple of months because we plan to ski well into April before we put our skis away.

Sunshine and Warm Ski Days Ahead! Come Join us on the Slopes!

All photos were taken at Nakiska Ski Area the last time we went skiing on a Friday morning. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Climbing Mountains with Kids - On Skis! (Skogan Pass, Kananaskis)

Skogan Pass might not be a true "mountain" but we still climbed 600 metres to the top of the pass, so I'm going to call it a mountain because it sure felt like one on the way up!

Skogan Pass Summit, Kananaskis

Trailhead and Location

The Skogan Pass Trail is accessed from either the Ribbon Creek Day Use Area (below Kananaskis Village,) or from the Nakiska Ski Area. Start from Nakiska and you'll climb the first 50 to 100 metres in your car instead of on skis. You'll also save a kilometre and a half each way in distance.

If starting from Ribbon Creek, hop on the Skogan Pass trail from the parking lot and go up.

If starting from Nakiska, ski past the Bronze Chair and follow signs for the cross-country ski trail. You'll connect into the trail system near the Troll Falls junction.

From Ribbon Creek it is 2 km to the Troll Falls Junction. From Nakiska it is 0.4 km. I'll let you guess where we started!

Total round trip distance to Skogan Pass is 17.6 km from Nakiska.

Starting up the Skogan Pass Trail with High Spirits

Up to the Junction with the Sunburst Lookout Trail 

From the Troll Falls junction, the trail really begins to climb and you'll start up the only section that's rated a true "black" on the map. And on the way down, this section is FAST!

I'm not sure how long it took us to ski the 2.6 km to the junction with the Sunburst Trail, but I wouldn't be surprised if it took an hour. On the way down it took 5 minutes.

The sign to Skogan Pass  I never thought I'd see while skiing with my 9 year old!

And then we had the "talk." Should we go on and continue climbing up the Skogan Pass Trail, or would it be smarter to call it a day and just tag the Sunburst Lookout instead.

My husband voted for Sunburst, but I was rather insistent that I wanted to reach the pass. Noah agreed to ski to the next junction with the High Level Trail and said he'd decide there.

It looks so flat but I assure you we climbed the whole way up!

Sunburst Junction to High Level Junction - Still Climbing 

This part of the trail was blessedly short at 0.8 km, but then we had to decide - take the High Level Trail and complete the much shorter Sunburst Lookout Loop, or keep going.

A BIG factor in our decision making was that we were skiing through tons of fresh snow on an ungroomed ski trail that had only been skier-tracked by two people ahead of us. Normally this trail is groomed and easy to travel in winter.

With all the fresh powder and the current challenging conditions, we were looking at a 17.6 km round trip distance in light touring conditions rather than the normal nordic skiing experience we'd expected.

The final challenge we had to consider was that our son only has skinny cross-country skis. Both my husband and I have slightly wider light touring skis with metal edges. Our skis are meant for skiing through powder and for off-trail touring. Noah's skis however are meant for skiing at Nordic Centres on groomed trails.

Rest break at the Sunburst Junction

Deciding to Push on to the Top of the Skogan Loop

My husband was pretty convinced that there was no way we'd reach the actual pass in all the fresh powder with a 9 year old child. Noah had never done an 18 km ski tour before and we really didn't know if he could do it.

That being said, we decided to continue on to the top of the Skogan Loop, another 3 km ahead of us, and VERY uphill.

So much Snow! Climbing up the Skogan Pass Trail

And I'll admit it was me pushing for the pass. Thankfully I somehow managed to convince Noah to keep going. (Mostly because he knew none of his friends had ever made it up there before and he thought it would be cool to do something nobody else had ever done.)

It was an absolute winter wonderland!

We Reached the Top of the Skogan Loop - and met an angel

It was a tough climb up the powerline to reach the top of the Skogan Loop - and we knew we still had 2 more kilometres to go if we were going to reach the true pass.

We'd also just passed the two skiers who'd been ahead of us all day on their way down, and they had told us that nobody had gone to the pass ahead of them - which meant we'd be breaking trail the final 2 kilometres.

I finally conceded that my husband was probably right that we should turn around, and said it was ok if we stopped at the top of the loop.

Climbing up the powerline to the top of the Skogan Loop - through crazy deep snow!

And then, just as we were admitting we'd have to turn around, we met another skier coming up behind us - heading for the pass! Our "trail angel" asked us where we wanted to go and said he'd break trail. I said ideally we wanted to reach the pass, and that was all I had to say before he wished us luck, encouraged Noah that he could do it, and took off up the trail to give us a set of tracks to follow up to the pass.

Skiing the final 2 kilometres up to the pass 

The Final 2 Kilometres to the Top of Skogan Pass 

It should have been a loooong 2 km, and it was, but honestly Noah was a rockstar on this part and he just kept trudging along.

He only got upset when the trail would dip and start descending at times (because he knew he'd have to climb back up on the way out.)

Reaching Skogan Pass 

Skogan Pass - we made it!!

I don't know if we climbed the full 600 metres or not since we started at Nakiska, but we climbed over 500 metres for sure and it was a challenging ski with the distance (almost 9 km one way,) the fresh deep powder, the lack of grooming, and the touring conditions.

Noah is very proud of himself for making it to the pass and he LOVED the ski down (who wouldn't!)

The first 2km on the way down is hard because it's actually quite flat in spots and even has a few uphill sections, but once we reached the top of the Skogan Loop, the downhill really began and we were laughing and screaming our way down the powerline.

Skogan Pass, Kananaskis 

And I apologize that I didn't really take any photos on the way down (or any videos,) but it was getting late and we really just wanted to get back down to the car. We were also having too much fun to stop.

The top of Skogan Pass, Kananaskis

In total, our trip took roughly 6 hours round trip. I expect it would be much faster if the trail was groomed. (especially on descent where we were actually going quite slow at times with all the fresh snow.)

Parting Shot of Skogan Pass

Follow this link to see a map of the Ribbon Creek Trail System. Distances are slightly different from those on the trail maps you'll see while skiing but it gives you a good idea of where you'll be going.

To read more of our winter cross-country ski adventures, check out my previous story: Winter Adventures in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Also check out my previous story on skiing in the Ribbon Creek Area: Exploring Ribbon Creek in Kananaskis (on skis!) 

Skogan Pass! We made it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The BEST of Spring in the Canadian Rockies - updated 2023

It's starting to feel like spring in Calgary, and the warm sun has me dreaming about first hikes, camping trips, and dry bike trails.

Spring returns and the bikes come out! (Pictured: Biking the Canmore Town Trails)

The list below is in no particular order, but I did start out with the "snowy spring stuff" at the beginning. Scroll down if you're totally DONE with snow.

All links go to stories I've already written on the subject, or to other websites that will help you.

This story is checked annually and has been updated for spring 2023.

Our annual first hike on Prairie Mountain in the Elbow Valley 

1. Say Hello to Spring Skiing! 

Read: Sunshine Village Ski Resort and Mountain Lodge Experience 

Read: Ten Reasons to Hit the Slopes this Spring (Spring Skiing is the BEST Skiing)

Friday, March 09, 2018

Winter Adventures in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis

We love exploring Peter Lougheed Provincial Park all year long, and appreciate that we can reach the park in less than an hour and a half from the Calgary city limits. This park is definitely a crown jewel in Kananaskis Country, and in my opinion is one of Alberta's most beautiful provincial parks.

Blueberry Hill Lookout, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

So far this winter, we've spent 6 days cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and even ice-skating in the park as a family. Below are the highlights from our adventures this winter, the trails we've enjoyed, and the adventures we've found.

Kananaskis Fire Lookout, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Highlight One: Skiing to the Kananaskis Lookout early season in November

The Kananaskis Lookout Trail is only 1.7  km long (one way) but packs a punch with 200 metres of height gain. Climb up on skis and you'll feel your muscles the next day.

The next challenge is that the Lookout Trail is accessed from the Pocaterra Trail, and there's no easy way to reach the junction of the two trails. The shortest way starts with a long climb up the Whiskey Jack ski trail for a total distance of 6 km (one way) to the top of the Lookout from the Boulton Parking Lot. (And Whiskey Jack also gains 200 metres of height, so you're looking at a 400 metre climb!)

Fortunately, in November, there's a "secret" way to reach the Lookout without having to do the climb up Whiskey Jack. Skiers can sneak on to the Pocaterra Trail from an unmarked pull off on Highway 40 (past the winter road closure, hence why you have to do it in November before the highway closes on December 1st.)

Skiing to the Lookout from the secret parking lot off Highway 40

The unmarked pull off to access the Pocaterra Trail is roughly 8 km past the Highway 40 winter gates on the right hand side. You'll be well on your way to Highwood Pass before you reach it. Pull over, cross the little bridge, and ski for a short distance (less than half a kilometre) until you reach the official Pocaterra Trail. Turn left and ski for another half a kilometre (at most) to the Whiskey Jack Junction - where you'll marvel that you've made your way to the TOP of Whiskey Jack by car and not by climbing.

From the Whiskey Jack junction it's another half a kilometre to the Lookout Junction. And your grand total distance for the day will be no more than 6 km round trip. (with no more than 250 to 300 metres of height gain.)

Kananaskis Fire Lookout

So save this one for next November. - and know that you'll be on official ski trails the entire time so snowshoeing is only an option if you go early November before trails are groomed. Otherwise, if you must snowshoe, go mid-week when you likely won't meet too many skiers. 

November Ski Touring in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

And trip notes from this year's ski up the Lookout:

We carried our son's downhill skis with us in case he needed them for the descent. He started out in cross-country skis and would have been fine in them the entire time, but this was one of his first ski trips of the season and there was a LOT of fresh powder (with no recent grooming.) His cross-country skis are also really skinny and we knew it was still early season (with questionable conditions.)

Downhill skis for the decent worked very well in the end, and Noah had a blast ripping down the steep trail through all the fresh snow.

Skiing down from the Lookout, Kananaskis Lakes below us

Highlight Two: Ice-Skating on the Upper Kananaskis Lake in December

This one can be summed up with the following:

Upper Kananaskis Lake froze (solid enough to skate on) before it became covered in snow. 
This never happens!
It was incredible and we got to skate around two different islands on the lake.

I do not expect to ever have this opportunity again

I never dreamed in a zillion years that I'd get to skate on Upper Kan!

A once in a lifetime opportunity to skate on Upper Kananaskis Lake

Highlight Three: Skiing the Moraine, Fox Creek, Boulton Creek Loop

Of all the little loops you could come up with for a short cross-country ski day in Peter Lougheed, this is my favourite.

We start at the Boulton Bridge Parking Lot, ski up to the Moraine Trail, connect to Fox Creek, tackle the steep double hills on the Elk Pass Trail (up to the power lines and then back down the other side,) and then finish on the Boulton Creek Trail.

Fun skiing on the Moraine, Fox Creek, Boulton Creek Loop

All in, this short loop is 8 km long and a LOT of fun. The trails are narrower than most of the other ski trails in the park (single track set rather than double) and it's fun skiing beside Fox and Boulton Creeks (with a couple of bridge crossings.)

Bridge crossing on Fox Creek

Find out more about cross-country skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park here.

Skiing along the Moraine Trail

Highlight Four: Traversing the Park on Skis from Boulton Creek to Pocaterra 

We were skiing with friends and decided to do a traverse of the park from the Boulton Parking Lot to the Pocaterra Hut at the far end of the park. This would allow us to ski in a favorable direction (with more down than up.)

Fresh corduroy on the Wheeler Trail

The husbands started at Pocaterra, and us moms started at Boulton with the kids. We all met up somewhere around the Amos/Meadow junction and then continued on together back to Pocaterra. And while the men only got to ski half of the traverse, at least we had vehicles waiting at the end.

Trails skied: Wheeler, Meadow, and and then the final "Suicide Hill" on Lodgepole down to the Pocaterra Hut.

Total distance: Approximately 9 km.

Look at all the friends we met up with on the trail!

Highlight Five: Snowshoeing on the Lower Kananaskis Lake

I have a few thoughts on the subject of snowshoeing:

  1. You don't need snowshoes on a trail that's been packed down.

  2. Snowshoeing is only fun in powder (and the deeper the better.)

  3. Make snowshoeing "fun" and the kids will love it. Play games, let them make their own trail through an untracked meadow, make snow angels, and take time to play.
Snowshoeing along the Lower Kananaskis Lake

We made our snowshoeing adventure on the Lower Lake super fun with a game of pie tag (I tramped out a circle and divided it into sections. To play, stick to the lines as you chase each other,) and with some adventurous cliff jumping.

Playing pie tag on Lower Kananaskis Lake
Cliff jumping over Lower Kananaskis Lake

My son also loved walking across the lake and blazing his own trail through the fresh deep snow.

Kids love making their own trail through fresh deep powder

Read more about snowshoe trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park here.

Playful adventures on snowshoes in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Highlight Six: Skiing to the top of Blueberry Hill 

This will be a highlight of my winter because my 9-year old son skied 16 km (return) and climbed 375 metres. I never honestly thought he was capable of anything so big, but he ASKED to ski Blueberry Hill (and that makes all the difference.)

Blueberry Hill Viewpoint

When my son wants to do something, he will be motivated to make it happen. And he was plenty motivated because it was the only "black trail" in the park he hadn't done on skis yet. And he LOVES hills. (The steeper the better.)

One of the best viewpoints you can ski to in Kananaskis

We had a fabulous day and it only took 5 hours (return.) - Gah! So, yeah, it was a looooong day, but he crushed it and we enjoyed a glorious bluebird day for our ski.

Skiing the Elk Pass Trail en route to Blueberry Hill
I love skiing the Elk Pass Trail for scenery like this

To ski up Blueberry Hill, we started at the Elk Pass Parking lot and skied up the Elk Pass Trail until we reached the junction with the Blueberry Hill Trail.

Gorgeous winter wonderland on the Blueberry Hill Trail
Skiing down the Blueberry Hill Trail

Other  Winter Adventures we've enjoyed in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Backcountry Ski Touring to Chester Lake 

Snowshoeing to Rawson Lake 

Early season snowshoeing in Ptarmigan Cirque

Early season snowshoeing at Elbow Lake 

Never a bad day in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

For more information...

Read more about snowshoe trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park here.

Find out more about cross-country skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park here.

Parting shot of Lower Kananaskis Lake