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!

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