Seeing as spring is right upon us, I thought I’d post about cross-country skiing from Canmore to Banff on Goat Creek Trail while the last bit of winter remains in the mountains.
I myself am a beginner to cross-country skiing, only having tried the classic style a few times before attempting to ski the trail. In the summer I’ve biked the trail numerous times (stay tuned for a Mt. Biking post for this trail) so I was familiar with the dips and bends of it.
Overall I found the ski quite enjoyable (thankful to the overall drop in elevation) and finished with just enough sweat and exhaustion to make me want to do it again!
Trail Name: Goat Creek Trail
Trailhead: Goat Creek parking lot at the top of the Spray Lakes along the Smith-Dorrien highway
Elevation Gain: 1000ft drop overall, with uphill sections
Time Required: ~2.5 – 3hrs (18km one way)
Recommended Equipment: Cross-country skis/poles, water, sunglasses, lip gloss for all the smiles
The trail starts right out of the Goat Creek parking lot with an immediate downhill section, but don’t let that intimidate you! This is your chance to test your pizza skills. For the first 750m or so the trail is boot packed and bumpy from all the day hikers, but as you go increase your distance from the children/dog packed SUV’s a near perfectly set track appears. The first ~9km of the trail see a few mild uphill sections and a couple creek crossings with steep approaches. Strong pizza skills come in handy here but don’t worry if you’re a little weak in that area; a dramatic legs buckling at the bottom wins you more style points.
The last ~9km is characterized by more aggressive uphill sections, but the trail widens so you can suck air side by side with your friends. As you get closer to Banff (~5km from the end of the trail) you’ll pass a serene picnic spot to the right of the trail. There’s a picnic table right next to the scenic creek you’ve been chasing the whole time, and if weather permitting, is an excellent spot to take a breather and have a couple snacks.
Continuing on the same trail you eventually pop out at a parking lot right above the Banff Springs Hotel. From here you have a choice of some of my favorite indulgences after a good mountain adventure. On weekends I recommend continuing the festivities to the infamous Banff Springs Brunch or the Banff Hot Springs feels good any day of the week (20min walk up from the trail ending parking lot).
For the return trip I highly suggest doing a car drop beforehand (leave a car in the end parking lot by Banff Springs Hotel), so you can avoid the return trip 1000ft elevation gain and pig out on chocolate croissants instead. If a second car is not an option, there are regular shuttle busses between Canmore-Banff for $6 a trip.
Sadly, I think I will have to wait till next winter to do this fun trip again. Good thing the Mt. Biking is just, if not more, fun!