Beginner’s guide to cross-country ski trails in Canmore and Kananaskis
Whether you’re looking for a great way to stay fit this winter or want to try this classic Canadian sport, you should try cross-country skiing. Bob Truman, of SkiHere.ca, has put together his best tips for beginner skiers.
Whether you're looking for a great way to stay fit this winter or want to try this classic Canadian sport, you should try cross-country skiing. Bob Truman, of SkiHere.ca, has put together his best tips for beginner skiers.
There is something about being in a forest in the middle of winter gliding across the snow that refreshes the body and mind. In Canmore and Kananaskis, you are treated to magnificent scenery, snow-laden trees, perfectly groomed trails, occasional animal tracks, and all under the watchful gaze of towering mountains with names like Rundle, Wintour, Fortress, Wedge, and Kidd.
If you're new to cross-country skiing, you'll have a more satisfying experience if you can ski on a trail that is suitable for your ability and fitness level. Luckily, there's plenty to choose from in Canmore and Kananaskis. For the brand new skier, the Canmore Nordic Centre has a 10-lane practice grid on level terrain in front of the daylodge, which is an ideal place to start out.
Once you have gained some confidence, the nordic centre's Banff Trail will give you some practice on small hills and you can go up to 5.5K one way, which is usually plenty for a novice skier. Remember, you need to save some energy for the return trip, too. If you require gear, you can rent skis at Trail Sports, conveniently located at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
Something you should consider if you are a raw beginner is that you want to be near a daylodge or other shelter where you can warm up. This takes us to the Pocaterra trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park(PLPP) where the Pocaterra hut is a popular spot for those who are just learning to ski. The Pocaterra trail has been reconfigured since the 2013 floods, and the easy part is now only 1.1K, but it's enough to get you started, and you're never too far from the hut and its warm fireplace. There's also a 5-lane practice grid at the hut.
Down the highway from Pocaterra hut is another trail, Wheeler, which is suitable for a novice skier. It's an easy 4.5K with spectacular mountain views and three picnic tables along its distance. The trailhead is at the Elkwood Amphitheatre parking lot.
At Kananaskis Village, Terrace Trail heading north is a wide trail with small rolling hills which will give you some practice with your snowplow technique. Again, you will be near all the amenities at the village which includes the village centre with warm bathrooms, snacks, hot chocolate, and a pleasant place to sit down and enjoy your lunch. Ski rentals are also available. There are two hotels where you can replenish your calories with a delicious meal.
If you're looking for a trail with more wilderness ambience, the hidden gem of beginner's trails is the Wedge Connector. About five kilometres south of the Kananaskis Village turnoff, with the trailhead at Wedge Pond, this is an outstanding trail for beginners. It's seldom busy, and the trail is super easy. It's a delightful 2.4K through aspen and spruce to the Evan-Thomas creek, at which time you can continue further along the Evan-Thomas trail. On the return, you'll have magnificent views of the Wedge and Mt Kidd. You may have the added bonus of seeing a variety of animal tracks along this very secluded trail.
For a beginner cross-country skier to have a satisfying ski experience, favourable snow conditions are essential. There's no substitute for a trail with plenty of cold snow which is machine-groomed and has well-defined tracks to follow. As a beginner, you want to stay away from thin snow which may have ruts and dirt, or slushy, wet snow.
Fortunately, in Canmore and Kananaskis we usually have dry, cold snow and the finest grooming. The first thing to do before you embark on your ski adventure is to check the trail conditions. There are sites on the internet which will give you the latest conditions including Alberta Parks' Kananaskis trail reports which covers Canmore Nordic Centre, Ribbon creek/Kananaskis Village, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Mount Shark, and West Bragg Creek.
If you want to read first-hand accounts of skiers' latest experiences, you can always check my ski blog at SkierBob.ca.