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Lake Louise to Banff: a multiday skiventure
Report Submitted by Sara M
(trip) Date: Wednesday Apr 19, 2023
Submitted: Sunday Apr 23, 2023 at 15:00
With my university degree wrapped up, it was time for some much-needed skiing! Last year I planned a multiday adventure from Lake Louise to Banff, but the weather and my time off didn't line up. This time, I was ready. On Wednesday, I started from Pipestone and skied up the valley. Pretty early on, I saw a wolverine and a deer playing! I assume they were playing, both of them were hopping around like excited dogs and neither seemed stressed or afraid. Very neat! There were still plenty of snow bridges in the meadows, only small amound of backtracking required to find crossings. The snow was fast and supportive. I followed a snowed-in trail up towards Skoki and camped at the Red Deer Lakes campground.
Day 2 was spent following a grizzly bear. It joined the trail pretty early on, and mostly stuck to the trail all day. In the trees, the snow up high was still cold and deep. Fast crust in the sun, though. I skied down the Red Deer River valley, which I'd never seen before! The mountain views were incredible on this sunnier-than-forecasted day. As the day progressed, the snow softened and got quite slow. In the last 5km to Scotch Camp, the trail was melted out in many places! Lots of taking skis off and putting them on again.
Day 3 started with the long climb out of Scotch Camp on the Cascade fire road. The bear tracks rejoined the trail and kept me company over Snow Creek Summit to the Panther valley, where Mr Bear must have remained. The final descent to the Panther was fun and fast! Luckily there were still a few snow bridges over the river. It was grey and snowy until this point, then cleared up although it snow periodically for the rest of the day. I continued up and over Wigmore Summit and down along Cuthead Creek. I didn't have an exact destination in mind. The crust wasn't strong enough to support me off skis, so I stopped when I found a dry patch of ground big enough to perch my tent on. I was about 4km upstream of the Flint's junction.
Day 4 was a struggle. The first 4km to the junction was new and interesting, but then I just had the long and somewhat familiar slog back to Lake Minnewanka. The crust was fast to begin with but around 11am, it became slow and slushy. It was sticky enough to ski without skins, which helped a bit, but my god was it ever slow. The "fast hill" down to the road was so slow that I had to stride in some places! It's always a bit jarring to emeege from the wilderness at a place as busy as Minnewanka. My feet are sore and my body and mind are tired, but I'm glad I squeezed in this spring skiventure!
Total distance: 116.00 Km
getting to the Skoki area
Bear tracks always keeping me company
heading up towards Wigmore
16 comment(s) posted
2023-04-23 at 15:24 - comment by ulrikeski
Absolutely awesome, Sarah! You saw country that not that many folks see in the winter in BNP. And you did it solo! Well done!
2023-04-23 at 16:08 - comment by Chuck
Thank you Sara for sharing your adventure with us. You write so well, we almost feel like we were with you. So exciting to see the Wolverine and Deer playing. Did you see any signs of the Bison?
2023-04-23 at 20:12 - comment by Sara M
Chuck - I didn't see the bison, but it looked like they had been in the Scotch Camp area quite recently.
2023-04-23 at 21:28 - comment by Chuck
Can you share a map of your route?
Most readers would have no idea.
I tried to recreate it on my old software, but it is not working.
So glad that you never had to turn back!
2023-04-23 at 22:09 - comment by Diana Piggott
Wow! Congratulations on both finishing university, and achieving a very impressive backcountry adventure! What a remarkable trip through some stunning and very remote country; will there be any more pictures coming??
2023-04-24 at 07:19 - comment by aqua toque
Cool! Can't wait to see the movie. How 'bout some more pics in the meantime?
2023-04-24 at 09:04 - comment by SteveR
Great trip, kudos for both achievements! Mentally at least, I’ve switched from boards to bikes, but it’s good to see others still getting after it.
2023-04-24 at 12:10 - comment by Sara M
Link to the Gaia route I made for planning. Hopefully it works!
Link to photos from trip - I haven't captioned them. Most of them are from sunny day 2. Only the last two pictures of signs are from Day 4.
2023-04-24 at 13:24 - comment by Chuck
Both Links work.
Readers can zoom in on the map and pan around.
I have added some captions to help identify locations in the album.
2023-04-24 at 15:43 - comment by Normand
Very nice adventure and accomplishment. Photos look great.
2023-04-24 at 16:27 - comment by HenryL
An fun trip report to read. Congrats on your degree, as well as this most amazing back country tour. I'm sure that you will have great memories of it.
Were you on AT gear, or perhaps just wide skis with touring boots?
2023-04-24 at 18:04 - comment by Helen Read
Absolutely amazing accomplishment....I mean completing your degree!!! Just kidding. I had to spread out 2 gem track maps plus a Topo map of Skoki area, just to follow you on highlighter. You raised the bar skiing 72 miles over 4 days. I bet that hot shower and warm bed felt incredible.
2023-04-24 at 20:38 - comment by Mike W
Sara - Congrats on your amazing skiventure! I particularly enjoyed the wolverine tracks and your video of skiing down into the Panther Valley.
2023-04-25 at 10:45 - comment by Sara M
Thanks for all the kind comments everyone!
Henry - yes I was on AT gear. It probably would have been possible with LT gear, but I liked the peace of mind of having sturdier gear for a remote trip like this.
2023-04-25 at 12:02 - comment by aqua toque
You've set a record for most commented on trip report that's going to be hard to beat!
2023-05-18 at 16:30 - comment by DEMOCRATIZE AB
Very cool fast trip into my old backpacking stomping grounds. I take it the old bridge on the old Banff - Sundre Road is still in existence near Scotch Camp?
There are 25 pound Dolly Varden trout in the Red Deer River below that bridge.
What did you graduate in?