Goat Creek and Spray River West, Canmore to Banff

Trip date: Tuesday Dec 07, 2021

Submitted by Bob Truman



I skied Goat Creek/Spray River West from Canmore to Banff on some wildly divergent conditions.

It was -5 at the Goat Creek parking lot at 12:30 pm. Some excavating and tree removal was occurring at the trailhead and it looks like they might be expanding the parking lot.

The first downhill from the parking lot usually has some rocks poking through in early season. True to form, the rocks were there so I was glad I made the decision to walk down. As it now says on the Banff trail report, the first 7K of Goat Creek is not groomed. The trail was snowmobile packed some time ago, but we have since had the rain and a significant snowfall.

There is a decent skier-set track, albeit very slick, along with the usual bootprints over the rain crust. The downhills were treacherous on the fast tracks because I could not adequately snowplow on my skinny plastic skis(thanks, MAAD). If ever there was a need for wider, metal-edged skis, this was it.

The 100 metres of downhill to the Goat Creek bridge (also known as the “death bridge”) had been snowmobile packed two days ago when the Parks tracksetter unhooked the tracksetting implement and drove across the bridge specifically to smooth out the snow. Consequently, the death-defying joyride down to the bridge was relatively benign.

Upon crossing the infamous death bridge, I spotted the corduroy going up the hill on the opposite side, looking very inviting, with excellent tracks soon to follow. For the next 6.4K, across the Spray bridge and continuing with the long, fast downhill to the bus stop junction, conditions were wonderful.

The home stretch: Conditions deteriorated considerably as I approached Banff. Tracks were thin and slick. Ray and gh have left reports about the conditions on the final 5.6K of Spray River West.

I am going to surmise that to groom the first 7K of Goat Creek the tracksetter requires a narrower implement in order to get it across the bridge. That’s why we always see the machine sitting at the top of the Goat Creek hill throughout the winter.