Winter might be cold, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! Here in the Rockies, we are fortunate enough to have an endless supply of activities to keep us entertained throughout the long winter months. Whether it’s hitting the local ski hills, strapping on skis in the backcountry, ice climbing up frozen waterfalls, or fat biking on the mountain trails, there are activities to suit every local and visitor alike.
On the colder days, a really great activity to try is cross country skiing. When the temps drop, this sport keeps you moving and warm. There are tons of trails nearby for all levels and if you don’t have the gear, there are plenty of places to rent throughout the Bow Valley. So, if you’re looking to switch up your activities the next time you’re in the mountains, here are five cross country ski trails for you to check out this winter!
Moraine Lake Road
Distance: 18km return
Elevation Gain: 250m
Parking: Moraine Lake Road
Moraine Lake Road is a great trail for a beginner skier. Moraine Lake Road trail follows, well, Moraine Lake Road! The road is closed during the winter time and becomes a cross country ski track. It’s a longer trail, but it sure is beautiful. The great part about an out and back trail is you can turn around at any point in time if needed. The road is track set 9km down the road, but after that point to Moraine Lake you are in avalanche terrain! Do not go past the tracks unless you have proper avalanche gear and training. The tracks end with a gorgeous view of the Ten Peaks so it’s a great spot to have a snack and snap a photo before turning around. The best part of the way back? It’s more down-hill! You’ll get back to the car before you know it.
Elevation Gain: 160m
Parking: Lake Louise
This trail is probably one of my personal favourites. It’s short and sweet, but has lots of hills, twists, and turns. While skiing, you will have beautiful views of Mount Temple and the surrounding peaks. Thanks to the varied terrain it makes for a really fun ski session. This trail can be done out and back, however, I highly suggest making it a loop by combing two other trails. This will give you that 7.5km distance. If you follow the Fairview trail all the way, it will spit you out on Moraine Lake road. Head left towards the parking lot, but right before it there is a trail on the left-hand side called Tramline. This trail will take you back to where you started on the Fairview trail. I recommend doing this loop in a counter clockwise direction, exactly as explained above.
Elevation Gain: 150m
Parking: Spray River West Trailhead
Nice and close to the town of Banff, this gorgeous loop follows along the Spray River between Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle. It’s filled with rolling terrain, but nothing too challenging. From the parking lot, the trail takes you roughly 5.6km to the Spray River bridge. You will cross this bridge to complete the loop on the other side of the river. Local tip? Finish your ski with a nice hot chocolate from the Fairmont or if your back towards the Canalta Lodge Happy Camper Cafe in the lobby of the hotel.
Elevation Gain: 200m
Just past Lake Louise is this fun, hilly trail that features a lake and is (drum roll please), dog friendly! With its tight turns and hills through the forest, this trail is exciting, although probably better suited if you’ve been cross country skiing once or twice before. The trail is signed very well at junctions, and it’s recommended to ski this loop counter-clockwise. So, grab your furry friend (on a leash) and take them out for a day on the skis!
Distance: 12.6km return from Cascade River Bridge
Elevation Gain: 135m
Parking: Lake Minnewanka
Not too far from the town of Banff is this beginner friendly trail that follows the valley beside the iconic Cascade Mountain. The uphill is gentle on your way out but it makes for a very fun return trip home downhill. It’s 6.2km to Cascade River Bridge and this is where many skiers turn around, however if you’re feeling good you can add an extra 2km to your trip by skiing further to Upper Bankhead. Make sure to either start or end your day soaking up the views at Lake Minnewanka!
Whether it’s your first time trying cross country skiing or you’re a seasoned regular, the Bow Valley has endless trails for you to explore and get out on. Now that you’ve chosen where to go, it’s time to make the most of winter. Grab your skis, pack some hot chocolate, and get out on those beautiful trails!