Backcountry skiing in the Canadian Rockies is an unforgettable experience. In the Rockies, the scenery is jaw-dropping and the skiing phenomenal. Chances are, you’ll be planning your next adventure sooner than expected! If you’re looking for a list of easier, lower-risk, backcountry ski ideas in the Canadian Rockies, look no further! Here is a list of must-do routes for an enjoyable day out.
Helena Ridge – East Summit
Castle Junction, AB
Elevation: 1120 m Distance: approximately 16 km round trip
This route makes for a fun and relaxing day trip. I did this route twice last year and it took around 7 hours skinning up and skiing down at a very relaxed pace.
Beginning at the parking lot for Rockbound Lake, the trail is pretty straightforward, with one turn-off. The first part of the trail is unimpressive, as it winds its way through the forest. However, approximately 5 km in, it opens up and the views are astounding.
Matthew Hobbs writes an excellent route description in his blog post here: http://www.on-top.ca/Outings/2019/Helena-Ridge-East-Peak-March-2019.html
Kootenay National Park
Elevation: approximately 180 m Distance: approximately 11 km return
Boom Lake trail is an easy-to-follow trail with gentle elevation gain. A popular hiking destination. When I hiked up there in the winter, there were a LOT of skiers.
There are some avalanche paths to cross when coming up to the lake, as well as on the opposite side of the lake. Many people like to ski or hike to the frozen waterfalls on the opposite side of the lake. These areas are directly below avalanche paths – so be mindful of that. Avalanche conditions, awareness, and preparedness are important, even on this easy route!
The Kindergarten Couloir is on the opposite side of the lake. This is a more advanced, steep line. Know your skill level and do research prior to attempting this couloir. When skiing down to the parking lot, be mindful that this is quite a heavily trafficked trail, so you will likely have to dodge many people.
See trail information here: http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/2018/01/family-backcountry-ski-touring-in-banff.html
Icefields Highway, AB
Hilda Peak is a familiar name to those who scramble and mountaineer. The summit requires climbing. However, once parked in the parking lot opposite of HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, there is a well-used ski trail that goes up to the ridge, below the summit. When I skied it, we went up to the ridge and skied down to the creek below. Although this did require some bushwacking on the way down, it was an adventure! There are other options for skiing down.
I was not able to find the exact elevation gain or distance for the ridge, but Paul’s Adventures has a blogpost with a route description in this link: http://www.paulsadventures.com/Hilda%20Ridge%20Jan%202016/index2.html
Icefields Hwy, AB
Elevation: 300 m Distance: 2 to 5 km
This is a great place if you want to test out gear for the first time or just yo-yo up and down. The routes are short and easy to find! Just mind the avalanche zones. When parking at the Parker Ridge pullout/parking lot (signed directly off of hwy 93N), there are signs posted with information on ski touring in the area. You should be able to find many different routes up and down. Some like to access Parker Ridge by parking at the Hi Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel pull out and ascending the ridge from behind the hostel. Make sure you are avalanche aware, and check the conditions prior to going, as Parker Ridge can be severely windswept.
Icefields Hwy, AB
Elevation: 350 m Distance: 2-3 km
Bow summit has many lines for all different levels! The glades are nice and relaxed for doing laps on. Bow summit has a short approach. For those desiring some more challenging skiing, there are also some chutes and couloirs. See Backcountry Beta for route descriptions https://backcountry-beta.com/routes/bow-summit/
Icefields Hwy, AB
Elevation: 390 m Distance: approximately 7.5 km
Easy skiing, but these glades can get busy. Some fun routes through the glades for doing laps on or testing out new gear! There are a plethora of different routes to take on the way down once you get to the trees. Amazing views along the way!
Route description here: https://www.outdoorproject.com/canada/alberta/crowfoot-glades-ski-touring
Elevation: 560 m Distance: approx 6 km
Excellent tree skiing with some open areas. Due to easier access being so close to Calgary, this trail can get busy. Beautiful views and excellent powder skiing when conditions are favourable.
Route Description: https://backcountry-beta.com/routes/black-prince-skiing/
Backcountry Skiing in the Canadian Rockies
Backcountry skiing is always associated with risks, regardless of the intensity of the trail. Avalanches can happen at any time. Always be prepared: know your snow assessment and avalanche rescue skills. Have avalanche equipment and know how to use it. Always ensure you have someone who knows your trip plan and when you plan to return. Find current avalanche conditions at: Avalanche Canada
Have fun out there and enjoy all that the Canadian Rockies have to offer!
Interested in backcountry skiing, but don’t know where to start?
Learn more here: So You Want to Try Backcountry Skiing: A Beginner’s Guide
All photos used in this post are taken by the author. Please do not use without permission.