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Where To Cross Country Ski: The Cascade Fire Road Near Banff

Where to Cross Country Ski: The Cascade Fire Road near Banff

Where to cross country ski if you’re in the Banff area? How about the easy Cascade Fire Road? You’d think it was the Christmas season with the number of cross country skiers out on the Cascade Fire Road yesterday. Or perhaps it was just the perfect combination of safe driving conditions, blue skies, sunshine and great snow that packed the parking lot to overflowing.

"The start of the cross country ski trail"

The start of the cross country ski trail

Whatever it was we joined the throngs of skiers for a great day out in the Banff area mountains.

The Cascade Fire Road is exactly that – a fire road from the Lake Minnewanka parking lot that doubles as a track set cross country ski trail in the winter. It gets great early season snow and it’s one of the first in the area to be track set.

"A couple of happy skiers"

A couple of happy skiers

The Cascade Fire Road is an easy cross country ski unless you elect to ski out and back to the warden’s cabin – and that’s 15 kilometres up the road one way. Then you’ve got a long day on your hands. Otherwise there is only one major hill near the beginning of the trail but it’s gradual and swiftly dispatched. The rest of the trail is either flat or offers gently rolling hills.

"Reaching the top of the only hill of any significance"

Reaching the top of the only hill of any significance

The trail is skied by both regular cross country skiers and those on skate skies. There were one heck of a lot of fit bodies that blew by me yesterday.

"Beautiful mountain river"

Beautiful mountain river

"Small loop right after the bridge"

Small loop right after the bridge

"Fresh snow low on the mountain"

"Skies don't get much bluer than this"

Skies don’t get much bluer than this

"By early afternoon the shadows are lengthening"

By early afternoon the shadows are lengthening

"Tree in woods with beautiful shadow"

"The home stretch back to the car"

The home stretch back to the car

"mountain close-up"

Mountain close-up

On the access road to the trailhead you almost always spot wildlife. Yesterday was no exception. We saw elk and big horned sheep going in and coming out.

"Who needs a car wash when you've got a mountain goat?"

Who needs a car wash when you’ve got a big horned sheep?

"Elk soaking up the rays"

Elk soaking up the rays

The Cascade Fire Road is a wonderful trail. It offers occasional mountain and meadow views plus easy entrance to the back-country. The trailhead is accessed via the Lake Minnewanka Road. And it’s perfect for an hour or a day – because it’s an out and back ski you can turn around at any time.

"A cold looking Lake Minnewanka"

The trailhead is beside the cold looking Lake Minnewanka

Getting to the Cascade Fire Road Trailhead

To reach the Lake Minnewanka Road drive east from Banff under the Trans-Canada Highway. Then it’s about 10 kilometres up a winding road where I would consider snow tires a necessity. Parking and skiing are free but you do need a Parks Canada pass to be in Banff National Park. It’s $9.80 per adult though you can buy a family pass good for a year for $136.40 – and that gets you into 27 National Parks and 77 National Historic Sites.

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Leigh McAdam

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 32 Comments
  1. With every Banff post and spectacular photos you share(and no matter what season), you are making it so hard to resist a visit to one of the places I have longed to see. What a beautiful place to do cross country skiing. I love the contrast of all that snow and the blue skies.

  2. With every Banff post and spectacular photos you share(and no matter what season), you are making it so hard to resist a visit to one of the places I have longed to see. What a beautiful place to do cross country skiing. I love the contrast of all that snow and the blue skies.

  3. OK, now we’re talking. That whole downhill thing didn’t really work out for me, but these trails seem nice and flat. Even when I fall I shouldn’t slide more than 10 or 20 feet. I’m not sure I like the idea of running into wildlife out in the bush though. Even if their best attack is licking, I think I’d prefer to keep some distance between us.

  4. OK, now we’re talking. That whole downhill thing didn’t really work out for me, but these trails seem nice and flat. Even when I fall I shouldn’t slide more than 10 or 20 feet. I’m not sure I like the idea of running into wildlife out in the bush though. Even if their best attack is licking, I think I’d prefer to keep some distance between us.

  5. Very cool! Not often I see articles on cross country skiing. Outside Norway, that is. It’s the national sport here. Bigger than football. Everyone’s out on the trails whenever possible, even newborn babies pulled on a sledge behind their mum or dad.

  6. Very cool! Not often I see articles on cross country skiing. Outside Norway, that is. It’s the national sport here. Bigger than football. Everyone’s out on the trails whenever possible, even newborn babies pulled on a sledge behind their mum or dad.

    1. @Micheal You’ve got Rudolph on the brain already. They’re actually elk – the most photographed wildlife in North America so it’s hardly an original shot. Still I always get excited seeing them.

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