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Cross country skiing in Peter Lougheed Park in Kananaskis Country is a fantastic way to spend a winter day. Weaving through the park are approximately 75 km of superb cross-country ski trails. They are groomed though as of 2020, you will need to buy a ski pass – either for the day or the season.
The cross country skiing in Peter Lougheed is some of the finest you’ll find in Alberta. Located in the Kananaskis Lakes area of the park, you’ll find that most trails are easy or intermediate. But there are a few difficult trails – including Blueberry Hill and Lookout. On these two in particular, you’ll get a great workout, enjoy spectacular vistas and have fun on fast downhill sections.
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The Barrier Lake Ranger Station
Note as of 2020 the Barrier Lake Ranger Station is closed because of government cutbacks. It used to be the place to get up to date information on the best trails to ski in Kananaskis Country. Now I would suggest checking out Skier Roger’s website for regularly updated trail information.
Peter Lougheed cross country skiing usually starts in December
When we finally had a December weekend, clear of obligations and a weather forecast that was favorable, we made for the park, located about 90 km west of Calgary via Highway 40. Even the drive to get to the park is beautiful. But do go prepared for snowy conditions with a shovel in case your car gets stuck in a snowbank and always carry an emergency kit.
You might like: How to Survive a Winter Drive: 15 Tips for Safety
Where to park
You’ll have to decide beforehand what area of the park you want to explore – mostly because the seven parking lots are spread out over roughly 12 kilometres. The parking lots to the south offer access to the more difficult trails.
We ended up doing a very nice 16 km loop that took us from the parking lot at Boulton up Whiskey Jack and Lookout Trails, with a return via the Hydroline (not the prettiest trail) and Fox Creek (beautiful). There was a lot of climbing involved but also some incredible downhill sections. All told it took us about three hours.
There was plenty of snow at the south end of the park and we were told by the rangers that the north end (Pocaterra) could use some more – which is often the case.
You could easily make a whole day of cross country skiing Peter Lougheed Park – and we have done that on numerous occasions. In December it was such a treat to leave the Christmas preparations behind and spend part of a day in the silent world of snow. And the heady aroma of fir and pine only added to the pleasure of the day.
Useful information for a cross country ski trip in the park
- Gas is available at only one place along Highway 40, past Nakiska Ski Resort before the Spray Lakes Turnoff.
- The skiing used to be free but now you need a pass. You can buy it online here. It’s $10 per day or $50 for the season.
- Carry the 10 essentials for outdoor adventures – extra clothing, especially a hat, water, extra food especially high calorie food, a headlamp with extra batteries, fire starter and matches, a bivouac sac (or even a green garbage bag), a small first aid kit, a Swiss army style knife and a map and compass.
- Sunglasses or goggles are useful.
- Carry duct tape and a small ski repair kit in case of equipment failure. (I’ve had that happen and duct tape was invaluable – wrap it around your ski poles)
- Carry a shovel in your car in case it’s snowed while you’ve been skiing. You may need to shovel yourself out.
- It can be very windy and chilly in the park. Don’t forget high calorie energy food and a thermos filled with something hot to drink.
Additional cross-country skiing in Kananaskis
1. Chester/Sawmill Trail system, 18 km north of the Smith Dorrien/Spray Lakes Road (backcountry skiing here)
2. Mount Shark with groomed and track set trails, 42 km north on the Smith Dorrien/Spray Lakes Road
3. Canmore Nordic Centre
4. Ribbon Creek area near Nakiska Ski Resort
Further reading on cross-country skiing in Alberta
Check out cross country skiing trail reports for Peter Lougheed Provincial Park here.
For loads of ideas I recommend Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies by Chic Scott and Darren Farley
- Where to go Cross-Country Skiing if You Live in Calgary
- Cross Country Skiing to Boom Lake, Banff National Park
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