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Skiing To Skoki Lodge Via Boulder And Deception Passes

Skiing to Skoki Lodge via Boulder and Deception Passes

Backcountry skiing to Skoki Lodge via Boulder and Deception Passes can be challenging but only under whiteout conditions. Otherwise it’s straightforward unless you have a lot of powder or crusty conditions on the descent from Deception Pass. 

I have already written about what awaits you when you finally get to Skoki Lodge – but first you’re going to have to get there.

In the winter that means you need to backcountry ski or snowshoe eleven kilometres in from Temple Lodge at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, accessed via a gondola ride up and a chairlift ride down. The other alternative is a 24 kilometre backcountry ski in via the Pipestone River but you need to be a strong skier to attempt that.

Great views of Temple Mountain on the return
Great views of Temple Mountain on the return from Skoki Lodge

Skiing into Skoki Lodge is very popular – largely because the scenery is outstanding, the avalanche danger if you stick to the route is basically non-existent, and the level of difficulty is reasonable for many skiers.

Skoki Lodge is most commonly accessed via Boulder and Deception Passes. Boulder Pass is a snap, Deception Pass less so.

The route on skis to Skoki Lodge via Boulder and Deception Passes

First, don’t do what we did. We skied from the Ptarmigan Chairlift past Temple Lodge looking for the trail. What you need to do is turn right as you’re looking straight on at Temple Lodge, and climb about 100 metres up the hill.

Stay left as you climb the hill because the trail to Skoki heads left into the woods. It’s marked and has a sign with the usual backcountry warnings.

Not far from the start of the trail is an intersection. Stay right. Climb gradually through the woods for the first two kilometres. The trail is marked with poles but there are no signs to Skoki except at the start. Obviously if it’s snowed you’re going to be breaking trail too.

We were the first on the trail that day so that’s exactly what we did. And if it’s windy the tracks fill in quickly.

Eventually you break out into a large open meadow with gorgeous views if the day is clear. Take the time to look back – and not just forwards, because that’s where the best views are.

The map provided at check-in shows the Halfway Hut on the right side of the trail as you’re skiing in. But it’s not. You’ll see it on a small knoll above a creek on the left. It’s rustic but a good place to get out of the wind on a cold day.

Continue on up to Boulder Pass – obvious because of the large number of boulders. At the top you may need to take your skis off if the ground has been stripped of snow.

This is what it looks like skiing down from Deception Pass
This is what it looks like skiing down from Deception Pass (skiing out)
Snow covered boulders at Boulder Pass (skiing out and looking towards Lake Louise)
Snow covered boulders at Boulder Pass (skiing out and looking towards Lake Louise)

Boulder Pass to Deception Pass

From Boulder Pass, there’s no wind protection until you’re down in the trees on the other side of Deception Pass. You have to cross the lake and the wind can howl through here.

On the day we skied in, visibility was poor. In a snowstorm you’d probably only be able to see one or two poles ahead, at a time.

On route to Deception Pass
On route to Deception Pass
Looking up at Deception Pass
Looking up at Deception Pass
Skiing up towards Deception Pass
Skiing up towards Deception Pass
The approach to Deception Pass from Skoki Lodge
The approach to Deception Pass from Skoki Lodge

Once you’ve crossed the lake it’s time to start climbing. Its 180 metres (590 feet) up to Deception Pass, the high point of the route at 2510 metres (8,235 feet). Lots of people skin up when they start climbing but we didn’t find that we needed skins on either pass.

The pass is straight forward when you can see. In whiteout conditions it wouldn’t be fun.

Deception Pass to Skoki Lodge

As you near the top of the pass look for a marker to your left; the trail veers slightly left before heading straight and then dropping down. If you like skiing down, then you’ll find the rest of the route to be fun and fast and it might take you only half an hour.

From Deception Pass, follow the trail marked with large stakes. It continues across the slopes of Fossil Mountain and then angles left down into the trees.

But if you’re like Angela, who we met on our trip, the descent is where the tough skiing started. It could easily take you another 90 minutes if you aren’t a good downhill skier.

"What the slopes look like just off of Deception Pass"
What the slopes look like just down from Deception Pass
The easy skiing to Skoki Lodge
The easy skiing to Skoki Lodge

You should continue to see stakes and probably snowmobile tracks as you get closer. You will pass trails heading off to the right directing you to Red Deer Lakes. Ignore those signs and any other side trails. Continue skiing to Skoki Lodge, located on the right bank of Skoki Creek beneath Skoki Mountain.

And you won’t see it until you’re a minute away. Some people were looking for smoke – but none will be visible. But then all of a sudden – voila – and you’ve arrived.

Arrival at Skoki Lodge
Arrival at Skoki Lodge

Useful information for your ski trip

  • Pack lightly but pack smart. You need clothes that wick the moisture away and you need a lot of layers. Include a coat with a hood and a neck warmer.
  • Bring skins and wax.
  • Don’t forget a spare ski tip and basket for your pole.
  • Duct tape always comes in handy.
  • Include a first aid kit with band aids and moleskin to help with blisters.
  • Your water will freeze so keep it buried in your pack. Think about bringing a thermos with something hot.
I skied in to Skoki Lodge on 25 year old skis
I skied in to Skoki Lodge on 25 year old skis
 
  • My skis are probably 15 years old – minimum. But they still work for me. There were all types of skis – from fancy, back country skis, to basic rental gear to my classic stuff.
  • Buy a topo map and bring it.
  • Include a headlamp AND extra batteries.
  • I think one shovel per group is a good idea.
  • Carry energy bars. Keep them close to your body if you don’t want to break a tooth.
  • Time required to ski one way will vary from three to six hours depending on your ability and the weather conditions. Plan accordingly.

For more information on what to expect at Skoki Lodge read this post.

Further reading on other lodges

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 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 17 Comments
  1. Excellent posts re Skoki Lodge. It is more rustic than I realized. It motivates me to cross the threshold and learn to backcountry ski. If a shovel is a good idea, and I am sure it is, would strapping one or two probes to the side of packs make sense? Outstanding pictures! Skoki Lodge was made even more special by Kate and Williams recent village and I believe I may schedule a summer trip in there as well. A fall trip would also be spectacular.

  2. Excellent posts re Skoki Lodge. It is more rustic than I realized. It motivates me to cross the threshold and learn to backcountry ski. If a shovel is a good idea, and I am sure it is, would strapping one or two probes to the side of packs make sense? Outstanding pictures! Skoki Lodge was made even more special by Kate and Williams recent village and I believe I may schedule a summer trip in there as well. A fall trip would also be spectacular.

    1. Hi Barry,
      It is rustic- but cozy at the same time – and you really appreciate the hot shower when you get home.
      You could snowshoe in too if you didn’t want to take up skiing or as you suggest – visit in the summer when the meadows are ablaze with wildflowers.
      I like the idea of bringing a small shovel – they don’t weigh much and simply a safety tool just in case something untoward happens.

  3. I love this post! You really had a very great experience, judging from your words.

    Thanks for the tips, it might come in handy.

  4. I love this post! You really had a very great experience, judging from your words.

    Thanks for the tips, it might come in handy.

  5. Can someone tell me if I need special metal edged Cross Country Skis or will normal Cross Country Skis do to ski into skoki Lodge?

    Thx
    Christophe

    1. @Christophe Metal edged skis will make the trip in and out easier especially if its icy. If you’re a strong skier used to the backcountry you’d be okay. Overall I’d say better with the metal edges.

        1. @Mard I just checked my skis and they are 50 mm wide with a backcountry binding – but nothing heavy duty. They are over 25 years old and have worked for some pretty tough ski trips that included many backcountry lodges in Colorado. They are also what I used for Skoki. I used much wider skis with the whole backcountry set up that are more like downhill skis for doing the Wapta Traverse. I think it depends on how much you ski and your ability. It can be a challenging ski down from Deception Pass to Skoki and that’s were the heavier duty stuff come sin handy. But it weighs a lot more too.

  6. I have been skiing into various ACC huts and lodges throughout the Rockies for about 25 years with regular, standard non-metal edged 50mm wide cross country skis. I have done 5 day hut to hut skiing with a significant pack (carrying food and sleeping bag + clothes) and have never had a problem.

    1. @Don You are a better and stronger skier than many people who go into lodges. I have to say I still like my metal edges even though my skis are heavier than some.

  7. Hi,
    I want to try this next year on a pair of Altais HOK ski/snowshoe.
    Ive never been to the area and am not sure if these are going to work. Your description of the trail is great….but I still dont know how “challenging” Deception pass hill is. Even the lodge website is vauge – says accessable by all skill levels but then says the down hill is tricky……I dont do telemark turns, and havent done downhill skiing in 35 years. Can you compare the down hill to a rating system? Is it a Blue? Black? Green- but not groomed so some skill required?
    Im not worried about up hill or the distance, just dont want to end up having to walk down the hill (if thats even possible)
    unless its a whiteout its easy to see the trial the whole time? Im probably going to go solo if they accommodate that.

    thank you

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Deception Pass is challenging depending on conditions. If there’s fresh snow it wouldn’t be hard but if there is a crust it can definitely be more difficult. I’d call the downhill a blue in good conditions and a black otherwise. The trail is easy to see up to Boulder Pass. The climb from there to Deception Pass can be a little trickier. Just look for the markers/wands. If you had to walk a few hundred feet down or even slide on your butt I’d say no big deal. In my opinion it’s only the top section right off the pass that’s the hardest.

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