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Cross Country Skiing To Skogan Pass From Dead Man’s Flat

Cross Country Skiing to Skogan Pass From Dead Man’s Flat

I don’t think many people think about cross country skiing to Skogan Pass from Dead Man’s Flat. But last weekend that’s exactly what John and I set out to do. We wanted a trail that was reasonably close to home and this one fit the bill. Access is via an easy one hour drive from Calgary. The trailhead itself is just a kilometre up the road from the Dead Mans Flat exit off the Trans-Canada Highway – before you even get to Canmore.

Skogan Pass from Deadman's Flats

I didn’t read much of the route description until after the fact. Stupidly we’d left the trail guide in the car and didn’t have a map either. But fortunately the trail is a snap to follow. What I hadn’t appreciated is that the guide did say to allow a full day. Starting at 11 AM doesn’t exactly allow for that.

It was a glorious spring like day and there was a touch of fresh snow on the ground – luckily as this trail has a reputation for thin snow cover.

"The view from the parking lot of Mount Lougheed"

The view from the parking lot of Mount Lougheed

The trail took off from the far end of the parking lot. It started easily enough with a few hundred metres of  flat skiing through the trees.  Then you reach the powerline. Look up.

That’s where you’re going.

The trail weaves its way under the powerline and into the trees for a total of roughly 4.5 kilometres. Then it turns sharply left and continues to climb – but away from the powerline. I chose to skin up here as my wax wasn’t behaving.

"The not so pretty start to the trail under the power line"

Looking down towards Canmore from the not so pretty start to the trail under the power line

After three long switchbacks you break out of the woods into a meadow. The views from here are superb. All the huffing and puffing was worthwhile.

"Out of the trees and into this open area"

Out of the trees and into this open area

"Landscape above the trail just after you emerge from the woods"

Landscape above the trail just after you emerge from the woods

"Me - resting in the snow"

Me – resting in the snow

"One of the few skiers we say all day"

One of the few skiers we say all day

It took another 30 or 40 minutes of climbing to put us at the spot where the group of Japanese skiers we bumped into stopped for lunch. By then we’d climbed for 2.5 solid hours. The views from here were so incredible that I was tempted to just call it a day.

But John was keen to continue. And so we did. From here on in it was back into the trees with some peek a boo views to the distant peaks. It was much slower going as we had to break trail and the snow was DEEP – but the grade was far more gentle then it had been all day.

"Breaking trail from here on in"

Breaking trail from here on in

"Beautiful section of trail with loads of snow"

Beautiful section of trail with loads of snow

We continued for about another hour but still didn’t reach the pass. We were close, perhaps a kilometre away but I figured it would take us quite a while to ski back down and voted to turn around.

"Our turn around point"

Our turn around point

Once out of the woods on the return, we were greeted with this view. The drop-off suggested a small waterfall come the summer.

"Fantastic views of Mount Lougheed"

Fantastic views of Mount Lougheed

"Close-up view of the distant peaks"

Close-up view of the distant peaks

The descent from Skogan Pass ended up being far faster and actually easier than I anticipated.

I put skins on for part of the descent to slow me down. John didn’t but he’s a more accomplished skier than I am. It took us only 90 minutes – including a late lunch break on the way out – to ski back down to the parking lot.

We’d had the trail to ourselves for most of the day. The only people we’d seen were the group of about 10 Japanese skiers. Once down and back in the car I had a look at the guidebook. It turns out you can ski to Skogan Pass from the Ribbon Creek area over in Kananaskis – and as one friend later told me that’s what most people do.

Despite skiing under an ugly powerline for a good hour, I loved this trail and the views it offered. It’s not often that you get a trail to yourself for most of the day so close to home, especially when it’s a blue sky kind of day.

In total we skied for five hours – 3.5 hours up and 1.5 hours down. If we’d made it to Skogan Pass we would have skied 19 kilometres in total. I figure we did about 17 kilometres and climbed about 610 meters (2,000 feet).

Have you cross country skied to Skogan Pass? 


Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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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 12 Comments
  1. I’ve never been cross country skiing, but it looks like a fun way to get exercise and explore an area. I would probably give up after the first hour though. 🙂

    1. @Christy Going up steep hills for hours is hard but with skins on it’s somewhat easier. When I got home I headed straight for a hot bath – and had a glass of wine while soaking away the tiredness. It was a great day.

  2. Congratulations of tackling a challenging x-c ski route rarely ever used. I know if you had not stopped to take in all those incredible photo ops you would have made it to the top, but breaking trail is such hard work. So glad you posted on skierbob and you deserve a celebratory toast of your favorite liquid refreshment to toast that. I live in Lac Des Arcs and might be tempted to attempt this on your lovely tracks. Yes, most of us wait until Jeff the track-setter has tracked it all the way to the Pass, and while the elevation is still up there in numbers, the ski down to Nakiska is absolutely fantastic.

    1. @Helen I did have a celebratory toast in the bathtub when I got home. I’m now very keen on checking the trail to Skogan Pass from the other side and would love to put a loop together. Where was Jeff the track setter when I needed him??

  3. I’ve cross country skied to Skogan Pass 4 times for last 2 years.
    I did twice from Ribbon Creek Area and reached to top of the pass.
    View from the pass was so wonderful and luckily weather of those two climbing were fantastic and sunshine was bright. Of course, trail was packed and tracksetted.
    But when I did twice from Dead Man’s Flat in 2011~2012, snow was becoming deeper and deeper as we went higher so trail breaking was too difficult.
    I had to return at the almost same point where you did.
    I planed to try this route again this season but I couldn’t have a chance yet.

    1. Hi Frank – Very nice to hear your thoughts about the Skogan Pass trip. I am very keen to try from Ribbon Creek and have a sense that those trails are much more used. And it sounds like you had the same experience we had up high. I’d definitely like to do it again – because I hate turning around and not completing a trail. I hope you make it to the top this year – on one of those glorious blue sky days.

  4. I haven’t cross country skied in a while, but this looks like an awesome trail to follow — maybe a little challenging for me on the downhill part. You had picture perfect weather for your outing, too. Beautiful photos!

    1. @Cathy I want to go back and do the whole trail – and in fact ski down the pass to the other side. I’m running out of time though as there are perhaps four more weekends at best this year so it might have to wait till 2014. It was a glorious winter day!!

  5. This looks amazing, but 2.5 miles of going up is crazy tough. I can see why they call it Dead Man’s Flat. I might be a dead man if I skied uphill for 2.5 hours. It reminds me of the Jan and Dean song: “won’t come back from Dead Man’s Flat!”

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