Cross-Country Ski Trails for Beginners | Canmore Kananaskis
Attractions & Sightseeing 46

Beginner’s Guide To Cross-Country Ski Trails In Canmore And Kananaskis

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  • Tourism Canmore Kananaskis - November 1, 2023

Amidst the breathtaking vistas of the Canadian Rockies, Canmore and Kananaskis offer a paradise for cross-country skiing enthusiasts. With a harmonious blend of rugged scenery and well-maintained trails, there are several iconic cross-country ski areas in the region that are quintessential spots for novice skiers to master their glide. Let’s delve into some of the beginner-friendly cross-country ski trails in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains that ensure a dose of winter magic.

1. Canmore Nordic Centre

A legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics, the Canmore Nordic Centre is a testament to nature’s grandeur. With panoramic views of the mountain ranges and a meticulous grooming routine, the Nordic Centre caters to all, from professionals to beginners. Well-signed trails, facilities for ski rentals, and regular ski events make it a bustling winter hub.

Trail Recommendations:

Banff Loop (5 km loop): A smooth and modest loop, this trail winds its way through the woods, presenting skiers with a balance of slight inclines and gentle descents. The real highlight? Pausing at the Chandra Crawford Warming Hut halfway through your trip. It’s the perfect spot to relax, catch your breath, and maybe even swap stories with fellow skiers.

Banff Trail (11 km out and back): This trail is a true testimony to the serene beauty of Canmore. A longer stretch than the Banff Loop, this trail offers well-groomed pathways ideal for beginners trying to focus on their technique. Technically, the trail can take you all the way to Banff National Park, however, it becomes unmaintained after the 5.5 km mark.

Bow Trail (3.5 km out and back): An offshoot of Banff Trail, Bow Trail is perfect for those who are still testing the waters (or rather, the snow) of cross-country skiing but looking to push their limits a bit further. Enjoy the crisp mountain air and the gentle path beneath your skis on this intermediate trail.

2. Ribbon Creek

Tucked away in the heart of Kananaskis Country, Ribbon Creek is a pristine network of trails surrounded by dense alpine forests and shimmering frozen creeks. The quiet rustling of the trees and the soft crunch of the snow makes skiing here a tranquil, meditative experience.

Trail Recommendations:

Terrace Link (3.3 km loop): This trail is the epitome of beginner-friendly. With its short distance and mostly flat terrain, it’s an excellent choice for first-timers or those looking for a quick taste of cross-country skiing.

Evan-Thomas Fireroad + Wedge Connector (8.3 km out and back): Slightly longer, the Evan-Thomas Fireroad combined with the Wedge Connector trails is another fantastic option. Starting at the Evan-Thomas parking lot, this gentle trail is perfect for those wanting a taste of the natural beauty of Kananaskis without the challenge of steep inclines. If you want to make it all the way to Wedge Pond, you can even tack on an optional 2.2 km to your journey before making your way back.

Bill Milne (10 km out and back): If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, this longer trail is a must-try. While it’s stretched out, it remains beginner-friendly with its predominantly level terrain and wide tracks. Plus, the views along the way are absolutely unmatched.

3. Mount Shark

A bit off the beaten path, Mount Shark offers a more secluded skiing experience. Built as a training facility and alternate ski racing venue for the 1988 Olympics, this unique ski zone is characterized by its sprawling meadows, thick woods, and the occasional sighting of winter wildlife. It’s a haven for those looking to deeply connect with nature while gliding on finely groomed tracks.

Trail Recommendations:

Orion Loop (2 km loop): This trail is a gentle introduction to the greater expanses of Mount Shark. With its moderate length and inviting terrain, it’s no wonder it’s a favourite among novice skiers. You may even catch a glimpse of some biathletes training at the biathlon range!

Virgo Loop (2.8 km loop): A short loop in Mount Shark, but it packs a punch in terms of beauty. Perfect for those still finding their ski legs or looking for a quick tour of the area. Keep an eye out for signage – if you’re not careful, this loop can lead you to an optional intermediate/difficult stint.

Watridge Lake (7.4 km out and back): Make your way to Watridge Lake through a serene trail that promises both tranquility and a touch of adventure. Suitable for beginners, this trail offers a delightful mix of forested stretches and open meadows.

Where to rent gear

Trail Sports – lessons also available

Kananaskis Outfitters – lessons also available

GearUp Mountain Sport and Rentals

Sports Garage

In Canmore and Kananaskis, the joy of cross-country skiing isn’t reserved only for the pros. With a multitude of beginner trails, it’s clear that these regions warmly welcome all. Whether you’re new to the sport or reintroducing yourself to the joy of skiing, these trails promise a delightful, safe, and memorable experience. Grab your skis, embrace the chill, and let the mountains guide your journey.

*Please use caution and check the trail conditions before attempting the trails.

In Canmore and Kananaskis, our natural ecosystems and stunning landscapes are the heart and soul of our local mountain culture. Before your visit, we encourage you to sign the Pledge to the Peaks, committing to mindful exploration to ensure the safety of all inhabitants of the region and preserve the beauty of our unfiltered wilderness for generations to come.