Iron Springs Loop at WBC

Multiple Times per Year

We are incredibly fortunate to have the West Bragg Creek cross-country ski trails. They are close to home (Calgary and area), the volunteer track setters are amazing, and the snow is usually in great shape, even when the rest of the area is wet from chinooks.

West Bragg Creek (WBC) can be incredibly busy, especially over the last few years with the addition of new trail users – snowshoers and fat bikes. However, as these two groups now have their own set of trails, the likelihood of bumping into them on the trail is limited. With the increased users, WBC has seen a lot of upgrades, including a much larger parking lot, several new outhouses, and even a warming hut.

To avoid a super busy parking lot, either go early, or later in the day. Showing up around noon on a weekend is a recipe for disaster. If you can go weekdays, even better. If you can ski at night, then you’ll have the place to yourself.

Iron Springs 3

Night skiing at West Bragg Creek. The moon is directly ahead of us, but is only a thin crescent. It set long before we were done skiing. Everyone had a headlamp, but only the lead skier used it.

Gear

I have a pair of Karhu Criterium waxable skis that I bought in 1999. They have metal edges that I never sharpen, and the bases are thick with wax from the past twenty years. I do give them a good scrape every now and again, especially to remove the build-up of pine needles after a good windstorm blows them over the trails.

I love my Alpina “backcountry” boots, which means they are thicker and warmer than regular cross-country boots, but also heavier. I need the thicker bar on the bindings too.

Is this total overkill for cross-country skiing? You bet! In my defense, I usually go light touring, so I wear these up Burstal Pass, Chester Lake, Rummel Lake, Boom Lake… I own three sets of ski gear (Light touring, Downhill and Backcountry (AT)), so to buy a set of classic ski gear doesn’t make sense for me.

Overview

The Iron Springs loop is ideal if you want a good workout. It is all ups and downs, with a few fun twists and turns thrown in to keep it interesting. You must be good skiing downhill, or want to increase your skills, for this loop. There is an option to add an extra 2 km at the far end.

Please note that this loop can be done from either direction, but I LOVE heading out on the east side (Iron Springs), and returning on the west side (Elbow). So, these directions will only work if you start in the same direction.

I highly recommend that you read these instructions while following along on the West Bragg Creek Trail map.

Trail Head

Park anywhere in the WBC parking lot. Make your way to the South Parking lot (do not park in the Equestrian lot). Find the outhouse (only one on that side), and start from here. Head East along the track (heading back towards Bragg Creek). Cross the bridge, and start up the short but somewhat steep hill.

Main Trail

At the top of the hill, turn right onto Sundog Loop. Continue up this hill (heading south), crossing the East Crystal Line trail. Stay on the Sundog trail for 2.2 km (your total distance will be more from the parking lot). At this 2.2 km intersection, continue straight (south) to get onto the Iron Springs trail (Sundog makes a sharp right to return to the base).

Stay on Iron Springs for 2.8 km, ignoring all multi-use trails that cross your path. This section is quite up and down. At the top of hills, I like to go one at a time, with the strongest skier going last as sweep.

At the Iron Springs 2.8 km mark, you will come to a sharp right turn in the trail. It’s a big open area, so lots of room to make the turn, but if you’ve got some good speed…well, lets just say I’ve seen (and been involved in) some pretty good wipe-outs on this corner.

Turn RIGHT here to continue on the Iron Springs trail. If you veer left, you are now on the Iron Creek trail, which takes you back to Bragg Creek. Don’t miss this turn.

From the right turn, ski for another 700 m. You are now at the intersection with a picnic table on your right. This is the ideal spot to eat your granola bar and have a sip from your thermos or water bottle. It’s also the spot to decide if you want to add on the extra 2 km loop.

To avoid the extra loop, simple turn right. Pick up the directions below the Extra Loop description

Extra Loop

Please note that this section is not always track set, especially after a major snowfall. It does get done, but last. Please also note that not many people come down here. I don’t like doing it when skiing alone just in case something happened.

To take the extra loop, continue straight ahead. The trail makes several lazy turns as it winds its way to the bottom of the hill. After 1.3 km, you will intersect with the Elbow Trail. Turn RIGHT (north) to return to the trail head. If you turn left, you are heading towards Highway 66 and will arrive at the Fullerton Loop trail.

Stay on the Elbow trail for 900 m, which is all more or less uphill. You are now at the short connector from the picnic bench.

Return to Parking Lot / Trail Head

From the picnic bench, turn right for 100 m to connect with the Elbow trail. Turn Right (north) to head back to the trail head.

You now have a 2.5 km ski heading north towards the parking lot. There are several ups and downs on this trail, so just keep your eyes open for skiers whizzing downhill towards you from the other direction.

At one point, you can choose to take the Expert or the Easy path. When conditions are good, I like the Expert path, because it ends with a downhill. When temps rise, there is an ice flow up there, which can be a pain. When conditions are not ideal, take the lower Easy track, which is always track set and in great shape.

Iron Springs 1

This is the “Expert” section of the Elbow trail. It veers off to the left, while the regular trail continues straight. As you can see, it’s not track set, the trees are a bit tighter, and there can be soggy / frozen sections.

After this, there is a slog up a hill, but you are rewarded with a steep downhill. Again, go one at a time. This trail section has been upgraded. There used to be an ice flow across the trail right at the bottom when you are trying to turn right. There is now a new culvert so no more natural hazards!

[The video above shows the big downhill, which starts steep and then mellows out. There is ski pole on the left side of the track that marks where the ice flow used to be. The new culvert makes this route so much easier!]

At the end of the Elbow trail, make a Left (west) turn onto Sundog Loop. Then take your immediate next right (north) turn to stay on Sundog Loop.

[The above video shows the final downhill slope of Elbow. Turn left to connect with Sundog Loop again. Make your next immediate right turn to stay on Sundog.]

Continue to ski the Sundog Loop for 1.4 km. At the bottom of the hill, another trail will join in with yours from the left. Stay Right, and continue up the little hill for about 200 m. You are now at a major intersection of multi-use trails. Turn left, and almost immediately you cross the bridge that takes you back to the far end of the West Bragg Creek Parking lot. From here, just make your way back to your vehicle.

Iron Springs 2

This is the bridge across from the parking lot. Always be a friend on the trail. We came across this guy who was unsure which trail led back to the parking lot, so we invited him to join us as we made our way back.

Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date:   December 10, 2019
Group:  Four (Alisen, Mike and two daughters)
Distance:  11.44  km
Elevation:  269 m (888′)
Time:  1 hours 38 minutes

Map

The Iron Springs Loop heads almost due south from the West Bragg Creek Parking lot. At the bottom, you can see the extra 2 km loop. This is easily avoided by taking the short connector after the picnic bench.

Profile

The elevation profile shows lots of up and downs on this trail, which is what I like. I’m not a ‘classic’ skier, and the extra challenge of the hills makes for a great work out.

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Posted in Adventures, Skiing
3 comments on “Iron Springs Loop at WBC
  1. Abirbhav says:

    Beautiful..!! Magical..!!
    So much ice and snow.. ❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️ What else to ask for?
    Hope you had a nice trek..!! Thanks for sharing.. 🙂

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