January 15, 2021
It must have been at least 15 years since I last skied Skogan Pass. I rarely come here because it’s in the Chinook zone, and the snow is often eaten up by the warm winds faster than I can get out there. Places like Elk Pass are guaranteed good snow conditions all winter, so I tend to opt for the longer drive. Despite the less than optimal conditions on Friday, I made to decision to come here because I had a friend who needed to run, and this was the best way I could tire her out.
The area had been track set two days prior, but the lower elevations were already sun modified / iced up. It would take several kilometers and a few hundred meters of elevation gain before we found real snow. Still, with the proper equipment and good technique, we enjoyed a full day of just under 30 km, and over 1,000m of elevation. Not bad!
This tour takes in EVERYTHING in the area: Hummingbird Plume Fire Lookout, Skogan Pass, Skogan Loop, and Troll Falls. Feel free to make up your own tour. I did have a navigation error that added on a few KM, so anyone repeating this will have an easier time.
Cross-country ski equipment. No gators, but I threw in a pair of short skins that saved me from hours of herringbone. My buddy was not so lucky.
Area Map and Winter Conditions
To check conditions, visit the official Kananaskis website. They have daily updates on grooming and new snow.
From the Ribbon Creek Parking Lot, head towards Nakiska Ski Resort. Cross the base, and pick up the track set trail on the other side. Head up the Skogan Pass trail to Sunburst trail. To reach Hummingbird Plume, turn right. On the return from Hummingbird Plume, take the right hand High-Level route to reconnect with the Skogan Pass trail. At the Skogan Loop connector, keep straight up for the Skogan Pass viewpoint. On the return from Skogan Pass, turn right at the Skogan Loop intersection. Enjoy a final bout of uphill before the trail finally heads down, down, down to the beginning. We took the Troll Falls connector as we wanted the full tour, however I would avoid this area in the future and instead ski back to the Ribbon Creek parking lot.
Parking and Trail Head
Back in the day, we would park in the lot on the right hand side of the Nakiska access road. This is now the Troll Falls parking lot. I remember skiing up from there, but it is now so packed from walkers/snowshoers heading to Troll Falls that it is not worth it. Instead, we drove to the Ribbon Creek parking lot. The cross-country ski track setting starts here.
From the Ribbon Creek parking lot, head north on Hidden Trail. This goes past the Nakiska Ski Resort parking lot, and right into the base area of Nakiska.
Once back on the main cross-country ski trails, we headed for the main Skogan Pass trail. The first intersection is the Troll Falls connector at the 1.9 km mark. Go straight for Troll Falls (which we took on the way back), but turn left to head towards Skogan Pass.
We skied this section for another 1 km, where it automatically joined up with another trail. We turned right to keep heading uphill.
Everything was going well, until the next intersection which is just 100 m further along this road. We accidentally stayed on the main road and veered left, instead of crossing the snow to remain on the Skogan Pass trail. This mistake added an extra 2 km and 110 m elevation onto our day.
After skiing back down to the intersection shown above (go RIGHT here), we continued on the main Skogan Pass Trail until the Sunburst intersection. Here we had a choice. Veer Left to continue straight up to Skogan Pass, or veer Right to visit the old Hummingbird Plume fire lookout. I love the fire lookouts, so off we went.
Hummingbird Plume Fire Lookout
After veering right at the Skogan/Sunburst junction, we continued uphill for about 1.5 km to a T intersection.
This is the intersection that makes Sunburst into a loop with the High-Level trail. You can turn Left here and finish the loop, or turn Right to ski an extra 500m to reach Hummingbird Plume.
We skied the extra 500m and reached the end point. Initially, we were disappointed because the trees had grown up and blocked the view that I was SO anticipating. However, a quick jaunt down the side of the hill revealed the view in all it’s glory.
After gawking at the view, I checked out the old fire lookout. This one seemed smaller than the one at Mount Burke. Perhaps because it was less remote and lower elevation, it was easier for people to run up and down.
We returned the 500 m to the Sunburst / High-Level intersection. Here we stayed right to join High-Level to complete the loop back to the main Skogan Pass Trail. The Sunburst / Hummingbird side trip is about 4 km and 130 m of elevation gain (429′).
Once back on the main Skogan Pass trail, we continued up, up and then up.
First we went UP the power line, passing the lower intersection of Skogan Loop on the way.
Then we veered left a bit to go UP the contour lines to gain some elevation and reach the Skogan Loop intersection.
Then we did the final up to the actual Skogan Pass. The view from the pass is gorgeous, but it was very windy. We took our photos, and then quickly descended down to an open area to eat lunch.
Distance to Skogan Pass from Ribbon Creek (no detours, one way) is 10.2 km, with an elevation gain of 624 m (2,050′).
After lunch, we skied down to the first Skogan Loop trail intersection. If I had looked on the topo map, I’d have seen that the initial part of this loop has a fairly good incline – about 360m of elevation gain. I could tell from the ski patterns that only a few people had come here since it was groomed two days earlier. No matter – we were here for KMs and elevation, so off we went. This trail is again mostly in the trees, but we did get tantalizing glimpses of mountains as we climbed.
Once at the high point, it was a quick and fun run back to the main Skogan Pass trail.
The end of the loop deposited us at the first Skogan Pass/Skogan Loop intersection further down the mountain. The Skogan Loop trail is 2.7 km and 360 m elevation.
We turned Right to continue heading downhill on the main Skogan Pass trail, back to the start.
If you don’t want to make the detour to Troll Falls, then continue straight down from here, retracing your steps back to the Ribbon Creek parking lot.
Troll Falls is super-duper uber popular right now. Even on a Friday, this place was PACKED with people. As I would probably never come here specifically, we decided to make the detour for a quick visit.
We retraced our steps back downhill to the start of the Troll Falls intersection. This area is heavily trafficked and packed down. It was pure ice, but thankfully we were going downhill so just had to hope our edges held.
At the bottom of the hill is the final intersection. We stashed our skis before walking the final short distance to the Falls.
Keep an eye out for the cute little troll dolls that people have put here. Please do not take them home, otherwise others cannot enjoy them. If you have extra dolls at home, please bring one or two and hide them along the way.
Troll Falls Return to Ribbon Creek Parking Lot
From Troll Falls, we had a choice to make. Either climb back up that super icy trail to regain the Hidden trail back to the parking lot, or stay low and walk back to the road. We chose to walk back along the road, and then hook up with the Ribbon Creek track set that took us back to the car. If it had been good snow, it’s probably preferable to climb back up to Hidden trail.
This was a FULL tour of the entire Skogan Pass trail system. It took us about 6 hours, including the unfortunate detour, but I did have fun exploring everything, especially since I do not come here too often.
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Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: Friday, January 15, 2021
Group: Two (Alisen and Sonya)
Distance: 29.42 km (includes navigation error of about 2 km).
Elevation: 1,022 m (3,373′) Includes navi error that put us over the 1,000m mark.
Time: 6 hours (includes lunch & breaks)