Skogan Pass Tour

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.

Early morning drive. Straight ahead is the Hummingbird Plume Fire Lookout. The trail system is on the other side. We will start our day to the left of Nakiska Ski Resort. Skogan Pass is further right, out of view.

Gear

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.

Overview

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.

The Ribbon Creek parking lot and day use area. Ribbon Peak is catching the morning sunrise.

Main Trail

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.

This is the trail head for Skogan Pass. Take the left hand Hidden trail to start.
As you can see, conditions were icy. This area was packed down, but it was track set a bit further up. I put on my short skins immediately, which really saved me.
Nakiska Ski Resort. This was the home of the 1988 Winter Olympics alpine races. Ski straight across the base to the other side, ignoring the funny looks from the downhill skiers.
Ski fully across the base of Nakiska to the far lift line. There is an obvious opening in the trees that marks the beginning of the cross-country ski trail system.

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.

Most of the intersections have maps. If you go right, this takes you down to the Troll Falls trail. We took this connector on the way back for a quick stop at the falls. For Skogan Pass, turn left.

We skied this section for another 1 km, where it automatically joined up with another trail. We turned right to keep heading uphill.

The trail hooks up with a main road.

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.

There are no signs here, other than a small picture of a cross-country skier on the far right of the other trail. It was early in the day, and the chat was flowing, otherwise I might have noticed my navi error sooner. Oh well. That extra 110 m put us over the 1,022 m elevation gain for the day, and that was a very good thing.

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.

This is the Skogan Pass / Sunburst trail junction. To continue to Skogan Pass, go left on the main trail. To do the Sunburst trail to Hummingbird Plume fire lookout, turn right. The skier shown is on the Sunburst trail.

Hummingbird Plume Fire Lookout

After veering right at the Skogan/Sunburst junction, we continued uphill for about 1.5 km to a T intersection.

T Intersection of Sunburst, Hummingbird (right) and High-Level (left).

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.

We had to walk to the end of the area, and down through the trees to see the view. Worth it as you get unparalleled views up and down the Highway 40 valley. Across the valley is Wasootch.

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.

The old Hummingbird Plume fire lookout is now badly dilapidated. It’s a shame these old buildings have been left to rot. They would make ideal warming shelters in the winter.

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′).

Coming down from Hummingbird Plume, this is the Sunburst (left) and High-Level (right) intersection. If you are just doing the fire lookout, then retrace your steps back on Sunburst. If you are going up to Skogan Pass, then go right on the High-Level trail.
This is the end of the High-Level trail, where it automatically connects with the Skogan Pass trail. Turn right here to continue up to the pass.

Skogan Pass

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.

To the left is the lower intersection with Skogan Loop. You could go up this way. It is a longer, more gradual uphill. I prefer doing it the other way, because the elevation is gained on less km. Plus we had a long run down with views of Nakiska.
This is the long straight bit as we climbed up using the cut line. Not great scenery. Good thing I had excellent company on both my trips.

Then we veered left a bit to go UP the contour lines to gain some elevation and reach the Skogan Loop intersection.

The Skogan Pass / Skogan Loop intersection. Go RIGHT (straight head) to continue up to Skogan Pass. Turn LEFT to do the Skogan Loop trail. The woman on the left was warning us about how bad the downhill from Skogan Pass would be. I’m not sure if we just had good conditions, but we both felt it was a fairly straight-forward ski. If you’ve had problems on this section, let me know.

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.

The view of Mount Collembola on the way to Skogan Pass. This is one of the few mountain views on this otherwise fully treed route.
The view from the top of Skogan Pass. Closest mountain on the left is Wind Ridge. Behind it are the Three Sisters. On the right, the closest mountain is Pigeon, with Grotto behind. Too bad I don’t have photoshop to remove the power lines…

Distance to Skogan Pass from Ribbon Creek (no detours, one way) is 10.2 km, with an elevation gain of 624 m (2,050′).

Skogan Loop

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.

We turned left at the first Skogan Loop / Skogan Pass intersection, and began climbing back up again.

Once at the high point, it was a quick and fun run back to the main Skogan Pass trail.

On the way down Skogan Loop trail I was treated to a great view of Nakiska. This isn’t even the best view, but it was all I could get by the time I slowed down enough to take a photo.

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.

This is the lower end of the Skogan Loop trail as it connects with Skogan Pass. Turn right to continue downhill, and 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

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 are now back at the Troll Falls intersection. Go left (downhill) to reach Troll Falls. Continue straight to return to Ribbon Creek.

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.

As this was solid packed snow, we stashed the skis for the short walk to the falls.
This is the lower or main Troll Falls. There are falls above, but as this was already a 30 km day, decided we’d finally had enough.
This was one of about a million signs to stay on the trail. Rock falls are very common in the Rockies. Also, with the millions of people here, trail degradation is a real issue. Please don’t be part of the problem.

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.

I only found one troll doll.

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.

Walking back to the Troll Falls parking lot. From there, we walked the short distance to the Ribbon Creek road, which connected us with the track set that brought us back to the parking lot.

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.

If you found this trip report useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

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)

Here is the FULL tour of the Skogan Pass area, including Hummingbird Plume fire lookout, Skogan Pass, Skogan Loop, and Troll Falls. It’s a big day, but worth the effort. Avoid my navigation error – line jutting out on the left.
This trip has lots of ups and downs. It looks like the top of Skogan Loop is higher than Skogan Pass by a slight margin. The second bump on the left is my navigation error.
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Posted in Adventures, Skiing
33 comments on “Skogan Pass Tour
  1. moragnoffke says:

    Wow. Magnificent! What a great way of enjoying life, nature and your exercise 🌹🌷💕❤️

    • alisendopf says:

      I agree! I do all types of skiing but I have to say, I LOVE my light touring gear. I’ve had the skis for over 20 years, and I cannot find anything wrong with them. I will be so happy if they last another 20 years.

      • moragnoffke says:

        Sounds like you made a great investment in them 👌💕 it’s amazing how some things do just last and last. Do you find that some items of clothing are your favorites and you can’t do without them? I sometimes feel like I have to have a mourning ceremony over some items when they finally pass on 😊

      • alisendopf says:

        Oh, yes, that is SO true. I do mourn when I have to say goodbye to a favourite bit of clothing. I am not a good shopper, so I only buy what I love, and then I keep it forever. As for ski gear clothing, today I wore a pair of pants that are also 20 years old. Everyone else had the newfangled version, but as there was nothing wrong with my pants, I just couldn’t justify saying goodbye to these old faithful’s.

        It sounds like you’re a kindred spirit who also values things for their intrinsic value. What’s your favourite gear or clothing?

      • moragnoffke says:

        Yes I am a kindred spirit. I have always loved clothes. In my youth I had dreams of being a fashion designer but faced the fact that I am in individualist. I think clothes have the potential to express who I am and how I feel on a certain day. Mostly I like comfortable clothing that fits well. Each season sees an ensemble of favorites. I have gone through quite a metamorphosis of late. I have garments that date back 20 years just this week I grappled to say goodbye to a dear garment that is 14 years old and to my mind is in perfect condition but my body shape has changed so much it just doesn’t look great on me. 8 years ago I had breast cancer and had a double mastectomy; although I had implants they are quite a bit smaller than my original breasts. So the fit of a lot of my clothes changed, but I continued to I hang onto them. Now that I have lost weight I am facing the fact that they just don’t flatter me. I used to sew my own clothes in my twenties and now I have taken to up cycling or altering many of my garments because I am a keen environmentalist. I think this summer, with the impact of covid and my new shape, I am loving the freedom of shorts and t-shirts. They are like a second skin. In actual fact I dug out a pair of old favorites from 20 years ago because they fit again. Oh dear, thinking about it, probably some people see me as having no sense of fashion 🤔😂🤭

      • alisendopf says:

        First off, I am so glad you made it through breast cancer. You are so strong to be able to talk about it. Thank you for sharing.

        Good for you on losing the weight. I think that is something all women can relate to. I have a pair of lime green shorts that I absolutely love and am NOT giving away in the hopes that one day I will be able to fit into them once more. I don’t care if they are not in fashion!

        You sound like a real fashion enthusiast. I admire anyone with a sense of style!

      • moragnoffke says:

        Thank you it took me a while before I felt ready to share but I blogged about it last year and it was great closure for me.
        It’s wonderful to fit right back into smaller clothes. I had this feeling of… “I did it, I really did it” 😊
        Thank you for the compliment 🤗

      • alisendopf says:

        I bet it was very cathartic, and helpful for other women going through the same thing.

        And hell yeah! I bet it felt great to fit into those smaller clothes! Woot! Woot!

      • moragnoffke says:

        👍💕

  2. Msdedeng says:

    Great pictures, and thank you for the captions.
    The frozen waterfall is awesome!

  3. This sounds like quite the adventure! Talk about cross-country skiing with a view. Glad there was some decent snow on Skogan Pass, even if the first stretch was a bit icy. The detour to Troll Falls looks like it was well worth it. I found the picture of the troll doll hilarious. Who comes up with this stuff? Ha.

    • alisendopf says:

      I know, right? I actually have no idea even why it’s called Troll Falls.

      How is the cross-country skiing out there? Have you been getting out? Or is that shut down too? I have seen a LOT of people from Ontario at Lake Louise these last few weeks. People want to ski.

      • The cross-country skiing out here hasn’t been the greatest. We’ve had a mild winter so far and there hasn’t been much snow. I’m not surprised that people in Ontario have been flocking to Lake Louise. People want a change of scenery, and yes, they want to ski. And Lake Louise is simply stunning.

      • alisendopf says:

        Well, if it ever strikes you to come out here for skiing, do let me know!!! I would love to give you a private tour of Louise.

      • That would be amaaaazing!!! Something to look forward to after the pandemic / vaccine roll-out.

  4. The whole description is a proof of your passion. You have told all details so clearly. What an adventure!!

  5. What a great place to see .Not sure if I have ever seen a frozen waterfall.

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