Amazing XC Skiing at Pipestone

by - Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Pipestone Loops near Lake Louise are a fantastic option for intermediate level cross country skiers. It's also where you are guaranteed great views and snow! The trails are frequently trackset, and being just out of town, the trails don't seem to get destroyed by other trail users (who shall remain nameless, but skiers know who I'm talking about). Although conditions were amazing, with about a foot of fresh snow in the days previous, the parking lot wasn't full and we didn't cross paths with too many skiers.

View of Mount Temple from Pipestone Loop
You can make your day as short or long as you like as the trails connect to each other. On my trip with the Calgary Outdoor Club on January 31st, we did Pipestone, Hector, and Drummond trails (some parts more than once) for a total of 24 kilometers. 

Starting out, be sure to close the wildlife gate behind you and go in a counter clockwise direction on Pipestone Loop (13.3 km). This is courtesy and for your safety as there are a few fast and twisty hills! The first part of Pipestone is mostly steady climbing in the trees, but eventually you cross a meadow and shortly after, come to Pipestone Pond. The pond makes a good snack spot as there is plenty of space off the trail for packs and skis. From here, you have many options, but we chose to finish off Pipestone Loop before hitting the other trails.

Pipestone Loop Meadow
Pipestone Pond
Carrying on, you soon get to a fun downhill section. Give a holler as you approach corners, so folks ahead of you can double pole or get off the trail. One of my ski companions sacrificed himself and dove into a snowbank rather than take out a timid skier. Everyone was ok, thankfully! 

Pipestone Loop
After a thrilling ride to the bottom of Pipestone, we headed back up to the pond via Hector Trail. It was a steady, but gentle climb (95 m over 3 km). We then skirted the lower edge of the pond and took Drummond (2.7 km) down to Mud Lake. The hill down to Mud Lake is not as bad as it looks from the top, and is totally worth the short climb on the way back! The view from Mud Lake was amazing!!

YMCA at Mud Lake
Normal people at this point would take Pipestone Trail back to the parking lot (~2 km), but we wanted to do some more hills before heading home. We went back up Drummond to come down Pipestone from Pipestone Pond. So fun!! I am grateful to have gone out with such a strong and capable group! 

Those of you who follow my Facebook page know I've been training for the Birkebiener Nordic Ski Loppet near Edmonton. If you're training for something, want to get more practice on moderate hills, Pipestone Loop is a great course! Do Pipestone first, then cool down on the green trails (Hector, Drummond, and Merlin). I hope to check out the pioneer cabins along Merlin Trail next time! 

Where do you like to ski near Lake Louise?

How to Get There From Calgary

Take Hwy 1 to just past the Lake Louise turnoff. Turn right at "Pipestone Trail Head". 

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