Don't miss cross-country skiing in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta! The Allison-Chinook cross-country ski area is a hidden gem on the continental divide near the southern Alberta/BC border. Well-groomed trails, wildlife and mountain views – this ski area has it all!
Avid hikers, we also enjoy the change of seasons when skis and boots and poles come out of storage. Moving down to the Crowsnest Pass in late spring meant we were leaving our beloved West Bragg Creek cross-country ski trails near Calgary behind. However, little did we know we'd find an equally perfect replacement here in the Pass when winter rolled around again. The Southern Rockies did not disappoint!
The Allison-Chinook cross-country ski trail system is a gently rolling area tucked in the forested slopes beneath Tecumseh Mountain. Likewise, Crowsnest Mountain also stands guard in the northeast. Chinook Lake also provides a beautiful focal point for the 30 or so kilometres of trails that make up this superb little ski area.
There are plenty of green (beginner) and blue (intermediate) trails as well a few kilometres of black (advanced) trails. Moreover, a warm-up hut with a wood stove can be found off the parking lot near the Allison Creek Brood Trout Hatchery Station. Additionally, there is also a small 3-sided shelter with benches for a rest stop up above old cabin trail.
Chickadees call out from the treetops, woodpeckers drum and we ski past tracks of squirrels, snowshoe hare and coyotes. Sun beams light the trail and then around the next corner, the majestic Crowsnest pops into view begging to be photographed.
Smiles getting broader as we follow the twists and turns and ups and downs. Skis glide over fresh snow approaching a downhill run. Our smiles turn to outright grins.
"This is as good as Bragg," comes the first of several acclamations. The West Bragg Trails in Kananaskis Country have been a staple since we lived at the Ranger Station working for Alberta Parks in the early 1990s.
"As good as Bragg…"
I can't help but agree at this moment. The trails are freshly groomed and the wind hasn't scattered debris. While conditions do vary on the Allison-Chinook trails, today they were perfection.
There are more than 30 kilometres of trails in the system. Most are groomed for classic skiing but about 7 km are available for skate skiing. Furthermore, there are some amazing mountain views. On a clear day, Crowsnest and Tecumseh Mountains provide a scenic backdrop.
The trails themselves are named in honour of the local flora and fauna (Cedar, Bull Moose, Otter, Beaver, Marten, Jack Rabbit, Whitetail) and the historic logging industry (Skidder, Haul, Choker, Saw, Cutline). However, most skiers will find it easier to follow the trail junction numbering system.
One of our favourite little loops is heading up Mainline from the parking lot, turning left at Junction 106. From here we work our way up to the shelter at Junction 211. Surprisingly, this is where we usually see a few people (the trails are blissfully quiet compared to those close to Calgary).
Without delay, we pick up the pace on the rolling section above the lake to the campground. Quickly over, we wind our way back to the parking lot past the old, overgrown biathlon range.
Noteworthy: the 1984 Alberta Winter Games were held in the Crowsnest Pass.
The Crowsnest Nordic Ski Club operates in partnership with the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass to groom and maintain the ski and snowshoe trails at Allison. Volunteers actively work on the trails throughout the year however ski trails are groomed and track-set only from December to March.
The trails are available for use by donation or membership. All funds help with costs related to grooming, signage, youth programs and advocacy for non-motorized recreation – love it all! You can find all of the details about the organization, the trails and even trail maps online on the Crowsnest Nordic Ski Club website.
You can access the trails heading east from Coleman, Alberta on Highway 3. Turn north on the signed Allison Creek Road and drive 2.7 kilometres until you cross a cattle guard. Immediately take the left fork and drive another 1.3 km to the parking lot. Ski on!
In need of wax for your skis, a backpack or maybe a complete new set of skis the main street in Blairmore, Alberta has two excellent options. Check out Spry Active and Alpenland Crowsnest Pass. Both stores have the gear you need.
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