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5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

If you’re looking to get outside and make the most of winter why not hit one of these five cross-country ski trails. They are all within an hour of Calgary.

West Bragg Creek

You are spoiled for choice with well over 40 kilometres of cross-country ski trails in the West Bragg Creek area just 45 minutes away from Calgary. When there’s fresh snow this place is magical. Personal favourites include the Telephone Loop if I want a long day of skiing with lots of ups and downs without running into many people; the Iron Springs/Elbow Loop for meadows, stands of aspen, and some fun hills and the Moose Loop – considered the most scenic trail with expansive views, plenty of hills, meadows and views of course of Moose Mountain.

Dogs are allowed but must remain on a leash. There is lots of free parking.

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

Tremendous variety of trails at West Bragg Creek

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

Love the skiing through stands of aspen

Shaganappi Point Golf Course

There are times, especially after a big dump of snow that you don’t want to drive far but you do want to get outside. The Shaganappi Golf Course in Calgary fits the bill. The trails aren’t long – up to about 7 kilometres in length – but you can do several loops and feel like you got a great workout. Of course you can drive but you can also ride the C-train to Shaganappi. Don’t bring your dog.

Skogan Pass from Ribbon Creek 

Ski to Skogan Pass if you want a big workout and a fast, super fun descent. Its 21 kilometres return with an elevation gain of 625 metres. Expect it to take approximately three hours to climb to the pass and under 90 minutes to return. The views from the pass are excellent as are the Nakiska Ski Resort views along the way. Start at the Stoney Trail parking lot off of Mt. Allan Drive.

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

Skiing up to Skogan Pass with Nakiska Ski Resort in the background

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

The view towards Canmore from the pass

Bill Milne Trail 

The flat and easy Bill Milne Trail (a bike path in summer) follows Ribbon Creek from Kananaskis Village all the way to Wedge Pond. It’s 9.7 kilometres one way – but because it’s an out and back trail you can turn around at any point. Enjoy the mountain views no matter what direction you’re going.

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

Superb easy skiing on the Bill Milne Trail when there is fresh snow

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

It’s equally beautiful skiing in the other direction

Canmore Nordic Centre

For skate and classic skiers who like well-groomed trails and all the services – including a well-stocked rental shop along with an onsite restaurant, head to the Canmore Nordic Centre. You’ll find approximately 65 kilometres of trails, 6.5 kilometres of which are lit at night. While there are enough easy trails to keep a beginner happy, there are also loads of intermediate and difficult trails. If you need to warm up, look for the beautiful hut that is centrally located. There is a fee to ski here – ranging from $9 for kids to $15 for adults.

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

Cross-country skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre

What to wear cross-country skiing

I have a tough time when it comes to dressing for cross-country skiing. It’s such an aerobic sport that I warm up quickly even though I’m often starting off in temperatures as low as -25°C. There’s no way I can wear Lycra tops and bottoms (like the skate skiers I see) when it’s like that. I prefer to start warmer and peel off layers as necessary.

As a Sporting Life ambassador I make monthly forays into the store to see what they’ve got that’s new – and what might work for my upcoming adventures. Here’s what I would suggest for cross-country skiing.

Socks

Socks are so personal. I like a lightweight sock no matter what the temperature while my husband prefers a thin merino wool sock as a liner and a thicker one for warmth. The ones I’m using and loving are the Bridgedale socks, a merino wool blend – so they are warm but they’ve got a slim fit. With the wild choice of patterns I can easily find their mate after a wash.

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

Super thin but warm socks for cross-country skiing

Pants – base layer combo

I discovered the most incredible pants made by Arc’teryx – the women’s SS Gama MX. They have a wind resistant outer layer and fleecy inner layer so I don’t even need to wear long underwear with them UNLESS it’s below -20°C. I tried them out in Ontario under very cold conditions over an eight hour snowshoeing trip and they did the trick. I have been looking for exactly this kind of pant for literally years. They don’t bag in the crotch, like most I’ve tried; they flatter and they have two zip pockets and two Velcro closed pockets. They don’t seem to be for sale online so head into the store and you will be wearing these for anything aerobic you plan to do in the winter for years to come. They retail for $249.99.

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

Wear these clothes and you’ll be comfortable cross-country skiing

Tops and base layer

I like merino wool as a base layer and everything I have tried by Icebreaker has been excellent. Choose a zippered top if you have a tendency to overheat. On top of that my preference is a fleece – because once I’m warm enough I can peel off my light-weight down jacket and cross-country ski or snowshoe in the two layers. Sporting Life has just started to carry a Swedish brand called Houdini, a company that designs products with a focus on sustainability and functionality. I picked up the Women’s Hairy Houdi Jacket and despite the fact my son tells me it looks like I’m wearing fur I happen to love it. It’s warm for its weight and packs down well for travel.

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

My Hairy Houdi fleece

Outer jacket

It depends on the temperature but ideally I like to take my light-weight Patagonia down jacket with a hood. It weighs next to nothing and is one of the best long term investments you’ll make as it’s perfect to take on summer backpacking trips as well.

Hats, mitts and neck warmers

I rarely need a neck warmer when I’m cross-country skiing unless it’s bitterly cold – and then I’ll wear a fleecy one for softness. For hats, pick one that covers your ears and offers lots of warmth without being scratchy. I like the Icebreaker Women’s Shuss Cuff Beanie. For mitts again it depends on the day. It it’s really warm I wear nothing but carry a pair of gloves. But if it’s cold I love La Swany Down Mittens.

5 of the Best Places to Cross-country Ski near Calgary

On snowshoes but wearing the Arc’teryx pants, hat, mitts & merino wool underwear

Wear the right clothes, carry the 10 essentials and go have fun cross-country skiing.

NOTE: All of this gear also works well for winter running so you can prep for the Sporting Life 10k that will take place here in Calgary on June 17th.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Maira says:

    Another Amazing blog!!
    Your pictures are stunning, Calgary looks so beautiful in winter haven’t been there during winters, will definitely plan a visit soon
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Johnson says:

    Wow, what an amazing place to visit or doing fun with friends. it seems like you have enjoyed a lot. Through your blog, I get to know about this amazing place. Stunning pictures of this place. Thanks for sharing this post.

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