In Praise of Skiing at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Everything you need to know about one of our favourite places to cross-country ski
Hello 2023! We hope you had a restful holiday and enjoyed some time outside. Today we’re taking you to one of our favourite spots to cross-country ski in Alberta… Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
There are a lot of great places to cross-country ski in Calgary and near the city, with West Bragg Creek being a perennial favourite because of its proximity. However, if you’re willing to venture a little farther and enjoy a day trip, both Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country offer many options.
Today we’re focusing on Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (PLPP), located in Kananaskis Country. It’s about a 1.5 to 2 hour drive from central Calgary, depending on where you park.
We first became acquainted with skiing at this spot in university, when we’d pile into a car with friends, all chip in for gas, and enjoy the free cost of recreating at PLPP. However, that’s since changed. You now need to pay for a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to park your vehicle here.
In addition to about 85 kilometres (!) of groomed ski trails, PLPP also has snowshoe and fatbike trails. And in the summer, there’s plentiful hiking options, including Northover Ridge, a premier multi-day backpacking trip we have loved. PLPP is also home to William Watson Lodge, which makes nature more accessible to people with disabilities, seniors and their families. The lodge offers year-round, barrier-free wilderness accommodations. It reopened this summer after being closed for two years for renovations.
Back to skiing… why do we love to cross-country ski in PLPP? It’s a scenic mountain spot, where the snow is often plentiful and the grooming outstanding. There’s no dogs allowed, which is a big difference from West Bragg Creek. The terrain is extremely varied — open and flat in parts, beautifully treed in others. It’s also really big, with many different options for where to park and where to ski.
Given all those trails, another advantage is PLPP’s great signage. You’ll find signs like the one pictured below throughout the park (and you can find that same map online).
One note of caution… there are a few steep hills here! As in, really really steep. However, they are well marked, and you’ll often see people taking off their skis and walking up or down them.
So, given so many kilometres of trails, where should you go? It’s really up to you! We like to check the trail report and grooming map, both available online, and use those to help plan a route. If you’re new to cross-country skiing or heading out with small kids, skiing from the Pocaterra parking lot is a great option because there’s a warming hut there.
In mid-December, Cailynn did one of her favourite longer loops, parking at Elk Pass and skiing Elk Pass to Tywhitt to Lookout (which truly lives up to its name; see pic below), then down Hydroline and back to the parking lot. Blueberry Hill is another recommended route for experienced skiers seeking views (the picture at the top of this post is from that trail).
A memorable trip option — if you’re lucky enough to get a booking — involves staying overnight at the Alpine Club of Canada’s Elk Lakes Cabin. It’s located in BC but can be accessed from PLPP.
Wherever you go in PLPP, you’re in for a treat! This is truly a special spot in the province. We’ve loved our many trips here over the years, in all seasons, and we leave each visit feeling so lucky to live where we do, with outstanding wilderness and majestic mountains nearby.