Meet the Volunteers Keeping a Storied Ski Spot Running
The ski, fat bike and snowshoe trails at Shaganappi Point golf course in Calgary are a true labour of love
For the past three winters, a dedicated group of volunteers have ensured people in Calgary have access to free cross-country ski trails in the heart of the city, at Shaganappi Point Golf Course. The trail system is expanding this winter, with the addition of about eight kilometres of shared snowshoe and fat bike trails (also free!).
We recently talked to Linda M., who founded Shaganappi Nordic Operations Club, aka SNO, in late 2019. The volunteer-run non profit manages the winter trails at Shaganappi.
Linda is now SNO’s grooming and track setting lead, focused on outdoor operations. We wanted to learn more about the new trail system from her, and we did, but we also heard about Shaganappi’s storied ski past and the volunteers working hard behind the scenes to make this area enjoyable every winter. Here’s our dispatch.
Driving range corduroy at Shaganappi Point Golf Course, featuring views of downtown Calgary. All photos courtesy of Shaganappi Nordic Operations Club.
When Linda learned the Calgary Ski Club, the organization that had managed winter operations at Shaganappi Point golf course for decades, was leaving the role, she jumped into action. “My main drive was I just wanted better ski conditions for myself and for everybody else,” she says.
Linda learned to ski at Shaganappi in the 1970s at age six, back when it was a downhill ski area. Another dedicated SNO volunteer, now in his 80s, used to instruct skiing at Shaganappi.
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Linda has vivid memories of learning to ski here: the rope tow for beginners that stretched from what is now the driving range up to the clubhouse; skiing down a narrow but “very fun” path in the Bow River valley; the loud snowguns and the cloud of water from snowmaking that froze on your skin and made you really cold.
Those childhood ski lessons eventually led Linda to a career in the downhill ski industry, instructing and patrolling at ski areas in Canada and abroad. Still, Shaganappi holds a special place for her. “I just love the fact that it's a bit of wilderness, right in the heart of Calgary. And of course, there's spectacular views of downtown,” she says.
A family ski at Shaganappi.
Linda is working hard to share those benefits with others. “I want to make Shaganappi for everybody,” she says. “Especially with the Chinook systems that we have, skiing can be just terrible if we don't have enough snow to actually renovate it. That’s when alternative activities are great, like snowshoeing and fat biking.”
This winter’s new snowshoe and fat bike trails complement the existing seven kilometres of ski trails. The new trails were made possible with financial support from Bow Cycle.
New fat bike and snowshoe trails.
In addition to the views and wilderness, a feature we love about Shaganappi is how accessible it is. You can take your skis (or snowshoes or fat bike) on the CTrain, get off at Shagnappi Point LRT station, and walk about five minutes.
Over the past few winters, Linda has had fun learning the art and science of trail grooming, with mentorship from groomers at Confederation Park Golf Course and West Bragg Creek. She dreams of better grooming equipment, but for now, SNO uses old equipment and snowmobiles inherited from the Calgary Ski Club.
They recently built their own roller for grooming, the result of numerous volunteers coming together and giving their various skills. The trails at Shaganappi Point Golf Course are a true labour of love.
Look at those ski tracks!
While Linda initially set out to improve ski conditions for herself, she says all her work helping with grooming and managing the organization means she doesn’t actually have that much time left to ski. “It’s still really fun, though, because you’re kind of like a secret Santa in a way,” she says. “You spend all this time grooming the ski trails at night, and then the next day it’s super busy and there’s all these people enjoying your work. It’s so rewarding to see that.”
She has lots of ideas about what Shaganappi could offer in the future, from on-site rentals and lockers to lessons and programs. Already, a local ski club hosts weekly training sessions at Shaganappi, and a non-profit offers an adapted nordic ski program.
Ultimate Para Sports Association runs programs at Shaganappi Golf Course.
“There's so much potential to grow Shaganappi,” Linda says. “Our focus is to have free winter recreation that is right in the heart of Calgary, and we're just doing our best as volunteers to make things better.”
Thanks to all the SNO volunteers who work hard to make Shaganappi Point Golf Course a winter destination! From clearing snow in parking lots and keeping trails in tip-top shape, to maintaining grooming equipment and fundraising to cover costs, there’s a mountain of behind the scenes work involved in making winter recreation possible.