A Beginner's Guide to Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park
A Beginner’s Guide to Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park
By Jane Marshall
Canmore is a place of athletes. The mountainous landscape draws the world’s elite. In summer, you’ll see them roller skiing up steep grades and trail running, their impressive thighs efficiently powering them across rugged terrain. In winter, you’ll find them at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
I’ve heard great things about this facility, but I must admit — as a novice cross country skier, I’m a little intimidated.
To quell my nervousness I decided to reach out to the Nordic Centre to learn what to expect — and ensure I won’t get in the path of fast moving skiers and be ‘that person.’
A warm welcome and a tour of the facilities puts my fears to rest. There’s something here for everyone.
Q&A with Robin Mazenc, Acting Visitor Experience and Marketing Supervisor
Jane: This winter will be my first time skiing at the Nordic Centre. I have a basic pair of cross country skis. I’m pretty new at this. Where do I go?
Rob: Stop by the CNCPP day lodge (or give us a call) to chat with the Visitor Experience team. They’ll give you an update on the latest conditions, a trail map and some recommendations on their own favourite ski loops.
Jane: I know Canmore is a place of high performance athletes. Olympic athletes. What should I keep in mind as a beginner? And should I be intimidated?
Rob: Start on easy trails first! Our most popular trail is called Banff Trail and is an easy out and back of 11km. 6km is on man-made snow, which guarantees good track setting and grooming early in the season. The Cross Country Stadium is also a good place to start. It’s a wide flat area which is the perfect set up to practice your balance and skills. Do not be intimidated by our high performance athletes — they often train early in the morning mid-week, and with 65km of trails, we have plenty of room for all abilities to enjoy. Be sure to take a peek at biathletes training at high speed near the biathlon range, and be inspired by their speed and control on the skis! With three different levels of trails (easy green, blue moderate and black difficult), some rolling hills and spectacular views, there’s terrain for everyone.
Jane: Where can I ski? Will I be skiing on a set loop, or are there trails?
Rob: We have a network of 65km of trails with approximately 25km of them with man-made snow. Our natural snow ski trails are more weather dependant, but usually by January/February, most of the trail system will see daily grooming and track setting. The Visitor Experience staff pick will be your best bet as they’ll have recent updates on conditions.
Jane: What is Frozen Thunder?
Rob: Frozen Thunder is an early season 2km long ski track allowing training on snow for high performance athletes, as well as public skiing, starting mid-October. Our snowmaking team blows snow into a ‘snow pit’ each winter, then covers it in sawdust over the summer to insulate it. The snow is then trucked and laid out onto the trails in early October. The project is financed and operated through a partnership agreement between Nordiq Canada, Biathlon Canada, Alberta World Cup Academy, Alberta Biathlon, Nordiq Alberta and WinSport with support from the Canmore Nordic Centre. Reserved track times for high performance athletes is from 7 until noon everyday, and non-registered athletes and recreational skiers can access the track after noon.
Jane: How much does it cost?
Rob: Our day pass rates are:
Adult $15, Seniors (55+) $11.25, Juniors (12-17) $11.25 and Child (6-11) $9. We also have season passes available: Adult $180, Senior $135, Junior $135, Child $113 and Family $300. Kids 5 and under get a free pass.
Jane: Are there places where I can warm up? And eat?
Rob: The day lodge is a popular place to warm up and grab a snack. Cornerstone Catering is an on-site partner and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a locally roasted Eclipse coffee, freshly baked muffin, hot lunch or a beer. We also have a warming hut out on the trails in the Mine Meadow, which allows for a lunch break with stunning views of Mount Rundle. With COVID 19, sitting capacity will be restricted this year and all visitors are asked to wear a mask or face covering when inside. Please limit your stay inside to 45 mins during peak visitation days.
Jane: How about lessons? Where can I find information, and why is it a good idea to book a lesson?
Rob: Trail Sports is where you’ll want to stop by for gear rentals and lessons. No matter if you are new to the sport or a seasoned cross country skier, a lesson is always a good idea to avoid bad habits and brush off your technique. All Trail Sports instructors are CANSI certified and offer a wide range of ski school programs, from individual lessons to drop-in classes and weekly courses.
Jane: What makes the Nordic Centre special?
Rob: Its diversity! Either from the variety in terrain to our users. We have first time cross country skiers to multi Olympic medalists skiing here, and all ages. Our oldest season pass holder is 89, and you’ll often see 6-month-old kids being pulled by mom or dad in a ski chariot. The mountain views are absolutely incredible and will leave you in awe. On a clear day, you’ll have the sharp peaks of the Rundle Range by your side, the easily recognizable Three Sisters to the east and Banff’s iconic Cascade Mountain to the west.
Jane: Anything else I should know?
Rob: Be prepared! Our ski trails are considered ‘backcountry’ as soon as you leave the main stadium area. While you’ll never be in avalanche terrain while on our nordic ski trails, winter days are shorter and sunset can bring a sudden drop in temperatures. Dress accordingly, bring water and snacks and always get the latest forecast and snow conditions update from our Visitor Experience staff. While some of our ski trails are lit in the evening, it’s easy to get lost without a headlamp if you are unfamiliar with the trail network.