After a wicked good week of cross-country skiing Calgary, we headed to the edge of the mountains near the hamlet of Bragg Creek and had another glorious ski. The conditions are impeccable everywhere, in spite of the warmer afternoons that we have consistently had all week long. West Bragg was no exception. This is my favourite place to go cross-country skiing near Calgary.
And, my dog was delighted, too.
Cross-country skiing with dogs near Calgary
The majority of this recreation area is off-leash, which is a real treat for us and her.
I’ll do my due diligence here and state the obvious:
- You must pick up after your dog;
- They can only be off-leash if they can be kept under control (just like every other off-leash area anywhere); and,
- It is common courtesy to keep your dog off the tracks as much as possible (to help preserve the quality of the classic skiing).
The off-leash bit starts about 50-200 m down the trail from the parking lot. The distance depends on the trail but you will see a sign giving you the go-ahead.
I bring a good supply of small treats for my food-motivated lab. She knows the command “pathway”, which kicks her to the right side of my skis and into a heel. I do this whenever anyone else is around, otherwise she runs free or tends to trot on my left. Cross-country skiing is a great time to fine tune recall and other commands as all dogs on the trails should be on their best behaviour, because (just like an off-leash city park) the greenspace is for wildlife>people>dogs, in that order.
Be especially diligent when you are approaching an uphill section (with the potential for skiers to come down hill); most cross-country skiers look and feel extremely uncomfortable going downhill on skinny skis and having a dog charge at them (even if in play) can be extremely dangerous and frightening. I choose to make Sally sit and stay for the duration of someone else’s descent when I am ascending (or I will hold her collar or put her on leash for the ascent).
All this said, for those who are not dog lovers and seeing dogs off-leash makes you grumpy, we are so lucky to have so very many choices for cross-country skiing in and around Calgary that are dog-free (or dog on-leash only).
As the area has grown exponentially in use, due to its increased popularity for cross-country skiing, but also fatbiking and snowshoeing, it got a desperately needed makeover this past year. The new changes are great, the only thing missing is to rebuild the hostel that used to be there because it would be such a great family overnighter destination!
Terrain and timing
West Bragg has some wonderful beginner terrain, but the majority of the terrain is definitely intermediate to advanced, at least in the way that there are some good ascents and descents that need some real skill so that you won’t be frustrated nor hurt yourself (or others). Check out the trail descriptions, here.
I adore coming here midweek. It is so quiet and doing an out-and-back on the Mountain Road trail is a great, low pressure way to get some miles on the skis with kids (while the dog gets a run, too, so you don’t have to juggle that ball and squeeze it in to your day on top of your mini-adventure). I would rate this trail as beginner terrain until the Texas gate (a more than long enough out-and-back for most beginner kids). I try to do this whenever we have warmer spells. The girls and I shoosh along, often without mitts, holding hands, singing songs, and being merry. Of course, we’ve had our fair share of meltdowns, but rarely on a warm day (or nothing that a nap in the Chariot couldn’t fix or stopping to build a snowman or have snacks).
This is where you want to go for up-to-date grooming reports. Greater Bragg Creek Trail Association has a Twitter feed, too (handle: @GBCTA_Ski). And, there’s always the venerable SkierBob.ca Trip Reports (see top tabs, then select current month from drop down).
All-in-all, this is a sweet 45 minute drive away and I love it. I hope you do, too. (But, I’m okay if you don’t because that means more for me!)
Consider donating money or time to the West Bragg Creek Trail Association and/or filling up your tank at the Shell station in Bragg Creek (the fuel sponsor for the grooming *…at least in 2016, am trying to confirm this for 2017-18 season).