Simpson Pass Loop
Zosia Zgolak and I went ski touring near
Simpson Pass in Alberta's Banff National Park on 29 November 2020.
We would do a loop via Healy Creek and Simpson Pass similar to one
described in Chic Scott's Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies
except in reverse. As evidenced in trip reports by
Bill Kerr and
Steven Song, the reverse (counter-clockwise) direction has the
advantage of avoiding some tricky route-finding associated with
descending past cliff bands east of Simpson Pass. Much of the
impetus for our ski tour was also knowing from
Avalanche.ca that someone else had
done it just the day before and had reported no significant avalanche
activity (hazard was rated Low-Moderate-Considerable on the day we went).
Most importantly, we would have a broken trail to follow most of the way.
Starting from Sunshine Village Ski Resort's gondola base, Zosia and I
skied along the well-traveled Healy Creek trail for about six kilometres
to a signed junction with the trail to Simpson Pass. As expected,
the trail to Simpson Pass was already broken, and we enjoyed a fairly
straightforward climb through forest to an open bench below some cliffs
east of the pass (our broken trail did not quite go all the way to the
actual pass). We then made a long traverse to the northeast along
the base of the cliffs until we broke out into the open glades north of
Twin Cairns. This was a glorious place to ski on this day with
excellent snow conditions, bright sunshine, and hardly a breath of wind.
We eventually climbed over the height of land between Simpson Pass and
Sunshine Village and subsequently entered the ski resort boundary at the
top of Wawa chairlift. From there, we descended the ski resort's
groomed runs all the way back to the gondola base. The only
negative aspects of the entire trip came at the end when we had to dodge
the usual weekend crowds at the ski resort and when we had our ski bases
scraped by numerous rocks on the lower reaches of the ski-out.
Regardless, this turned out to be a surprisingly wonderful ski tour
thanks largely to having a broken trail and great ski conditions.
With such a fabulous start to the new ski season, I am burdened by a
nagging question: Is the skiing going to be all downhill from here?
Zosia crosses the height of land between Simpson Pass
and Sunshine Village. Visible on the horizon are
Eagle Mountain (far
Howard Douglas (left of centre), and Brewster Rock (right).