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 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?
And usually quite cold too! The initial ski along Healy Creek trail is generally mundane.
Thank goodness we have a broken trail to follow! Zosia crosses a bridge over Healy Creek at the start of the trail to Simpson Pass.
Finally starting to get some views! Zosia traverses an open bench east of Simpson Pass.
Definitely a double-black diamond run! Snow-covered boulders make natural moguls.
This is what we toiled all day for! The terrain opens up considerably further to the east of Simpson Pass.
Hee haw! Zosia and Sonny are ecstatic about this ski tour.
Heaven! Twin Cairns looms in the background as the broken trail rises gently over the rolling terrain.
Need more of this! Sonny plows through some powder after a short downhill plunge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

What a glorious place to be on this day!

Zosia crosses the height of land between Simpson Pass and Sunshine Village.  Visible on the horizon are Eagle Mountain (far left), Mount Howard Douglas (left of centre), and Brewster Rock (right).


Alas, all good things must come to an end! The top of Wawa chairlift is visible at right as Zosia approaches the ski resort boundary.
Great! Let's post this picture to Facebook right away! Oddly enough, there is a Wi-Fi hot spot at the ski resort boundary near the top of Wawa chairlift.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Worst skiing of the day! Zosia joins the crowd going down the resort's ski-out.
A marvelous ski tour which is superior to Healy Pass IMO. Total Distance:  18.8 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 43 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  825 metres

GPX Data