Stinky Narrows Loop
Arriving in Blairmore, Alberta on the morning of 22 December 2020 after a night of heavy snowfall, Zosia Zgolak and I were a bit confounded about what to do for the day.  Originally, we had plans to ski to the ghost town of Lille, but deep snow made the access road impassable.  The prospect of breaking trail through deep snow for many kilometres also killed our motivation to pursue this plan.  Subsequently perusing a map application on my phone, we discovered a short trail known as Stinky Narrows Loop to the east of town and felt that it would make for a more reasonable ski tour given the inclement weather.  The trail derives its name from a nearby sulphur spring which we also hoped to visit at some point.  The trailhead for Stinky Narrows Loop is coincidentally the same as that for Turtle Mountain (in the southeast corner of Blairmore, turn south from 15 Avenue onto a dirt road opposite the 135 Street cul-de-sac and follow the road to a pullout about 300 metres further), but because the town was still digging itself out from the previous night's winter storm, we elected to park somewhere on the plowed main drag (20 Avenue) and start skiing from there.

From where we parked, Zosia and I crossed to the south side of the train tracks which run through Blairmore and skied along the town's snow-covered streets until we reached the Turtle Mountain trailhead.  Instead of climbing up Turtle Mountain, we followed the continuation of the road--actually, a pipeline right-of-way--up to a low bench overlooking Highway 3.  We skied down the other side of the low bench and continued to follow the pipeline right-of-way to where it drops down a steep embankment to Crowsnest River.  Instead of dropping down, we left the right-of-way here and followed a cut line for a short distance to where it, too, begins to drop steeply to the river.  At this point, the trail veers away from the cut line and enters forest for a short distance before emerging in a glade below some impressive cliffs on the east side of Turtle Mountain's north ridge.  We re-entered forest at the far end of the glade, but the trail narrows considerably here and becomes much more challenging to ski.  In hindsight, we should have turned around at the glade and descended to the river via the pipeline right-of-way.  Instead, we got suckered into following the trail as it snakes its way through much denser forest and on a precariously steep slope.  There is a hairpin turn--the south end of the loop--about 700 metres beyond the glade, and it took us over forty minutes to ski this section while going generally downhill.  The skiing here was unpleasant to say the least, but it only got worse as we turned northward to contour along the river bank.  Much to our chagrin, the trail undulates constantly, and from time to time, it seemingly disappears in thick bush.  In the end, it was easier to just pick up our skis and walk most of this section along the river.

Just as Zosia and I were beginning to tire of this whole miserable endeavour, we surprisingly stumbled upon an unnamed pond with a most singular blue hue.  The pond is tucked between the north end of Turtle Mountain and Highway 3, but it is not visible to passing motorists because of an intervening railway bridge.  The pond is also fed by the aforementioned sulphur spring which accounts for the intriguing colour and the distinct "rotten egg" smell in the vicinity.  After investigating the spring, we discovered a geocache nearby and happily signed the log book before moving on.  Continuing northward, we carefully crossed both the railway tracks and Highway 3 to intersect an interpretive pathway running alongside Crowsnest River.  Turning westward, we skied along the pathway into Blairmore and ultimately back to our starting point without further trouble.
We're basically skiing along a back alley here!

After skiing through the town of Blairmore, Zosia approaches the trailhead for Turtle Mountain.

Still felt a few rocks under the deep snow here!

From the Turtle Mountain trailhead, it is a short but steep climb up to a low bench.

Maybe we should have brought our AT gear...

Zosia prepares to drop down the other side of the low bench along a pipeline right-of-way.

Now that's more like it!

The route finally levels out for awhile and provides enjoyable ski touring.

Still good skiing here. The trail enters some forest.
It's not worth skiing beyond here! The route traverses partway along the base of some impressive cliffs on Turtle Mountain.
Why can't things ever be simple?

The trail becomes increasingly more difficult to ski as it re-enters forest.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Okay, this ain't fun anymore...

Zosia takes off her skis to skirt around a downed tree.

This trail stinks in more ways than one!

Sonny is not happy about walking along the banks of Crowsnest River.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

A surprise awaits ahead...

A small meadow provides relief from some of the bushwhacking along the river bank.  Bluff Mountain dominates the background.


This surprising pond has a remarkable blue hue.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak


Ho, ho, ho! Despite its close proximity to the highway, the unnamed pond is well-hidden from passing motorists.
Smelly! The route name and the pond's remarkable colour are both derived from this sulphur spring.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

It's amazing how many of these I find without even trying! Sonny finds a geocache near the sulphur spring.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

An easy end to our interesting ski tour. After crossing railroad tracks and the highway, Zosia heads back to Blairmore on a pathway beside Crowsnest River.
That's a lot of snow!

Zosia skis on top of a snow bank alongside the main drag (20 Avenue) in Blairmore.

Probably more appropriate for snowshoeing and skiing! Total Distance:  8.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  4 hours 41 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  140 metres

GPX Data