Crowfoot Mountain

Zosia Zgolak and I completed a ski ascent of Crowfoot Mountain in Alberta's Banff National Park on 6 April 2021.  The popular ski route is described in Chic Scott's Summits & Icefields 1: Alpine Ski Tours in the Canadian Rockies, but I also got a lot of inspiration from Vern Dewit's excellent trip report.  After spending the previous night at a hotel in Lake Louise, Zosia and I enjoyed the benefit of a short thirty-minute drive to the trailhead located near Num-Ti-Jah Lodge (located on the west side of Highway 93 about 36 kilometres north of the junction with Trans-Canada Highway).

Starting from the trailhead, Zosia and I initially kept our climbing skins in our packs and followed a well-established track across frozen Bow Lake.  At the far end of the lake, we attached our climbing skins and continued over a forested hump.  In doing so, we bypassed a gorge to reach an open basin in front of Bow Glacier Falls.  At this point, we turned southward and entered a canyon which is an obvious terrain trap and not a good place to linger when avalanche hazard is significant (moderate across the board on this day).  There were some spots with open water in the canyon, but fortunately, we were able to circumvent all of them.  After traveling for a little less than two kilometres through the canyon, we climbed the east bank and eventually worked our way up into the glaciated valley leading to Crowfoot Mountain.  Still following a skin track, we passed the last trees and worked our way up a series of snow-covered moraines.  The snow felt very stable on this day, and we did not notice any instabilities whatsoever.  The ascent was so smooth and gentle that we did not even notice climbing onto the benign glacier which guards the final steep slope before the summit ridge.

On top of the glacier, Zosia chatted briefly with a guide and his female client who had just skied down the aforementioned steep slope (they did not bother to go tag the summit of Crowfoot Mountain) and were now heading up the nearby minor bump known unofficially as Little Crowfoot.  Somewhat surprisingly, they would be the only other people we would see all day.  From the top of the glacier, we dropped down a short dip before following the guide's tracks up the steep slope.  Where the guide and his client turned around, we ditched our skis and walked along the windswept summit ridge for another 850 horizontal metres to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain.  Despite a chilly breeze, we stuck around on the summit for half an hour to eat some food and check out all the names in the register.

When we left the top, Zosia and I retraced our steps back along the summit ridge to where we ditched our skis.  Except for a short uphill shuffle to get back over the glacier, we enjoyed a glorious downhill run to the canyon.  From top to bottom, snow quality was excellent, and the skiing felt refreshingly effortless.  The last forested section before the canyon was a little trickier to descend, but we both got down safely without a spill.  The ski out the canyon was easy, and while the final uphill section at the gorge bypass was annoying, we managed to get over the forested hump without too much grief.  We were subsequently aided by a nice tail wind as we skied back across Bow Lake to conclude an excellent ski trip.
Staying the previous night in Lake Louise, we only had to drive for about half an hour to get here and start skiing. Luxury!

Zosia starts skiing from the parking lot near Num-Ti-Jah Lodge (closed in winter).

Still feels pretty solid!

Zosia crosses frozen Bow Lake.  Visible across the horizon are St. Nicholas Peak (left), The Onion (left of centre), and Portal Peak (right).


Maybe a scramble in summer?

The end of Crowfoot Mountain's long north ridge towers over Bow Lake.

We've skied on less! The snow is a bit thin in places on the far side of the lake.
Just follow the skin tracks! The route goes into the trees at left to avoid the gorge on the right.
Just a short drop.

Zosia is about to drop down into the basin in front of frozen Bow Glacier Falls.

Not a place to linger when avi hazard is high.

Zosia enters a canyon which is the normal access route for Bow Hut.  In the background is Vulture Peak.

Try not to get your skis wet!

Zosia takes care to avoid some open water in the canyon.

The hut is not obvious, but it's there if you know where to look!

Zosia basks in warm sunshine again high above the canyon.  Bow Hut is actually visible in this photo at upper left.

The views just get better and better from here...

The Onion (left) and Portal Peak (right) are once again revealed as Zosia climbs out of the canyon.  Also visible behind Portal Peak is Mount Thompson.

Still a long ways to go!

The route continues past the last trees and up the valley at left.

Talk about easy route-finding!

The skin track can be seen running all the way up the glaciated valley.


Mount Thompson just went up a bit on my to-ski list! As Zosia climbs higher, the bulk of Mount Thomspon (left) becomes more apparent.  Also notable at right is Mount Jimmy Simpson.
The skin track never felt too steep. Zosia follows the skin track past some impressive cliff bands.
We were hardly aware that we were on a glacier.

This section of the skin track is likely on a glacier.

A guide and his client had just skied down the far slope and were already heading up Little Crowfoot.

Zosia heads into a short dip before the long climb up the far slope.

A beautiful mountain which I will probably never climb.

Mount Balfour comes into view to the south.


Still not sure if this was the highest point, but at least there was a survey marker here. After ditching her skis, Zosia climbs up the windswept summit ridge.  The actual summit is not visible here.
Almost there... Mount Hector is visible beyond the huge cornices hugging the summit ridge.
Of course, the clouds roll in as we arrive at the summit! Zosia is only a few steps away from the summit cairn at left.
With a free breakfast sandwich from our hotel!

Sonny and Zosia take a break on the summit of Crowfoot Mountain (3059 metres).

More than a quarter of a century has passed since I climbed Mount Temple!

The most recognizable peak to the south is Mount Temple.

I would like to ski up some of those peaks...

Wapta Icefield and its many associated peaks fill the view to the west.


Tired of the views yet?

Zosia retraces her steps back along the summit ridge.

We will definitely come back in the future to ski Little Crowfoot.

Back on her skis, Zosia begins the glorious descent.  At left is Little Crowfoot.

I think we're back on the glacier here. Zosia side-steps up a short annoying uphill section.
Better than skiing at a resort and no crowds!

Snow conditions are excellent from top to bottom on this day.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Rip it good!

Zosia rips down the easy slope.

I think the Onion would be a good ski too.

Zosia is about to drop back into the canyon with The Onion in the background.

We're cruising here!

The ski out the canyon is quick and easy.

Another short annoying climb.

Zosia tries to stay as high as possible on the return along the route bypassing the gorge.

We were helped a bit on the return by a nice tail wind.

Zosia is about to ski back across Bow Lake to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.

A superb ski mountaineering objective--one of my favourites! Total Distance:  20.9 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  9 hours 7 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1133 metres

GPX Data