Paradise Valley

Eric Boiral, Leslie Pryslak, Zosia Zgolak and I skied into Paradise Valley near Lake Louise in Alberta's Banff National Park on 25 March 2023.  This ski tour was Zosia's idea and is described in Chic Scott's Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies.  We were also encouraged by the fact that other parties had recently skied into the valley, and we would benefit from having a broken trail to follow most of the way to the celebrated Giant Steps where Paradise Creek tumbles over a jumble of big rocks.  For this trip, Eric skied with a lightweight AT set-up while the rest of us used light-touring skis.

From the gate on Moraine Lake Road, Zosia and I got a head start and skied to the first signed turnoff for Paradise Valley before waiting for Eric and Leslie to catch up to us.  Together, we followed a maze of trails to enter the valley, and although most junctions are signed, I had to consult my phone's mapping application a few times to make sure we were still on the right track.  We also ended up following the summer trail which is probably not the most efficient ski route since it climbs fairly high above the creek only to lose most of the hard-won elevation by dropping back to the valley floor.  While having a broken trail was certainly convenient, there were still some challenges to overcome.  At least one snow bridge over the creek was on the verge of collapse, and I nearly punched through while I was crossing it.  Some sections where the trail weaved through tight forest were a bit awkward to maneuver, and at one point, we had to use climbing skins to surmount the surprisingly steep headwall guarding the upper valley.  The ski tracks we were following eventually ended at a scenic meadow near the head of the valley.  From there, we turned north and broke trail over a low ridge before reaching a viewpoint for the Giant Steps where we stopped for a short break.  While the snow-covered Giant Steps were a bit of a disappointment, we were fortunate to witness a huge avalanche come down the north face of Mount Temple.

After our break, Eric, Leslie, Zosia and I took a slightly different route back over the low ridge before eventually regaining our broken trail.  While Eric removed his skins here, the rest of us kept ours on until we had descended the steep headwall.  For the most part, we skied back out the way we came, but instead of exiting the valley via the aforementioned summer trail, we stuck close to the creek and effectively bypassed the unnecessary up-and-down.  The remaining ski back to Moraine Lake Road and the gate was straightforward and uneventful.
The map is not very good! Zosia checks a map at the turnoff to Paradise Valley from Moraine Lake Road.
No need for climbing skins...yet!

The group climbs up a short hill in the forest early in the proceedings.

Mount Temple always looks impressive from any angle! The group gets its first good look at the awe-inspiring north face of Mount Temple.
I have lotsa fond memories of climbing Sheol Mountain. Sunshine illuminates the impressive eastern aspect of Sheol Mountain.
We felt pretty safe going through here.

Zosia skis through one of the few avalanche runout zones along the ski route in the valley.

A good test of your balance! Sonny carefully steps over some deadfall blocking the ski track.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Yep, I'm the slow poke in the group! Eric, Leslie and Zosia enjoy a chat in the sun while waiting for Sonny to catch up to them.

It would be worth coming back here for an extended ski tour...hopefully on a sunnier day!

Spectacular mountains encircle this meadow near the head of the valley.  Eiffel Peak is visible at centre while Deltaform Mountain can be seen to its right through Wastach Pass.


Meh. Eric arrives at a viewpoint overlooking the Giant Steps.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Very cool! Eric watches as an avalanche tumbles down the north face of Mount Temple.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Eerie stuff! Zosia captures on her camera a cloud of snow from the avalanche rolling across the valley.  Visible in the distance is Lipalian Mountain.
Watch out for some nasty holes in the snow here! Sonny, Zosia, Eric and Leslie pose for a group photo at the Giant Steps viewpoint with Mount Temple in the background.
I'd like to give Parks Canada a "finger" for making access so restrictive here! The group regains their access trail after leaving the Giant Steps viewpoint.  The distinct finger of The Grand Sentinel can be seen near Sentinel Pass.
Mostly downhill but still not that easy to ski out! Zosia cruises out Paradise Valley with Little Temple in the background.
Tiring, this part is. Protection Mountain can be seen just beyond the trees as Zosia skis through a flatter area near the mouth of the valley.
A rewarding ski tour, but the Giant Steps aren't really worth seeing in winter. Total Distance:  23.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  8 hours 17 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  443 metres

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