- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
A snowshoe trip to Crystal Ridge, along the Icefields Parkway, takes you through fascinating boulders, giant crystals, and awe-inspiring views of the Wapta Icefield and its enormous peaks. We love this trip, however you should have avalanche training to go on this snowshoe.
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Route Description for Crystal Ridge
Anyone on a snowshoe trip should have Avalanche training, we recommend AST 2 for all backcountry travellers, and AST 1 is the minimum. It is important to note that when travelling through avalanche terrain it is extremely valuable to always have a companion.
Crystal Ridge is the unofficial name given to the ridge south of Cirque Peak by Bob Spirko after he found enormous crystals on its lower slopes.
This trip has a high potential for avalanches. While there are no big slide paths and the few medium-sized ones can be fairly easily avoided, the rolling terrain has many convexities and tons of places for wind slabs to develop and slide short distances. Despite a low avalanche rating for our chosen day of ascent, there was still some concern as just a few days prior, a small slab slide was reported to the north that initiated on a convex terrain feature.
Park at the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint, cross the road, and start snowshoeing up the well-packed Helen Lake trail. After about 600 m on the official trail turn onto a snowshoe track heading off to the left and start ascending a steep pitch through the forest. When you emerge at the base of a rocky slope in an opening, travel north to ascend a less steep aspect. From here simply head up, carefully choosing your route to avoid any suspect slopes.
When you reach the ridge, at a low point, travel left to ascend to the high point. You will see another high point to the northeast, however this may be too dangerous to ascend. Head south to a bump in the terrain that many people call the summit. Avoid a cornice along your way here. Wander the ridge, and admire the beautiful views in all directions. This is one of the most scenic snowshoe trips around, and we even saw a ptarmigan on our trip!
Follow your route back down to your car.
Insider Hints for Crystal Ridge
- This is an unofficial route, that goes through some challenging avalanche terrain. You should be trained and experienced in winter travel in avalanche terrain to go on this trip.
- Always keep in mind that winter routes are constantly changing with conditions, if this route seems unapproachable on the day you head out, turn around and come back another day!
- Snowshoeing in the Banff takes you into remote terrain. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency with warm clothes, extra food, matches and ideally a satellite transceiver, like a Garmin InReach. Cell phones do not work until you get to Canmore.
- Always check the avalanche forecast for Banff before heading out.
Getting to the Crystal Ridge Trailhead
Drive on Highway 93 North towards Jasper for 32.8 km from the highway turnoff (or head 3.4 km south from the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge turnoff). The parking lot is listed as “Helen Lake” and is on the east side of the road.
Crystal Ridge Elevation Graph
Weather ForecastCheck Area Weather
Crystal Ridge Reviews
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