Deception Pass

Banff
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Deception Pass

Distance: 22.2km
Elevation: 707m
Time: 6-8h

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If you can’t get out to Skoki Lodge for a few nights, consider this wonderful snowshoe trip up to Deception Pass. This is a great, though long, daytrip from Lake Louise Ski Hill. While faster to do on skis (especially the descent), you can also do this trip snowshoes.

Getting there

Head to the Lake Louise Ski Resort on Whitehorn Drive. Before the ski hill, take the turn on the right towards Fish Creek parking lot. There is a sign there pointing towards Skoki Lodge. Begin the snowshoe from the parking lot, following signs for Skoki Lodge and Hidden Lake.

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About

When to do

December - April

Mountain Huts

No

Toilets

Halfway Hut

Pets allowed

Yes - On Leash

Avalanche Risk

Simple

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Low

Route Type

Out and back


Elevation


Detailed Description

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.

This daytrip is perfect for people that want to see part of the Skoki region without committing to a multi-day trip. We love this route as it’s rated as Simple-Class 1 by Parks Canada, yet has some pretty epic views along the way.

This snowshoe trail starts near the Lake Louise Ski Hill and allows you to get some of the incredible scenery from Skoki in a day. You’ll get to see Boulder Pass, Ptarmigan Lake and Deception Pass today, an excellent day out!

You can also move quite quickly on this trail. The first part is going up a ski run, and you could remove your snowshoes and walk up in under an hour. Once on the trail, it is typically well packed down as it’s so heavily used, which means you can move quickly. The exception is obviously where there has been a big dump of snow, and travel is slowed down.

The first part of the snowshoe trip goes up the ski out (run #155 on Lake Louise ski maps). Snowshoeing up the fire-road is a tedious part of this trip, and you could consider walking the route, which is a bit quicker. After about an hour of snowshoeing you will reach ski runs crossing your trail. Continue on the trail as it crosses ski runs (look out for skiers!) and goes above Temple Lodge (which is roughly 100m below the route on the left).

Above Temple Lodge you’ll pass a large sign as you enter the trees, alerting you that you are on the Skoki Lodge trail. Once in the forest, you will be on the trail to Boulder Pass. The entire part of the route to Ptarmigan Lake is in the shade, so it can be especially chilly in winter and you should make sure you have a warm layer for this route.

The trail is generally quite flat so it’s possible to make good progress, and you’ll soon come to the turnoff to Hidden Lake, coming about an hour later. There is a little hut here, known as Halfway Hut and also an outhouse here. Halfway Hut is barren and often cold, though a good windbreak on windy days.

Continue past the turnoff for Hidden Lake and soon go over Boulder Pass before you reach Ptarmigan Lake. We normally find a little wind-break once over Boulder Pass in some trees where we have a lunch, as the rest of the journey is usually pretty windy.

While the summer path goes to the left of Ptarmigan Lake, you will notice markers going across Ptarmigan Lake and then up Deception Pass for those snowshoeing or skiing the route in winter. These are done due to the poor visibility which is common here. Follow the markers across Ptarmigan Lake and then up Deception Pass. The views in all directions make this a spectacular snowshoe on clear days.

Once at Deception Pass, you’ll likely not linger too long, as it always seems to be windy. You can try and get out of the wind by going over Deception Pass and down a bit. If you can find some shelter enjoy a quick break before your return journey.

The return journey is the same snowshoe route you came out on, follow it all the way back to the parking lot. It’s mostly downhill, and you should be able to get back from Deception Pass to the parking lot in about 3-3.5 hours.

Insider Hints

  • This trip is for those who can’t make it out to Skoki Lodge, though obviously you should try and spend at least two nights at Skoki Lodge. It’s spectacular, and we prefer going there in winter.

  • The cafeteria at Lake Louise Ski Hills in the Lodge of the Ten Peaks has pretty good food, so if you need something to eat at the end of the day consider stopping in for some chicken fingers and fries (our favourite).

  • 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.

  • This is a long day, so start early. We usually like booking a night at a Lake Louise hotel so we don’t have a long drive up in the morning.

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