Paskapoo Slopes were a unique hiking opportunity near COP in NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Note: Year 2016 substantial construction at the base of Paskapoo Slopes has reduced and altered recreational activity and scope substantially. Photos are historical.
In northwest Calgary, Calgary Olympic Park is perched on the side of Paskapoo Ridge on this cool, sunny, blue sky, winter day, perfect for discovering new trails on Paskapoo Slopes.
A mountain biking trail sign near trail beginning is of some benefit for the general layout of major trails but these bicycle routes, with interesting names like Jaw Bone and Squatter, represent only a small portion of the complex labyrinth of paths interlacing the rolling grassland and forest on Paskapoo Ridge. The intent, this day, is to hike progressively higher and to the west towards the Canada Olympic Park Ski area for fresh air, exercise and excellent views north, west and east towards Calgary Downtown.
The target is clearly visible to the west above the current position.
There is a nearly endless selection of trail possibility as the rolling ascent continues towards the ski jumps beside snow-sculptured grassland bordered by stubby forest and the occasional tall evergreen tree. The upward transition is from grassland to progressively taller forest. Paskapoo Slopes harbor a complex ecosystem.
Along the way, an occasional trail marker shows current location along the selection of mountain biking circuits. It is a popular summer trail system for mountain biking by individuals or groups. Excellent summer camps and skill development courses are hosted by Winsport out of Canada Olympic Park.
Trails roller coaster up and over grassy hills into valleys with streams. Often the trails are bordered by stubborn, old, wooden fence posts, frequently standing at precarious angles, feigning determination to maintain some semblance of dignity in the struggle to support rusty and tangled strands of barbed wire from days long gone.
The day is warming and bright sun is causing snow melt and creek flow under minimal bridges placed for well-balanced, accurately aimed cycle and pedestrian traffic. Expansive views to the north unfold as elevation increases.
Along the way, there is the occasional snow-covered glacial erratic deposited here, many thousands of years ago, as ice receded and Paskapoo Ridge was formed.
Evidence of summer mountain biking activity rests at trail side in anticipation of summer trails free of snow and ice.
About two-thirds of the way up the ridge, a right turn onto a flat trail through forest stumbles upon an unexpected and interesting discovery. It is not obvious how the old cars could have gotten here. There is limited remaining evidence of an old road. The more visible of the two is immediately at trail side. The smaller car behind is almost fully submerged into the creek surrounding it. Perhaps someone may know the origin and circumstance of their curious disposal.
A better look will be available in the summer.
The final stretch of trail, leading to the west end of the ski jumps at Canada Olympic Park, is through trail side trees draped over to form a tunnel.
Exiting the forest to a landscaping and road maintenance storage area beside the west end of the ski jumps will be a good place to turn around and begin completion of a long loop.
Dropping to lower elevation at the first trail descent provides some outstanding vistas north to the Bowness and Montgomery Communities, on the other side of Hwy 1, and west to Canada Olympic Park.
Another rusty wreck, this time an overturned truck at trail side, seems to be functioning as a geographical or property line marker.
There are excellent views across Canada Olympic Park on the transition from forest to grassy hills.
The thick, knotted, yellow rope attached to the large concrete block may be waiting patiently for summer adventure campers to make a rope-assisted descent of the steep grade below. The plentiful number of oddities here fires up the imagination.
The turn east heads back towards the ever-expanding Calgary city skyline. Trail options chosen do not always behave as expected. Apparent routes frequently offer hidden changes in direction. Soon, great views of the Calgary City skyline begin to unfold. Another colorful view is the Alberta Children's Hospital near the University of Calgary complex in Calgary's northwest.
Avoiding some of the fluctuating ascent and descent on the final approach to the parking area is achieved by carefully navigation off trail on a relatively straight-line route through grasslands and interesting drainage channels. Near the end, a short distance off the road, a rusty, old, conveyor ramp across a ditch surrounded by dense brush appears like it may have been an old dig or mining operation of some kind. So many mysteries.
The fascinating day leaves eager anticipation of return visits for more discovery, without snow, while training on the mountain bike for the inaugural trip this summer of the 26 KM (16¹⁄₃ mile), one-way Banff Legacy bicycle trail along the TransCanada Highway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.