Ski trails stay ‘on track’ with the help of volunteers
Over the past few years, cross-country ski trails in the Kluane National Park and Reserve have been getting some added attention from a group of dedicated volunteers. Armed with shovels, snowmobiles and grooming equipment, local residents and community members are volunteering to pack, groom and track-set ski trails on Mush Lake Road, Kathleen Lake and the Auriol Trail. These trails are now seeing a lot more skiing, snowshoeing, fat-biking and walking by locals and visitors alike.
The Mush Lake Road is groomed for seven-and-a-half kilometres and starts just off the Haines Highway at the south end of Dezadeash Lake. This trail is relatively flat and offers a one-way ski to Alder Creek and the Shorty Creek Trailhead. Several hard-working volunteers ensure that the trail is re-groomed as often as possible. Residents also plow out a parking lot just off the highway where winter users are asked to park to avoid blocking private driveways.
The Kathleen Lake Campground, as well as trails to the Day Use Area and the trail to the base of King’s Throne, have all been groomed and track-set for classic skiing. This includes forested loop trails that wind their way through seven kilometres of gently sloping and flat terrain. This is a great option for beginner skiers or young children because it offers the potential to start a fire and warm up in the day-use shelter, before or after a ski. Local volunteers from Haines Junction have been working to set these trails early and maintain them, throughout the year, and have even timed their grooming/track-setting to ensure that the trails are freshly set for school field trips.
The Auriol Trail includes several significant hills and is not recommended for beginner skiers. The trail winds its way through trees and includes a nine-kilometre loop, plus an additional two-kilometre one-way ski, with some beautiful views of Haines Junction. As soon as there is enough snow, volunteers spend more than 50 hours, each winter, shoveling, packing and establishing the trail over steep slopes, creek crossings, side hills and narrow sections. The Auriol Trail is a popular route for locals and has recently been discovered by visitors from Whitehorse and Haines, Alaska, as well.
Due to the work and dedication of the committed volunteers who groom and track-set, more people can experience these incredible trails. Please respect their hard work and avoid damaging the set ski tracks by using the adjacent groomed surface to walk, bike or snowshoe. Remember that dogs must be kept on a leash at all times and that snowmobiles are only permitted on the surface of Kathleen Lake.
Visitor safety is of the utmost importance for Parks Canada, and it is a shared responsibility. There are a few ways you can be prepared when making use of the trails in Kluane National Park and Reserve, such as travelling in groups of two or more and always letting someone know where you are going. Check the weather forecast and dress for the conditions—you can always add or shed layers, as needed. Carrying a small first-aid kit and a satellite phone or other communication device is also a good idea, and remember that cell phones don’t work reliably in many areas of the park.
Make sure to check the Parks Canada Yukon Facebook page for up-to-date information about when the trails have been groomed, and we look forward to seeing you out there. If you see a volunteer out on the ski trails, thank them for all the work they do to facilitate winter recreation in Kluane National Park and Reserve!