ON the beaten path with Yaktrax

By Richard White, January 4, 2014

What started off as a snowshoeing adventure turned into a Yaktrax walk.  Plans for a four-hour mountain snowshoeing expedition for three virgin snowshoers began to fall apart when everyone warned us that “maybe it isn’t a good idea to go for a four- hour walk your first time out.” Then one of our group had a bit of a health issue and we quickly decided maybe a regular walk in the mountains would be a better idea.

However, not wanting to be “expedition escapees” we opted to take a hike in the mountains without snowshoes.   Our fourth member, who is the hiker and beginner snowshoe guide for our group, suggested we all get Yaktrax and then find a “beaten path” somewhat “off the beaten” path so we could at least experience some of that “Rocky Mountain” high we had been hoping for.

A quick trip into lovely downtown Canmore and we were all equipped with our Yaktraxs.

Canmore is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies and a mountain playground for international tourists, Albertans and especially Calgarians. 

Illustration of Yaktrax and how they work. 

Yaktrax yak!

Yaktrax, named after the sure-footed “Tibetan yak” are light-weight ice grips worn over your regular walking shoes, winter boots or running shoes when walking on packed snow and ice in the winter.  Or as our witty teammate said: “These are kinda like the old rubbers my Dad use to wear!”  Not quite – yes they do pull over any shoes - but they have coils on the bottom that provide hundreds of biting edges that sink into the snow or ice to give you traction. 

Yaktraxs were originally conceptualized when an outdoor adventurer, exploring the Himalayas, encountered a seasoned Sherpa striding confidently across the slick, icy surface using metal ice grips attached to his boots.  

Our companions got the PRO model with the Velcro straps…nothing but the best for our big spender friends. We opted for the cheaper Yaktrax Walkers model being the frugal flaneurs we are.

One option was to ditch the snowshoeing or walking and go skating as Canmore has a great skating pond.  However, we were looking for some adventure - we did go skating the next day.

The Canmore Nordic Centre was a winter wonderland for cross country skiers but we were just looking for a place to go for a walk. 

Let the Flaneuring Begin

We then headed to the Canmore Nordic Centre to see what suggestions they might have for a walk “ON” a beaten path in mountains. We quickly realized we could walk the service road around the nearby TransAlta hydro reservoir to the base of the Grassi Lakes Trail, a walk we had done this past summer.  The info guy at the Nordic Centre confirmed that we could walk around the reservoir in about 2 hours – perfect for us.

We really didn’t need the Yaktrax for the first 10 or 15 minutes, but soon we were in the snow and ice and yes, they do work.  It was almost as if we had been transformed into Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep, i.e. the Canadian version of the Tibetan Yak, as we trekked into the base of the mountain trail.

The flaneuring took us to the TransAlta Hydro plant with the cascading waterfall and icefalls.  We saw some ice climbers that we would have liked to check out more closely but the path was “unbeaten,” and we weren’t up for testing the Yaktrax’s vertical climbing coefficient - horizontal and hilly traction was good enough for us. 


Near the end, two members of our expedition ventured “off the beaten path” (feeling confident the Yaktraxs would work even in powder snow) to check out a dead Simca.  How did a European vehicle end up in the bush in the Rockies?  Guess we will never know. After some oohing and aahing over the still shiny chrome bumpers and door handles it was time to move on.

Just minutes later they were off the beaten track again, this time to check out the tree house in the woods… a lovely two-story home, with wall-to-wall carpeting, a nice ladder, great views of the forest and no neighbours. A little further on, we encountered up close and personal two deer crossing right in front of us.

The walk was a photographer's dream with lots of material to work with, from realism to abstraction.  I wish I had a good camera. 


The service road almost looked too easy, but the vista was calling us. 

Soon we were scrambling in the mountain forest with babbling brooks.  

Soon we were scrambling in the mountain forest with babbling brooks.  

The ice formations were like abstract sculptures.  

The ice formations were like abstract sculptures. 

The man-made Simca seemed totally out of place in the park. It definitely needed to be inspected. 

The shiny door handles looked brand new...how could that be given the shape the rest of the vehicle was in. 

The trunk lock was in perfect condition. It was very surreal!

Definitely a handyman's fixer-upper!

The trail has some great photo ops! 

It doesn't get any better than this.

Stay on Trax

The two hours went by quickly and the Yaktrax passed their test walk with flying colours.  We are all now keen to test them out on urban walks.

As for the Everyday Tourists, we are now ready for our two-week dog sitting assignment in early January that will include two - sometimes three walks - a day along the icy promenade at River Park. 

Yes, sometimes it is perfectly OK to stay “on the beaten path.” 

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