Cross country skiers are infamous for disliking snowshoers because they wreck their trails; snowshoers think that cross country skiers are snobs. And fat bikers? Well, no one likes fat bikers. Don’t believe me that there is so much drama in the world of casual winter sports? Check out this blog post from Skier Bob. It is titled ‘Snowshoers would use the snowshoe trail if we started skiing on it.’ If you want to really see the tension, read the comments. They are way worse than the actual article.
So would you believe me if I told you that its actually really easy for everyone to get along and all just enjoy winter trails? As someone who does all three of the above winter sports, I promise you, it IS possible. Now that there is actually snow on the ground, and winter trails are opening, it is once again time to look at some winter trail etiquette.
Don’t Wreck The Tracks
Here in Kananaskis, we take a lot of pride in our cross country ski trails. They are world class, well-groomed and, best of all, free for people to use. There is a dedicated Alberta Parks team who keeps on top of grooming the trails, and you can even check a live grooming report here.
A groomed ski track may look like this:
(thanks Shutterstock for the photo!)
or like this:
(Photo by Crystal Mountain)
The first photo is of a ‘flat groomed’ cross country track. This track works great for classic and skate skiing. The second photo is of a ‘track set’ ski trail. The difference being the parallel grooves carved into the snow in the second photo. These grooves are specifically designed for the gliding of classic cross country skiing, and skate skiing will wreck those tracks. It is important to know what the trail is groomed for before going out. Most track set trails also have a skate lane, so if skate skiing, please be courteous and do not wreck the tracks.
Here the snowshoe trail crossed the ski trail and you can see I carefully stepped over the tracks so as to not wreck them.
You can imagine what these tracks would look like if a snowshoe-er or hiker walked through them and mashed them up; hint: They would look rough. If a cross country skier hits a mashed up bump at high speed (say at the bottom of a hill or something) they can fall or go flying. If a snowshoe trail cross a ski trail, it is best practice to step over the ski tracks, so as to avoid mashing them. If you are on snowshoes and need to follow a cross country ski trail for a bit, walk on the edge of the trail, so as not to ruin the tracks or the skate lane.
Who Has The Right-of-Way
Trails can get busy, especially on weekend with nice weather, so it is important to know who has the right of way so that nobody gets frustrated and everyone can enjoy their day.
- If it is a cross country ski trail and you are snowshoeing (even if you are on the edge of the trail), the cross country skier has the right of way. Since you know, its a ski trail and all.
- The person travelling downhill has the right of way. The assumption here is that they will be travelling at higher speed, and the person going uphill is probably going to enjoy a momentary break anyway.
- Ski on the right, pass on the left. Same as when you are driving in a car.
- Politely call out to let people know if you are approaching from the rear if you are going to overtake or pass them.
What About Fido
- In some areas, particularly on groomed ski trails in provincial parks, dogs are not allowed. Always check signage for where you are skiing.
- Always pick up after your pet
- If your dog is allowed on the trail, check the leash laws for the area.
- Whether you are in an on-leash or off-leash area, keep your dog under your control. They should not interfere with other peoples enjoyment of the day, or worse, cause injury to someone else.
As far as winter sports go, fat tire bicycles are the new kids on the block. Mountain biking used to be confined just to summer, but now that these bikes can be outfitters with super wide tires, riding in the snow just got a whole lot more fun. But since fat bikes are so new, really only having gained popularity in the last couple of years , sometimes it seems like people don’t know where they should be riding them. So lets cover the basics here:
- Fat bikes CANNOT go on groomed ski trails. Period. If the trail is track set, do not ride there. It is up for debate in some areas if fat bikes can ride on flat groomed trails, so err on the side of caution and don’t do it.
- Fatbikes are generally welcome on snowshoe trails
- Be respectful of people moving slower than you, and call out politely so as not to surprise or scare them.
Winter Leave No Trace Principles
Leave No Trace is a fantastic organization that educates people on how to leave the natural world as nice or nicer than they found it, as well as how to enjoy it safely. You can check out the winter LNT principles here.
So as you can see, its really not that difficult to all get along outside; whether you are on skis, snowshoes or a fatbike, we are all out there for the same reason: to enjoy nature.
Oh and by the way..
If you have to pee, don’t just stop on the trail and pee on the side. Everyone who passes that point after you will have to see the yellow snow you left behind. Take at least a few steps off the trail, find some cover, or cover it with snow. We all know it wasn’t a dog when there are snowshoe or ski tracks that stop directly in front of a pile of yellow snow… Don’t be gross.