Cross country skiers, ski-shoers, snowshoers, “fat tire” bikes, snowmobilers, hikers are all hitting the trails in our beautiful Rockies. However, a little understanding of good trail etiquette will mitigate any rude or disruptive or even dangerous behavior.
Snow on the ground doesn’t mean every place is open for all users of trails. Be knowledgeable about where you can and should be in terms of your chosen activity. Not all activities are equal…some trails have restrictions about use. Is your pet on a leash allowed? If so, please clean up after your pooch. Be avalanche aware. Find out if there are any avalanche warnings in the area.
Stay off Ski Tracks
If you’re not cross country skiing, please stay off the Nordic cross country ski trails or snowshoe/hike beside them. These are specially groomed with single or double set of parallel tracks for a reason. It keeps skiers safe and they can easily find the trail. Stomping across the tracks with snowshoes or ski-shoes or a fat tire bike will destroy the tracks and create holes in the snow. If they crust over, skiers can fall or be badly hurt when the ski pops up out of the track. It takes lots of snow and several hours to properly groom the trails so please stay off.
Skiers should be aware always and not forget about their surroundings, however. If a fall happens, fix up any divots (holes…more about this later) that could occur.
Take a Break
When you take a break from your activity, follow trail etiquette by stepping off the trail to the far right (if possible, or to the side of the trail with the most room) so others can continue uninterrupted. This is very important for skiers who might not be able to maneuver around you. Bring along a shovel to create a break area for “snow couches”.
Who has Right of Way
With multi-use trails, it’s important to know who should yield to whom. Normally, “heels” yield to “wheels”. So that means that snowmobilers, fat tire bikes and skiers (in this case) have the right of way. Also, if you are slow-moving or in a group, let the faster people behind get ahead.
At a point where downhill & uphill hikers meet, let the person going uphill have right of way. The hiker going downhill would likely want to have a break anyway!! However, it’s the opposite for skiers. The downhill skier has right of way as they are going faster and may have a hard time stopping.
Finally, everyone should pass left to left just like driving. And if you’re passing someone, just say “On your left” and say “Thank you” to the person for letting you go by.
Snowshoes are a Must
Post holes aren’t just for building fences. These are created when hikers walk through deep snow leaving large holes. Trails that have many holes like this become dangerous for all users. If you choose not to use snowshoes, then stick with well groomed trails by other hikers but make sure there are no divots or holes left behind.
Even if the trail is well-groomed initially, don’t assume that it will be that way for the duration of the hike. Bring along the snowshoes anyway.
Leave No Trace
Whatever you bring in, you take out!! Avoid stepping on any vegetation that pops out of the snow. Learn about tips for winter campfires in the event that you choose to have one. Keep a safe distance from wildlife.
Be respectful of the environment and the people around you who are also enjoying the experience.
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