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  • Writer's pictureEcho Adventure Cooperative Members

Winter Trail Etiquette

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Eeesh! This is tough one, and something most people don't even think about until they are snowshoeing on a cross country trail. So what's the deal, why did that skier give you a dirty look!?

Who has the right away!?

Some popular winter trails have lanes for specific activities, but what happens if you find yourself way out there and you come face to face with a bike or a horse or a cross country skier? The old trail adage wheels yield to heels may not apply here, but we can use the same basic concept... Using this logic, bicycles would yield to cross country skiers who would yield to snowshoers. They would all yield to someone on horseback, because, well, you just always yield to a horse, always!

Now, here's where it gets interesting. If you are snowshoeing up or down hills, then you yield to cross-country skiers going downhill BUT you would yield to other snowshoers going uphill. Essentially, do a quick calculation, who would have a harder time stopping and getting started again - that person has the right away!

Stay in your lane

This is good advice no matter what topic we're discussing, but since we focussing on winter trails then lets talk about winter trail lanes.

First, learn about your trail. Are there designated lanes, is it groomed, is your winter sport even allowed on the trail. For example: Can you take fat tire bike on Glacier Point Road, and if so, what are the rules you need to follow!? Once you're on the trail follow these rules unless they have their own:

  1. In the US, traffic moves to the right, so our trail traffic will typically do the same; however, always just go with the established flow on a two way trail.

  2. Step off the trail entirely for breaks, to remove layers or change out gear.

  3. Lastly, cross country skiers will beg and plead and give side eyes if you choose to travel, unnecessarily, in the ski tracks. So walk, snowshoe, ride your horse or your bike to the side of the ski tracks!

Winter Trail Maintenance

Is it your job to maintain a trail while you're on it, ABSOLUTELY! Here's how:

  1. No postholing on established trails: This is what happens when you are walking on top of snow without snowshoes and your leg falls through up to your knee. This compromises the trail's integrity and could hurt someone once it freezes up. This actually goes for bikers too, if your sinking too low, then call it day and rent some snowshoes!

  2. Fix your divots on established trails: If you popped off the trail to grab a snack or just fell over and cut a katywompass line, then just give it a swish swish and help others from falling or getting twisted up once it freezes.

  3. Pick up trash: Once I got super pissed when I saw a granola bar wrapper and piece of yellow paper up the trail a bit. I cussed the entire time it took me to snowshoe up to it until I realized that it was my snack from earlier a post it note that I wrote the road conditions phone number on that morning. My point is, we all have the capacity to litter, accidentally or otherwise, so just help a trail out when you can!

  4. Move twigs and debris out of the way: This is a great job for those on snowshoes and really awesome karmic boost! Please note I am not a cross country skier, so this is not self serving.

  5. Don't walk or snowshoe over ski tracks: I know I mentioned it before, but really, just walk to the side.

General Trail Etiquette that Works Year Round

Finally, a quick 4 season trail etiquette recap that will suit you well year round! You will probably recognize many as Leave No Trace Principles!

  1. Plan ahead and be prepared

  2. Travel on durable surfaces

  3. Don't lie to people who are asking for distances

  4. Dont pee on or near the trail

  5. Don't do anything that would attract wildlife like call, bait or feed animals

  6. Always have pets on leash

  7. Don't play music without earphones

  8. Don't hog the view points

  9. Yield to those working harder than you are!

  10. Have a freaking amazing hike!

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