Quandary: How to handle multi-use trails in the winter
What’s proper etiquette for a multi-use trail in winter?
You know it seems like the seasons change and so do peoples’ manners, but really it doesn’t have to be that way. Ready to learn something? Multi-use trail have multiple uses. Shocking, I know, but this means not everybody out there has the same priorities or capabilities.
If you find yourself on a multi-use trail and you are either on snowshoes or cross-country skis, there’s a couple simple things you can do to avoid being the problem. First off, there’s no one at the trailhead giving people a skills test before they head off into the wilderness, so realize people are going to be going different speeds with varying control. If you do end up looking like a baby deer on a trail out of your wheelhouse, don’t be a hero. Admit defeat, head on back and start working your way up to that particular trail. If you try to tough it out you become a danger to yourself, others, the trees and possibly even the wildlife.
However, if you are on a trail and you are simply getting outpaced, there is no harm in stepping to the side to let someone pass. Don’t take getting passed as an affront either, keep your poles at your side and let the speedsters enjoy the trail at their pace. If you are the one running wind sprints, yell “track” as you are coming up to give people a heads up.
If you are laying tracks, congratulations, keep off to the side of the trail. Also, if you are snowshoeing and see fresh tracks from a skier, don’t trample their legacy. Again, walk off to the side of the tracks. A snowshoe print smack dab in the middle of a cross-country trail can wreck the tracks and even be dangerous if an unsuspecting skier doesn’t see it beforehand.
If your journey includes an encounter with a snowmobile, remember that a little courtesy on both sides goes a long way. There are definitely competing resources out there as to who has the right-of-way and so it can get confusing, but just try to be courteous. According to “Snowhoeing Colorado” by Claire Walter, snowmobilers should slow down if coming up on snowshoers or skiers, but the person on planks or shoes should yield to the snowmobile. However, most snowmobile organizations will tell the motorized clan to yield right-of-way, as does the National Parks Service. Be on the safe side and keep an eye on your fellow travelers either way. Basically, snowmobiles slowdown and go off to the side (they should always be on the right side of the trail anyway) and everyone else slows down and remains vigilant, as well.
One place where skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers differ is how to handle hills. For those with a motor, the uphill traveler gets right of way, and the downhiller should yield; the same is true for snowshoers. However, the planked society does the exact opposite with uphill travelers yielding to downhillers.
For trails, it can be pretty simple to have good etiquette: If you see someone else has laid tracks and your footprint would disrupt that, don’t do it, just go off to the side. In the end, just know your limits and those of the people around you so that no one ends up acting like a jerk.
Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Send an email to email@example.com
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