Canmore & Mt Shark in excellent condition; Dogs on the trail

Tessa - ready to ski at Mt Shark Mar 11, 2009
Tessa – ready to ski at Mt Shark Mar 11, 2009
Tessa and I had a great time out at Mt Shark today. The trails had all been trackset and groomed yesterday. The air temp was -12 with sunny skies. In a few places there was some wind-blown snow in the tracks, but nothing more than a minor inconvenience(more below).
As a dog-owner I need to respond to Steve and Richard who left some relevant and thoughtful comments about dogs on my previous post. I am willing to share the trails with the dogs and their owners, but before I became a dog-lover I have to admit that I didn’t have the patience for them, and if I had been a skier back in those days, I would not have appreciated having to look out for off-leash dogs on the trail. We’re fortunate around here to have so many trails and I believe we can share them in a way that would be fair and equitable to everyone.
It’s unfair to any skier to be put in a situation where a loose dog could cause an accident on the ski trail. Now, I am quite willing to slow down when passing/meeting dogs on the trail. In fact, I usually stop and pet them, but we can’t expect everyone to have that attitude.  As Steve and Richard mentioned, something pro-active needs to be done before there is a serious accident. It would be nice if every dog was well-trained to go to the side of the trail when directed to do so, to let a skier go by, but I think it’s unrealistic to expect that.
I certainly can empathize with dog-owners who like to ski with their dogs.  I haven’t skied much at West Bragg this winter, but it is probably the place most popular for people with dogs. I wonder if they could designate one or two trails just for people with dogs? Any skier going on these trails would have to “yield” to the dogs. All other trails would be for skiers only, or possibly for skiers with dogs on a leash. Do you know if anyone has brought this issue to the attention of the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association?
My statistics for this blog show me the words which people use to search. “Dogs” and “dog-friendly” come up a lot, so I know there is a need for trails where you can take your dog.  
Another suggestion would be to talk to Lyle Wilson at Nipika to see how it works there. His place is totally dog-friendly and you can ski with your dog off-leash. I don’t imagine he gets the hordes of traffic that West Bragg gets, however.
I hope we get some more comments, especially if you have ideas on how this problem could be worked out. What is your attitude when you see a dog on the trail?

Back to Mt Shark: Just as we reached the end of Watridge Lake Road, we met a group of six skiers emerging from the shadows of the forest on their way back from Mt Assiniboine. They had already been skiing for six hours! It must have felt good to get on the corduroy of the groomed trails after being in backcountry conditions for 23K.

The trail down to the lake, which is usually glazed, bare, and icy was in perfect condition today. There had been no skiers on the trail to Karst springs as I could see lots of fresh snow over it and no skier-set tracks were visible.
We also did the red/black 5K trail and part of the purple/red trail. Everything was in excellent shape. I’ll post some more photos later.

I also did some skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre today. It keeps getting better there. I skied the low elevation Bow Trail, then the highest elevation Rundle Trail, and everything in between. All good.

Bob’s helpful tip: When skiing on groomed and trackset trails which have wind-blown snow in the tracks, it’s usually faster to ski on the corduroy. The snow in the tracks is usually soft and very slow, whereas the snow won’t accumulate on the corduroy. I experienced this situation at both Mt Shark and at the Nordic Centre today.


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  1. Just found this post via Google – Great post! I agree that it’s a tricky balance… (I’ll be out skijoring at Mt Shark & possibly Brewster creek this weekend!)

    (Thanks for the response to my email the other day, btw!)

  2. Really awesome read. Honestly!

  3. I am not a dog owner or dog lover so I might be biased. Dogs don’t bother me if they are leashed, don’t bark or jump on me. Dogs are not problem, irresponsible owners that allow for unleashed dogs to run around on the trails are main problem. We with my wife had incidents at Bragg Creek trails with loose dogs jumping on, barking on us or creating hazardous situations while skiing. We even been yelled at by some dog owner whose loose dog got distracted and started to follow us instead of his owner !!!!. We don’t need all this.
    Dog owners should remember that Bragg Creek ski trails like other ski trails were build for x-country skiing mainly, and are being maintained, groomed and track set by crews for skiers. Dog walkers, hikers, snowshoers or loose dogs tramping ski tracks are not appreciated.
    They should use some alternative trails as is recommended on the trail map., eg. Mountain Road Trail. I think we need some clear rules established and posted so some offenders can not claim ignorance.

  4. Don’t get me wrong, my wife Jo and I love to ski with Tikka, our retriever. We had a great day with her last Saturday on the Ribbon Creek trails, which were firmly set so her paws made minimal or no imprints. I kept her leashed on the ski-joring harness going uphill and on the flats, not so she could pull me, but to keep her out of the way of on-coming skiers-(she’s pretty well trained, but sometimes gets distracted.) Small downhills I let her pull, as she loves to run and I like the extra speed. On the bigger faster downhills she goes off the harness and it becomes a race between the two of us.
    Yes, I know that K-Country says they should be on-leash at all times, but you try being pulled down a fast downhill by 90 lbs of energetic dog!
    Safer for all concerned to let her have a few minutes of freedom.
    The problem I have with other dog owners, both walkers AND skiers, is when the dog is allowed to walk all over freshly set tracks in soft snow. When the snow is cold and powdery, it takes quite a while for the groomed tracks to “set up” and harden, becoming more resistant to damage. It takes more effort to keep the dog off of the tracks while they are still soft, but it can be done. The result will be longer lasting tracksetting in better condition.
    I would hate to see it come to banning dogs on groomed trails, they love to go skiing as much as the owners do!

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