Skating on classic trails

Uh-oh, just when the dog controversy quieted down…. I see another contentious subject has arisen which deserves it’s own post. Go to the Contest posting and read Jody Cairns’ comment(Feb 7, 11:51 a.m.).

Jody says; “When I caught up and asked if we could discuss him not skating on these trails he got extremely angry, said he had been doing it for years, and stormed off…”


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  1. I voted yes, on the poll if the trails were wider would I skate ski.
    Do I want the trails wider ? No. I like the trails just the way they are. They are classic trails. Common sense should dictate that……
    However if the pressure (usage) is there to widen them it may happen.
    In light of the current budget restraints on grooming and the fact that this is a PP, I don’t think this will happen.
    The Sawmill to Chester loops used to be groomed via twin track and PB. Now it’s a freaking snowshoe trail.
    Don’t get me started on snowshoers walking on skier set tracks on the Burstall Pass trail 🙂

  2. I haven’t skate skied in PLPP, but I did ask the Visitor Centre what the policy was on it. They said that while some of the trails may be a bit narrow for skate skiing, skate skiing is allowed on all the trails, and classic skiers shouldn’t be telling skate skiers to stay off the trails. Suggest talking to the Visitor Centre before telling people they’re not allowed skate skiing in the park.

    • If the PLPP staff told you skating was ‘allowed’ – then they should go have a refresher from the PLPP trail maps (and diagrams) which clearly indicate the trails are groomed for classic only and if you wish to skate then head to Mt.Shark or the CNC. Other than a few disconnected and random km at PLPP, the tracks are too narrow for double track set and a decent skate lane (ie w/o carving up the track with each skate stride).

  3. Me again! How did we get so divided? Are these trails not for recreational skiers, families, etc? People are “talking” as if the trails are groomed strictly for serious classical skiers only, and anyone not conforming to very rigid rules had better go somewhere else. This is not my understanding of this wonderful place. People take their kids there, some skiing clumsily, others being pulled in fancy sleds, and more power to them I say! Maybe the seriously type A intolerant skiers should go somewhere else?
    Yesterday my husband and I were skiing up Whiskey Jack early in the morning, and finding it a bit icy we resorted to the good old herringbone on occasion. Another skier on the trail felt compelled to stop and tell us that we were spoiling the nice tracksetting. Really. I was wondering if it would come to this, and by Jove it has!
    Sorry for the extra long comment, but I do believe these trails are here for all of us to enjoy, and a little more tolerance would probably be good for everyone.
    Happy Easter 🙂

  4. After experiencing skate skiers two days in a row skating over freshly classic groomed trails at PLPP, I have to add another piece of information to the debate. Ron Robinson, you may want to take note.

    The comment about wider trails is mute. PLPP is a Provincial Park and deforesting many hectares by widening 75+ kms of trails will never be allowed by the park. There are two perfectly acceptable areas to skate ski within 40 minutes of PLPP – Mount Shark and Canmore Nordic Centre.

    Yes, the PLPP trails are paid for by all tax payers. This does not give skater the right to ski there. Only in cold frozen conditions do skate skiers cause little damage to the trails. Most skate skiers knows that it is better suited to warmer conditions when glide is at it’s best, and waxing is at it’s most challenging. When the temps are warmer,as they were this weekend, one skate skier can create alot of damage to a trail. Chunks of warm snow are knocked into the track on every stride that crosses the track. These chunks set up and make classic strides difficult. I often hear the argument that stepping in and out of the track creates as much damage. A classic skier is stepping in and out of the track very infrequently as compared to every stride of a skate skier. The cumulative damage is far greater by the skate skier. My comment to anyone that skate skis on the PLPP trails is to think about other skiers, not just themselves. It is plain and simply inconsiderate.

    I encourage all classic skiers to continue to enlighten those seen skate skiing in PLPP as to the effects of their actions. This, plus the parks making a stronger ‘suggestion’ in their signage can hopefully reduce the frequency of this irritating situation.

  5. When I started XC skiing, about 40 years ago, there were no set tracks, PLPP did not exist – if you saw a car with XC skis on top, you probably knew who was in the the car. Now we have evolved to a discussion as to what type of skiing should be allowed on tax paid groomed trails. The major cause of track deterioration are the hundreds of smiling skiers who glide and crash their way along the trails – and have a wonderful time. The tracks will be re-set and we can ski again next week. I have had more problems with groups of classic skiers who stop on the track to talk with friends – unaware they should pull off in to the parking lane. Would we all be prepared to pay a user fee dedicated to trail widening that would facilitate both skiing techniques. What about slow lane/fast lane tracks so we don’t have to step out of and back in to the track – that would reduce track damage. Perhaps, just like our species, there are just too many of us – each of whom is the centre of the universe – skis and all. Cheers!

  6. Love those contentious issues!
    Inconsiderate skiers of all types are problems. I guess if skate skiing is to be strongly discouraged then it should be banished. Policing?? A few years ago we encountered a group on Pocaterra who not only had several dogs with them but had built a campfire and were roasting wieners over it!
    I don’t know how to reply to your poll question. We don’t particularly need skating lanes, but would continue to use the trails. As a family of purely recreational skiers, who use touring skis, we occasionally break out into a brief burst of skate-skiing for the sheer joy of movement, a bit like a very brief run on a hiking trail. Is that to be discouraged?

    Thanks, and really enjoying this blog 😀

  7. Bob

    I will have to leave you to do your own research at the Nordic Centre. It would be in poor taste for me to point out specific examples.

  8. I am a classic skier; but have always understood that groomed trails are described as: “double track set with skating lane”, or “single track set with skating lane”. Lighten up. Skate skiers do not trash the set track – no more than stepping out and then back in to the set track destroys the track. Moose are another issue – they should be genetically modified to show respect for all our groomed trails. Why don’t they go back to from where they came! Oh… they came from here, before any of us were XC skiing.

  9. and skate skiers have nicer bums.

    I don’t know about that. Got any evidence? -Bob

  10. 2wheeler, did you know that dog-owners live longer and healthier lives than non-dog owners?

  11. So skate skiing in PLPP is kind of like the “recommendation” to keep your dog leashed at West Bragg… Everyone ignores it!

  12. I love to be both skate and classic ski. I also strongly believe skate skiers should not ski on classic tracks. I met a skate skier at PLPP recently and explained the damage he is doing to the classic tracks. He did not agree and explained his expert style of skiing does not damage tracks. Of course, that is not true, but he did not see it that way.

    I discussed the issue with the park ranger at the visitor center. Apparently this issue has been around for several years. She explained there are two kinds of rules at PLPP. There are those rules that fall under the category of etiquette. That is, rules that people are recommended to follow for the better good of all skiers. Then there are rules for which a park warden can issue a citation. These types of rules, for example using a motorized vehicle on the trials, are supported by provincial legislation. Unfortunately, skate skiing on the trails falls under the category of etiquette rules.

    The park warden also explained they tried in the past to groom some of the trails for skate skiing. This did not work out very well because the trails are generally not wide enough.

    My suggestion to address this problem is to confront any skier found skate skiing and explain their activity is harming the trails and the pleasure of other skiers. If enough people do this, skate skiers will find it very uncomfortable to skate ski at PLPP and will most likely stop.

    Thanks Bob for providing this forum to discuss issues.

  13. We noticed the other week (while watching two individuals try to skate ski away from the Pocaterra hut in around 15 cm of fresh snow!) that the trail maps you can buy from the visitor centre don’t mention anything about PLPP being for classic only. Adding information like that to the maps would be a quick and easy fix?

  14. What about other areas? Ribbon, West Bragg, shaganappi etc. Do these areas have any rules on skating?

  15. This comment was submitted by Peter Neumann on a different post:

    Re skate skiing in PLPP: Jody Cairns is absolutely right, it should not be tolerated. Skating across the classic tracks simply wrecks them in most conditions. Years ago, it was decided to groom this area for classic only, probably due to the high proportion of families and purely recreational skiers who use it. Skaters can go to the Canmore Nordic Centre, Mt. Shark, Cascade Fire Road, and Lake Louise, as advised by the few friendly signs posted last season. Therein lies a problem: the signs are “too nice”, too small, too few, and too remote. Even folks who ski the area frequently seem unaware of them. Solution: larger signs with stronger language, prominently posted at trailheads.

    A basic issue is trail width. Some trails are clearly too narrow to skate. But even on the wider ones, grooming for both skate and classic is problematic. For the skate lane to be wide enough, the classic tracks must be set on the very edge of the trail, placing skiers too close to natural hazards, and forcing them to plant poles in loose snow. For both styles to coexist safely, you need “superhighways” like at the Nordic Centre.

    Skating and classic skiing are equally wonderful styles. I enjoy them both, and own two pair skate skis. Asking which is better is like asking whether I prefer wine or beer. The answer is “yes”… each in its proper time and place. I suggest the local Nordic clubs cooperate with PLPP to post signage more clearly and strongly stating the no-skate policy.

  16. Hi Bob
    Thanks ever so much for the ever informative blog. I would like to add a few points on the skating vs. classic at PLPP. Having skied there for upwards of 30 years I have used both freestyle and classic techniques and I would argue that with the current tracksetting methods there is little reason to skate in the area. That said there is no reason not to set only a single track on the wider trails and leave the rest of the trail for freestyle as done everywhere else in the world. We Albertans are also bad drivers and I think it spills on to the ski trails with this intolerance.
    PLPP is a very special ski experience that could be made much better with wider trails that could accomodate the larger groomer enabling all types of skiing. The use of the larger groomer would also make the grooming process much faster so that the trails would be better set after each snow fall… Maybe this is asking too much but it is happening everywhere else.
    Thanks again
    PS All Calgary skiers should be aware of the developments to the eastern side of COP where there has long been promised a xc area.I will forward an email from foothills nordic outlining this.

  17. Glad to see this situation hit the blogosphere! I too am very frustrated with skate skiers in PLPP. A great deal of taxpayers money is spent grooming these trails, of which users have the privilege of skiing AT NO COST. When skate skiers wear down the tracks, they not only make them more dangerous for the downhill run, but also make them less enjoyable for the classic skier. I too have had ‘words’ (calm words) with skate skiers on two different occasions and both times they claimed they were expert skiers and they felt they were doing no harm (as they were such expert skiers!). My reaction was that they were not as expert as they may think as they had either no concept they were wrecking the trails, or they were just arrogant a-holes (can I say that, Bob?) that really didn’t care about anyone but themselves. I will continue to try to ‘enlighten’ any skate skier I see on these trails, but I believe the responsibility ultimately lies with Alberta Parks. Perhaps the signage could be a little stronger, as currently it is a ‘recommendation’ to not skate ski in PLPP. I believe it should be a rule, just as it is for not allowing dogs.
    I would love to hear any other creative solutions for getting this message across to these ‘expert’ skate skiers.

  18. Interesting…… I didn’t realise that skating wasn’t allowed at all on those trails. We do classic skiing, but occasionally do a few skate “steps” to aid propulsion or whatever. Will try to avoid that in future… but is it really necessary to have a complete separation?

    We have, however, encountered very self-absorbed, irresponsible skaters on the Elk Pass trail, who took up the entire width of the trail, refused to pull over at all, and seemed quite annoyed to find us “in their way”.

    Jon, you are a gem!!!

  19. I thought it was pretty much a given by all that PLPP is a skate-free zone (no pun intended), that Shark and CNC are so much better for skating that there’s little need to skate PLPP.

    Perhaps Pocaterra would be a good spot for some well-placed “wildlife” cameras. It certainly sounds as if the guy in question is in denial and needs some help.

  20. my dog is a well trained skate skier.
    Oh and bye the bye it was i who used the crazy carpet on the descent from elk pass on Saturday. Only managed a spare (bowling) amongst the crowd that was climbing to the pass.

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