Incident…conclusion

by Bob Truman on November 7, 2011

in Etiquette, Lake Louise, Rant

When I started this blog, my main purpose was to help skiers have a more pleasant experience by assisting them in finding the best snow and trail conditions. Perhaps it’s evolved to the point where I can simply say it’s purpose is to help skiers have a more pleasant experience.

Reading the comments from the previous post, Incident on the trail today  helps me relive some of the experiences I had while learning this activity. I am not impressed with skiers who think they own the trail, and intimidate others. It’s in all our best interests to encourage the new skiers, accept that some skiers are slower, and to build and strengthen the xc skiing community.

I’ve found most faster skiers to be polite and considerate, at least 99% of them. I enjoy watching a skier with superior technical ability and fitness whiz past me.

We’ve had thoughtful, relevant comments on this topic, thanks. Here’s a few excerpts that would articulate my opinion on the matter:

  • “Either up or down while recreational classic skiing, just step out and go around. What’s the big deal really. You were obviously going faster than them anyways, and you’ll be back in the track in a few seconds.”
  • “It is totally inappropriate to ask for the track on a recreational course, and the Moraine Lake Road is a recreational course.”
  • “If going up I just step out and ski around with a “hello” so I may not startle them so badly”

Here’s what happened yesterday:

I’m classic skiing up Moraine Lake road with Jake. Conditions are wonderful, almost as good as you’d see in mid-winter. MLR is double trackset with a wide skating lane between the two tracks. A faster skier comes up behind Jake and yells “track.” Nothing happens.

He yells again. Nothing happens. Jake finally tells the faster skier to just go around because he’s not getting out of the track.

The faster skier starts lecturing on “proper skiing etiquette.” Colourful language and heated words are exchanged and the faster skier finally gets out of the track and goes around. It’s a good thing it didn’t escalate to fisticuffs because this guy was big.

I did not silently stand by and watch it all unfold. I’ll let you use your imagination, but Jake later told me, “Bob, all along I thought you were a mild-mannered guy.”

The fact that the faster skier stayed behind Jake and yelled at him a second time(maybe even more) tells me he was out to impose his will and was looking for an opportunity to tell everyone about his distorted view of skiing etiquette.

Anyone on a recreational trail who yells “track” and expects a slower skier to get out of the tracks is self-centred and full of themselves. It pains me to say that about a xc skier, but that’s my opinion.

The Parks Canada Rules of Etiquette posted at the trailhead are confusing and could not have been written by a skier.

We head out to the ski trails for light-hearted fun, enjoyment, and exercise. People from around the world envy us for being able to live in this magical place. Skiing should be a break from the stresses of everyday life, so don’t bring your negative energy to the ski trail.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 meg_pie February 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Hey Folks, I’m a total newbie here. Just moved to the area in September, and had x-country skied maybe a dozen times in my life before then (in Ontario, on flat trails or farmers fields. I didn’t even know you could go uphill on skis ;) ). I’m using 20+ year old skis that I got when I was 13, and my husband is using my dad’s 35+ year old skis. We’re as green as it gets, but we’d really like to get into this on a more regular basis. New skis next season, perhaps.

Our first skiing experience out here was back in December on the Cascade Valley trail. People that were out that day were nothing but courteous, and faster skiers just went around us. We did the same when we approached a family with some young kids–we just got out and went around. The second time we caught up with them after we’d stopped for a breather, they had plenty of time to see us coming, and they moved out for us. An older and obviously very experienced gentleman simply went around us and chatted as he went by. Very friendly. I assumed this was generally the attitude among x-country folks. The only near miss was on the downhill on the way back when I had wiped out (for the 3rd or 4th time), and barely had enough time to roll out of the way of some people I assume were “skating” down the middle. I’d gone down hard and I was still trying to get untangled.

All the reading I’ve done so far has never mentioned anything about yielding right of way, except for on a single track set to yield to those descending. I assumed it would basically be like hiking. You don’t yell to the hikers in front of you to move out of your way, you just go around. Of course, there’s more involved when skiing, but my thought is, isn’t it better to not break the momentum of someone who’s obviously learning, and if you know what you’re doing, to just go around? Hearing this stuff makes me a little apprehensive about what to expect from people on the trail. I hope people will be patient with me as I’m still learning the technique! (I’m planning to take some lessons–especially so the downhill aspect isn’t as terrifying next time!!)

Glad to hear your experiences on the trail have been so positive, and welcome to Alberta! -Bob

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2 GImGoingDeaf January 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I was “track!” -ed recently. On LakeLouise of all places. People, dogs, showshoers, horse & sleighs. I was lucky to actually hear it. There’s like a mile of go around space. People all over the tracks all the way down the lake. WAY too intense for the location IMO.

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3 Nancy January 6, 2012 at 11:37 am

When I was learning, sometimes I wasn’t able to react fast enough to hop to the side if someone was coming up very fast. Newbies can panic and fall trying to lift their skis, hop and coordinate poles, etc. It can be quite intimidating to have someone coming up fast behind you. Now that I ski better, I usually call out “on your left” and go around. Coordinating that movement can be a challenge sometimes too if I’m going faster – all learning. Often I wait at the top of the hill to ensure I have clearance. Just try to keep things moving smoothly.

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4 Kellen January 2, 2012 at 11:27 am

I didn’t read all of the comments here, but I ALWAYS welcome the opportunity to get two great big free skating strides by switching tracks to go around slower skiers. Most of the time you’re far ahead speed wise to do that rather than just asking for track and skiing straight through.

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5 BigHank99 December 6, 2011 at 7:57 am

I would have to agree with Neil.

Bob and Jake, as two grizzled vets, certainly understand what ‘track’ means, so if someone comes up and says ‘Track please’ , I would expect a more polite answer than ‘If you are such a hot shot skier go around’.

How about a ‘We’re slower than you are today, so come on around us on the left’?

I love this blog and what Bob is doing, but I have to admit that he and Jake came off as having quite an attitude of their own. There were nicer ways available to teach a skier from away about ‘local etiquette’.

I also have to kindly disagree with telling No Bully that he is a ‘ slow learner’ on this forum.

C’mon everyone, let’s get out there with the right attitudes and have some fun.

Jake, after hearing repeated “Tracks” did make a polite suggestion to go around. No Bully then started in with his lecturing about trail rules and etiquette(which, as it turns out, he admits was incorrect). That’s when I intervened. I make no apologies for that. -Bob

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6 BigHank99 December 6, 2011 at 9:41 am

Bob, if your version is correct, then I agree that it is ‘No Bully’ who brought on the ‘attitude’ to innocent skiers.
These situations can really go off like a bomb, and are sometimes impossible to defuse before it’s too late. We all learned from this, and thanks so much for sharing.

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7 No Bully December 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I see you have enough courage to insult me on the web, but not enough to to print the other side of the story and let others decide. I hope the automated email updates went out. Happy trails to you.

I don’t know what you are talking about. You’ve had free rein to say whatever you wanted.

As for insults, wasn’t it you who used the “F” word? -Bob

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8 No Bully December 4, 2011 at 11:40 am

I don’t think so, I did ask a woman for her opinion on saying track and she just said she yields to faster skiers. Anyway, your blog, you get the last word, it’s getting childish so I’m out. Happy trails.

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9 No Bully December 4, 2011 at 11:32 am

Haha I’m not changing all of them. I still shake my head and wonder how you get, “an attitude of arrogance and superiority” from “track please” but hey, it’s your hood.

I wouldn’t have expected you to understand. You are a slow learner. You tried the same thing, yelling “track” further up the trail when you were behind my wife. Your attitude comes through clearly on here. -Bob

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10 oldtroll December 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Time to bury the ski pole boys. I expect you two to kiss and make up the next time you see each other . There is far too much stress in every day life to make this a big deal. No Bully —There is a plethora of excellent comments about this issue, especially Marc from Montreal. My five and half decades of competative and recreational skiing would suggest you let this go and don’t be skiing mad.

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11 No Bully December 4, 2011 at 11:08 am

It’s fair because sometimes you’re faster, sometimes you’re slower. It’s more about being on the same page than which system is best, so I’ll get on the majority page. I didn’t think it was anything to take offense to though.

I think it has more to do with an attitude. People find it offensive when they are treated with an attitude of arrogance and superiority. Expecting slower skiers to clear the way for you on a wide, well-groomed recreational trail exhibits an attitude of superiority. I’m glad to hear that you are changing your evil ways :) -Bob

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12 No Bully December 4, 2011 at 9:48 am

Bob, I have a different view of what happened. When I said “Track Please” (I was Right behind Jake so I didn’t yell) you replied, “If you’re such a hot-shot skier go around” (I never said I’m a hot-shot skier). Jake said, “I’m the tracksetter and I’m not getting out of “my” track”. To me you were both pretty rude, and Jake seemed to think that as a local he owned the place. So yes heated words were exchanged, you called me a jerk, I replied with f’n jerk.

Why it happened. When I was taught to ski in Ontario years ago by CANSI instructors they instructed me to say “Track please”, and yield when somebody does so. It’s a simple system that works. So I sometimes do, usually I just go around. It’s so much easier for the slower skier to yield, which is what I do when I’m the slower skier. No big deal. I always go around beginners, but you looked like old pros so I thought I would try, yet go around if needed. It’s not intended to be rude just to say, “track please” but obviously you had some vendetta against people who do so long before you met me.

I see your picture of the sign and see that you are right. However there are many places including the Nordic Centre (check their website) that say on the skier’s responsibility code that I would be right. I think that poster is also up in the Pocaterra hut but I’m not sure.

http://www.tpr.alberta.ca/parks/kananaskis/pdfs/CNC_Brochure_Winter_2010.pdf

#4 Yield the track to faster skiers

It seems by most of the posts here that using “Track please” is not the tradition so next time I’ll just go around. Especially if some people may be pre-disposed to take offence and make rude remarks. You made my ski day unpleasant too.

******

Going around slower skiers is a simpler system that works best. It causes no grief to anyone. I’d be interested in knowing why you think it’s fair for a faster skier to inconvenience and disrupt the slower skiers?

“You made my ski day unpleasant too.” That’s a very telling remark. It’s all about you. The fact is, you did it to yourself by opening your mouth.

You repeatedly shouted “Track” at Jake. We both ignored you the first few times. When you didn’t get the hint, Jake politely suggested you go around. You took issue with this occurrence, and it was then that I intervened and became the target of your lecturing. You indeed acted like a jerk.

Thanks for the comment. -Bob

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13 2wheeler November 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

I yell “track” at people who are standing on the trails taking a break. Maybe I should yell “get the *&%$ off the trail”?

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14 Frank November 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm

The most obvious place to use “Track!” is if you are going downhill and someone is in your the track and therefore there is a good chance you may crash in to them. As far as Moraine Lake Road goes, an above average skier
should be able to step-turn out of the track, double-pole or skate past the slower skier and then step turn back into the trail with a flourish, almost as if to say “THAT, is how it is done!” Let’s hope that the uptight skier was just having an “off” day. Whoever wrote the sign on MLR does not know the meaning of track. That sign should be corrected.

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15 Jeff November 10, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Last year someone quite obviously intentionally whacked me with a pole passing me while I was pulling a chariot with my infant daughter in K-country. I had already attempted my best, pulling a chariot, to move over for them.

Had my daughter been old enough to be skiing on her own, she likely would have been smoked by the guy the way he was skiing. I’m not an aggressive guy, but if that had happened I don’t know what I would have done.

I’ve raced in the past and realize it sucks when you lose your momentum when you are pushing it. But this kind of of behavior around novices and kids on recreational trails is so obviously out of line you have to wonder where these people come from. You have to wonder if there is an element of anti-social personality disorder* here.

*think Paul Bernardo Teale or Clifford Olson. Essentially means someone with no conscience.

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16 Warhorse November 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Here’s yet another interpretation of “Ski Trail Etiquette” courtesy Parks Canada. Perhaps this was the source of our aggressive skier’s discontent.

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/activ21.aspx#eti

Personally, I find it much more sensible that the overtaking person step out of the track and pass on the left. Demanding track might be sensible in a racing situation, but not in recreation.

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17 terri November 9, 2011 at 9:42 am

There are rude drivers so it doesn’t surprise me to hear of rude skiers- seems to be logical that one should just pass the slow skiers politely.

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18 marc November 9, 2011 at 8:10 am

Bob, love your site and lovely Springer BTW !

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19 marc November 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

I would also like to contradict Neil. The issue with the guy that pissed you off is that he was playing by a stupid rule. There are tons of stupid laws, I know bike lanes that would kill me if I ride them at 35km-h tempo, I know strollers and dog leashes who live on bike lanes…

What the big problem here is, that the bully will create a sense of entitlement about using TRACK, this will create confusion for the slower skier who might move left for the next upcoming skier. I have seen this often when instead of yelling TRACK WAY WAY ahead I have to tell folks to stay exactly where they are ‘Don’t move !’ I tell them. This is because they are confused by this dumb rule used by bullies.

Another point, expect some control speed around you. I have seen folks complain about my ski team pasing them on the tracks, yes it will be like a flock of birds passing you, no they will not hurt you. If you are walking with skis on a diamond slope, you should take up snow walking instead. They are polite and fast, it’s unfortunate that this is translate in DANGEROUS to the ranger…

Finally, to the bully… I’ve never seen any national level athlete use TRACK while training, get a grip !

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20 Shelli November 8, 2011 at 8:39 am

I suspect a lot of skiiers would not know what yelling track even means.

I had been skiing for a couple of years already the first time I heard it and had know idea what it meant. More experienced/faster skiiers should not assume that new/recreational skiiers are familiar with the practice. And if they do yell track and the slower skiier does not yield (which is his or her right IMO) then the solution is to simply step out and go around. No muss, no fuss.

I do wish people would be more considerate when stopping on the trail to get out of the track (to the right/on the shoulder) so that others can ski by them in the track. And for them to be aware that when there is a skating lane, it is a skiing lane and not a rest area.

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21 Richard November 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Yelling track is from a bygone era when most trails were not much better than skier track set. It was very difficult to pass people once you stepped out of the tracks so you asked them to get out of your way. With todays grooming methods there is no need to yell track, just step out and go around. My two cents.

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22 Dennis November 8, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Good point re what once made sense isn’t necessary today. I think I’m coming around.

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23 Dennis November 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Thanks for moving my comment to this page, Bob. I hadn’t read all the comments here when I sent mine.

If I had, I could simply have said “Neil’s comment (above) nails it, 100%, imho.”

It is more pleasant that almost everyone, almost always, simply skis around without calling track. However, one other point is that it is a traditional and universal rule/etiquette to yield the track to the faster skier. Maybe the villain in the current incident was from elsewhere and wondered how we locals could be unaware of the custom.

Also, the discussion could suggest to skiers that there is a new “rule”: that they are right to ignore the few who ask for the right of way, or that they should never ask for track (in a recreational situation) when overtaking.

Two rules = confusion and less safety.

As a sailor (when there is no snow, and I have the chance), I think there is merit in the sailing rule that one is under an obligation to exercise the right of way when they have it. That way everyone should be able to anticipate what the other is going to do. Similarly for skiing, it makes the situation more predictable.

One example, how often have you intended to ski around a slower skier, but they hear you coming and move out of the track (frequently to the left) just as you move out of the track to the left also? Hopefully, you aren’t so close that there is a close call or worse, but a little confusion.

I hope everone will keep on skiing around the slower skier when there is no risk of confusion. It definitely adds to the positive vibe. So does stepping out of the track every so often if for some reason someone asks for it.

Well, I wasn’t expecting to write a dissertation. This year’s dog issue, indeed.

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24 PM November 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

To apply the sailing analogy, the ‘overtaking boat must keep clear’, hence the skier in front should stay in the track (on singletrack) and the faster skier pulls out to pass.

I agree on Richard’s comments below, yelling ‘track’ is old-school (and bush-league) – with the exception of double-lane track (CNC, COP).

Whether racing or recreational, anyone being overtaken should hold their line so there’s no confusion on who’s moving (sailing, XC skiing, MTB racing, road cycling, track cycling, driving, etc.). Don’t discount the ‘team’ factor in XC racing (i.e. being deliberately slow in the track to delay passing from other teams) – hence ‘ignoring’ the track call.

The posted ‘rules’ clearly didn’t think out the overtaking issue – communication is key (and not ‘fighting’ the pass in a recreational situation – i.e. speeding up as the passing skier pulls out) – you see this all the time at congested ski areas (e.g. COP nordic trails). Stall for half a stride and let the pass happen.

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25 DK November 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Re: Moraine Lake Incident

Let’s all pray for more snow so we can spread out all over the hills and have very few incidents. So far, I’ve chosen to keep hiking instead of choking up the MRL tracks. Moose Mtn was very hikable Nov 6 (with poles and good boots). Nahahi Creek also very nice (if you don’t want much elevation gain). Both trails on the weekend just had a few cm’s of light snow – very little ice.

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26 Bob Truman November 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm

More thoughts since I wrote the post…It would be a shame if someone was turned off of skiing due to the insensitivity of another skier. If a beginner skier, or a slow skier is constantly harassed by faster skiers telling him to get out of the tracks, it won’t be such a pleasurable experience and could contribute to someone giving it up altogether.

Am I dreaming to think that experienced skiers should be giving out encouragement wherever possible? It would probably take less energy than yelling “track,” and it would enhance the day of at least one person, maybe even two. Let’s make the trails a welcoming place for skiers of all abilities. That being said, if you are a beginner, don’t tackle trails that are beyond your level of ability where you could be a hazard to yourself and others.

Moraine Lake road is such a terrific place for people to learn to ski. It’s wide, easy enough on the first 2.6K to Paradise Creek, and it enables a new skier to learn in a safe environment.

I took Mark and Liz out for their first ever ski exactly two years ago on MLR. We made it as far as Paradise Creek. On Saturday, they came screaming down the trail with big smiles after doing the entire trail. You can see their photo on the post from Saturday. Those first few ski trips are so important to a new skier; let’s not give anyone a reason to dislike or be intimidated by their fellow skiers.

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27 Bob Truman November 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

This comment came in from Dennis(it was posted on “Snow Update” but I think it was meant for this topic):

“I’m an easy-going guy. 90+ % of the time, I’ll step out of the track to pass. But it can depend on the circumstances. I might occasionally say “track please” or holler track from farther back if closing quickly. I agree almost no one uses “track” around here, which is nice.

On the other hand, I don’t mind stepping out of the track for the occasional skier who calls/asks for “track”. After all, like you say, we’re recreational skiing. If someone is all gung ho to set their PB on any given weekend, what the heck? I’ve got 10 seconds and 10 calories to spare.

Like I said, easy-going.”

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28 PM November 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm

The etiquette ‘should’ be the same as driving on a 2-lane vs. 4-lane highway.

When I first read ‘double-trackset’, I assumed 2 tracks-up, skating lane and 2 tracks-down (CNC-style) but from the photos it’s 1-track up, skating lane and 1 track-down.

Similar to driving on a 2-lane highway (and wanting to pass a slower moving vehicle), you wouldn’t lay on the horn and expect the driver to pull onto the shoulder while you passed – you’d pull out (into the opposite lane – in this case the skate lane or ‘downhill’ track) and pass. Bonus points for saying ‘hi’ or politely announcing your intent to pass.

However, on the 4-lane highway analogue, the slower skier in the ‘outside’ lane (closest to the skate lane) should be ready to yield to faster skiers. Calling ‘track’ in the 4-lane situation is acceptable (although typically a waste of time by the time the skier realizes, gives way to the lane and you’ve passed). If you’re that fast, stepping out into the skate lane and passing isn’t a big deal.

Fully agree that ‘track aggression’ is unwarranted on recreational trails – save it for races. Watch the World Cup classic relays – guys/girls are getting cut off/stomped on all over the place and there isn’t much chirping going on.

Half of the issue (in my opinion) is the terrain at Moraine Lake. The constant climb exaggerates the speed difference between different populations of skiers – differences in speed are the root issues of all pathway/trail/road conflicts (i.e. no different than Calgary Pathways – walkers vs. runners vs. roller bladers vs. cyclists).

Anyways – my 2 cents. Great blog!

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29 Jean November 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Looks like common courtesy is not common these days.
If I see or hear a faster skier coming up behind me I will step out of the track, usually before they ask.
In passing a slower skier it is much easier to just go around, without expecting them to move. If they do, a Thankyou is courteous.
This does not apply if they are just standing in the track having a break.Then the person should always move.
Going down a hill, it is much safer to step out well above the slower skier and leave them be.Keep an eye out for uphill traffic and slow down if you have to.Not always fun but often unavoidable.
The signage is very ambiguous.

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30 Neil November 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm

With this more information, here’s my further opinion.

I still see no reason as to why the guy had to call track, I would have just stepped out, gone around and said “hi” as I passed.

However, calling track is still part of xc skiing whether we choose to use it all the time or not. While I don’t think it is necessary while recreational skiing, it is still within a skier’s rights to ask for it in my opinion. When Jake refused twice and said “I’m not moving out of the tracks” he would seem to me to be giving off some attitude as well.

Basically it seems to me that both parties thought that they needed to prove their points. One that he had the right of way, and one that he wasn’t moving no matter what. If you ask me, both seem a little short tempered.

I agree that skiing should be fun and people shouldn’t bring their stresses and negativity with them, but in this case, I would say they both did.

I have a feeling this is going to go pretty much like the “dog” issue did last year.

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31 Michel November 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Hear, Hear!

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