Consequences: the rest of the story

Fat bikes on Blueberry Hill Nov 25, 2017

I’ve accepted the apology(on behalf of all xc skiers who were affected by this incident) and expect behaviors to change, but why does it take such extreme situations to make people aware of their actions? Without there having been any consequences to the fat bikers for their behavior, I imagine we could have expected to see it repeated, so this was indeed a fortuitous situation which I found myself in. A guy with a popular blog, a camera, and a notorious troublemaker. 🙂 

First things first. There are still a few fat bikers who have preconceived notions that all skiers dislike fat bikers. I would like to disabuse those folks of that belief by mentioning that my blog was instrumental in getting the new grooming configuration on Goat Creek so that it was much friendlier to fat bikers. I’ve had many interactions with fat bikers on the trails which have invariably been positive for both sides. I’m posting a few photos which reinforce that. 

I was descending Blueberry Hill, but on fairly level rolling terrain when I met the first five bikers coming along the trail. I stopped at the side of the trail, pulled out my camera and took a picture of each one as they went by, including the friendly dog. All I said was hi. I haven’t posted any of these photos. My intention was to post the photos when I did my update on Saturday night to warn others this was occurring. 

After the dangerous incident which you have read about previously, I backtracked up the hill to talk to them. I started out by asking how they felt about riding on this particular trail. I suggested that what they were doing was very dangerous to skiers. 

Click on photo for larger image

They were dismissive of my concerns and I came away with the impression that they were self-entitled to be there, and screw the safety of skiers. Now that it has come to light that skier Lyle had a close encounter previously, and Margot also talked to them, yet they continued up the trail, it’s an indication of their disregard for anyone’s safety. 

Like being hit on the head with a two-by-four, everything changed when I told them I would be posting their pictures on the internet. Suddenly they realized there would be consequences.

That’s when the real fun started. 

I don’t think they realized yet who they were dealing with. In the onslaught of yelling and screaming, I heard one say “I didn’t give you permission to post my picture on the internet.” I wish I knew which one it was because I have a close-up of everyone of them. One yelled out, “We can’t help it if you’re just learning to ski” and that one is closer to the truth than I care to admit. 🙂 If anything, as I get old and wobbly on my skis, I would call it “de-learning.”

I headed down the hill, stopping occasionally to take photos of the large bike tire ruts in the corduroy, keeping an eye out for a headhunting posse. As I neared the bottom, the leader of the group chased me down and followed me to the picnic table at the junction of Elk Pass. 

Corey and I had a polite discussion but my recollection of events is very different from the one which he posted. He apologized. I did not apologize. What would I be apologizing for? I did not agree to any “neutrality” in writing my blog post about the incident. Corey said he didn’t know fat bikes weren’t allowed on Blueberry Hill, but I think it would be a bit of a stretch to buy into that.  

There were other people gathered around, and Ania, discovering it was me, excitedly started announcing “SkierBob!’ SkierBob, I read your blog every day, you’re famous and I’m so thrilled to meet you!” If Corey wasn’t worried before, I imagine this was enough to create a bit of nervousness because he pleaded with me not to post anything on my blog. 

In the response which Corey posted on my blog, he mentioned that his outing on Saturday was in no way affiliated with Calgary Cycle. It was just him and some friends. In the apology which Calgary Cycle posted, they wrote, 

“Calgary Cycle would like to apologize for the incident on Saturday, November 25th, where our group ride violated the regulations for fatbike use in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.”

I’ll let you decide who to believe. 


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  1. Good for you Bob for speaking up when you needed to. If we all spoke up it would not take extreme situations to make people aware of their actions, as you say. I encourage all skiers to educate the fat-bikers, snowshoers, walkers, and dog owners about trail rules each and every time you see someone who is not in compliance with trail use. Don’t wait to speak up until there has been a safety incident or a trackset mutilated . Each time a non-compliant trail user sees a skier who says nothing he interprets this as acceptance (I know because I have had conversations with many of them). Skiers, when you are too much of a coward to say something you become part of the problem. Be nice, but say it! They need to hear it until the message sinks in.

  2. I do just have one small correction. PLPP regulations regarding fatbikes were not put into place until 2015 (and in fact are not actual rules, just park policy – which is enforced and almost all of the fatbikers I know follow), so my good friend Andy was not violating any rules when you saw him in 2013. I had been just a week before him, and I made that ride in winter at least a dozen times before that starting in 1998. I probably recommended it to him as the best fatbike trail for overnight trips.
    I have consistently been impressed by your accommodating attitude. There are rogue elements in every sport, and there have been several assaults on bikers by skiers. Nothing leads me to believe that you would condone any sort of violence.
    As far as trail access goes, there are currently only a very few short trails open for fatbikes and they are almost all in the West Bragg Creek area. This does not condone poaching other trails, but rather speaks to continuing to work toward regaining access to trails where a safe accommodation for all sports can be made. I think a good case could be made for Elk Pass Trail to be reopened since a grooming change could mitigate the damage to the trackset by snowshoes as well as accommodate bikes. I have been frustrated on skis more than once to find the trackset erased by snowshoers and I know you have too.
    Hope to see you again on the trail regardless of whether I am traveling by bike, ski, snowshoe, foot, or some other snow sport I have yet to discover.

    When I posted that picture in 2013, the PLPP authorities asked me not to make a habit of it because they were in the process of banning fat bikes and didn’t want to encourage it. I added the “not allowed” caption a few years later when they really were banned. -Bob

  3. You are right about calling yourself a trouble maker Bob. It is very unfortunate that you have decided to use your blog and other social media to bring shame on people by using their names and pictures to make a point, but the shame is on you.

    • Is this a joke? I thought Bob handled the entire situation as diplomatically as possible. If I had been in his ski boots that day, I don’t think I would have been quite as cordial. Let me guess, you were in the group of Fatbikers on Blueberry Hill, and cant stand the fact that you got busted.

      • I don’t see the need for this article as Derrick Lee has apologized and made a commitment to do better. That should be the end of it, time to move on. I do both xc and ride and don’t see how this is constructive in the healing process between the groups.

        • I agree Bruce. The apology from Calgary Cycle was professional, honest, and heartfelt. I was duly impressed by it and I was very surprised and somewhat disappointed that wasn’t the end of it. Now I wonder if Bob doesn’t remember the conversation correctly either. I am not questioning his version of the event at all; it just should have been over. What more could they have done????

            • So many holes in that argument. Here’s one of the simplest ones. On a confined trail (say 6 – 8 feet wide), a skier takes up about 40 cm of trail width by skiing in the tracks. A fat bike handlebar is typically 750 – 800mm wide and they ride in between the tracks. So double the width of a skier and taking up the run-out lane/descending lane. Fatbikes rarely travel in single file, so with 2 or 3 riders, the majority of the ‘middle trail’ is occupied with a mix of impact-resistant carbon or aluminum. From a side profile, a skier is 30 cm wide and a body on body collision can be avoided by skiing over the tips or tails of the skis. A fat bike is a~4 feet wide steel/aluminum/carbon fence. You don’t see the safety risks of high speed mixed use trails? Pretty much every other place that offers XC and fat biking does. Second issue – percentages mean nothing. Cross country skiers outnumber fatbikes at least 20:1.

  4. I see there is now a note at the bottom of the comments on the PLPP Trail Report stating ‘Fat Bikes are not allowed on this trail system’. That pretty much covers it. Next is the signage.

  5. My take is that now we should move on. Apology has come from the bike shop. The vast majority of responses on the MTB and Fat bike forums are condemnation of the bikers. We always will have nay sayers who feel persecuted or just are contrary who will post negative things about this incident. I’m not saying don’t be vigilant but we all need to know where we can or cannot ski, hike, bike, snowshoe. XC skiers aren’t angels. I ran into a guy skating up MLR, on top of a skied in track,after a heavy snowfall (trail not groomed or trackset). I asked him not to skate on the track and his response was “where should I be skiing, do you think I shouldn’t be out here?” I even expressed sympathy that there was no skate lane. He just kept skiing up the track. XC skiers, Fat bikers are here to stay. We all have to work it out. Heck I’ve even ridden a fat bike a few times. It was lots of fun. After 45 years of skiing another toy….Hmmmm.

    • Here’s the dilemma. CBC wants to do an interview about this situation. I think it’s better to explain to people and give them some insight than to say it’s all over and we’re moving on. You can bet they will also be talking to the fat bikers. That’s what I mean about making a mistake when I started this blog. It comes with a responsibility to speak for the xc ski community and I don’t think I should shirk that duty. It all takes time.

      • Bob
        I think you need to talk to the CBC. That is the beginning of the education process.

        If no one hears about the danger you encountered, then how will they learn from it.

        What if that was me coming down from Blueberry Hill? It would have been a train wreck.

        Not to mention, but you were also outnumbered by a hostile group. If it were a bear, you could at least use bear spray to defend yourself.

        Good Luck and Thanks for ALL you do.

        • in principal, anybody attempting to gain benefit at the cost of another group is generally not a team player, whether it be fat bikes, snow shoers, walkers or skiers (or even left lane hoggers who aren’t passing anyone, for example), especially when tax payer funds involved for ski specific grooming. It just so happens that a fat bike group made this come to light. If that leads to a better understanding of things and better overall shared useage, great.

      • As a fatbiker, I say do the interview. Since the shop has apologized and overwhelming response from riders has been in favour of following the rules, I don’t see a downside. I really don’t see that you are being harsh on fatbikes, just the irresponsible group you encountered, some of whom were exactly the type of entitled jerks that they accuse you of being.
        I’d be glad to speak to them from the fatbike side of things (been biking on snow since ’95, fatbiking since ’05) but they’ll have a tough time getting us to argue.

        My sentiments exactly. -Bob

      • Hmmmm dilemma perhaps… but it’s also “flavor of the day” and the CBC will pit the two user groups against each other. Not your intent I believe. The fact is that there are several user group conflicts, and this is just the latest. We do not need reason for any Calgarians to put Dereks long-standing store at risk since it’s accessible whereas you are not. I urge you to consider this aspect.

        Many skiers are also bikers, whether it be summer time or winter, and some of us have spent thousands of $$ at Calgary Cycle, and also at ski stores.

        So here’s my suggestion : you AND Derek (CC guy) agree to complete the interview *as a team* and show a unified front and use this as a public opportunity to address growing demands for recreation areas plus raise concerns re: government funding for the building and continued support of the infrastructure. Bring the groups together Bob, not through conflict.

        • That’s an excellent idea.

          And if that doesn’t work out, maybe we should talk about why a group of people feel they are entitled to taxpayer funded grooming and that no other users should be allowed anywhere near their personalized playground.

          I don’t feel that way, but see where this could go???

  6. When does this become cyberbully? The bikers made a mistake I’m sure will not be made by this crew again, you’ve received three apologies, shamed a local bike shop, and shamed a rider out of a volunteer position. Here’s to hoping that the news about this incident is over and we can get back to wishing for more snow and reading about the trail conditions and your adventures.

    • Sigh. Let’s blame the messenger! Fact is, they did it to themselves. Bad choices have consequences. Judging by the fact I had 18,768 readers yesterday, it’s a hot topic that people are interested in.

  7. Bigger, more obtrusive (which admittedly is ugly) banner signage is a major solution as I see it. Calling on cons. officers to ramp up trail enforcement (unlikely) or posting web-info on (ever changing) designation will do little to curb trial specific conflicts. Separation works: but is segregation good for society? And how further cut-up do we want our natural spaces? Just at the Skogan trailhead recently & the kiosk was completely empty -devoid of ANY information. I’m always perplexed – esp. given the pressure our mtn playground sees, how insignificant & unimaginative our signage is here (yes, that includes you PC). Lastly, your blog is great, but we skiers need to talk to staff at visitor centres: it’s something I always do -even just to stop in & thank them for the great track-setting! Happy skinny-ski sliding Bob!

  8. Dear Bob:
    I know why there is so much uproar about something so obvious, it is a matter of mentality, ever since the Klein era, Albertan have been given the go ahead to do whatever they want anywhere they want, isn’t this true?
    Now finally we have come to realize that conflicts are inevitable not only on ski trails but on common roads ( I was assaulted by a motorist when riding my bike on Springbank Rd), on city pathways there is so much aggressive behavior that it not safe not even there; bike couriers are allowed to ride their bikes without brakes, even in the winter and you can shoot an animal on your property without consequences; I think the government is greatly responsible for this situation, think about the fat bike incident: Is there any sign or indication that fat biking is not allowed on the trails? If I would come from a different country I would use my bike on the trails, why not.
    The obvious or common sense is that, there is no way that these 2 activities are compatible but the government is not proactive to regulate the structure of the facilities and they just provide the capital to maintain them thinking that this is good enough, they are simply out of touch and it is our responsibility to blast heir ears until they understand that changes are needed to keep everyone satisfied and prevent friction. When there is a will there is a way.
    Have a great day
    Respectfully: Paolo

  9. Thanks for bringing some of these issues to light. I have been cross country and backcountry skiing for over 40 years and I have noticed big changes on the trails over the past few years. The biggest changes are the numbers of people using the trails, which comes with the population explosion we have seen in Alberta over the past decades. My experiences with fat bikers are very limited and do date none have been negative. My biggest concerns as a cross country skier is with snowshoers and winter hikers. In my first 30 years of skiing, I probably could count all the snowshoers I encountered on my fingers and toes. Now you can encounter that many in a few hours on any one of many popular trails. I am talking about the traditional winter ski trails that are for the most part are skier trackset as opposed to trackset trails. Some of my skiing is on these trackset trails, but I still encounter snowshoers on many of these trails despite there now being no snowshoeing signs on many of them. My experience on the traditional ski trails is that they have now become winter trails for multiple users on skis, snowshoes, hiking and fat bikes. On some of the trails Parks Canada has designated them winter trails and the signs at the trailheads indicate that snowshoers should stay to one side. My experience is that often snowshoers will travel side by side ruining the ski tracks. This takes away much of the pleasure of skiing and adds to the danger on trails. One case in point was at Boom Lake, which has been one of my go to early season trips for decades. About 3 years ago I skied to the lake on a heavily used snowshoe trail. It had been warm since the snowshoers were on the trail and since cooled down. The trail looked like it had been rototilled and then froze over. Skiing up was unpleasant, skiing down was treacherous. I sustained a knee injury trying to ski down this frozen mess and now three years later I still have to wear a knee brace on that knee while skiing and hiking. My feeling is that skiing and snowshoeing and perhaps fat biking is not compatible on the same trails. My hope is that the traditional ski trails be designated skiing only and other trails more suitable to snowshoeing and fat biking be designated for these users. In the past I have written letters regarding this issue to Parks Canada and Alberta Parks. I will likely write more letters in the near future.

    • Peter, my experience mirrors yours. Moving away from the specifics of Skier Bob’s particular incident, I’ve had two dangerous downhill encounters on Blueberry Hill: one with a group of skiers standing around chatting (blocking the whole trail), and the other with a group of 10+ snowshoers mashing their way up the tracks. I encounter postholing walkers and snowshoers on many groomed ski trails, and rarely bother with Goat Creek anymore unless there’s fresh snow and grooming (too many footprints at each end). I’m fortunate to be able to time-shift much of my recreation and now focus on skiing where/when the people aren’t and fat biking single track (not groomed trails) where the people aren’t. Consequently I tend to avoid many of the ‘classics’ and spend more time than I’d like with a headlamp on. Not ideal, but that’s my imperfect workaround to the situation.

    • While I too sometimes look back fondly to the era when skiers ruled the winter landscape- usually after finding a nice skier set track has been trampled, the reality is that times have changed, and we skiers have to accept that. Outside of the groomed tracks- we have no more claim to the trails than anyone else, even if they are traditional ski routes. I agree- this can result in less than ideal ski conditions at times- Chester on Saturday for example which was bumpy and rough in places from foot and shoer traffic, but perfectly manageable and fun enough on AT gear, although it would have been much more challenging on light touring skis. What if the powers that be decided that Chester was to be a snowshoe only route based on numbers- as skiers were definitely outnumbered there? Somehow we need to educate all users about respecting the values of the other- maybe we can even convert some over to the joy of skiing? Well, as long as they stay away from my favourite powder stashes 🙂

    • I try to find as many reasons to be outside in the mountains throughout the year doing whatever I can, and I’ve been doing it for 40 years. That includes road riding, mountain biking, hiking, XC skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, and back country skiing. I just tried fat biking for the first time this year and it was a hoot. That being said, in my opinion, they belong on single track. I don’t think they have a place on a groomed trackset ski trail. They certainly would perform just fine on snowshoe trails, and conflicts with snowshoers would be managed in the same was as they are between hikers and bikers in the summer. Ride under control and respect other trail users.

  10. This is reaching celebrity “Bad Boy” of xc-skiing status.

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