Who can answer Paul’s questions?

Please help me with some newbie questions about the MAP LEGEND and TRAIL SIGNAGE for Alberta Parks. See the live trail report data at https://skitrails.info/report/plpp as reference to my questions.

1) Please confirm whether the green / blue / black outer boundary colour of a trail represents it’s relative difficulty similar to downhill skiing / boarding hill rating systems in Canada. The inner colour clearly indicates the “Last Groomed” status. If this isn’t the case then please explain. 2) Please explain the criteria for the xc trail difficulty rating system (i.e. green mostly flat up to 10% slope, blue up to 20% slope with tight turns at speeds up to 10km/h, etc.)  used in AB, and whether it varies across AB/BC or even by regional club. 3) Are usually trails marked with physical signage indicating their relative degree of difficulty? I’ve hiked & biked along trails in Kananaskis and am familiar with the “You Are Here” map signage but can’t recall any xc ski rating signage.

I haven’t found many useful websites describing map legends and degree of difficulty, and of those that I read, I found that they were subjectively describing their own regional facilities and not objectively labeling difficult trails per the maximum slope angle or hills with tighter turns. Not even the company that runs the AB Parks live grooming website provides a legend (https://skitrails.info/).

Any help is appreciated.

Paul, if you look on the Resources tab, you may find this helpful:

Risto’s Hill Pain Score

Ray’s trail Steepness


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  1. Hi Paul –

    The green/blue/black trail outer boundary colours on the Live Grooming Reports are meant to represent the trail difficulty, but are wrong. The trail difficulties on the expandable map images on SkierBob’s MAP / PLPP TRAIL MAPS page are correct.

    Your example was the PLPP Live Grooming Report. I’ve never paid much attention to the trail outer boundary colours because I’m familiar now with all these trails and am only interested in the grooming. Before I was familiar with the trails (and before live grooming reports were available), I used the trail maps provided by Alberta Parks to determine the trail difficulties. Go to SkierBob’s MAP menu at the top of the page and select PLPP TRAIL MAPS. The newest map (which Bob does NOT recommend) is difficult to read, distinguishes between trail user designations, but does not specify XC trail difficulty. The previous version (which Bob has displayed as expandable images) shows only XC ski trails and is your most accurate source of information. According to the Legend in the second image, green sections are “Easy”, blue are “Intermediate”, and black are “Difficult”. Based on experience, I believe the map pretty much corresponds to the Trail Difficulty signs you’ll encounter as you ski the trails. There may be some inconsistencies between the map and the trails due to re-routing that occurred following the 2013 flood. The listed trail distances should be within 10% or so, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few larger errors. I expect (but don’t know for a fact) that the trail difficulty notation is relative to the ski area in question (such as PLPP) and are not based on absolute criteria such as trail steepness and width.

    The PLPP (and other) Live Grooming Reports are generated by Ski Trails Realtime Live Grooming Reports at https://skitrails.info/. According to info on their website, the trail maps are drawn based on information that has been entered into Open Street Maps at https://www.openstreetmap.org. This is a resource that anyone can edit, much like Wikipedia. As an example, I looked at the section of the Pocaterra Trail between Lynx and Packers. According to the PLPP Trail Map, the left/north half of that section is green/easy and the right/south half is blue/intermediate. But the Live Grooming report shows this section with a black outer boundary, denoting it as a “Difficult” trail. I checked the attributes for that section on Open Street Maps. It labels the entire section as “Advanced”, which is the term it uses instead of “Difficult”. So whoever entered that information into Open Street Maps simply entered the wrong information.

    • Out of curiosity, I tried my hand at editing Open Street Maps (OSM) for the first time. To keep it simple, I changed the trail difficulty for Pocaterra between Lynx and Packers from “Difficult”to “Intermediate”. The trail border for that section on the PLPP Live Grooming Report is now blue instead of black. I’m not sure if I want to spend any more time editing OSM to get the PLPP Live Grooming Report to match the PLPP Trail Map. After all, Paul is the first person to report this as a problem, and even he seems to have lost interest! 😉

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