Incident on the trail today

It really surprises and discourages me when I see a cross-country skier being a jerk. Thankfully, they’re few and far between.  It’s unbelievable to think anyone could get upset while skiing in the best place on earth, but I was a witness to an encounter on Moraine Lake road today.

Before I tell you about the altercation, I’d like some feedback. Please leave a comment and tell everyone what you would do in a situation like this:

You’re skiing along Moraine Lake road in the tracks and come upon a slower skier. Do you

  1. Yell ” track” and expect the skier to step out of the tracks and let you ski through
  2. You’re faster, and the trail is wide(there’s plenty of room even if a skater is coming in the opposite direction), so you simply step out of the tracks and pass

What should the etiquette be in this situation?  See below for the sign at the trailhead which outlines the recommended actions, but I find it somewhat ambiguous.

Don't ski on Fairview trail yet. It has lots of hazards and is unsafe.

If you care to comment on Part 2 of this question, what would you do if you were skiing a fast downhill and came upon a slower skier in your track who looked a bit wobbly and unsteady?

Parks Canada is doing a fantastic job of grooming this trail. It’s never been better at this time of year. The new ginsu made a deep, firm track and conditions were fast today.

Let’s hear your opinion, I’ll tell you mine later, and after we get some feedback, I will tell you how it all transpired.

The sign at the Moraine Lake road trailhead which says, "When passing say "Track Please" and pass on left side

How do you interpret this? Is it asking the skier to step out of the track, or not?

An update to this post can be seen here.


A fantastic promo video has been posted Alberta World Cup 2012

Some photos from today


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  1. Christiaan Welzel

    Hi Bob, Can you tell me if it’s considered “ok” to ride down Lake Moraine road on Alpine/downhill skis? Is this out of place or in poor etiquette? I just thought it would be fun. I assume that as long as I don’t disturb the XC trails that it’d be ok.

    Any thoughts? Have you ever seen people do this?

    It would be fine as long as you stay in the middle and not in the classic tracks, but I’d wait until winter! -Bob

  2. I don’t see anything in that sign that suggests the person needs to vacate the track, it says the passer should pass on the left. Don’t read too much into it.

    Saying track and expecting them to move could be just as ambiguous, what if the passee gets out to the left of the track (odd but it could happen), how could the passer pass to the left? The only thing the passee can control is themself.

    I’ve never been tracked (‘cept once a couple years back when someone was coming down a single-track hill towards me – and I didn’t know at the time it was on me to move – Sorry! to older fellow & wife at Mt Shark in ’08 or 09 after 50cm dump the night before – I didn’t move fast enough as I was surprised and probably miffed) I had never heard that before that day (or since) and I’ve skied for 20 years in AB (not enough per year though obviously).

  3. If I’m skiing on my own, it’s probably a 50/50 split where half the time I’m the passer and the other half I’m the “passee”. As the passee, I’m usually able to sense when faster skiers are approaching and move aside. But, I make a conscious effort to “ski aware” and based on my experiences, most skiers do the same. Unfortunately, some do not. I can understand it’s easy to get into a “zone of your own” out there – but ultimately, I think every individual should bear the responsibility for being aware of where they are and what they’re doing. That means constantly scanning your surroundings for potential interactions with other skiers or the environment itself. After all, it’s not just other skiers we need to be aware of… the list includes (but is not limited to) variable snow/terrain conditions, potential wildlife encounters, watching the weather and listening to your own body’s signals to ensure you’re staying within your limits. When it comes to overtaking other skiers, I feel the onus should be on the passer to execute the pass safely and courteously. “Hello”… “Passing on your left…” Thank you!!” To me, something along these lines should be representative of the bare minimum responsibility of the passer.

    When we’re skiing as a family with the Chariot in tow, we are obligated to exercise of our duty of care, therefore our need for awareness is amplified. To the credit of our fellow members of our nordic cult, we find that we get virtually universal encouragement and positive reactions from other skiers we encounter, even if we hold them up a little bit. Seems families with trailers get a bit of a “sympathy vote”; that’s been our experience anyway.

    I guess there will always be that small segment of the population that just doesn’t get the big picture in all of this, and I’d submit that deep breathing and the ability to turn the other cheek might just be the best strategy in those (hopefully) isolated instances.

  4. Wow, you folks need to come skiing in the suburbs of Montreal. I ski Canmore and Moraine once a year, I consider these trails to be SUPER wide… I never use TRACK, never. I will simply double pole narrow to pass gently and then move on. We use TRACK during a race. Simply, people will just not move. Where I ski, we have a lot of one ways and families. When I see two adults side by side on double track one way, I will ask for a track well ahead and thank them passing. When I am going downhill skating or off tracks, I will yell COMING on a tight blind corner.

    I would like to ad however that xc skiing is at the damn of a new age. It is now a fast sport and the world of Jack Rabbit Joansen and Peter Northug must now find conciliation. This means:
    1-Get out of the track when you are stopped
    2-The center track is for skating, it is not a parking zone for a BBQ (yes in Quebec, many folks do not know about skating tracks)
    3-XC skiing can be very fast
    4-If you cannot stop on your skis, you need to master this
    5-If you plan on hardcore training, there is no sense in creating havoc at 1;30 in afternoon when the tracks are packed, show up early, be a citizen.
    6-There is always a faster Peter Northug than us, my wife got TRACKED by some guy one day becuase one of my 4 kid was in the way and she had another one in the trailer… after going through a very steep bump, she got my kid to hold on to the trailer handles and began to track the poor man for 5 kms, she tracked him on his heels until he gave up and stopped. I believe he never looked at her again on the hills for the winter.
    7- We got tracked once as a ski group of 4 with kids racing, we got TRACKED from a guy who certainly could not sustain this kind of speed and we gave him the same treatment for about 30 minutes until he exploded. I hope he enjoyed his day…

    Use common sense ! Control your skis, expect some speeds and do not constantly block the way. Be courteous and expect a slow down once in a while, warn well in advance.

    In the spring time, we actually have to beat walkers out of our tracks, now these folks get no respect from anyone, and shouldn’t.

    You have it soo good out west, its unreal anyone should even bother for so much space, that’s seriously is an empty highway by my standards.

  5. Bob
    Fantastic blog, I don’t think we would have all been out on Morraine lake Road this past weekend enjoying the fantastic day without it!.
    As a skier for nearly 50 years, and a racer for the first half of those years it always upsets me to hear of these incidents. For those of you who said in the old days we used to yell track at people, well we didn’t unless we were in a race situation with only one track. In fact in the old, old days when races were set with a snowmobile tracking a skier could be a challenge!! You could only yell track if there was only one track, otherwise in the deep snow you went. When our kids were young and we were out on the trails pulling a pulk or teaching our kids to ski the odd time a “speedster” would yell track to my kids and I found it really disheartening. We made sure we taught our racing kids to be respectful to those who don’t ski as fast, including their old mom. We want it to be a great experience for everyone. Happy skiing everybody!!

  6. Only ever in a race would I call out “track Please.” Also, if I am about to pass a beginner skier on a down hill, I would always call out to give them plenty of warning and let them know that they don’t have to move out of the way.

  7. Bonjour Bob,

    I went skiing at Moraine Lake Road yesterday. I was enjoying the view, the fresh air and was skiing in a good pace. I did pass some people talk to them even if I didn’t know them and continue skiing. I am a medium skier and ski for 25 years. Yesterday, someone insulted me while skiing this person was a bit faster than me he was just behind me and there was plenty of room to pass and never said “track please”. I was not able to believe what just happened. There is no place to be that aggressive it’s a recreational and family place and even the very fast skier would never do something like that.

  8. Hi, I’ll add my thoughts before I read the others. It isn’t that long ago that I was a beginner skier and I remember how stressed and panicked I felt if I was trying to get out of the tracks so somebody could overtake me and how it often resulted in a mess. I also remember how good it felt when that skier who passed me said thanks and encouraged me! I currently think of myself as fair to midling. If I come upon somebody who I’m going to overtake I feel it is my responsibility to get out of the tracks and pass them safely. If I’m stopped or moving slow and I’ve got good warning that somebody is coming to overtake me I will do my best to get out of the way on the right, but that isn’t always possible. As for the second part, I still think its my job to avoid a collision – I’d step out (praying it didn’t wipe out while doing so) and slow down. I don’t think learners should be punished for not being as good, just like the bike trails in the summer, we’ve all got to get along so everybody can have fun.

  9. Compare it to driving – if I am faster than the car ahead of me, I don’t pound on the horn and expect them to move over, I wait until either they move over on their own, or I have clearance myself to manuever around them. If I have caught up with slower skiers, I step out of the track and pass them – with a comment like “great day isn’t it!” or at least a friendly “hello”. The other choice is to stop, step out of the track myself and have a drink, take a photo, whatever – giving them some space so they don’t feel so “pushed”. It’s not a race – it’s a journey! My bigger complaint has always been skiers who purposely stop while in the track, or leave their gear in the track while they have stepped aside, then expect oncoming skiers to step out to get around them. Don’t get me started on the totally avoidable “blockades” by groups taking a break at trail junctions.

  10. Hi Bob,
    Yes it was a busy day yesterday with a wide range of experience and speed out there. It’s the responsibility of the faster skier to move around the slower skiers. Saying ‘track’ isn’t heard often, we just move around them going uphill and for my safety I will say ‘passing on the left’ when I am going downhill at a faster speed. It’s much safer if the slower skiers stay where they are. It’s great to see all the newbies and families out there, hopefully this post helps with the etiquette.

  11. 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 can be a little different skating (recreational). There are still some trails around where skating is allowed, but there is really only room for one person. In this case, I think a polite “track”, or “can I squeeze past you?”, is totally cool. In which case I would expect the slower skier to just double pole for a few seconds, till I’m past them.

    In a race/loppet/event where people are being timed, then I would expect that all normal “track rules” would apply. In this case, it might not even be an intelligible “track”, it might just be a grunt of some sort. Basically in a race, if you hear any audibal human noise behind you, get out out of the way. Politeness is no longer a factor when they are trying not to cough up a lung!

    • Edit to add: I think what that sign might be saying is that in spots where there are 2 track side by side, to pass on the left? It is very poorly worded. Normally if you are to ask for “track”, you would stay in the tracks, and the slower skier is to step out. Not sure what they really mean. Again, I don’t know why you would call “track” recreational classic skiing. Maybe the real moral of this story, is don’t go on weekends, and it won’t be an issue?

  12. When I first learned many moons ago I was told that the etiquette was for the downhill skier to yell “Track” and the slower skier to get out of the way. I did learn this from a ski racer so ??

    If there’s only a single track, you should yield to a downhill skier who’s coming towards you. -Bob

  13. No one should ever yell “track”…. that is simply rude.
    During an official race (like the Lake Louise Loppet on the first weekend in March) I would expect to hear something like “track please”, but that is the only time that I think people have the right to the track. As noted by someone above, I think it is smarter to just pass someone who is obviously slower (when it is safe), and only ask for the track if you find yourself just slightly faster than the racer in front of you, but do not have the energy to get out of the track to pass.
    It is totally inappropriate to ask for the track on a recreational course, and the Moraine Lake Road is a recreational course.
    I am amazed that the trail sign says “When passing say “Track Please” and pass on left side”. There is no point in asking for the track and then getting out of the track to pass!

  14. If going up I just step out and ski around with a “hello” so I may not startle them so badly. Downhills are a different story as there is usually some speed involved. I will try to give some notice and simply ski around people but that isn’t always possible. Sometimes a ‘sorry’ is warranted but if need be I would hit the bush before a person. Gravity doesn’t give you breaks on the way up so why should you on the way down 🙂

  15. Hi Bob,
    Good to see you out on the trails today but sorry to hear your day was frustrating. We had a great ski on Moraine Lake road with our little kids who are much slower then most adults, though we did make it to the end of the trail. Skiing with a chariot and a family we have never had anyone yell “track”. It’s common sense to any half decent skier that skiing around us would be a faster and more pleasant option for everyone. The trail was packed today and if we had stepped out of the tracks every time someone wanted to pass us we might have made it a couple of km instead of 18!
    I’ve been skiing for over 16 years and maybe once heard someone yell “track” and I’ve been passed by faster skiers a hell of a lot of times. I have never used “track” myself, never seen the need to come up behind a beginner or slower skier and frighten them by yelling a word they may not understand. I have no problem at all stepping out of the track and passing them after all I am the one who is probably the more accomplished skier and able to get in and out of tracks.

    I think I have a photo of you. The light wasn’t very good late in the day, but I’ll post it anyway. -Bob

    • Yep that’s our five year old having a blast on the return downhills. We were impressed by your lightning fast picture taking skills! This is the second year she’s made it onto your website.

  16. If I come upon a slower skier I will wait till theres room to pass and then I’ll pass them. If the slower skier is a beginner I wouldn’t expect them to suddenly jump out of my way if I yelled “track” They would probably end up in a heap on the side of the trail! In my 30+ years of skiing I’ve rarely heard someone say “track”. It seems much more common for the faster skier to pass when it’s safe to. Most often I’ll give a friendly “hello” just to let the person know I’m behind them then pass them when theres space to!

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