Skate skiing question

Joe posed this question on the blog yesterday but didn’t get any answers:

Hi everybody
I am new to skate skiing and had a question about trail use. Based on trail descirptions, some trails are said to have skate lane, and others are designated as classic. But when I look at photos I see groomed lanes as wide or wider than on others that are designated skate trails. For example, somebody from work says that there are skate skiing options on some of the trails at Peter Lougheed, but I haven’t read that in trail descriptions. Moose Connector is said to have skate lane on trail descriptions, but I find it barely wide enough to skate. Am I missing something here? Is it taboo to skate on these trails? Are there some unwritten rules that skiers understand when it comes to skate skiing?

See the List of Skate skiing trails

There are no designated skate skiing trails in Peter Lougheed. Pretty well every trail at the Canmore Nordic Centre is a skate trail. In Kananaskis, the best skating options are Mt Shark and the Bill Milne trail.

We’ve had many discussions about skate skiing on this blog. Here’s a comment from Georgina that might explain some of the issues:

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.


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  1. What is more inconsiderate?
    skate skiing on x country trails or snowshoeing, walking, biking, defecating, urinating or a group of people occupying the whole width of the trail just like the picture above and so on: This is petulance plain and simple!
    Whether you like it or not, even a classic skier can damage the tracks uphill when the wax is not cooperating by wish boning, or downhill snowplowing; a group of back country skiers can damage the tracks with 110 m/m wide skies or telemark skies but life continues somehow because the money from all taxpayers will allow the government to re trackset the trails again and again until there is snow.
    I skied since Dec.24.1972 and I can confirm that with proper equipment and very good technique you won’t even know that someone has been skating on the trails, not to mention that only the tip of the ski marginally touches the tracks but not everyone is skillful as well as wise so we witness beginners having a go on classic skies and frustrated old chaps trying to skate but never in my 37 years of Canada I have told someone to go to Canmore if they wanted to skate or stay in their cars if they couldn’t ski properly; I just stop and help as best as I can and you wouldn’t believe how much more successful and positive is to be proactive rather than telling everyone where to go and where they should be.
    For those who are still perplexed about this issue there is a remedy; read or listen to: ” The seven habits of highly effective people ” By Dr. Steven Covey. If that won’t fix the situation, may as well switch to curling

  2. I’m one of the WBC groomers and have been coordinating the summer ski trails construction.
    We are delighted to see skate skiers in WBC. They are such a beautiful sight!
    Most of our trails are skate skiable with the exception of Hostel loop which is too narrow to accommodate both disciplines.
    The best skate skiing ( and the skiing can be amazing) is on east and west Crystal Line, Sundog and Mountain road. Mountain view west is also an option for those with lots of stamina.
    Bottom line: if you love skate skiing ( like I do) come to WBC.

    • I skiing on the great trails on WBC yesterday. Awesome job with the trails, they are amazing! Did West Crystal Line to Hostel Loop to Mountain View West, Mountain Road and Mountain View, Loggers Loop and Sundog. I noticed some skate ski tracks on Mountain View West which I thought was too narrow for skate skiing and the tracks in some places were a little beat up. What is the groomers take on skate skiing on that trail? What about Moose Loop?

      • Both Mountain View West and Moose Loop (north half) are wide enough that they could be groomed for both classic and skate skiing. However, it is a long way around for the volunteer groomer crew to do the extra passes that would be required.

  3. Way more classic options than skating options in PPLP and Lake Louise. I think it is “inconsiderate” not to share. It is easy to say go somewhere else.

  4. Thanks to everybody who chimed in and clarified some things. Maybe I’ll have to get into classic technique eventually so I can enjoy greater options. Look forward to skiing Bill Milne this weekend. I have not skied it before but it looks pretty nice scenery wise, and the trail looks wide and well groomed.

    Have a great weekend

  5. I concur with all that’s been said except that in some instances one can perform a half-skate technique in a classic track without touching the other track. This involves keeping one ski in the track and skating with the other ski in the centre space. Works pretty well actually. I don’t believe anyone has a problem with this, do they?

    • If the skier changes so that the glide ski moves to the other (off) side of the track when doing the marathon (half) skate, then the skating ski won’t damage the track. However if the skier keeps their feet in the proper classic lane (right foot in right lane of track etc.), then this technique will damage the other (skating half) side (left part of the track in this example). Example begins at 15:35 of this video (best example at near 16:10).
      All the best.

  6. It may be true that there are some trails in PLPP that are wider than other trails that allow for skate skiing but that for sure isn’t true for many of the trails in PLPP. Bottom line is if it doesn’t say it specifically allows for skating then don’t skate ski there as it will ruin the tracks. Some trails like you mentioned seem barely wide enough for skating and you end up skating over the tracks sometimes. To me if the trail maps say it is for skating then that is fair game but of course should try to avoid skating over the tracks if you can.

  7. PLPP is ‘legacy’ classic and skaters will always get stink there. However as historical info. the cookie race used to be skate! So the trails and the classic legacy are only about 20 or 25 years.

  8. It is plain and simply inconsiderate might be a bit strong. Although I agree damaging the tracks makes classic skiing less enjoyable. And depending on your technic level you might be able to skate without damaging the track. We could say the same for classis skiing on skate lanes. It leaves grip wax and klister residues that can make skate skiing less enjoyable. Bottom line the trails should be use for what they are designed for. I believe PLPP used to have skate trails in the past but it’s today solely a classic wonderland. You can skate in almost any other place. To me it is plain in simply inconsiderate for non skiers to use the Nordic trails.. I can think of walkers on goat creek or ribbon creek, snowshoers or the more and more common fat bikers. The latest have enough options that they should NOT use the Nordic trails. Those non skiers can spoil, damage trails far more. They can a danger to skiers and obstacles.

    • It’s true that it goes both ways. Often, there is a skier set classic track meandering through a skating lane. A less advanced skate skier can easily get their skate ski caught in that track and lose their balance.

      But, that doesn’t mean sharing trails can’t be done.

      Classic skiers on dedicated skate lanes should stay to the side. Walkers should stay out of classic tracks and wear snow shoes if they sink at all into the snow. Fat bikers should use a wide enough tire in hard packed enough conditions to not damage trails. i.e. last week was fine, this week definitely not. Conversely, roller skiing is fine on bike paths if they are not full of runners and bikes. You would think all of this is common sense …

      I skied at maple ridge today. the trail had lots of divots from walkers and even a car had driven over it in a spot. the skating lane was fairly uneven. I know the groomers do the best they can and I do appreciate it a lot.The point is that skating marks over classic tracks is often the least of our problems out there.

  9. thanks allot for posting this topic,
    finally somebody addressed this,
    it’s simple… It is plain and simply inconsiderate….
    but in todays world that seems to be the norm

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