Jan 8, 2021: It’s a cool morning in Kananaskis Country. I’d like to thank the PLPP Discovery Centre people for reporting the temperatures each morning on the Trip Reports page. Today, MK said it was -19°C with bluebird skies.
The themometer at Marmot Creek is reading -17. The snow on the freshly groomed Coal Mine trail should be in great shape. See if you can get there before it’s walked on!
That brings me to today’s topic about signs. I recently received this email from a reader…
“Being your website seems to be the ‘go to’ for Cross country ski information, I’m wondering if you have any ideas how to start the conversation/education with all the new hikers/snowshoers/fatbikers out there about staying off ski tracks?
If we can put ideas in peoples minds how to converse respectfully, it may help the many newbie hikers, etc out there that just don’t know, and haven’t thought about it. I don’t want to start a gripe session with disgruntled skiers or a war between the factions (I am an avid skier and an avid all season hiker), rather a brainstorm about how to move forward helpfully in these unprecedented times.”
We’ve had many impromptu discussions in the past, and there are ongoing suggestions coming from readers. In my opinion, the signage in PLPP seems to have been very effective. I seldom encounter anyone messing up the trails, although occasionally it does happen.
There is no shortage of signs, but it looks like we still need more according to the things I’m hearing from readers. I’ve displayed my “collection” of signs, including some from other locales to show what they are doing.
Even walking on the flat part in middle beside tracks on ups and downs is dangerous for skiers as shoe imprints make holes that cause crashes as skiers ski down hills. So many hikers now and walking by twos and threes beside each other rather than single file on the outside edge of tracks. Definitely need better signage for ski only trails and tickets. But if it’s not government groomed trails who is going to give out tickets?
Do hikers need some of their own hiker only groomed hard packed trails? Some snowshoers also seem to like groomed hard packed trails as well (maybe easier for the less strenuous working
snowshoers?) This way they can all get on board with helping chip in on parking passes to keep trails groomed and trails accessible!
Thank you for posting about this important conversation Bob. These are unprecedented times for new people heading outdoors. Sandy Mcnabb has always had some crossover, where people would walk on the ski trails, but nothing close to what I’ve seen this year. I think having clear signage at all trail entrances is important, but also maybe using social media to spread the message? People new to outdoor winter activity are going to need to hear this message more than once. I think if we are kind, and if possible add a bit of humor, it might make the message more palatable. Try not to let the few ‘entitled’ folks wreck our attitude for the many many who just haven’t thought about it and don’t realize.
If any groomers read this message, I have a question. Is it technically possible, to create a hardened trail (like the trackset area) but just flat, and off of the ski track? I’m not sure if I’ve described that well…. Like one of the previous posters noted, the hardened ski track area is very enticing. I’m trying to think of future solutions moving forward, and I don’t have the knowledge base for how ‘grooming’ works. I just know I love how the trails turn out at the end of it, and can see how inexperience hikers are drawn to them.
We skied Hummingbird Plume today. Someone had driven a 4×4 for about 700m along the Skogan Pass trail just as it heads North from Mount Allen Drive (Nakiska Road). Now if that doesn’t mess up a trail. My wife fell on part of the ruts left behind. Wish there was a big enough sign or stick!
When I confronted a walker last week at WBC I was told that on public land you can do whatever you want…
Did they get stuck and churn up dirt?
Mostly just churned up snow but deep snow ruts in places.
In some cases signage is indeed ambiguous. For instance yesterday when I skied the entire network south of Ribbon Creek I noticed that it often depends on where you enter the trail. In one case one junction indicated skier only and the very next junction (coming the opposite way) was signed “share the trail”. Even if the signage is clear as is the case for some WBC trails (the yellow ones, not those blue skier signs that Tanya mentioned) or most trails at PLPP it does not seem to matter to some entitled users. I find that WBC is particularly bad, perhaps because of the sheer number of users. I think that parks need to enforce the rules and ticket people. If it becomes expensive to walk on groomed trails, people will stop doing it. You almost never see dogs on cross country trails in PPLP because when that rule changed it was enforced.
I feel like some signs just aren’t clear enough. For example, some of the WBC signs say that they are for skiing, but they don’t say that you can’t hike on them. The signs tell a hiker that he may encounter skiers on this trail and that he should share the trail. The signs need to be more similar to the ones at Kananaskis Village where they actually say “no hiking.”
And then I’m still seeing the “share the trail” sign on trails I know are supposed to be for skiers. Wedge Connector for example. No good reason to walk that trail. We shouldn’t be sharing the trail.
Totally agree Tanya,
Too much ambiguity, don’t walk/shoe/bike here.
Plain and simple to reduce confusion.
I noticed some new signage the other day on Great Divide. There was the added element of the dogsled track! I thought that the signs looked nice and were quite effective, and I hope that people will check them out.
I find the signage at Bragg Creek to be very effective. As you can see in the photo Bob posted (man skiing with lovely Golden Retriever), you cannot miss or misinterpret the signs. We also ski at Sandy McNabb. Their signage for both multiuse and off leash areas for dogs (I have whined about this before) is terrible. I try to always approach people kindly as I can see why there is confusion. Although, when I see the same people repeatedly each time I go skiing walking on the skier tracks, well, my practically perfect manners go to hell in a hand basket! Back to the main issue. I do feel the areas that suffer the worst damage are areas where signage is lacking, or open to interpretation, or, for some reason, easily ignored. All signs should be universal so that no matter where you ski, they are the same color, same wording, same meaning, and same dollar fine amount (money often changes people’s perspective) for breaking the rules.
AT SIDE OF TRAIL
From my experience walkers are the main issue, as they don’t snowshoe I believe groomed trails are very inviting to go for a walk…In PLPP there are no shared trails (from what I know), hence less risks to get it wrong. In Ribbon Creek the permanent signs / summer map just show trails name / distance and unless you look at the small paper winter map that is below the main map, you will not know what is allowed / not allowed. The winter map from Alberta Parks (https://albertaparks.ca/media/6496176/kananaskis-ribbon-creek-winter-map.pdf) is also confusing with just different shade of blue to differentiate xcountry only trails from shared trails. I could not find winter trail map for Skogan pass area, are all trails (Sunburst, skogan loop, etc.) shared or not? Personally, I believe a big sign on the trail and at junction (whatever the colour) stating xcountry ski only would be best.
This is a bit off-topic as I’m discussing fellow skiers, but it relates to your comment. I skied on the Kananaskis Village side of Ribbon Creek recently and noticed a lot of skiers struggling on downhills that were in near perfect condition. I’m assuming they were newbies who didn’t know the trail system, and I was curious to see why they selected the trails they did. Turns out that the trail maps don’t indicate difficulty (the two trail signs I checked didn’t have small paper winter maps underneath). I think it would be great if Parks could make official, securely attached winter maps with this information to help newbie skiers choose trails that fit their abilities.
Crystal-clear signage first so that no one can pretend they didn’t know. Then enforcement for the ones who pretend it doesn’t apply to them. If they can fine me $1,000 for having a couple of friends over in my own house… okay, let’s not go there.
maybe Bob won’t move this post to the delete bin so here goes; “sign sign everywhere a sign blocking out the scenery breaking my mind”; thanks to the Five Man Electrical Band for this song “Signs” circa 1968. OMG do i ever wanna see more signs cluttering the landscape.
I’m finding almost every trail in West Bragg Creek gets trashed despite the ski only signs. I always ask people to kindly not walk on the track set. Some people seem to purposefully walk on the tracks despite having 3’ of flat track beside it. Do people feel they are that entitled that they won’t read signs?