The Etiquette of Cross Country Skiing

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Our beloved sport of cross-country skiing has steadily become more popular over the last 20 years as folks embrace this great winter activity.  This is partially the result of the promotions and development of new skiing opportunities from nonprofit ski clubs like TUNA, commercial venues, municipalities, dedicated individuals, and ski equipment manufacturers to name just a few.  It is wonderful to see so many adults and children having fun and staying healthy on skis, but increased use and higher density of skiers brings the possibility of loss of civility, conflict, collisions and injury.  We certainly do not want this to happen. 

New to skiing? Follow the signs at the top of the hill to the grooming implement area, or “arena”. There you can try out your new skills in an open, flat space.

This article is an attempt to explain some basic ground rules for skiers to interact and behave while enjoying the snow and avoid any loss of civility or harm both on and off the snow.  Maybe we were never officially taught the basic rules of etiquette for cross country skiing, but it is never too late to practice courtesy, safety and gratitude.

First and foremost: always purchase a trail pass and display your pass while skiing.  Grooming any ski track is an expensive and labor-intensive project.  In many cases it is done by volunteers who are giving up their valuable time while working in harsh conditions to provide outstanding skiing.  Poaching the skiing is not appreciated so don’t be “that guy”.  By proudly displaying your pass you encourage others to contribute and help support the skiing operation.  Always give a happy thank you wave to the groomers and stay out of their way while they are doing their thing.

Do not stop and congregate with your friends in the middle of trail intersections, on curves or at the bottom of a downhill.  The trail might be empty at that moment, but eventually someone will come barreling along toward the crowd.  This has become a common problem on the Rendezvous trails during Thanksgiving week.  If you pause from skiing for some reason, move yourself and your equipment out of the way.   

Downhill skiers have the right of way and oncoming uphill skiers should yield adequate space for the faster downhill skier to pass by safely.  However, if the downhill skier has the skill and ability to maneuver to the edge of the track, it is courteous to do so and give the uphill skier as much room as possible so they can keep their momentum going up the hill. If you encounter a skater coming uphill toward you as you are going down, give them as much space as you can.  Move into the classic track if possible and give the uphill skier the full skating lane.  If classic skiers encounter eachother  going in opposite directions, the uphill skier should yield to the downhill skier.

Downhill skiers have the right of way, but you won’t have to worry about jumps, because those aren’t on the main track!

A faster skier overtaking a slower skier has the responsibility to pass safely, just like in alpine skiing.  A friendly hello or “on your left” will help to alert the slower skier that they should prepare to be passed and move over if possible.   You may not know what that slower skier is going to do, so be careful and don’t cause a crash.

Do not skate on top of the classic tracks.  There is almost never a good reason to do this.  It is inconsiderate to skate over the classic tracks and makes the classic skiing more difficult and less fun.  Be careful where your skis are going and stay off the tracks. 

If you are skiing with a dog, keep it under control.  No one likes aggressive dogs so if “fido” is not friendly perhaps he should be left at home.  Not everyone appreciates dogs like their owners do.  Clean up after your dog and don’t leave poop bags along the trail.  As the saying goes: “there is no poop fairy”.  It is the dog owner’s responsibility to bag it and take it away. (No dogs are allowed at Mountain Dell because it is a watershed).

Good trail etiquette is mostly a matter of common sense and courtesy.  These are just a few guidelines to situations that I have seen mishandled many times.  We all want to enjoy our outings on the snow so following the guidelines and common courtesy go a long way to making everyone’s day better.  Cross country skiing is more popular now than ever, but our sport is still a minor one and our skiing community is relatively small.  Let’s try to keep it friendly, courteous and safe for everyone.  Happy trails!  

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Barry Makarewicz is a regular contributor to the print TUNA News. Barry is also a multi-time national and world master's champion, and frequent winner of his age group across the globe. When he isn't winning races, he teaches skate clinics for TUNA at Mountain Dell.

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