XC skiers and snowshoers have a lot in common. They both love to be out in the winter backcountry enjoying the solitude, and quiet, and the scenery, and how invigorating it is to be out in the snow and cold on a winter’s day.
The thing they don’t have in common is the tracks they leave behind in fresh snow. Take a look at the photo above. Here is a rare instance where the two tracks are parallel to one another. This is the correct way backcountry xc tracks and snowshoe tracks should coexist. One on each side of the other.
All too often when a XC skier is out there first and breaking a first tracks trail – snowshoers, looking to get into the backcountry follow the path of least resistance and snowshoe right over the xc skier’s tracks. Easy for the snowshoer but not so good for the skier…
The point is skiers really enjoy a smooth ski track vs. the cattawapus up and down undulations of a snowshoer’s track. When a few skiers pack in their trail the track is smooth and easy gliding and the skier can put together a nice rhythm of kicking and gliding. A pounded snowshoe trail can be skied but it isn’t nearly as nice feeling with the ups and downs and ridges and divots.
Snowshoe etiquette states that a snowshoer, seeing a cross country skier’s track in the snow, should break their own snowshoe trail just parallel to the skier’s track thus preserving a nice experience for the skier.
The converse can be true too. In the case of the XC skier following a snowshoer – the skier should break trail for the next skier to follow. Think of it! Perfect tracks for each backcountry user to follow and everyone has a great experience.
Of course this doesn’t happen too often. With the increased popularity of snowshoeing it is more common to see only snowshoe tracks. Where do you think the skier’s tracks are? Um, oh, yeah, trampled in the snow. Most likely, new to the activity, many snowshoers just aren’t aware and so here I write and I’m not out skiing or snowshoeing (I really like to do both).
Thanks for listening and have fun out there!
Photos: (Top)The view from the West Summit of Rabbit Ears Pass looking at the Flat Tops Wilderness on the horizon.
(Bottom) The backcountry sign at the West Summit. Line 3 reads “Skiers and Snowshoers should create parallel tracks.”