Steve Thatcher

January 10, 2013

Skiing Etiquette in Marginal Conditions

As warm weather and possible rain appear in the forecast, skiers need to think about what damage they might be doing to the trail and what the trail might look like after they go through. Will the groomers be able to repair the damage they might cause?

When the trail is soft and the temperatures are below freezing there probably isn't much damage a skier can do. The groomers will erase your tracks on their next pass. That being said, skiing immediately after the grooming of a heavy new snowfall isn't a good idea (or very fun). The trails need time to set up after grooming.

If the trail is soft and it's above freezing or raining and you're putting deep ruts in the trail then there can be problems. If the warm-up/rain is short-term with an expected freeze up to follow, hard frozen ruts can form, making the trail very difficult for the groomers to repair.  The most damage is done when it's really warm and maybe raining. The snow turns to mush and you sink right down to the base. If it freezes and the ruts stay there, you won't be skiing the next day.  It could be days or weeks before the trail system is skiable again.  So when you find yourself in those warm/wet conditions, its best to get off the trails.

If the trail is soft and it's Springtime where it gets warm every day and freezes up at night, then just enjoy yourself. That's what Spring skiing is all about -- trying to hit the temperatures just right, between the hard crust and the softening melt.

The bottom line: Think before you ski in marginal conditions. We all need to be good "Trail Stewards".

Steve Thatcher
Ride and Glide Bike and Ski Club


Addendum:  An exception is generally given to man-made snowmaking trails.  The man-made snow generally is more robust and can regroomed or tilled back into shape when the temperatures cool.  However, always observe the posted recommendations for skiing at the trail head.