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Cross-Country Ski Etiquette

Cross-country ski season is just around the corner.

Whether you are a beginner or an expert, it never hurts to brush up on cross-country ski etiquette before the season begins to make sure everyone on the trails is safe and has a good time.

Just imagine how worse the roads would be if we all didn’t follow the same rules!

Here are some general guidelines whether on single or double tracks:

  1. Always maintain control of your speed and direction. Ski in such a manner that you can stop or avoid other skiers or hazards.   
  2. Avoid cutting off other skiers when entering trails or overtaking.
  3. If you need to stop, step off the tracks so that you don’t block the trail. And of course, if you need to take off your backpack, hat, gloves, or any other items, be sure to set them safely off the trail.
  4. Try not to stop at the bottom of a hill. And if you do, remember guideline 1, be sure to get safely off the trail.
  5. Yield to skiers coming downhill. When climbing a hill, skiers going downhill have the right of way as they have less control.
  6. When going downhill, be aware of your pole tips and make sure that they are pointing down, not up, to avoid poking anyone.
  7. When skiing on double tracks, keep right, except to pass.
  8. When skiing on double tracks and using the left lane to pass, talk to a fellow skier, or because it is a better track, step off the track for oncoming skiers.
  9. Passing skiers on single tracks: If you are a beginner skier, are you wondering if you need to watch for faster skiers approaching and step off the track for them to pass? Generally, no. If you would like to pass someone on single tracks, the faster person is the one who should step off the track to pass the slower skier. According to Nordic Ski Lab, “It used to be that faster skiers approaching from behind could call out, "Track!" and slower skiers would step out of the tracks to allow the faster skier to pass. This convention is falling out of favour. Most expert skiers are happy to step out of the track to pass - they are the better skiers, after all.
  10. If you would like to pass a slower skier in front of you, be sure to do a shoulder check so you don’t interfere with skiers approaching from behind. Some skiers may say “track (please)”, if they would like to pass you. Get off the track and let them pass. 
  11. Practice politeness on the trails. If you are passing a slower skier and they step off the track for you, say thank you.
  12. Skiing with dogs. Many groomed trail systems do not allow dogs (Peter Lougheed, …) while others are dog friendly (West Bragg Creek, Mount Shark). For trails that do allow dogs, check their guidelines for skiing with dogs. 
  13. Always check posted trail conditions and obey all signs and posted warnings. When skiing on trails with one-way signs, be sure to obey the signs.
  14. If you fall, try to move off the track as quickly as possible. This is especially important when descending hills for the fallen person's safety and other skiers going down hill as well.
  15. Leave no trace. Be sure to pack out everything that you bring with you.
  16. When stopping for a break, don’t block intersections.

As Nordic Ski Lab says, “Be considerate, use common sense and try to think ahead to potential problems. We don't have to make it (ski etiquette) more complicated than that.” 

To learn more about trail etiquette in the below areas, check out the following links:

Alberta Parks, Kananaskis Country

Alberta Parks, Kananaskis Country, Winter Activities

Cross Country Ski Areas Association

Rocky Mountain Ramblers Association

Nordic Ski Lab