10 Winter Trail Rules And Cross-Country Skiing Etiquette

This article will look at 10 rules and general cross-country skiing etiquette you should follow when using winter trail systems. Let’s get straight to it:

1. Check for Allowed Trail Usage

With an array of trails in Nordic centers, national parks, and other cross-country skiing locations, it can get quite confusing which one you really should be skiing on. Obviously, classic ski only tracks are not meant for skate skiing or using with backcountry touring skis and vice versa.

Furthermore, other trails like snowshoe, snowmobile, dog-friendly, combined classic and skate and even multi-use ones all cater to different purposes. It is essential to ensure that you are on the right track with the appropriate equipment. Make calls, visit websites and discuss trails with the land manager before heading out. This will ensure you use trails appropriate for the style and pace of cross-country skiing you are doing.

2. Adjust to Grooming Schedule

Directly after grooming, the snow is left soft on the trails and it needs two hours to set and harden. Cross-country skiing before the snow has hardened will be harder, and it will also ruin the freshly set tracks.

So if you feel the snow has not set, you should avoid skiing altogether. The land manager will guide you regarding the grooming schedule.


3. Know the Right of Way

Moving the right of way means moving towards the right side of your track to prevent collisions with another skier. For single tracks:

  • Yield right when going uphill.
  • Move to the right if you are the slower skier on flat ground.
  • Yield the right of way if you are slower than another skier going in a similar direction.

For double track:

  • Yield right unless you need to pass.
  • Move to the right when going uphill when facing a skier approaching you.
  • Yield the right of way if you are the slower skier out of two going in one direction.
  • Always yield right when asked and be grateful when someone does it for you.

4. If You Stop, Step Aside

Always step aside from the trail if you are stopping to chat, eat, drink, or for any other reasons. This is necessary to avoid a collision. Move as far away from the track as possible to avoid surprising fast skiers.

Also, make sure to never halt at the bottom of a hill or in any blind corners. This also goes for any pets that you bring along.

5. Let Faster Skiers Pass

As mentioned before, you must yield the right of way if you are the slower skier. Make sure to watch out for signals from fast skiers to prevent collisions and horrid accidents.

Alternatively, if you are the faster skier, make sure to signal the slower skier or yell ‘track’ so they can yield right at the correct time. It is difficult for a fast skier to slow down immediately, so be wary and alert if you are skiing slowly.

6. Smooth Snow Dents After Fall

Smooth down any snow dents, holes, or crevices if you have caused them. You will create a destructive impact on the groomed trail if you fall, which will disrupt the smoothness, and it should be your top priority to make skiing safe for others. Also, remove any rocks or debris that you find to make it a good experience for everyone.


7. Herringbone On the Skate Lane!

It’s OK if you are not going uphill with classic diagonal stride. It is completely understandable, as it could be an extremely hard technique even on a moderately steep slope. However, if you are using the herringbone technique to get on top of the next hill, be considerate to other classic skiers, who would like to stride uphill in the set tracks. Herringboning will disturb the classic tracks, so step aside into the skate lane where you are free to herringbone your way up.

8. Be Nice!

Be friendly and polite to fellow skiers. Some skiers could be beginners; they could do better with a few kind words. Following all rules and keeping the tracks clean is another way to be friendly without saying anything.

Furthermore, this will help relieve the burden on trail workers. Some of these people volunteer, so it is only a way of thanking them.

9. Check Local Dog Rules

It is essential to check if dogs are allowed on the ski trail you will use. Make sure your pets are well-behaved and always clean up after them. Do not bring your dogs if it’s against the policy, and keep them away from skiers to prevent them from getting a surprise.

This especially applies to beginners who are already very nervous. Also, please do not leave your pet unsupervised and do not let them roam freely.

Check out the general rules for cross-country skiing with your dog.

Also, here are some of the most popular dog-friendly cross-country ski trails in the USA.

10. Leave No Trace

Do not leave any garbage or trash behind. Whether it’s yours or your pets, make sure to keep garbage off the tracks. Take it home and dump it in a bin if there are no waste cans nearby. Also, you can go ahead and pick up trash and remove dents that are not yours. Remember, kindness goes a long way!

Closing Thoughts

Keep a trail map, bring poles, other important equipment, and snacks so you don’t have to bother other skiers. Also, make sure you have a trail pass on you before you go. Happy Skiing!