If you are planning to take your dog out on a cross country adventure, why not! After all, a dog is a man’s best friend, and who does not want to ski with their best buddy? If you think you love to ski, wait until you see your dog enjoy the thrill. Dogs seem to get even more excited than human skiers when on snowy ski trails, especially the groomed ones. But not all cross country ski trails allow dogs, and there is a reason for that.
Basic Etiquette for Dog Owners on the Trails
As surprising as it may sound, not everyone loves your dog as much as you do! Many fellow XC skiers may not be too comfortable skiing along with your dog unless your dog is under control and does not threaten or bother them. The cross country skiing trails are designed for your enjoyment, and though many of these trails allow your furry friend to accompany you, you need to make sure you are following the basic etiquettes of bringing your dog to the trails for skijoring.
Many cross country ski areas and resorts explicitly mention their dog policies on their websites. Make sure you go through the rules of the trails you are planning to take your dog to. Even if not stated, the following are the basic etiquettes for dog owners on the cross country ski trails:
1. Use Only Dog-Friendly Trails
Although you can find many dog-friendly trails around your ski location, make sure you follow the rules and take your dog to the trails that explicitly mention that they allow dogs. Just like these XC trails do not allow walking or riding a bike, they also do not encourage dogs walking on their trails. Dogs can do a lot of damage on groomed trails by leaving punching holes with every step they take. For this reason, some skijoring trails even charge a small amount of trail fees for dogs in order to cover the work associated with maintaining their trails.
Even on a dog-friendly trail, if your dog causes any damage or injuries, you are responsible for your dog’s actions.
2. Check Local Rules
Before heading out to ski, check the rules of the ski area either on their website or by calling them. Some trails are one-way and the last thing a skier wants is to have a collision with an approaching dog. Many trails are open for dogs only on weekdays. Before heading out on a weekend or a holiday, make sure the trails welcome dogs on that day. Also, as per the rules and safety, many dog-trails do not allow dogs if the snow is too soft.
3. One Dog Per Skier
Often, it is not the dog’s fault, it is the inconsiderate dog owners who cause disturbance to the fellow skiers. Taking a team of dogs out on the trail can cause inconvenience to other skiers. Most of the ski areas explicitly mention their rules of having one dog per skier, some allow two small dogs per skier as well. The rules vary, so if you are not sure, take one dog per skier on the dog-trail.
4. Keep Your Dog on Leash
If you are taking out your furry friend on an XC ski adventure, make sure he/ she is on a leash. Even if you consider your dog to be the friendliest dog on the planet, put him/ her on a leash as a skiing toddler could get frightened by a big dog approaching him/ her. Make sure to restrain your dog’s leash when other skiers are approaching.
5. Keep Your Dog Under Voice Control, Always
Though you should be keeping your dog on a leash if the local rules allow your dog to go off the leash, make sure your four-legged friend listens to you at all times. If you feel your dog does not obey you at all times, then use a leash even on dog-trails that allow you to go off-leash.
Often the XC ski trail is adjacent to or passes through private property. Make sure you as well as your dog stays on the ski trail. In case your dog is off the leash, your dog should never step into the private property no matter how harmless his/ her intentions are. Most of the ski centers and resorts have the right to cancel your and your dog’s trail pass in case your dog’s behavior (or yours!) is not at par with their rules.
6. Always Clean Up!
Other cross country skiers are on the trail to enjoy, which does not include sliding off your dog’s poop with their skis! Carry a couple of bags with you to clean up your dog’s litter. Even if your dog has pooped away from the trail, it is your duty as a dog owner to clean up after your dog. The same goes for parking lots.
If you notice some other dog’s poop on the trail, slide it off the trail as a common courtesy. There are many trails that still do not allow dogs for the same reason, so keep the ones that do allow, nice and clean.
Dog-Friendly Cross-Country Ski Trails
Make sure you go skijoring on a dog-friendly cross country ski trail. If you haven’t tried it already, XC skiing is a great way to start skiing with your furry friend because the cross country skiing pace is much slower than many other skiing styles, which enables you to teach your dog proper skiing etiquettes. If you are into skate skiing which is much faster than the classic XC skiing, it is a great workout for both you and your dog.
Wherever there is a cross country ski region that encourages skiers to come and ski, chances are that you can find skijoring trails there. Here are some of the dog-friendly cross country ski trails in Vermont:
- Burke Mountain Nordic: The Dashney Center lets you enjoy 13 km of the trail with your dog. There are only two trails that do not allow dogs, the rest are all open to your furry friend.
- Memphremagog Ski Touring: Dogs are allowed on the entire 25 km long trails.
- Mountain Top Inn Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Center: You can enjoy 15 km long dog trails as well as dog-friendly accommodations for your overnight stay.
- Blueberry Lakes: Your dog is allowed on its entire 33km long trail.
- Craftsbury Outdoor Center: The two trails on Big and Little Hosmer lakes welcome dogs.
- Jay Peak Resort Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Center: Your dog can accompany you on the “back 9” trails.
- Landgrove Inn: Dogs are allowed but you need to make sure they are off the trails and on a leash.
- Kingdom Trails/ Burke XC: When the snow conditions are appropriate (not too soft), you can ski with your dogs on the Fatbike/ snowshoe trails present on the east side of the trail network.
- Mountain Meadows at Base Camp: Dogs are allowed on their 36 km long trail network, but on the groomed ones, you can only take your dog out after 1 pm.
- Okemo Valley Nordic Center: Your dog can enjoy all the trails here but make sure you are following proper etiquettes of cleaning up after your dog as well as putting him/ her on a leash.
The XC ski trails that are open to dogs in New Hampshire are:
- Bear Notch Ski Touring: They offer 65 km long groomed trails for your dogs to accompany you on.
- Bretton Woods Nordic: Dogs are welcomed on their 11 km trails.
- Eastman Cross Country Center: You can take your dog on the 2.5 km Lake Loop trail.
- Purity Spring Resort: Your furry friend can enjoy the trails on a leash during their non-holiday midweek periods. Weekends and holidays are off-limits for your dogs.
- Jackson Ski Touring: On their long trails that cover more than 154 km, dogs are allowed on their 12.8 km of the trail network.
- Ski Hearth Farm: You can enjoy skiing with your four-legged friend on their dog friendly trails.
- Pine Hill Ski Club: The club has 13 ski and snowshoe trails on which 3 welcome dogs.
- Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring: You can only take your dog on the Whittaker Woods trail.
In Maine, the cross country ski locations that welcome your dog are:
- Carter’s XC Ski Centers – Bethel and Oxford: Dogs are allowed on all their trail network, but they charge you $15 as a trail fee for your dog. If you have small dogs, they also make the exception of charging you the same amount for two dogs.
- Five Fields Farm: They offer 20km of dog-friendly trails.
- Quarry Road Recreation Area: They have a short trail for skiers with dogs, that is separate from their main trail system.
- Carrabassett Valley Narrow Gauge Recreation Trail: Your dog can accompany you on their 6 miles (around 9.6 km) long groomed trail.
- Mahoosuc Pathways: You can enjoy their 1 km long dog trail.
- Harris Farm XC Ski Center: As long as the snow is not too soft, they allow dogs on all their trails, provided it is not a weekend or a holiday. Your dog can enjoy a total of 40 km long trail her.
- Rangeley Lakes Trails Center: You can take your dog on their ungroomed fat bike/ snowshoe trails any time of the week, but they allow your four-legged friend on their 3.5 km trail only on weekdays.
In Alaska, the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club allows dogs on the Baycrest trail network except for the Sunset Loop, Far Side, and Serpentine to Midway areas. The Eveline State Recreation Site allows dogs but they need to be on a leash (not more than 9 feet long). At McNeil, your dog should be on leash on the property of the McNeil Canyon Elementary School. Whatever ski area you plan to head to, check the dog policies from their website. It goes without saying, but make sure you act as a responsible dog owner when you are out with your dog.
If you have skied with your dog before, you know there are very few activities that are more enjoyable than this winter sport. Make sure you follow the rules and act as a good dog owner. If you have never tried XC skiing with your fur baby, try it! Skijoring is a great workout for both of you. Not only do you get to spend time with your pooch, but it is also great for you (and your pup’s) physical as well as mental wellbeing. But the skiing season is also as important for your fellow skiers and their families as it is for yours. And not everyone is a huge fan of dogs like you are! Respect the physical space of other skiers and keep your dog close to you – ideally, your dog leash should not be longer than nine feet – unless stated otherwise.
Unfortunately, many dog owners do not act as responsible citizens when it comes to controlling their dogs or cleaning after them. No one knows your dog better than you do. If you feel your dog gets excited when he/ she sees other people, keep him/ her on the leash even in dog-trails that do not ask you to leash-up your dog. No matter how tempting or empty a certain trail looks like if it does not allow dogs, do not risk skiing with your dog there.
Make sure you obey the rules of these ski centers, so in the future, more ski trails start to accept dogs along with their human cross country skiing partners.