Backcountry Skier’s and Rider’s Code of Ethics


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

(Editor’s note from Lou: I’m gonna stick this up at the top for a few hours and link to it from Facebook, since it’s getting some attention. Attempting to codify a loose cannon (pun) of ethics is always interesting. Main idea is to get us all thinking and perhaps figuring out what we can do out there that makes the backcountry experience the most rewarding. A big deal now that the sport of backcountry skiing has expanded is how we deal with the crowds we are part of. That includes the way skin tracks and other over-snow trails are created and managed. See comments.)

  1. If I choose to access the backcountry by mechanized means, I will do so in a respectful fashion, obeying all rules and regulations, and driving with care when around foot travelers such as snowshoers, snowboarders and skiers.
  2. I will respect designated areas, trail use signs, and established ski tracks. When traveling on foot or snowshoe, I will not damage existing ski trails that backcountry skiers have broken out and are using.
  3. When stopping, I will not block the trail.
  4. I will not disturb wildlife and will avoid areas posted for their protection or feeding.
  5. I will not litter, and I will pack out everything I packed in.
  6. I will adjust my backcountry skiing or riding pace and level of risk to that which my whole party is comfortable with.
  7. I will not encourage or push others to take risks they are not comfortable with.
  8. I realize that my destination and travel speed are determined by my equipment, ability, terrain, weather, and traffic on the trail, and will plan accordingly.
  9. In case of an emergency, I will volunteer assistance. I will always carry basic emergency equipment such as a light source, shovel, and first aid supplies.
  10. I will not interfere with or harass other recreationists involved in legal/normal activities. I recognize that people judge all other winter recreationists by my actions.
  11. I will promote a friendly and positive attitude while in the backcountry. I will smile and greet others on the trail, offer information about conditions, and offer assistance if necessary.

Comments

80 Responses to “Backcountry Skier’s and Rider’s Code of Ethics”

  1. Jason August 5th, 2009 9:33 am

    Good re-post! In the recent years I moved from the base of the mountain to about 10 miles out. I have since bought a snowmobile to get back to the mountain in a timely fasion. It is crucial that you take your time around xc-skiers especially. I usually stop and talk to them, since there are only a handful of people where I ski. They are all stoked to talk for a moment and don’t mind me when I slip by the next times. Good stuff.

    I think you might want to put something in there about taking a leek on the trail?! Why not move off to the trees? or at least 10 feet?

  2. Lou August 5th, 2009 9:41 am

    Jason, good point about the yellow snow!

    As for dogs…

  3. Randonnee August 5th, 2009 11:34 am

    Do not ski onto the same potential slab avalanche as another skier or above other skiers on an avalanche path. Many lives could have been saved if skiers and their famous Certified Guide had followed this simple rule. In my experience I have decided to be defensive and stay away from others and try carefully to avoid any opportunity to allow an oblivious or inconsiderate individual to threaten with death from above.

  4. Randonnee August 5th, 2009 11:36 am

    Oh yeah, be sure that the path is clear below when ski cutting.

  5. Halsted August 5th, 2009 11:53 am

    Or cornice cutting…..

  6. Randonnee August 5th, 2009 12:01 pm

    Yea, I kick cornices with skis. Less time, more thrill. It is a bit of a skill set to have one ski above the break, that is kind of important.

  7. Mac August 5th, 2009 9:36 pm

    I would second the idea of a easy to find link to the basics like this. I certainly know that your website was one of the first places I was directed to when I started out on my ski mountaineering career.

    For those who are interested in such esoteric things as ethics and the like, the UIAA has a couple of excellent documents, including the elegantly concise Mountain Code.

    You can see it at: http://www.theuiaa.org/news_179_-New-code-lays-out-ethics-and-best-practices

    Mac

  8. Jack August 6th, 2009 12:36 am

    Ethics code as written is not bad, but not great. The key element for the backcountry ethic is that one should plan on self reliance for survival. Perhaps self reliance is the backcountry axiom.

    I don’t quite understqnd No. 8; I realize a lot of things, but are realizations equivalent to ethics? Is no.8 promoting manners on the trail? If so, how about this: I will always be courteous to other backcountry travelers.

    The first part of no. 9 is good, but the last part is not. Assisting in an emergency is a requirement of the backcountry ethic, but carrying emergency gear is not a requirement of backcountry ethic.

    I do not like no. 10 at all. It seems ok if you encounter only reasonable gentle people. But, I will interfere with someone in the backountry in extreme circumstances, e.g. if one is abusing or injuring another.

    No. 11 is great.

  9. Lou August 6th, 2009 6:52 am

    Good feedback Jack, thanks, I’ll see if I can do a bit more editing based on your comments.

  10. Matt Kinney August 6th, 2009 8:57 am

    Seems that quieter, cleaner 4-strokes should be part of the ethic.

  11. Scott Portnoy August 6th, 2009 10:16 am

    Big fan of #11, the 5 minute chats during any mountain excursion always make my day better, and chances are I’ll probably learn something about what Im doing from the convo

  12. Jordan August 6th, 2009 1:03 pm

    Hey Matt,
    Only if you’re buying!
    J

  13. Matt Kinney August 6th, 2009 1:53 pm

    Yeaa I need to replace my 96 Polaris Wide-Trak some day. I did get it tuned up last winter, but only ran it to load onto my truck to take it to get tuned up by “Chad-The-Man” and to move out of the way for my snow plowing efforts. Actually I did take it out once last March to see if it could still do 90mph and yes it can! I remain pure though..earn your turns.

  14. Randonnee August 6th, 2009 7:21 pm

    Quote: “Seems that quieter, cleaner 4-strokes should be part of the ethic.”

    Hey Matt, how about -

    12. I will not make ridiculous, wide telemark turns, instead I will use randonnee skis, I will make symmetrical tight turns and leave lots of powder lines for everyone. I will make crisp, efficient uphill kick turns and lay an excellent grade uptrack.

    : ) }

    ( Yeah, you probably do that, just kiddin’ Matt.)

  15. Brian August 6th, 2009 8:56 pm

    12. I will always carry a bottle opener

  16. Matt Kinney August 6th, 2009 10:53 pm

    I prefer wide ridiculous alpine turns with free heels. Why do one turn when you can do all turns!.

    Seriously ….it is all good as long as it has p-tex covered with glide wax.

    13. Spooning tracks is a sin in Alaska.

  17. Euro Rob August 7th, 2009 1:22 am

    “2. I will respect designated areas, trail use signs, and established ski tracks. When traveling on foot or snowshoe, I will not damage existing ski trails that backcountry skiers have broken out and are using.”

    I’d been backcountry snowboarding (with snowshoes) for a few years before going back to skis. Once or twice a season people would get vocal about destroying the skin track with the snowshoes. This is pointless. The vocal ones were never those who broke the trail in the first place. The ones who broke the trail are surely strong enough to handle a few bumps in the track. If you can’t handle that stay on the groomers. Or break your own track. The track doesn’t belong to anyone.

  18. Lou August 7th, 2009 6:49 am

    Brian’s is probably the one I’ll add (grin)!

  19. Lou August 7th, 2009 7:33 am

    I did some editing. Keep the comments coming if you like…

  20. Tom Gos August 7th, 2009 9:58 am

    How about “I will participate in group decision making and repsect the group decision. I will ski with the group unless it endangers me.” I’ve skied with people who insist on doing their own thing regardless of the group. This can be dangerous for the group and individual, can create delays, and creates a lot of stress in the group as they worry about where the Lone Ranger went to.

  21. Shane August 7th, 2009 10:43 am

    Rob, Re shoes in the skin track.

    I gotta disagree. When I set a skin track (on my splitboard) I do it with the intent that myself and others can use it over and over again to get to the top of the mountain much quicker than I did on the intial climb. In areas that see a lot of use the track can get unuseable once it’s hammered by snowshoers and dogs. This is especially true if it gets a little icy when the holes (bumps aren’t the problem) eliminate any opportunity for my skins to grip.

    Follow your own advice and break YOUR OWN trail if you want to use snowshoes.

  22. Slave.To.Turns August 7th, 2009 1:53 pm

    Seriously, why is a snowmobile even mentioned? I don’t get it. Maybe because Lou has one, but I have to say, the majority sure as hell does not.

    BTW, Euro Rob, re: snowshoes on the skin track? Yeah, good luck with that one. You’re wrecking it.

  23. Lou August 7th, 2009 4:06 pm

    Slave, “mechanized” is mentioned because one snowmobile used improperly can have the impact of dozens of muscle powered folks — the term “mechanized” also applies to snowcats and helicopters, or even 4x4s and SUV being used to access trailheads.

  24. Kyle August 7th, 2009 5:04 pm

    Ditto Euro Rob,

    I originally started out snowshoe boarding, Even once had some skier guy try to tell us to stay off the track we had broken that morning.

    If your smart about you can actually keep the track pretty level even with snowshoes on. We’ve seen all sorts of people wreck skin tracks, including people on skins.

    I don’t even mind post holers anymore, if your that motivated to get some turns in more power to ya. Last season I saw a group post hole the entire Balu Pass trail in Rogers Pass get one lap in ( it was getting dark by then) and head back out. Thats dedication.

    Besides in most popular areas around here, the skiers kill the uptrack as it is and new ones get set, most skiers themselves don’t even know how to keep the track useable.

  25. Tony Z August 9th, 2009 4:45 pm

    Good repost!

  26. Lou August 9th, 2009 8:13 pm

    Kyle, good points. It’s a loosing battle anyway, so why let the messed track harsh a good day? I think that’ll be my take next winter. As it is, I’ve gotten to the point where I mostly just laugh at some of the incredibly messed up tracks I’ve been seeing, especially just off roads in the easier to reach areas.

  27. Euro Rob August 10th, 2009 2:42 am

    Ok, I can see that skiers are not happy about completely destroyed tracks, guess I need to put things into perspective.

    When my friend and I snowshoed for the entire season here in the region, we would maybe meet 2-3 other snowshoers ALL WINTER.

    So people were really complaining about a single guy climbing on snowshoes on “their” (d’oh) track. And, as Kyle said, if you take care the track doesn’t suffer much. Have another like 3 skiers skin it and it’d be perfect again. So often our our own group would flatten the track, as we usually went together with a bunch of skiers (who could handle the bumps by the way).

  28. databot August 10th, 2009 10:04 pm

    When breaking trail, I will remember that people may follow me, much as I might wish they wouldn’t, and that said people may or may not have the massive thighs, huge lungs, ginormous 8″ wide skins or many decades of backcountry experience that I have, and may be following my track in different conditions than those in which I set it, and I will accordingly set a skin track that is safe in a variety of conditions and which may be followed with minimal effort even after it’s been polished slicker than a mirror by the hordes who weren’t so lucky or cool as me to get first tracks and thus have to spoon my most beautiful tracks.

  29. Dostie August 11th, 2009 9:08 am

    databot and others who recognize the value of setting a good first skin track,

    Touche! That’s what the low-angle, Meanderthal track is about. ;)

    And getting bent ‘cuz someone used your track to their advantage for slowshoeing, post holing, or even for their dogs to poop on…don’t waste yer energy being negative on such inconsequential stuff. Maintaining good vibes in your head is part of why we earn our turns. It’s simply not worth it to let such trivial matters mar the landscape of your outlook, especially when it’s so darn easy to just set a new line. I mean, aren’t free heels and climbing skins just awesome ‘cz they allow you to go ANYWHERE?!

  30. Dostie August 11th, 2009 9:11 am

    PS: Yeah, I already know the argument for Neanderthal, steep as possible skin tracks. It weeds out the wannabes and keeps the vertically challenged in challenge mode. Problem is, it doesn’t affect the dogs one way or the other. They like it and when they mark your trail with their stuff…well, there you go, you just have to make a new path. ;)

  31. databot August 12th, 2009 8:21 am

    “meanderthal” vs “neanderthal” – Dostie, that’s a brilliant way of phrasing the distinction between track-setting strategies! :biggrin: Thanks!
    blase

  32. kihm September 3rd, 2009 9:45 am

    1 snowshoer=bummer 20snowshoers=superhighway! All you have to do is give them something to follow and they will. I usually welcome this as I ski on the east side of the Gore Range in Colorado. Not very much traffic in the winter and I do alot of trail breaking. It is very nice to see another bc skier or boarder and I will offer info on conditions and directions when asked. Please dont be offended when I do not ask for same as I still like to discover these things for myself. I learn more that way. Always remember this “all the kings horses and all the kings men will never track it all out!”

  33. Simon April 24th, 2010 9:39 am

    Great set of ethics! Number 3 is the one that gets me the most!!

  34. Wayne July 29th, 2012 10:17 am

    Interesting and informative conversation. Question: It was mentioned that even skiers don’t know how to properly maintain a skin track, That got me wondering if I am or am not ‘properly’ maintaining a track I am following. I just skin up following the track. Occasionally there will be a switchback that my old and in-flexible hips can’t make the kick turn, so I gotta sort of fan my way around. I do bring my two dogs when I’m skiing non-avi terrain – which is about 90% of the time – who do run in the track. When they poop, I clean it up. I work with a guy who has complained about my dogs’ tracks, but I honestly can’t see the problem. Likewise, I can’t see the problem with snowshoers. Anyway (other than leaving my dogs home and causing them to bite me when I get back and they smell the aroma of a bc skiing adventure that they weren’t invited on) what do I need to know, as a skier, about proper track maintenance?

  35. Lou Dawson July 30th, 2012 7:56 am

    Wayne, a couple of things:

    Lots of skiers make weird kickturn switchbacks that are significantly steeper than the track leading to and from. As you “maintain” the track, you can even these out by extending them a few feet over.

    In terms of the overall track, on a traverse shelf it’s nice if nearly every skier attempts to keep their upper ski edges as near to the upside of the track as possible, sometime even peeling a bit off the upper track wall during each pass, to keep widening and strengthening the track bed.

    Sometimes a skin track will head through a sharp depression that breaks your stride. When I cross one of these, I’ll sometimes drag a ski in the snow above and pull a bit down into the depression to even it out. During laps, I’ve seen this make a big difference.

    On the way up, it’s worth thinking about finding a trail that won’t mess up the descent. This especially true when breaking deep powder trail. I’ve seen sets of switchbacks that essentially ruined a nice powder slope, with a nearby forest where the track could have easily been set.

    Perhaps the biggest thing with setting track or breaking trail is to keep it climbing. It works to vary the climbing angle a bit now and then to work the legs differently, but flat or downhill sections do nothing more than frustrate. Nonetheless, I’m amazed each winter at how many people will set a skin track the essentially does zero uphill for hundreds of feet, then suddenly darts uphill as if the very devil himself was on their tail. I’ve never seen one of these mysterious track setters in action, to check if they’re on drugs or something, but suspicion does occur (grin).

    I’ve seen guides in Europe get out their shovel and work over a switchback or traverse section that’s become too hacked up. Not sure most of us would go to that extreme (unless we’re after a big tip from the client), but that’s the attitude.

    In terms of skin track climbing angle, it’s incredibly pleasant and efficient to climb a trail that’s comfortable at the medium heel lift angle of most tech bindings. But some skiers do like to go as steep as possible. Because of this disparity I’m frequently seeing two or more skin tracks leading to the same place; one a “guide” track with that comfortable angle, and one a “death wall” track for manhood proof. It’s nice to have both choices, and kudos to those who do the work of setting that extra track.

    Mainly, for skin track upkeep try to keep thinking of what condition the people behind you will find the track in, and try to improve that in various ways.

    Lou

  36. Jack July 30th, 2012 9:04 am

    I would add to #5: “, and this means even the little corners torn off while opening engergy bar packages.” as they seem to be ubiquitous on trails here in New England.

  37. cjoverski July 30th, 2012 9:10 am

    Euro Rob has brought up the big ONE!!!:

    (me: backcountry skier and I use tech bindings and skins like most here)

    Skin trail ettiquette. More than anything, the free world and our life pursuit of “backcountry” means that we like to go places that are “FREE” and “Pristine” without others or without others whom are not into similar interests. Nobody has the right to tell others “how to” or what gear is appropriate to use on a skinner. I for one started out post holing on skin tracks just to get to my place, aka-POWDER before I had randonee equipment. In the end complaining goons would attempt to alter my plans because their sweet skin track was getting post holed!!! Now, I make most skinners I encounter and I give props to anyone whom is willing to make the excursion into the wild snow. Please be considerate and quit trying to own things in the backcountry people. A skinner or bootpack are means to get to the goods, that’s it!!!

    One person here “RANDONEE” referred to the tragic Canadian mishap that led to the deaths of 7 people including Craig Kelly. That was obvious (in hind site) a lack of respect for the snowpack and group size dynamic. Group size and loading the slope are much more important than how one kick turns or gets their self up the slope. It is a powder frenzy we seek but respect for the snow and not the skinner are huge here.

    @Shane and other complainers. Buy a stair stepper or other exercise equipment because you are unable to overcome such hurdle in the backcountry. As another stated skinners are usually set by those whom could really care less about post holers, its the after parties that hone in on skinners to get their tired asses up the mountain and then complain when someone else is doing the same. Do yourselves a favor and remember why you are there in the first place- POWDER!

    Group size, group dynamics, and respect for people and snow are priority here. All else is heresay

  38. Ty July 30th, 2012 9:41 am

    A few things haven’t been mentioned. Don’t traverse all over the damn slope! Ski the fall line. Let solo travelers tour with your group if they ask . I’ve asked a few groups if I can join them around Bozeman, only to be met with lame and pretentious responses as to why I can’t skin with them

  39. Wayne July 30th, 2012 10:10 am

    All, those are great comments and insight. Kinda cool to have such a respectful site, unlike Mountain Project and many others. Thanks. Turns out that I may not have been doing all the right things to maintain the trail, but I guess I haven’t been doing any wrong things either…except bringing my dogs. So far so good. And just for the record, if somebody can’t afford the unbelievably expensive equipment that allows them to glide uphill, and they’re willing to post hole or snowshoe…more powder, er, power to them. They’re tougher than me!

  40. Dan July 30th, 2012 10:43 am

    I mistakenly stumbled into this thread and can’t help myself. Thus, the following mini-rant.
    Because most of us “weekend” skiers/riders generally do not have all that much terrain to ski/ride in and most of us are looking for POW, at least in the winter, experienced skiers/riders try to get the most out of the terrain available to them. This means “conserve the line”. A skin track that is pock-marked from boots, snowshoes, and pups can be difficult to skin, esp. when a little icy. When this happens, frequently, someone will put in another skin track, which is not the best way to “conserve the line” and a waste of energy that could have been used for another run. Thus, Postholing in an established skin track is poor form unless there are circumstances that cannot reasonably be addressed otherwise. Letting your dog walk/poop in the skin track is poor form, trashing the obvious available ski lines with multiple skin tracks is poor form. If it is not obvious to a skier, boarder, hiker, etc. why the aforementioned items are “poor form”, that person should discuss it with experienced back-country skiers/riders. I frequently observe snowshoers, boarders w/o snowshoes and skiers with “skin” problems making a new track next to the skin track…not trashing the existing track. Almost as frequently, even when there are parallel tracks (skin and posthole), somebody will be postholing in the skin track…when there is an existing posthole track!!! To me, trashing a skin track when one has an alternative is right down there with chipping holds, drilling next to a crack, using pins when a nut would suffice and driving under the influence. I know that I am not alone in this. Thus, people who willy-nilly trash skin tracks should expect to be chastized on occasion.

  41. cjoverski July 30th, 2012 10:53 am

    Well Dan…don’t be offended when a postholer returns your remark with the finger. Weekend Warrior or not, the pow is for all not a limited group of geared out out folks whom wish the world revolved around their ski schedule. Buy a stair master, or other workout equipment (or gym pass) then head to the hills and make your own skinner.

    Do they complain about the holes that come with the Cheese in Switzerland??? Of course not! It’s part of the deal, so DEAL WITH IT and let others enjoy the same things you do, without making a snyde comment because POW is what unifies all of us posting here. Dog shitting in the skin track???!!!! well, now you will talk about obedience school and training, blah blah blah. When one should as oneself “does a dog shit in the woods?” The answer I will leave with you.

  42. Jay Monnahan July 30th, 2012 11:03 am

    Remove your dog’s poo from the skin track!

    Seems like point #4 needs to be revised slightly, although I’m not sure how to word it. Anyone who accesses via a 2-stroke sled is automatically in violation of the first half of the point. If I can hear the things from miles away and thousands of feet above, then I’m sure wildlife in the vicinity are being disturbed.

  43. Jay Monnahan July 30th, 2012 11:20 am

    cjoverski…seems like you’re taking a couple simple requests and blowing them out of proportion. Just because someone is skinning doesn’t mean they’re “geared out.” I have several friends who’ve saved and scrimped to split an old board and buy some used skins.

    Both of Dan’s statements only ask that people take the idea of social responsibility to the backcountry. It’s not unusual that the people who put in a skin track are locals, especially on popular tours, and that they’ll return to the area in the near future. It’s not fair to them, to destroy the skin track and their hard work to make your life easier. Same thing applies to picking up after your pet. That’s the standard in parks and other trails, so why not a skin track, which is essentially a winter trail.

  44. Wayne July 30th, 2012 11:39 am

    Thanks for the helpful and mostly courteous comments. Especially yours, Lou. Turns out that I may not have been doing all the right things to maintain and improve the track, but I haven’t been doing anything wrong either, other than letting my dogs posthole. So far, so good. Yeah, skin tracks in the middle of the pow run…unacceptable most of the time. but a real rarity in my world anyway. But backcountry equipment is screaming expensive, whether you cut a board in half or not. So personally if some folks have not yet been able to scrimp and save to purchase equipment that let’s them easily and effortlessly glide up slope and they’re post holing or snowshowing, more powder, er power to them. They’re tougher than I am. There are just too many people using too few resources. Less than 150 million in this country when I was born, over 300 million now. So we have no choice but to play nice. It’s not our personal and exclusive playground. Anyway, thanks for helping me – and others – be a more ethical bc skier.

  45. Lou Dawson July 30th, 2012 11:44 am

    I have to agree somewhat with Dan, though I’m not the guy who’s going to chastise anyone on the skin track, just not my nature when I’m out there, since I’m of the mind that when one starts getting on other backcountry users backs, it makes for not the most positive day they’ll ever have, but that’s just me?

    On the other hand, peer pressure is incredibly powerful. The guys who are booting skin tracks might feel justified, but I’ll guarantee that some of them will start having second thoughts if they at least get a friendly but firm comment from most of the skinners passing them. I’d agree with Dan that booting a well crafted skin track is like chipping holds, or a better analogy might be ripping the bolts out of a nicely built sport climb that dozens of people are enjoying. It’s really quite selfish and sometimes even stuns me that people could be so seemingly uncaring. I’m thinking some of it is ignorance about skin tracks, but other times, it’s just blatant destruction. And it’s not always trivial. I’ve seen many many skin tracks destroyed by booting to the point it was better to break another trail.

  46. Adam Olson July 30th, 2012 2:47 pm

    It is called a “skin track” for a reason. It is for skins. If you do not have them, buy them. If you are booting up the “skin track” it is because you are too lazy to create a “boot track” and are destroying someone’s hard work. Plain and simple.

    #12 Do not cross other ski tracks on the ski down. Find your own damn snow!

  47. Xavier July 30th, 2012 4:43 pm

    #13 I will try and not be smug and condescending to people using non-tech bindings, even thought they are really stupid and deserve it.

    #14.I will not make the person wearing an avy bag backpack be the” avalanche poodle” and drop in first on sketchy slopes unless I can justify it to myself.

    #15. When others using my skintrack and then post Trip Reports on numerous skiing blogs e-gloating about their face shots and giving detailed directions to my stash I will refrain from telling them publicly that they were Gapers and skiing in the “backseat “and making stem turns.

  48. Lou Dawson July 30th, 2012 4:58 pm

    LOL, and I’ve NEVER been guilty of #13, especially when I pass guys 1/3 my age (grin).

  49. Wayne July 30th, 2012 5:04 pm

    Guess I’m lucky. The two places I reguarly ski, I seldom/almost never have any of the problems discussed here. Detailed directions to your stash is akin to Backpacker Magazine publishing “The 50 best least discovered outdoor places.”

    I ski at…

  50. Ty July 30th, 2012 7:00 pm

    posting up the track is super lame. It is for gapers. almost everyone that I catch doing this is an inexperienced rider (plenty of those around were i ski).

    for the record, I am totally “geared out” when I skin, rocking bling and shredding with straight diamonds on. Rule # 12 seems a little old school for me. Really? Dont cross tracks? Easy enough when its just you and a few buddies out there…Most people ski with a tight radius…Does this mean that I am ethically obliged to spoon up their trenches? I agree that one should ski the fall line, but I do not want to be relegated to someone else’s idea of a proper turn radius/ line, as I prefer to ski with giant, super-g like turns as I scream “suck on my rooster tail, you wanker traditionalists…”

    as to rule #15…I agree. Encourage stoke and spray your accomplishments, but do not give detailed route descriptions. That is part of the adventure…

  51. Lou Dawson July 30th, 2012 9:00 pm

    “suck on my rooster tail, you wanker traditionalists…” Excellent.

  52. cjoverski July 31st, 2012 3:47 am

    Let’s not forget that Avy Safety here is #1 and route choice is part of that for skinning or booting up to the goods. Having fun is part of that.

    I am not trying to be offensive here (even with my capitals and exclamations), just pointing out that most all of the comments from folks whom attest booting on skinners (hey I would rather have a nice pristine skinner as well, sans dog poo) had to have a start somewhere. You know you have had your “gaper” moments but it is those moments that helped you to determine how to best approach the hill the next time, or the next season. To witness others effortlessly or with little effort walk up skinners to the goods is inspiring as I have had those “light bulb” moments that led to the purchase of randonee inserts for alpine bindings and skinny skins, then randonee bindings, then tech. bindings – where I like it ALOT!

    TY – You must be “pro” because you use the word “gaper” so well, just sit back and remember your first backcountry gaper moments, now go hold the hand of someone booting on a skinner and lead them to the light. It is inspiration not negative direction that can help inspire change in anyone. I am with you though that farming tracks in not absolutely essential just respectful to a point. Crossing tracks shouldn’t be the end of the world, it just makes the painting a little more Pollack. Also, allowing one to join your group when it may affect group dynamics is huge. I will pose a question – should an experienced and relatively fast group allow a single party to join them when they do not know the extent of avy training or overall experience of the person??? I have allowed numerous folks to join me and my touring parties and the dynamic is often good. But speed and AVY sense are the items usually lacking. If one is to be a solo party, then that person better be prepared to be SOLO. Not the best of advice but I often tour solo (not for my manhood sake, but because of agenda) time and quality of turns dictate my life so I often find myself seeking the goods alone.

    Xavier – Funny stuff! – #14 though seems like they should be slopes testers,lol

    Jay – hope to not offend anyone here, and I may have let my passion overflow, but I know that postholing and booting on skinners isn’t going to affect my day if someone is going for the goods. If a person puts in a tremendous effort to make a skinner with hopes of returning to the trail another day, and said skinner is in an area where folks can see the skinner accessing the goods – and said skinner maker put said skinner on public land…IT AIN’T A WINTER TRAIL! It is a skinner – and nothing can be done to thwart said postholers or users of skinner from making it theirs as well. This is where my passion lies. I appreciate Lou’s approach that some good advice from Ambassadors to the sport goes a long way, especially on a long skinner. Why not put a skinner in a place that nobody wants to follow or better yet why not put one in a a place that is the real backcountry and not worry about people seeing your skinner to affect its pristine nature? If the public can see your skinner it is “side country” not backcountry. Public USE!!! I will always put this first on public land.

    Dan – no disrespect just pointing out the obvious. Unofficial or officially posted people will still take their boots to the skinner and dogs will join as well. It is part of the game if you skin in areas where there is common access to the goods, that I personally don’t mind. I just make do and this is how:

    I almost always make my own skinner even if another one is in place. Not everyone enjoys the same switch backs, or, as posted by LOU and others, the grade of steepness of the skinner. I like it steep to save time and the least amount of switchbacks or Z’s I call them, can mean alot for speed. I do not like ugly old skinners because they are usually iced up and I often scratch my head because so many people keep using that same old icey skinner, when two feet to the right or left is soft and more enjoyable for my mohair or nylon to grab when seeking traction.

    LOU – thanks for organizing some thoughts and for seeking advice on a code of ethics for backcountry riders. These are things that will help everyone enjoy the great outdoors and one another at the same time during winter.

    Everyone!!! – Keep it Real, and remember when you gaped so bad it hurt and that is why you are the tech binding wearing, skinner following, people that you are. Please remember, oh remember that Powder is for THE PEOPLE and if we all skied (backcountry only and splitboarding is included here)…there would be no war (atleast the violent kind, text and internet emoticons do not apply)

  53. cjoverski July 31st, 2012 4:26 am

    Dotsie – failed to give props to your comments. They are great, and YES! **binders, boots, skins, open country, and all that those items encompass when out in the wild snow, are what make life so, so good!

    ** – insert whatever item that gets you outside here!

  54. Matt Kinney July 31st, 2012 9:30 am

    A “rule” I use when guiding in Thompson Pass is I yield the slope(sometimes the entire mountain) to unguided skinners and skiers. No debate,etc… I communicate with them (If I can) about their intended route. Even If I am ahead of them and its obvious they want the same line. I don’t; follow others closely either. I typically move off the slope and go elsewhere. Public recreation takes precedence over commercial guiding on public lands wether state, fed or UN.

  55. Adam Olson July 31st, 2012 12:39 pm

    No remarks about the lazy booter on the skin track? Must be true.

    Just because I said you shouldn’t cross other tracks doesn’t imply that you should “spoon” my ski tracks. What sheep you are. Straight line it for all I care, just stay off my tracks. Is that really so “Old Skool”? You kids have no respect for your surroundings or the “Old Skool” skiers who showed you your latest ski spot.
    The reason skiers ski all over other peoples tracks is because they are too scared to cross the line into untouched snow. The existing tracks give the scared skier a sense of safety, so they cling to them…………like the “skin track” or sidewalk. These are perceived safe spots.
    I see it every winter, people skiing all over other peoples tracks (mostly after following someone else there) when they could have skied the whole line cleanly, just a few feet over!!! They could have had the whole bowl or line to themselves, instead they follow like sheep (or cattle) the skier in front of them and ruin a great ski line.

    “Expand your mind and extend your line”, be a little braver.

    Worst case scenario: skin track booting snowboarder crossing everyone’s’ lines! I hear you guys are saying they deserve respect……………….right?

  56. cgd July 31st, 2012 3:47 pm

    some serious first world angst out there among my back country brethren,, the next time you feel yourself getting worked up about poo and piddles and holes in the snow take a moment and consider how ridiculously fortunate you are to be doing what you are doing.

  57. Lou Dawson July 31st, 2012 4:33 pm

    Ah, those pesky humans, always seeking to improve their situation, look what that’s led to!

  58. Jim July 31st, 2012 5:37 pm

    Always set a safe and aesthetic up track.

  59. d July 31st, 2012 5:59 pm

    “just stay off my tracks”

    I don’t get that. If someone chooses to ski over old tracks, why do you care?

    As for skin track manners, except for the rare situation I really dislike following anyone else’s track anyway unless they are in my group and set track the way I like it. I don’t like following others foot[skin]steps on terrain – it is like following their thoughts at the expense of your own.

  60. Wayne July 31st, 2012 7:24 pm

    I hate to admit to being stupid, but…I guess I’m stupid. I’ve been skiing for maybe 55 years, but after a fair number of years recreating, teaching and patrolling at resorts and much to my wife’s dismay, I can’t freaking stomach ski resorts anymore. So I’ve been bc AT sking for about 7 years. Here are my latest questions:
    1) What in the heck is a tech binding? I know what AT/rondonee and tele bindings are. But tech?!?!
    2) What in the world is the matter with skiing over somebody’s tracks or spooning their tracks? What about the joy of figure eights? Ya gotta ski SOMEWHERE? Hasn’t that person who made the tracks already skied down? And if they make it back up, aren’t they going to move over a skoosh and fall line ski an untouched swath of powder?
    3) Why be rude on this site?Or on the hillside? Isn’t that what resort skiing is for? If uncivility is your thing, go to Mountain Project! Or the Republican National Convention.

    Enlighten me! And yes…I AT because I suck at tele.

  61. Lou Dawson July 31st, 2012 8:35 pm

    Wayne, the rudeness level here is pretty darned low. Please don’t mistake people’s enthusiasm and writing style for deliberate rudeness. Yeah, sometimes some rude will creep in, but the level is super low compared to many other forum type environments on the web. And by the way, no need to be rude yourself (grin). There are all types of people here, even Republicans.

    As for tech bindings, that’s anything based on the Dynafit type of system, where the boot has fittings that the binding mates with.

    As for skiing over tracks, I’d say you’d owe it to yourself to continue to get involved in backcountry skiing culture, and find out some of the cultural norms that equate to politeness in the backcountry. In many areas, one of those norms is not to charge off down the hill and rip a track over all the other people’s track, which is considered, yes, rude, while in some other areas, no one cares.

    Lou

  62. Wayne July 31st, 2012 11:20 pm

    Lou, many thanks and I truly don’t mean to belabor this question. But another reader also asked. I get that sking over another’s tracks is considered rude. I just can’t fathom why, since that skier has come and gone (on that pass) and has had his/her undisturbed powder shot. I haven’t impacted his/her run or experience. Is it asthetics? I’ll try to make this my last (ignorant) question. Thanks.

  63. Lou Dawson August 1st, 2012 4:12 am

    Wayne, something to do with aesthetics and style. Your question is like asking why it’s rude to go to dinner in your underwear. Hard to explain… (grin)

  64. Wayne August 1st, 2012 7:30 am

    Ok, thanks Lou and others. Dunno about skiing over tracks that somebody left a few hours or days ago. Who cares? I certainly don’t. But other than that, I’ve learned a lot here. Thanks. RNC comment was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. And if you ever have the misfortune to see me in dinner in only my underwear, you’ll quickly understand why THAT at least would be considered rude. Again, thanks for the tutorials.

  65. Lou Dawson August 1st, 2012 8:08 am

    wayne, not to be too flip, I can think of a couple of practical reasons why folks like to spoon tracks neatly. Mainly, the spooned tracks cover nicely with new storms and don’t develop moguls. When folks start crossing tracks, traversing in the middle of slopes, and stuff like that, it makes a much rougher and more abrupt foundation for the new storm. This is especially true in Colorado, where we don’t generally get huge dumps. Not so much a factor in other places. As for my own style, I actually enjoy skiing hacked up slopes when avy danger is high, due to the _eventual_ stabilization of such slopes by all the use. In those situations, crossing tracks is pretty much inevitable and not a big deal. In fact, sometimes here in Colorado it’s best that a given slope gets really hacked up before the next storm, to make it safer. That was often the case last winter due to our terrible snowpack. In my opinion, heavily skied backcountry slopes saved a few lives during close calls that could have been much worse. So this is situational, sort of like how you dress for dinner depending on what restaurant. Lou

  66. Wayne August 1st, 2012 8:21 am

    Thanks Lou. That all makes perfect sense…and no, you’re not being flip at all. I ski the Grand Mesa and The LaSals. The primary slopes on the Mesa do get totally hacked up and that, (plus the 25% slope, which kind of forces fall line skiing) make it extremely safe from avi danger. Plus I’ve long prided myself on being an adept crude skier, so I don’t need to get bent if I’m not in pure powder. It’s all good. Thanks again. The Mesa, btw, at 11,000 feet, gets a surprising amount of snow. Maybe more than most other places in CO. Who knew?

  67. Patrick August 1st, 2012 11:12 pm

    Lou, good pointers on up-tracks, thanks.
    Especially “on a traverse shelf … skier attempts to keep their upper ski edges as near to the upside of the track as possible” and yes, ‘keep climbing”.

    In addition, I keep an eye ahead so I can get up the slope with the fewest kick-turns possible. Slight terrain rolls can provide the basis for rounded turns to the other direction. So much easier on my body. Much more pleasant than kick-turns; especially when your group plans to ski a few laps. Over the years, I’ve had many compliments for setting up-tracks with no kick-turns. (Granted, I’m not usually setting tracks on super-steep terrain.)

  68. The Porter December 27th, 2012 5:07 pm

    Interesting comments here. Regarding the skin track, I’ve been xc skiing and splitboarding for years. I think it’s great that skis are so fat now. No longer is my splitboard doubling the width of the skin track as I lead/follow a bunch of skinny-skis into the BC. Fat skis=less work for me all day long!

    If you ever xc ski, you’ll understand the pure beauty of a perfect track. It sets up nice, and lets you glide and turn through the woods like you’re on rails. It’s even better when BC XC skiing. Your little track through the woods is all there is. Good stuff. Snowshoes bomb the track up and make it _impossible_ to use with waxless/fish-scaled xc skis. Sort of the same on the BC skin track, but not as bad. It still sucks slipping around because your skins can’t catch on the snowshoe track.

    I once broke trail 4 miles through a foot of snow. My only reward was the easier return. As I’m eating lunch, a guy on snowshoes huffs and puffs up to me. I didn’t realize it, but he had followed my track like a laser. So I had to break trail for 4 miles back out. No good.

    Here in Oregon we have lots of “Share the trail, not the tracks” signs. They state to “Establish and maintain separate ski and snowshoe tracks.” They even have a picture on them with happy ski and snowshoe tracks next to each other. Again, this is in XC ski areas, not the backcountry, but the sentiment is the same.

  69. OldGoat January 20th, 2013 4:55 pm

    The Porter reminds me of touring out to a Sierra Club hut back in the 70′s. 3 feet of fresh, I was by myself, first one out. After 10 minutes I looked back and saw a couple of guys. I stopped. They stopped. 10 minutes later 6 or 7 guys. I stop, the stop. I wound up with about 30 folks behind me and no one would set track. And skiing back out, you guessed it–track totally destroyed by snowshoes. So nothing new about that. How about an ethic “Offer to share trailbreaking if you catch up to another party”–or is that contrary to the current ethic?

  70. Craig February 17th, 2013 9:34 pm

    I have a question that may touch on a backcountry skier’s ethics. I’m currently on a 5 weeks vacation in the Tetons specifically to gain backcountry experience after my Avy Level 1 last year. My partner couldn’t make it out so I haven’t been able to bc ski at all. I was considering just driving up Teton pass and asking someone if I could tag along. But then I thought, if I was being asked if someone could tag along in the bc I’m not sure I would feel comfortable bringing someone I didn’t know. What if they were in way over their head? I know my skiing skills are great and I know my training well but I’m not sure taking my word for it is a likely outcome. Any thoughts?

  71. Tim February 18th, 2013 6:19 pm

    go for it craig! i think the only unethical thing you could do is just latch on to some unsuspecting group… but your situation and the ask you’re making is very relatable and i predict your prospects break down roughly like this: 25 percent won’t look at you; 25 percent will be sympathetic, but not ok with you tagging along; and 50 percent will gladly invite you join them (of those, 25 percent could possibly be the most dangerous partners to explore with). have fun!

  72. Ron D. September 25th, 2013 9:15 pm

    Regarding staying out of ski tracks.
    Yes do it when possible, but on public land tracking the snow does not make it your own.
    I know numerous very strong runners that snowshoe in the winter. They will spend a couple hard hours breaking a fresh new trail up drainages in deep Colorado powder. They tend to be more motivated and stronger than the average skier that uses these routes, and frequently extend a packed trail farther back in than anyone else.
    As everyone knows it is much easier to follow a semi-compacted route in snow than to break a new one. So many skiers come along later (after just a little more new snow) and follow the ‘trail’ that these people have made. (likely not even knowing that the base was set by snowshoers).
    When the snowshoers return later, they frequently are scolded by skiers for messing up the ski trail! (the same route the snowshoers set before).
    So just some thoughts:
    -skiers are not the only backcountry users out there.
    -other people break and use trails too
    -skiers are the only group that has members that are protective of the tracks they make in the snow. snowmobilers and snowshoers generally do not care if others use their tracks.
    -in deference to skiers, other users should try to avoid tracks known to be originally set by skiers.
    -if skiers value their tracks, they should place them carefully on multi-use routes/areas to enhance their preservation. Set ski tracks to the edge of wider trails when breaking trail to allow others to make their own track. Set new ski tracks to the side of already established tracks in the snow.
    -ask other users to set their tracks to the side when breaking new trail to leave room for ski tracks.
    -no one can expect others to stay out of their tracks on multiple use public land.
    -skiers should avoid areas popular with other users if they realistically want ski tracks to last longer
    -Some places offer ski only trails and provide other separate routes for other users. Not many on public land, but the very best place to find ski only tracks are commercial Nordic ski areas.
    -in winter travel planning, push for a few ski only, snowshoe only, and snowmobile only routes, where possible and appropriate. Multiple use does not have to exist everywhere.
    -become a very strong skier so you can go beyond the range of the walkers and even those snowshoers, and break your own trail.
    -please do not be tempted to buy a snow machine in order to blow by everyone else near the trailheads (disturbing their tracks and experience in the process) just to get further back in to find untracked snow.

  73. Wayne hare September 25th, 2013 10:44 pm

    Well I think that’s been about beaten to death. Who knew backcountry ski ethics were so complicated? Sounds worse than resort skiing!

  74. phil November 10th, 2013 5:22 pm

    Codifying ethics can become an unending endeavor. Is it not simpler to think of the self and ones actions,perhaps in the way the ancient samurai had seven principles to guide them, Duty and loyalty, justice and morality, complete sincerety, polite courtesy, compassion, heroic courage, and honor. Exemplefying these attributes in ones eandeavors and behavior journeying into the natural world of the backcountry, seemingly would answer any queries as to what is the proper ettiquette and ethic. One would merely have to look at themsevles honestly and act unselfishly.

  75. Lou Dawson November 10th, 2013 7:14 pm

    Actually, Golden Rule is simpler than the 7 principles (grin). Lou

  76. Jason November 19th, 2013 10:01 am

    I’m not too bothered by snowshoers following along in a lone skin track, everyone wants to take the path of least resistance, but it drives me nuts when snowshoers see a fresh skin track next to a snowshoe track and they jump over to sex change the skin track too. It’s becoming a big issue up here at Baker where the snowshoer population growth puts rabbits to shame. Maybe it’s something that Louie could touch on in a future post since he sets his share of skin tracks here too.

  77. jg November 19th, 2013 9:02 pm

    What about a no- Torping rule?
    All members in every party are responsible to guide, aid, assist, and assure all of their group reaches safety, no abandonment of team members, don’t separate your group unless planned, affirm all group members have reached their objective safely.

    or something like that

  78. Jim Milstein November 25th, 2013 10:14 pm

    After many years of trying to decide when to be annoyed I’ve settled on these considerations: Snowshoers are my brothers. I prefer people not bringing dogs, but that’s ok too. Postholers are being discourteous to the other users when they punch out their tracks, but there are worse things, for example, snowmobiles.

    Some of the comments regard safe, efficient, and comely uptracks. I agree; these are a pleasure to set, follow, and behold. As to crossing downtracks, I totally don’t see what’s the problem. Skiing over tracks is conserving the fresh, and that means more for me, or you. Lou pointed out the stability improvement from criss-cross skiing. Two days ago a heavily skied backcountry favorite near here, Suicide Bowl, slid during a big storm (3+ feet!), but it was the new snow only that slid; the base had been broken up and stabilized by all those old tracks.

  79. Lou Dawson November 26th, 2013 4:01 am

    Jim, thanks for chiming in. Recently I’ve been thinking quite a bit about all this, having been chased down by a dog and made to take my only fall of the season, just a few days ago. The dog thing is a huge bugbear. If the dog is under control and doesn’t brown up the skin track, then whatever, I don’t let it bother me. But when the owner has no ability to control the canine, it’s just so disappointing…. not only do uncontrolled dogs chase and harass (and not infrequently bite or otherwise injure) people, but if there is any wildlife around, time for those various animals to enjoy some extra stress.

    The psychology of the canine issue is the challenge. To the owner, the dog can do no wrong (or is like a small child who’s allowed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, spoiled by a permissive parent), but to the non-owner the dog can appear to behave in such a way as to appear so inappropriate and absurd as to make you really wonder if you’re really in the backcountry, or is it some kind of circus (grin)?

  80. BCP January 14th, 2014 10:37 am

    How about a rule:
    Calm Down, have fun, & don’t get wound up by what others are doing. (We are, after all, just sliding around on snow).

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