Letter to the Editor: A Primer on Cross-country Ski Trails

This letter is to clarify etiquette on cross-country trails. In Door County, all state parks have designated ski trails, on which skiing is the only activity allowed during the winter. Despite clearly posted signs at all entrances stating “No hiking, no biking, no dogs,” perfectly groomed trails continue to be obliterated by hikers.

In cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources state-park staff, ski trails are developed year-round. Trees and bushes are removed to widen and straighten the trails. With rakes, nippers, spades and saws, volunteers remove downed branches, dig out protruding rocks, snip roots and rake the surfaces flat. They use leaf blowers to clean leaves and debris off the trail, improving snow binding to the surface.

Depending on the size of the trail systems, volunteers spend three to six hours grooming the trails each time the snow falls.

In Nordic skiing, there are two different techniques used, each requiring a specific set of equipment. Diagonal striding (or classical skiing) uses tracks set by the groomer. Skating (or freestyle), which leaves “V” marks in the snow, requires a wide, flat deck. Skiers need the whole trail. In Potawatomi Park, the trails allow for both techniques. Other locations may groom for only one. 

Walking or running down the trails not only takes away the pleasure of skiing, but it makes the surfaces so rough that they become nearly impassable. An irregular surface interrupts weight transfer from ski to ski, decreasing a person’s balance. When the snow transforms to ice after a warm spell, these hiking tracks make skiing dangerous, increasing the likelihood of falls, sprains or fractures.

Perfectly groomed ski trails are clearly marked. They are ski trails only during the winter. Alternative trails for biking, snowshoeing and hiking are available. When can you return to hiking on these trails? During the spring, summer and fall; when there is no snow; or when what remains can no longer be groomed. 

Cross-country skiing is pleasurable. Pull on your boots, fasten your skis and go glide across the snow.

Carmen Schroeder

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin