Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snow Bike Etiquette

Thanks Dave for this great write up on snow biking and proper etiquette while out there on the trails...

XXC Magazine welcomes our friend and contributor Dave Byers to the blog (see ‘How To Get Fat, XXC’ #10). Dave has spent his winters “getting fat” out in Idaho for a while now and will be sharing some of that knowledge with every couple of weeks throughout the season. In his first blog post Dave talks about etiquette out there on the snow. Thanks Dave!

The 2011/2012 snow bike season is just ramping up here in the Tetons and therefore it seems like the perfect time discuss snow bike etiquette. Why is etiquette a topic for snow biking? Anytime more than one user group share the same trails it is a good idea to have etiquette in place to keep all parties safe and smiling while enjoying the trails.

The two types of trails I ride frequently are groomed Nordic trails and groomed snowmobile trails within the National Forest. With both types of trails, there is a primary user group that pays for the grooming of that trail. In Idaho, the state oversees a snowmobile trail grooming program that is funded by the sales of annual snowmobile stickers. Our local Nordic grooming program is funded by a non-profit organization, Teton Valley Trails & Pathways, which raises money through memberships, donations, and special events. As snow bikers, we reap the benefits of these grooming programs and have a symbiotic relationship with snowmobilers and/or Nordic skiers. Without the established grooming programs we would be relegated to snow packed roads for our winter riding fix.

Recommended snow bike etiquette for snowmobile trails

  • Flashing white light on handlebar, day and night
  • Flashing red tail light, day and night
  • Always yield to snowmobiles
  • Pull over and stop to let snowmobiles pass
  • Call your local grooming district and ask whether you can make donation equal to the amount of the annual snowmobile sticker as a gesture of goodwill
Having a flashing light on the bars and a flashing red taillight is cheap insurance when sharing the trail with loud machines that can go 70+ MPH. A snow biker can hear snowmobiles coming from a long way off but they cannot hear us. My two favorite lights for making myself visible while snow biking are the Princeton Tec Push and the Princeton Tec Swerve. Both lights are easy to mount, run on AAA batteries, and are visible day & night.

Recommended snow bike etiquette for Nordic trails

  • Do not ride if the Nordic track is posted for skiing only
  • Do not ride if the snow is too soft
  • Give skate skiers a wide berth
  • Do not ride in the classic ski tracks
  • Make a donation to the club or organization who grooms your local Nordic trail
This pic shows groomed snow that is firm enough to support snowmobiles, snow bikes, and Nordic skiers.

How soft is too soft to ride? As a general rule, if you have to get off and push your bike, the snow is too soft and you absolutely shouldn’t be on the Nordic trails. If you are leaving a trough deeper than an inch or are having a hard time riding in a straight line, it is probably too soft to be on the Nordic trails.

The act of making a donation to a grooming program does not give a snowmobiler or Nordic skier the right of exclusivity. However, it is important that snow bikers take a “let’s get along” attitude and be respectful of the established grooming programs. Making a small donation to your local Nordic club or purchasing an annual snowmobile sticker can go a long way towards establishing goodwill.

Words & Photos by Dave Byers

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