Cross country skiing is one of the most versatile sports around and can be conducted at breakneck speed or, for most of us, at what is considered a social pace. As with most social activities, there is some etiquette involved.

Observing the conventions of the sport leads to a safer and more pleasant outing for all. Here are some tips to maximize enjoyment and minimize risk.

The most common question we get at the ski club relates to who has the right of way in various situations.

When two skiers are meeting head on, the general rule of thumb is to keep right.

When one skier is coming down a hill and the other is going up, the downhill skier has the right of way, although common sense should prevail and both skiers are responsible for not causing a crash. If you both move right, then all will be fine.

If you are about to pass someone moving in the same direction as you, step out of the track and go around them rather than asking them to get out of the way.

In any situation, it’s always a good idea to make your intentions clear. Passing someone on a downhill? Tell them you’re passing left (or right) and there is no danger of them suddenly stepping in front of you as they try and get out of your way.

And pay attention, especially when coming to a blind corner. Who knows what (or who) is lurking around that bend? This goes double when you are skiing at night – not everyone uses a headlamp, so be careful.

If you are skiing with your dog, put a light on him. That way you won’t trip over poor old Fido as you roar down the hills.

When you’re skiing, always pay attention to signage. If a trail is closed or marked as one way, there is a good reason for it.

We all like pristine tracks, and we all have responsibility to try and preserve them as much as possible. As the grade on a trail steepens, if your wax stops working and you need to herringbone to keep going, move away from the track to preserve it for the next person.

And, tempting though it may be, try not to ski on tracks for an hour or so after they have been freshly groomed. This gives them time to harden up a bit and they will last much longer.

One problem we all see on the trails is debris, from chocolate bar wrappers to Kleenex. This sort of thing is more than just unsightly; it can present a safety hazard. Ski on a discarded tissue in the track and your ski can stop dead, causing a nasty fall.

Now, we know that nobody tosses these things on purpose. However, if you leave your pockets open it’s easy for stuff to fall out. Put that wrapper in your pocket and zip it up carefully. And, gross though it may be, try not to use Kleenex on the trails.

When you are out skiing and need to stop and admire the view (this is particularly common on steep uphills!) or need to rewax or just chat to your friends, step to the side of the trail to let others pass safely.

Never stop at the bottom of hills or on blind corners.

One last safety tip: it’s a good idea to carry a cell phone when skiing. If you are skiing at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club, program the office phone number into your phone and we can get help to you pretty quickly during office hours if you get into trouble.

But if you use common sense, ski within your limits and watch out for your fellow skiers, you won’t do anything but have fun.

See you on the trails.