How’s your etiquette?

Yes, as much as you don’t want to, you really should mind your table manners. However, there’s more to life than just the dinner table (not saying a good dinner isn’t good though!). 

As Yukoners, we’re a lucky bunch when it comes to the multi-use trail network that many of us enjoy within minutes of our front door. We’re also fortunate to have the hundreds of volunteers and dozens of non-profit organizations that maintain our multi-use trails for free. 

Our multi-use trail network is a great source of recreation and also a great commuting tool, and it’s full of convenient routes out to hunting grounds, fishing holes, fuelwood areas and more. Other than the volunteers that make it happen, of course, the other things that make the Yukon’s trail network so great is the variety of places you can go, the variety of things you can do and the variety of ways you can get there. 

Different transportation and recreation methods, sharing the same trails, makes environmental and economical sense. Different groups sharing the same trails means bridges, staging areas, signage and other infrastructure can be used year-round and that less of it needs to be built. It also means that less wildlife habitat is interrupted. And it means that maps, trail-condition reports and other resources can be shared and that more people can enjoy a fresh grooming job. 

Unfortunately, despite all of these benefits, sharing the trails also opens up the potential for conflict. This is where your etiquette comes in. (Yes, yours.) 

It should be obvious that puppy dogs generally don’t enjoy having straight-piped racing machines pass three inches from their paws at 95 km/h. And responsible snowmobilers generally don’t appreciate having ski poles waved in their face, but the reality is that every year someone needs a little reminding of these things. 

Maybe the lack of vitamin D, during the winter months, causes it, or maybe their lack of table manners made them hangry … we don’t know. What we do know is here’s what you can do about it: use your trail manners and encourage your friends to do the same. 

For snowmobilers, trail etiquette is easy …

  • Share the trails and be kind.
  • Ride safe, ride sober.
  • Stick to the right side of the trail, when able, and avoid travelling straight down the middle. This allows safe passage of oncoming traffic; and also when the snow is evenly packed, full width, it’s easier for our groomer operators to do a nice job.
  • Avoid heavy on-and-off use of the throttle (it makes more noise and makes the moguls worse); instead, when on trails, try to operate smoothly and respectably.
  • Please don’t put too loud of an exhaust on your snowmobile, and avoid snowmobiling in environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Always give the right of way to groomers. Groomers are big and heavy machines that sometimes need the full width of the trail to maneuver, and our operators will let you pass as soon as it’s safe to do so.
  • Travel at safe and reasonable speeds and pay attention to any posted speed limits. Expect the unexpected around every corner.
  • Slow down to 15 km/h or less and move over when approaching non-snowmobilers on the trail. Avoid startling them and give them a chance to safely move over as well. When meeting dog teams, sometimes it’s best to pull over and shut off your snowmobile while they pass.
  • Avoid operating snowmobiles on top of set ski tracks: many hours of effort are spent on these and it’s often also by volunteers.
  • Never operate wheel vehicles on the multi-use trails between November 1 and March 31. The resulting wheel ruts in the snow are dangerous to other trail users and it often takes groomer operators several hours to fix a trail after just one or two wheel vehicles went through.

Basically, all you need to do is maintain your equipment, operate it in a safe and civilized way, try not to wreck the trail base for the next person, and slow down and make some room when coming upon other trail users. This will ensure that everyone has an enjoyable winter experience this season and that the trails will remain open for you in future seasons.
For more tips on correct trail etiquette, anytime, be sure to check out your local snowmobile clubs and associations. They often have plenty of information posted on their websites, with links to further reading. Here in the Yukon, visit the Klondike Snowmobile Association at ksa.yk.ca!

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