Winter Trail Etiquette

by BH Nordic Ski & G.A.S. | December 30, 2019
Outdoor Adventure Nature & Recreation Winter Activities

It's time for our annual public service announcement regarding trail etiquette! Each year, we see more and more traffic of all types at Big Hill. We love seeing new faces—we groom to share winter sports with our community. But, with increased use comes new users who may not know what each trail type is for. They also may not be aware of the reasons why we try to direct certain traffic to one trail or another or that improper trail use causes damage to the trail and its users. We've put together some photos and explanations to help educate users, new and old. Here is a basic run-down of the different trail types and their uses.

**If you are HIKING at Big Hill, please use the Snowshoe Trails.**

Ski Trail - 10'+ wide, groomed surface, with classic tracks on one or both sides.

These trails are groomed for classic and skate ski use ONLY. We exclude other uses for a few reasons. First, there is very limited groomed skiing in the area. Secondly, hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of community dollars in go toward these trails. There may be places where the snowshoe trail crosses the ski trail, but the trails do not parallel.

Snowshoe Trail - 2'-3' Wide, Ungroomed, Packed by Snowshoes or Track Packed via Snowmobile.

Big Hill has two specific snowshoe loops are open for snowshoeing, skiing, DOGS, and HIKING! If you’d like to explore Big Hill without snowshoes, please stay on the snowshoe trail. You can navigate the snowshoe trail by following the snowshoe signs. Don’t worry, the trail passes by the warming hut!

Groomed Single Track- 30" Wide, Groomed Surface.

These trails are groomed for fat bikes, but they also welcome snowshoes, skis, and dogs. Our friends at Grooming Alliance of Spearfish ask that folks not hike on their trail. These trails are groomed for tight corners and high speeds, and as such, it’s important for all users to look up and be aware of their surroundings. The fat bike trails offer challenging and dynamic terrain for skiers.

A Few FAQ's-


“What's the big deal with a few footprints?”

It sounds silly, but footprints destroy the groomed surface that is so costly to maintain. One set, then five, then 20 and the entire surface is destroyed. Worse yet, in freeze/thaw conditions with no new snow, the footprints freeze in and are impossible to groom out with our equipment. Skiing on frozen footprints is not enjoyable and is dangerous when riding downhill!

“Why aren't fat bikes allowed on the ski trails?”

Nordic skiing and fat biking require different levels of compaction. Grooming at 7' wide vs. 30" provides a softer groomed surface, meaning we generally don't get the compaction needed to support fat bikes. While there are times when the trail is hard enough to ride, most of the time it is not. And one tire track in hard conditions could lead to 20 tracks in soft conditions later that day. Just as importantly, Black Hills Nordic has been grooming Big Hill since the late 1980's. Our members have put thousands of hours and thousands of dollars into equipment to maintain groomed Nordic skiing in the Black Hills. Our members are skiers and have worked hard to build and maintain the trails and club we have today. The good news is that Grooming Alliance of Spearfish creates trails intentionally designed for maximum fun on a bike.

“I always get lost up a Big Hill.”

We get it! Big Hill can be confusing with multiple use types, trail crossings, etc. We're working on solving that. As part of our RTP grant, signage is being developed to help users more confidently navigate the system. Trail use type will be color coded and a large trailhead sign with map and trail etiquette will be installed. We are also placing info sheets in the boxes at the trailhead. We hope to roll out a link to a new map that will help users better understand the trail system.

We’re happy to see increased use at Big Hill! We might have some growing pains along the way, but all groups involved have a mutual goal of providing a great experience to the public while reducing user conflict. We want all users to have a good experience on their trail type and don't expect that everyone will know where to go the first time.

If you see folks accidentally on the wrong trail, please be courteous. Teach other trail users about trail etiquette and help them find the right trail. And above all, enjoy winter at Big Hill!

Special Thanks to:

          -- Eric Anderson, Black Hills Nordic Ski Club and the Grooming Alliance of Spearfish.

You might like these too...

Spearfish Visitors Guide
Order Your Free
Spearfish Adventure Guide

Download the instant digital version or get a shiny one in the mail. We know you want one. It’s only a matter of time.

Get Yours Now