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Ski Kind campaign reminds users to be courteous on the trail

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | March 15, 2023 1:00 AM

In winter’s predawn darkness, groomers work to create miles of pristine corduroy and tracks for skate skiing, traditional cross country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking and the quality of the trails will endure with a healthy dose of kindness.

This week, Whitefish Legacy Partners and Glacier Nordic Club are partnering to launch Ski Kind, part of the user-etiquette campaign, Outside Kind.

Jennie Bender, Executive Director and Competition Coach for the Glacier Nordic Club said she likes to think of it as a courtesy campaign.

“Its purpose is also to be a method of visual representation out there along with other, similar rules that are already in place,” she said. “So there’s a lot of this which is in parallel with… the leave no trace concept but more user-specific.”

Outside Kind launched last year with support from a wide variety of other trail nonprofits around the valley. The campaign is an effort to approach conversations and education about user etiquette on trails from the perspective of kindness.

“What can I, as a biker, do to make this a positive experience for myself, my fellow bikers and everyone else who is using these resources?” Jedd Sankar-Gorton Program Director at WLP said of the campaign.

He added that Outside Kind is designed to share best practices for enjoying the outdoors in any community while providing clear, consistent messages around specific activities.

Outside Kind breaks down trail courtesy and kindness into specific user groups. WLP was looking forward to introducing new aspects of the effort this year, having already introduced the Hike Kind, Wag Kind, Bike Kind and Trot Kind guidelines in June of 2022.

All messaging, regardless of the user group, reminds users how to be courteous, aware, safe, inclusive and follow leave no trace principles.

The Ski Kind signs specific to Nordic trails say, “If you’re a snowshoer or walker, preserve groomed tracks by staying to the side,” “Leave only tracks and keep our water clean by packing out your dog’s poop” and “Share the trail with all speeds and abilities.”

The Ski Kind campaign is centered around both Nordic and backcountry skiing but the initial focus is on the Nordic trails around Whitefish.

“It's amazing that we have these publicly available resources,” Sankar-Gorton said of the area’s beautifully groomed ski trails. “Glacier Nordic does huge work… to provide this public resource that lots of different kinds of people can benefit from and can see as a part of their community. What can we, as users, do to keep that going, to keep that special thing happening.”

Sankar-Gorton and Bender agree that a lot of hard work goes into providing the trails Nordic skiers enjoy. Grooming is time-intensive and costly.

“There are best practices for how to preserve as much of the groomed track for as long as possible,” Sankar-Gorton said. “There's an approach. If we’re going to keep enjoying them we should learn the system.”

He said the goal is to preserve the experience of the groomed trails for everyone.

“It takes a lot of resources and funds to make this happen, which are not charged to the public at the multi-use venues,” Bender said. “Encouraging trail courtesy, knowledge and user respect is a part of what will keep the growth in the valley fun and functional.”

Educating new users and reminding long-time users with signage is not a new idea. Bender says campaigns like Ski Kind are in use on trails all over the world.

“This isn't a campaign rolled out by Legacy Partners from Legacy Partners. This is a campaign that is very common and widespread,” she said. “We hope that Ski Kind helps Flathead winter trail users understand that these are universal courtesy requests. Trails in Norway that are multi-use and groomed with skiing as a priority will refer to the same concepts.”

Signs will go up at trailheads around the area alongside Glacier Nordic’s existing signage starting with the Big Mountain Nordic trailhead. One sign encourages users to “Say hello, spread your knowledge and help others.”

Sankar-Gorton hopes users see the signs as conversation starters.

“The kindness piece is, let’s take a moment to say hi to somebody (you may notice) in rented gear. They’d probably love a friendly piece of advice,” he said. “We don’t want to miss out on these opportunities to connect.”

For more information visit www.outsidekind.org/flathead or www.whitefishlegacy.org.

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Freshly groomed tracks at Round Meadows where the trails are maintained by the Glacier Nordic Club and the Tally Lake Forest service. (Photo provided).

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Glacier Nordic Club and Whitefish Legacy Partners launched the Ski Kind campaign this week. (Photo provided)

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