The sky was blue bird. The sun cast its rays across the mountains and the snow smiled back – each grain like a diamond. I didn’t have the time or partners to break out the sled for a backcountry ski tour. But, the glorious day demanded some playtime. So, I gathered my things for a short cross-country ski.
I went to my old favorite – Washington Gulch Road, a multi-use trail. On this mid-week day, I saw cross-country skiers, backcountry skiers, hybrid users, and snowmobile riders alike heading out. I parked at the trailhead and began getting ready. I tried to talk to the snowmobile users who were also there, but they seemed to turn away. They went on their way, and I went on mine.
Mid-way through my ski, I heard the sound of a snowmobile approaching. I carefully stepped off to one side of the trail, knowing that the rider would not be able to see me until she was closer, despite the fact that I could hear her from far away. I smiled and waved, and the solo snowmobiler waved back.
Just a few minutes later, I heard two more engines. Again, I stepped off to the side of the trail, smiled and waved. And, although the snowmobilers did slow down, they did not wave; something about their mannerisms produced an air of tension instead.
Was that tension real or something I just imagined?
I finished out my ski and returned to the trailhead where I ran into the solo snowmobile rider. We talked about the backcountry conditions and about the day. Finally, I asked about the situation earlier. Had that tension been in my head? “When I saw you, I wondered if you were one of those cross-country skiers that hates me,” she said.
Bam! It wasn’t just my imagination after all.
Recent events have caused unnecessary tension between user groups in the valley. That tension is now threatening to limit not only access, but our ability to enjoy the backcountry together. “Hatred” between user groups serves no one; it will divide our community and will inevitably lead to trail closures – but it doesn’t have to. In order to maintain our multi-use trail status, we must begin eliminating these tensions.
Tensions can be reduced in very big ways through some very small actions:
- Be Kind
Smiles and waves go a long way in creating positive experiences for everyone. Those positive experiences are what Crested Butte (and winter) is all about.
- Show Respect
Respect all closures and private property; it’s closed for a reason. Snowmobile riders, realize that cross-country skiers are not your enemy. Cross-country skiers, realize that snowmobile riders are not your enemy. We all have a responsibility to respect each other.
- Be Aware
Motorized traffic should slow down and yield to non-motorized traffic. Human powered users should realize that they can hear motorized traffic sooner than motorized operators can see them and should step to the side if they are able to do so safely. Being aware of your surroundings and of other users will all but eliminate conflicts and misunderstandings.
- Help Others
Offer a helping hand, advice, and conversation when needed. We are a community; let’s keep an eye out for one another.
Hate and misunderstanding can tear us apart, but a few kind words and simple actions can bring us together. Nearly every user that you’ll encounter out on multi-use trails is just as stoked to be out there as you. Slow down for them, say hi to them, wave to them, dig yourself out of your facemask and smile. Let them know you’re happy to be out there too.
These trails are special to all of us. Let’s share them.
-Brittany Walker Konsella
Co-Founder, Share the Slate