Do You Know the Best Snow for Skijoring?
Know Your Snow
After determining which type of ski is best for your needs, you also need to figure out what kind of trails you will be using. See, skis are all built for specific purposes. Let’s break it down to a few types of snowy trails: there’s the good old field of snow, the well-worn walking path, and the groomed skiing trails.
Fields of Frozen Snow
Dog instinctively want to follow a trail. Taking them out to a field with little to no trail to follow can be confusing for the dog. Even if your dog decides to run, hopefully in a straight line, breaking through all that snow to make a trail is going to be tough work. Why ask your dog to break trail and skijor behind them? You’ve got two options: either pack down a solid trail with snowshoes to follow another day, or go somewhere else. Fields of frozen snow look pretty, but they aren’t awesome for a skijoring romp.
You might be lucky to have some packed down multi-use trails nearby. Ideally these will be machine made/plowed, so it is wide enough to properly “snow plow” and brake, or at least step off to the side should you see another trail user. Provided they are wide enough to run on, these multi-use trails can be a great option to run on. Be careful, if the path is packed snow on gravel or pavement, a warm day, or a strong wind will expose bare spots. Hitting a bare spot of gravel on skis, well, that can be a crash waiting to happen.
If you choose to run on flattened paths, keep an eye out for other trail users. I prefer to go at odd times, early in the morning, or late at night. With a headlamp, I can see what’s coming, and warn other trail uses of my presence. Some skijorers will attach a bear bell to their belt as well.
On your quest for a decently packed down trail to skijor down, don’t go on a snowmobile trail. Snow machines travel at high speeds and are not expecting to run into a skijoring team on the trail. Stick to a spot where it’s safe.
Groomed Ski Trails
Skiing trails can be designated into skate skis trails, packed down with corduroy grooves machine groomed into the snow. Classic ski trails are marked by two parallel lines for the skis to slide in. Make note now, it is not cool to EVER run your dog down a classic ski trail. Not only do dogs wreck the trail, but forcing your dog to run down those parallel lines set at skier width can do some musculoskeletal damage to the pupper.
Skate ski trails are the gold star for skijoring. Many communities allow skijoring, some at specific times, while others are always open to skijorers. Unfortunately some communities do not allow skijoring on their skate ski trails. If you are hitting a skate ski trail, expect other trail users to be fast as well. A well-conditioned competitive skate skier will give a recreational skijoring team a run for their money any day. So be in control of your dogs and be ready to pull over quickly to be passed.
With the rise in popularity of skijoring, there are local groups popping up all over social media. No doubt there is at least one group nearby where you can ask about favourite skijoring trails.
Where I live, we once had amazing trails right in the middle of town at a Nordic center. Unfortunately due to a few irresponsible pet owners, skijorers have lost access to those trails. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, read the posted rules for each site and clean up after your pet, and everyone else’s pet as well! No one like “brown wax” and the less poop on the trail, the happier everyone else will be.
If you have a picture of your skijoring team running a beautiful trail, we would love to see it in the comment section below.
Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: "Get outside and play with your dogs!
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