How to be the best winter trail user you can be |

How to be the best winter trail user you can be

Nat Cooper spends a sunny Thursday morning skinning up Blackmer Trail on Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Here is a New Year’s resolution every active person can get behind: Be the most courteous, kindest trail user you can possibly be.

Seasoned snowshoers and fat bikers may know exactly what to do and where to go, but this is Steamboat Springs. There are always new people looking for new ways to recreate.

Winter is still in its infancy, so trails are still ungroomed, unpacked and getting piled with fresh powder. Whether it’s lack of knowledge, or impatience, this is the time of year people tend to leave large prints, ruts or post holes in the snow.

“We’re not going to groom all the trails. We can’t stop people from using the trails on their feet in the winter,” said Routt County Riders Executive Director Laraine Martin. “It’s really just a question of courtesy. It’s a trail etiquette thing.”

It’s important to leave the trails in great condition on popular, multi-use trails, like the city-managed Emerald Mountain trails system. Of the free, public trails, just Blackmer is regularly groomed by the city. The popularity of the trail also tends to keep it well packed, which generally prevents deterioration. It’s the single track trails that suffer more.

If your bike, snowshoes or shoes are sinking into the snow, it’s too soft. As exciting as it is to get out and sweat, only go when the conditions are right.

Parking also can be a challenge at the Blackmer Trailhead, especially with the added obstacle of growing snow piles.

“Park in a designated parking spot in a safe location,” said Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Trails Manager Craig Robinson. “When you’re going to recreate, it’s about respecting others.”

Routt County Riders has started getting singletrack trails ready for grooming with skiers and snowshoers packing down the snow in preparation for a small groomer taking to the trails.

Routt County Riders plans to have the marked trails all groomed for fat bike riders. The process has only just begun.

Routt County Riders has created a makeshift map of Emerald on which the trails that are to be groomed in the future are marked with a black Sharpie.

For those looking for a definitely-groomed track, Howelsen Hill Ski Area has miles of cross country trails for all levels with an updated conditions report available at

The City of Steamboat Springs has an updated conditions report of the Howelsen Hill Nordic Center available at

Fat bikes also are permitted on the groomed trails on Howelsen Hill, as long as the biker has a Nordic trail pass and doesn’t ride on the classic groom. The city has a short list of rules to make fat biking at Howelsen or traveling on multi-use trails more enjoyable and sustainable for everyone.

The city of Steamboat Springs has a few rules for fat bike riders looking to use the groomed trails at the Howelsen Hill Nordic Center.

On multi-use trails, bikes yield to all other forms of transportation. Skiers don’t have brakes, but bikes do. The same can be said when fat bikes travel on snowmobile trails, such as those up on Buffalo Pass. Snowmobilers can’t hear a fat bike coming, so bikers should be prepared to stop and move aside if a snowmobile comes along.

There are so many options to ski, snowshoe and fat bike in Steamboat that no place should ever be too congested. Have a backup plan, and be ready to go elsewhere.

“We’d love to get more users out there this winter,” Martin said. “I think we’re already on track to see that. We want to see people’s photos and what people’s experiences are. Up until this year, we thought winter trail use could be a niche market. For us, it’s exciting to see more usership.”

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