Photo: Courtesy of Headwaters Trails Alliance

It feels like a switch has been flipped. Someone, namely, a microscopic multicellular microbe we call the Corona virus pushed the fast forward button to the end of the Alpine ski season and the lifts have stopped turning. The ‘big shrink’ of the snowpack has rapidly faded our memories of cold powder as temperatures have done an about-face from the consistently chilly and snowy spell this winter held us under, and engulfed us with the warmth and sunshine of a dry spring. We might have seen some recent moisture, but a low pressure system parked itself over California as it fell out of the jet stream flow and dropped over 50 inches of snow in the mountains west of Nevada as it sat there, spinning without advancing eastward over the past week. 

The lack of new snow in our neighborhood has created fantastic conditions for crust skiing. Rocketing over a vast sea of white, in wide open meadows is one of those experiences that makes one keenly aware of being alive. The best crust can be found after colder nights, before the mid-day sun has had a chance to soften it, moisten it and transform it into a bottomless un-cohesive mass of large crystals that can make afternoon ventures tenuous. By the time this writing makes it to print, we are likely to have had some fresh snow, but this disturbance appears to be followed by another stretch of crust-producing spring conditions.

With the rug pulled out from under the downhill ski industry, local trailheads were packed with people over the weekend. Getting out on the trails is certainly a great antidote for the social calamity of event cancellations and business closures as we assume the practice of keeping physically distant from one another. We are fortunate to live in a place where the lack of population density permits us to not be confined to staying inside.

With the sudden influx of users poised to inundate the trails, the Headwaters Trails Alliance has posted some recommendations to inform the public of some trail etiquette tips to keep the trails from deteriorating more quickly than need be. 

Here is what the HTA is asking users to keep in mind:

-Please follow department of health recommendations for social distancing by maintaining a 6′ distance from other trail users

-If you have your dog with you, please be sure to pick up their waste and dispose of it in a waste receptacle. Not only is it unsightly, it negatively impacts our local water sources and wildlife.

-If you are walking the trail and you begin post holing, please turn around! Post holes create a potentially dangerous trail surface for all trail users. We recommend that walkers limit their trail use to times of day when they are able to stay on top of the snow surface. At the warmer times of day, please walk on roads instead to preserve our trail surfaces.

-If the trail you are on has mud and you are leaving a footprint, tire print or hoof print, please turn around! Using muddy trails creates lots of damage that is difficult and labor intensive to remedy.

-Wherever you are recreating, carry a trash bag with you. The warm temperatures we have been experiencing are exposing lots of stuff that doesn’t belong in nature.

Thank you to everyone for being conscientious users of our trail system! We know how much our community loves and values this amazing resource. We appreciate your help with trail surface preservation.

Happy Trails!