On New Year’s Day we didn’t have enough snow to ski most backcountry trails, but we decided to give the Jackrabbit Trail a shot, starting at Whiteface Inn Road in Lake Placid and ascending to the pass between Haystack and McKenzie mountains.
I have skied this section of the Jackrabbit often and had an idea of what we’d find: bare patches on the half-mile hill at the start but decent snow above. With a few inches of fresh powder over a thin but solid base, the trail should be skiable, I thought. We would just need to steer clear of the bare spots.
That’s pretty much what we encountered. What I hadn’t counted on though, was that the trail would have been thoroughly trashed by bare-booters – that is, hikers without snowshoes.
I understand why hikers felt snowshoes were unnecessary. Over the holidays, we had only four or five inches of snow. The problem is that the prints left by their boots had frozen into miniature craters, creating a surface that was difficult, and dangerous, to ski.
If this were just any trail, I wouldn’t bother to complain. But this was the Jackrabbit, perhaps the Adirondacks’ premier ski trail, which stretches 24 miles from Keene to Saranac Lake. It was created, and is maintained, by skiers.
Josh Wilson, executive director of the Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), which maintains the trail, said his organization tries to dissuade the public from bare-booting, but it remains a problem, especially on stretches of the trail near roads.
“We are already seeing that a few sections of the Jackrabbit have been trampled by people walking on the ski trail, thus making skiing undesirable and even dangerous in some locations,” he told the Almanack.
Wilson thinks many bare-booters are tourists who don’t realize they are ruining the trail for others.
In the High Peaks Wilderness, visitors are required to wear snowshoes or skis whenever the snow is deeper than eight inches. There is no such rule for the two Wilderness Areas that the Jackrabbit passes through. Even if there were, it would not have applied on the day of our ski trip.
Absent a change in regulations, we must rely on the goodwill of bare-booters to stay off the Jackrabbit. BETA (formerly the Adirondack Ski Touring Council) has put up signs on the Jackrabbit near Saranac Lake urging hikers to wear snowshoes. Wilson said the organization probably will put up a similar sign in Lake Placid.
“All users of winter ski trails should possess a basic understanding of winter-trail etiquette,” Wilson said. “When snowshoeing on ski trails, snowshoers should avoid walking on an established ski track and should instead create a parallel track next to the existing ski track. When winter trail etiquette is followed, cross-country skiers and other winter users can both enjoy the winter trail system without conflict.”
Most of the bare-booters had turned around at the Placid Lean-to, about a mile from the road. One hiker, however, continued bare-booting all the way to the pass and then headed though the woods toward the summit of Haystack. Since there is another trail leading to Haystack, I wondered why this person felt it necessary to use the ski trail.
I thought I might be brooding too much. But on our return, we ran into another skier heading toward the pass whence we had come. The first words out of his mouth: “Thank you for wearing skis.” He was one of the Jackrabbit volunteers, scouting the trail for fallen trees.
On the final descent to the road, I managed to find untrampled snow for a short stretch on the edge of the trail and made a few turns. Conditions were quite good, a taste of what might have been.
Photo by Phil Brown: McKenzie Pass on New Year’s Day.
Well, I have some mixed feelings here. Skiing under marginal conditions is never really safe, whether there have been post-holers or not. And there is a difference between asking any group to “stay off” a TRAIL vs, staying out of TRACKS. Signage and education are about the only measures one can take unless it is private property. Anyone using the trail for hunting typically will not be using skis or snowshoes unless conditions demand it. Perhaps signage calling it the Jackrabbit SKI Trail would help. But really, unless it is patrolled and offenders crucified and left to rot at the entrance, one kinda has to live with the problem and hope for more snow next time..
That is, left rotting at the entrance with a sign around their neck, “Ruinous ski-track trampling bare-booter.” Otherwise people might think it was a litterbug, like a hunter leaving a pile of shotgun shells (the offender I most would like to crucify).
There you go!
There is room for improvement with all types of users. Many times when climbing in the High Peaks on snowshoes I was forced off of the steep trail into waist high snow by skiers charging down the narrow trail with no chance of slowing down except for tree brakes. These are trails that no sane person would want to ski, yet I was the one left wallowing off-trail in the powder despite my snowshoes.
I was one of those skiers and yes I am insane, and it was great fun!
Well, I’m glad you lived to admit it! ; )
I was the guy behind him (Todd) who was barely hanging on… And then there came the “Smitty” laugh (not mine)…
I understand the sentiment portrayed in this article. Maybe this is already the case, but if a notice at the trailhead explained the situation and described the ramifications of hiking barebooted on the ski trail, thus educating barebooters of the ramifications of their actions, fewer would continue onto the ski trail without snowshoes or skies. Also, by offering a few suggested alternative locations close-by where barebooters could hike without compromising an excellent ski trail, hopefully voluntary compliance would increase and, ultimately, there would even more happy hikers and skiers in our beloved North Woods coexisting peacefully.
Despite your frustration (which I may have shared myself), this would be a case of gross over-regulation if anyone seriously suggesting regulation against walking on a trail with only 4 inches of snow. While it is a ski trail, it’s also hiking trail. I’d much rather see people out walking than fear ruining a virtually snow-less ski trail.
The snow could have just as likely melted completely, or been covered in 12″ of powder. Heck, there were bare spots for the first half-mile…marginal conditions even without hikers. I don’t think you meant it this way Phil, but this is a classic case of elitism that divides the ADKs into opposing sub-groups.
Blame mother nature, not the hikers. If there was 10″+ of snow, it’d be a different story.
“I don’t think you meant it this way Phil, but this is a classic case of elitism that divides the ADKs into opposing sub-groups.” – Excellent point, Greg,
Phil – I very much appreciate all of your hard work…but this one is out there.
The “barebooters” will be gone, or will don skis and snowshoes, when the snow gets deep enough to require skis and snowshoes.
This is a problem in every area that mixes use. I work so hard to lay down a good track at a local golf course or a field, even my own, only to find an hour after I finish that barebooters have completely ruined the track. It’s like a car driver who never rides a bike, they just have no understanding what the other person needs. Posting needs to be done because the barebooters have no idea that it is a problem for someone else. And don’t start on snowmobiles, they see XC tracks as targets, no matter how much snow is on either side.
I agree. Simple signage at the trailheads for the Jackrabbit that were pictorial may be even better. Like a road sign, it would depict one or two parallel ski tracks on either the inside or outside of the trail (depending on what makes the most sense) and showing footprints and/or snowshoe prints to the center or sides. I think this would be a lot more effective because it shows NOT to walk on ski tracks and it shows where TO walk, without using words or asking for courtesy or being threatening. You could even have a similar sign showing what NOT to do beneath it. On a trail of this scale, the towns/villages could likely come up with the signage if approached nicely.
There are some skiers who would object to the use of snowshoes on a ski trail as well. I know, because I’ve been given hell on this particular subject. So even snowshoe usage is not a sure-fire remedy to avoid the ire of an offended skier.
I do think that dedicated ski trails deserve more deference on the part of non-skiers, but even here not all skiers are innocent. Last winter, I observed an unusual set of tracks in the Whales Tail Notch ski trail in the High Peaks, which is technically a ski-only trail that hikers are discouraged from using. It seems that skiers bare-boot their way up one side of the notch for the privilege of skiing down the other. If you were a skier traversing the notch in the opposite direction, then you would have found that other members of your user group had turned your downhill run into “Posthole City.”
So, conceivably, the people who had bare-booted up the Jackrabbit Trail this week were fellow skiers who arrived at the trailhead and decided the conditions were too marginal for skiing. Rather than going home, they adjusted to the conditions.
Guys, your tone of referring to the people who are uneducated to the etiquette of ski trail maintenance does come across as slightly elitist. I can guarantee these people just didn’t know any better and meant no harm. I agree with Ryan Finnagin’s suggestion above. Your use of the classification of “bare booter” makes you sound like “snobby stick feet.” I originally hale from the midwest where skiing is not really a thing. I felt like such a jerk when it was explained to me why I shouldn’t snowshoe through ski tracks. It makes perfect sense once it is explained. It is not as intuitive as you might think.
God gave us, through our intellects, shoes to walk on bare ground… Skates to skim across ice… wings to fly with…. wheels to drive on… skis (and yes, snow shoes) to slide on the snow with… etc…
Well, we were up at the Otter Creek “Horse” trails last weekend and had to contend with yahoos with
4 wheeler and pickup tracks on a few of the trails. Some people either have no clue or are inherently trying to be destructive! You can’t legislate common sense.
yahoos? have no clue? inherently destructive? obviously, their choices got under your skin but bias and elitism are the potholes of understanding in this entire discussion regarding shared trails in a public park.
This is a public park, all are welcome, and sir, none of us gets to legislate point of view.
It was a marginal weekend – enough snow to get out on skies, snow shoes and snow machines, but also little enough to allow for legal wheeled transportation. Let us not judge or disparage the way a person enjoys 4″ – 6″ snow – find your joy in the woods and find the good in other visitors who are there with you, no matter how they got there in marginal conditions.
From the Otter Creek Horse trails site…………….
“All motorized vehicles are restricted to access roads posted as motor vehicle trails. Off road use of motorized vehicles, such as ATVs, trail bikes and four-wheel drives is not allowed, except where specifically permitted by signs, posted notice or by DEC permit.”
…..Unless you are not supposed to be on those trails…
Something most ATVrs don’t understand
Another sad comment…
This will likely become more of a problem as time goes on if snow conditions continue to deteriorate in the future. Fewer people will bother to invest in snowshoes or skis, so more post-holing will occur, especially at lower elevations. Spruce holes will no longer devour those who venture off the trail. Icy/rough trails may become the norm. Adirondackers may need to adapt – switching from skis to Stabilicers…
Great article! I am guessing that you do more skiing than hiking. I am more of an hiker, but have cross country skied enough to understand your pain. If you want hikers to take you seriously…. use their language and call them hikers and not some funny name “bare-booters”. My suggestion for all cross country skiers to find the various web sites, forums, and other locations communications and get the word out as you have written…. respect for cross country skiers…. even in use with lightly falled snow. Great suggestion…. they want to hike? Hike in snowshoes so that they will leave less impression in the snow! Repeating…. give them respect and call them hikers! O:-)
The skiing on the Newcomb Lake trail into Great Camp Santanoni has been excellent since New Year’s Day, except for the boot marks in the ski trail into the farm (about the first mile). If every skier encountering “bare booters” asks them politely to please stay out of the ski tracks, and asks the same of the snowshoers, maybe the excellent ski tracks can eventually be preserved.
It sounds somewhat elitist to me too, especially considering known marginal conditions, which to me means expect anything.
The picture shows a wide trail, yet the skier made a track right up the middle. What does that say about etiquette if the trail is designed for two-way traffic?
It has always seemed that bare boaters on that section of the Jackrabbit Trail have been a problem during Christmas week. Much less of one later when the vacationers have gone home. My response to those without skis has simply been to say something like, “Sure would be more fun on skis….” and move on.
As for skiers vs snowshoers, I don’t think skiers should have much of an issue. Yes, in the ideal world on a wide trail, a snowshoer would make a separate track and save the ski tracks. But not all trails are that wide. Furthermore, even on a wide trail that assumes that the skiers have carefully stayed to one side so as to leave room for a separate snowshoe track. Finally, if there is already a broken snowshoe track, how often do the following skiers break out their own ski track? Not very often, so skiers are really setting a double standard here if they expect snowshoers to break out their own trail.
signage: SKIERS ONLY
signage: HIKERS ONLY (BARE-BOOTERS)
signage: SNOWMOBILERS ONLY
Education is the key with all issues.
I agree with Boreas. More snow would be nice!
If there is NOT enough snow to warrent snowshoes, then suck it up folks, I’, going bare-booting as you called it & hiking the dam trail!
Hunters and often others don’t appreciate it when hikers and other folks come through an area they’re hunting in and unwittingly disturb the wildlife, etc., but we’ve learned long ago that we all have to “share” the woods.
My advice is ……get over it!
Is hunting allowed? Suppose it snows early in the season, such as October or November. I wonder if Phil is suggesting area hunters keep the area clear of boot tracks for early season skiers? Game often follows man-made trails and roads and hunters are going to follow the game.
“Bareboot” is not a pejorative term and is used often by many hikers, as in, “I barebooted to Marcy Dam where I put on snow shoes.”
The Jackrabbit is a very special ski trail, indeed, and a few signs, politely asking hikers to respect the track, especially at the Whiteface Inn Rd, would be helpful. Most of the hiker traffic there is from people ascending McKenzie. Actually, the other route up McKenzie, from the lake, is much nicer.
If it is a trail on land owned by the People of the State of New York (since you described it going through Wilderness Areas), with no DEC rule regarding footwear as in High Peaks WA snow more than 8 inches, your appeal is without merit. (By the way, does that apply to all trails everywhere in the High Peaks WA, or just popular ones that have signage to that effect?)
Your special class of user (those endowed with special equipment and the special skills and physical ability to use them) is not entitled to impose (or expect the state to impose) rules on other users of multi-use trails, and you’re not being reasonable when describing them as offenders with the term “trampling.” They are not trampling anything. They are just walking on a trail.
Yours is especially not a reasonable complaint when the snow is shallow enough for people to reasonably use without special equipment. When the snow gets deep, how often do you see hiking boot prints more than a short way from the road?
To gripe about this in the case of users outside your class walking in only a handful of inches of snow only partly covering a trail, you go beyond unmerited complaint, into the realm of selfish whining.
If you think boot prints should not be made in five inches of snow when the entire trail is not even snow-covered, what should the rule be? Four inches of snow on “most of the trail” as measured and published by a private club? Three? What kind of snow? Four inches of icy sleet or four inches of soft powder? Two inches of semi-melted and refrozen hard pack covered by two inches of fresh powder? Who is going to define what is “trampling-quality” snow?
Your “tramplers” are not, as you credit Wilson with saying, “ruining” anything except your need for them to conform to your special interest.
Some winters favor your class of users, some not so much, making it convenient for other classes of users. That’s life. The fact that a club made an arrangement with DEC to maintain a trail’s suitability for a particular purpose does not entitle them to oppose its use for other purposes within the law.
Sheesh. I know you have better things to write about, Phil.
Answer to: “By the way, does that apply to all trails everywhere in the High Peaks WA, or just popular ones that have signage to that effect?”
Regulations – New York State Register and Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (NYCRR)
Chapter II – Lands and Forests
Part 190: Use Of State Lands
§190.13 Wilderness Areas in the Adirondack Park
f. Miscellaneous restrictions.
3. In the High Peaks Wilderness Area, no person shall:
vii. fail to possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow.
The regulation applies to all hiking trails in the High Peaks Wilderness zone. According to a ranger, it was created to prevent snowy trails from developing a hazardous surface for snowshoers and skiers. It became a regulation because simply relying on people’s courtesy wasn’t working.
Agreed. Phil, you’re way off the mark here and you are perpetuating an elitist attitude that I have seen creep in more and more between user groups. I ski. I bike. I have experienced all kinds of difficult conditions due to either nature or human, and I just deal with it. More signs won’t help. And public statements from a trail alliance or noted writer in the recreation community serves to alienate. Labeling user groups as “bare-booters” or blaming a fellow outdoor enthusiast for “ruining” something like snow, which could change by the hour, let alone by the day, is not “educating” it’s just snobby. Whoever walked on the trail in the snow that was too thin to ski was within their right.
Can you imagine the wonderful sharing that will take place on the proposed Rail-Trail? Blissful harmony between snowmobilers, skiers, snowshoers, and bar-boosters.
let’s make it a bit wider and groom it for ski skating and then the booters won’t sink in and we all can be happy?
Skating is the true form of cross country skiing. Forget this “classical” baloney do you think the vikings had kick wax or waxless skis (or god forbid klister!)? No – they skated.
Exactly what skiers will need to do on the rail trail with the snowmobilers if that ever happens.
I did not know this about Vikings. What did they use to create the wide groomed trails needed for ski-skating?
What I hate are the people who bring their post holing dogs along with them.
Really Paul have dog prints ever in the history of skiing caused a fall? In fact after 40 years of Nordic skiing and plenty of times ending up on my butt, I can’t recall loosing control because of boot prints either.
Probably not. I just hate the dogs around when I am skiing. I have two hunting dogs, I love dogs and I take them out into the woods all the time but not where people are trying to ski.
If you see me out there my dogs will be off the side of the trail waiting to be told they can continue. Same applies when we encounter snowmobiles,hiker or bikers.
Good, and you are in a huge minority.
Phil Brown’s article, and my response to his request for a statement, were an attempt to draw attention to the problem of people walking without snowshoes (“barebooting”) on the Jackrabbit Ski Trail and other ski trails when there is fresh snow, as this action often makes for undesirable and sometimes dangerous skiing conditions. No surprise there. Its not an attack on hikers, nor is it an “elitist” attempt to curtail the recreational pursuits of others.
In this case we’re dealing with early season conditions with marginal snow cover (as many commenters here and elsewhere have rightly noted), and surely the folks walking on the trail were simply trying to get out in the woods and enjoy the snow which we’ve all been longing for…no one can fault them for that. Perhaps its seems silly to complain when we have so little snow, but “barebooting” (or whatever you want to call it) is a recurring issue throughout the winter season that is worth addressing now in the hopes that it will reach a few people and compel them to reconsider post-holing ski trails later in the season.
Since 1986 the Adirondack Ski Touring Council (ASTC) (now called Barkeater Trails Alliance) has built and maintained the Jackrabbit Ski Trail and resurrected many other ski trails in the region thanks primarily to the hard work of our volunteers and contributions from our supporters (which pay for bridges, tools, signage and other trail maintenance needs).
The Jackrabbit Trail was conceived and built by skiers to serve as a Ski Trail, however that does not preclude other users from enjoying the trail, and many do on a regular basis. Barkeater Trails Alliance does not oppose snowshoeing on the trail, as most people who snowshoe here follow winter trail etiquette and make separate tracks whenever possible once a good ski track has been established. We do, however, hope that winter hikers will avoid walking on ski trails without snowshoes and we take steps to discourage people from doing so, while recognizing that we have no authority to stop them, as we don’t own the trail and cannot regulate its use.
Barkeater Trails Alliance oversees the regular maintenance of the Jackrabbit Trail through a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement with the NYSDEC, and through easement agreements with private landowners (the trail crosses approximately 15 parcels of private land on its route from SL to Keene). For 30 years our volunteers have spent countless hours of their free time keeping the Jackrabbit Trail and other ski trails in good condition and promoting their use for the enjoyment of the recreating public.
That’s called stewardship. Being stewards does not “entitle” us to regulate the use of the trails we maintain, but it certainly does mean that we have a commitment to serve as a voice for the trails under our care and the users of those trails, and the responsibility to educate users of these resources so that everyone can enjoy them without impacting the experience of others. That’s what the article is about…and nothing more.
Josh Wilson, Executive Director
Barkeater Trails Alliance
The title of the article is “Bare-Booters, Please Stay Off The Jackrabbit Trail”, not “Bare-Booters, Please Be Considerate on the Jackrabbit Trail”. Perhaps the choice of a title could have been better, but it doesn’t seem to welcome people without skis or snowshoes. I think this is at least part of the reason for the negative comments.
Spot on. When I saw this title I just had to read it to see what it was about. I clearly has an interesting tone to it.
Next user group conflict: fat bikers vs. skiers. “They” will be putting up signs “no skiers allowed, winter no longer is good enough for skiing, fat bikes only!”.
Another area of constant bare booting on the Jackrabbit Trail is the Old Mountain Road section where ice climbers insist on bare booting into ice climbing walls. This goes on all winter, trashing this section of the trail for skiing.
I live in Au Sable Acres with some great ski trail. We have the same problem. People insist on walking on the trails without snow shoes or skies. This is especially a problem when it is warm and then turns cold. People bare boot across a trail on my property and refuse to use snow shoes or skies notwithstanding my request that they use snow shoes or skies.
When did the term “barebooting” replace postholing?
Good question. I have not really heard this term much and I have been skiing in the Adirondacks for about 40 years? Guess I haven’t been paying close attention?
I joined an online forum of experienced hikers about six years ago and that’s where I learned the term “bare-booting”. It is hiker jargon for wearing footwear without the aid of traction or flotation (crampons, microspikes, snowshoes or skis). In contrast, post-holing is the action of creating (deep) holes in a snowy trail due to insufficient flotation.
Examples of usage:
The trail was icy but I was able to bare-boot up to the pass before I had to put on microspikes. (You can bare-boot without post-holing).
I wore crampons until the snow was well above my ankles and then switched to snowshoes. (You may not be bare-booting but it you’re making holes you’re post-holing).
The snow was like gooey mashed potatoes and even snowshoes weren’t helping me. (It is possible to post-hole with snowshoes).
The small snowshoes they have these days are not much better than a “bare boot”.
When I lived in Oswego County in the late 60’s, I had a pair of “monster”, Michigan Pattern snowshoes. At 14″ wide and 60″ long, I still sank a foot or more in deep fresh powder because I am a big boy.
There weren’t many XC skiers, and no “ski” trails. Skiers used whatever there was, the same as everyone else, including snowshoe tracks, roads with 4WD vehicle tracks, snowmobile tracks, and vice versa. It was all part of the “game” if you wanted to get out in the woods in winter.
I did heating work in the Syracuse area, and on occasion I had to carry my snowshoes with me to get up to a customer’s house after a big snow.
Glad to see the article prompted such interest. I’d just like to clarify a few points.
Yes, I am asking bare-booters to stay off the Jackrabbit when the trail is skiable. If you want to hike, there are plenty of other trails in the vicinity. This is just a request. If you do decide to bare-boot the Jackrabbit, then please create a single track off to the side. One of the frustrating things about our ski trip was that people had trampled up and down the whole width of the trail.
I concede the conditions were somewhat “marginal,” but they would not have been all that bad if not for the bare-booting. I have encountered bare patches on the Jackrabbit hill many times and then found plenty of snow higher up. That was the case on New Year’s Day.
In any case, bare-booting or post-holing is not limited to marginal conditions. Just to give one example: I was skiing up the Marcy trail one sunny April day. A hiker ahead was creating deep post-holes. When I caught up to him, I asked why he wasn’t wearing snowshoes. He replied, “The season is over” … while standing up to his knees in snow.
I understand your frustration, but I doubt the article here is going to have much of an effect on gaining your desired goal. As sufficient snow becomes more dear, the problem will likely become even worse. As I mentioned above, you are not likely going to eliminate the problem, but pictograph-type signage showing where skiers should ski and where walkers should walk would go a long way toward educating all trail users. I feel that is about the best you can hope for with a public trail such as this.
The pictographs are a good idea.
May I suggest a biathlon pictograph…
A few years back in early spring was out snowshoeing with a friend to Marcy Dam. Snow was soft and on its way out. My snowshoe broke and had no choice but to barefoot out..not very fun. Of course a skier came along and started screaming at me for not wearing snowshoes. I said nothing and let him scream. Total jerk.
You should have hit him over the head with the broken snowshoe!
What if I’m fat biking on a ski trail and I put my foot down? Is that allowed?
Depends how big your feet are…