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Thread: Winter Hiking Etiquette

  1. #1
    dvbl
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    Winter Hiking Etiquette

    This comes up every winter, but it seems like lots of trip reports this year (more than usual) include comments about post-holing. I'm wondering what is the proper etiquette about two topics: snowshoes and glissading. To be honest, when I first used snowshoes it was because I was sinking and/or slipping; I needed some flotation and traction; P = F/A and all that nerdy stuff. It didn't initially occur to me that using them was good manners toward those who follow; but once I learned it, it made simple sense. Why leave crusty icy pot-holes in your wake. Duh.

    But when does a dent become a post-hole? Two inches? Four? Eight? Twelve? How deep does your boot have to sink for it to be considered a post-hole? When is it "good manners" to put on the snowshoes? And for all you entrepreneurs out there, is there a market for dog snowshoes? Once Fido is pushing 100 lbs or so, isn't he leaving some post-holes too?

    How about glissading? Suppose a narrow trail is hard packed and easily bare-bootable, and the three hikers in front of you descending the trail decide to glissade or swiss-bob the next hundred yards, and they turn the trail into a slick luge run. Good etiquette? Bad? Neither?

    Not looking for more rules or laws. Enough of those already. When I venture into the woods, I have alsolutely no expectation that any trail is going to be in good shape. This is just about civilized people trying to have fun, but at the same time practicing good manners toward others. And like most people, I just wanna know the (unofficial) rules of the road.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    The ADK's kind of dictate the when to use snowshoes there. In New England it's more personal preference. I find that I need to be sinking 8-10 inches or more before the extra effort of snowshoes is less than the additional walking in snow that deep, assuming I'm not sliding back 1/2 a step for eachs step forward.

    Glissading is part of the experience, see Freedom of the Hills. if you have crampons & decent snowshoes, you shouldn't have a problem. Usually glissading packs the trail good so crampons may be more useful (I prefer crampons over snowshoes for traction)

    I'd guess I posthole more than 70% of the readership but I rarely glissade othen than 5 feet or so boot glissading & have sat once or twice ever.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

  3. #3
    Senior Member albee's Avatar
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    Good question. I'm certainly not an expert on the subject, but I'd like to share my opinion...

    A "post-hole" is generally thought of as a deep hole in the snow left by a bare-booter. We get frustrated when we encounter postholes because they compromise a well-packed and stable hiking path. IMHO, they can be dangerous because other hikers can turn an ankle or injure a knee (or worse) if they stumble on or in one of the holes left behind, even if they are wearing snowshoes. In this regard, postholing as little as 4" can be enough to stumble on, since most people don't sink that much when wearing snowshoes, a snowshoe edge cold slip into the hole, or your snowshoe's cleat isn't long enough to grip the bottom of the hole.

    I'm not saying that 4" is the line where bare-booting becomes offensive and post-holing begins, but I am saying this is the point where it becomes marginally unsafe. Not everyone is as adept at negotiating a chopped up trail like some of us. What might not bother me could be terribly dangerous for an older person with shorter strides and more weary joints.

    As far as glissading/butt-sliding goes, I haven't encountered too many problematic instances in my time in the woods. When I see a suitable spot for this, the trail is usually steep enough that some form of traction is already necessary. I may have to kick-step to get traction, I may have to actually use the cleats on my snowshoes... either way, I come prepared to hike with traction aid in the winter and I'm not afraid to use it. Plus, sometimes the safest way to descend a slope is on one's rear end.

  4. #4
    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    I just read in an AMC newsletter that they felt sinking 2" was enough. Then there's the sort of trail where there is a crust that you can usually walk on but punch through 12" every 50 steps or so.

    Last weekend I was wearing 10x36 snowshoes and there was a crust that I could usually walk on but sometimes broke through. Some of the way had been postholed in feet but that was no problem as there was still enough snow to hold me up. But for awhile somebody tried it in those toy 7x18 or whatever size X-C areas rent to use on groomed trails, and they punched through every step, leaving big enough holes that there was no longer enough support for me - so sometimes feet are better than some snowshoes.

    Then we get into width. Just as foor tracks may leave a trough too narrow for 8" snowshoes, the trough left by 8" will be too narrow for 10" and if you break it out for 10" those in 13" snowshoes will be walking knockkneed. (13x28 Army surplus were at one time required on many Boston AMC trips, and no metal snowshoe made is as good uphill in deep snow - just don't ask about sidehill or downhill :-)

    Hence you are correct that it is impossible to legislate a good solution, and someone may be crabby regardless of how hard you try to be good

  5. #5
    Senior Member sapblatt's Avatar
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    Last week with a sore, recovering sprained ankle I got really mad when I kept twisting my ankle is post holes from four hikers that were pulling sleds up in the afternoon - we broke out the unplowed part of Zealand Trail in the morning and I got to twist thru the holes on the way down...luckily I had some vicodins left at home ...all four guys had huge snow shoes on their sleds - not on their feet...the post holes were well over 2 inches deep - I would guess in the 6-8" range...
    I wear snowshoes when I am going to disrupt a nice hiking surface with my boots...of course the WMNF is a land of many uses, including the right to post hole and destroy a snow pack. No one who is post holing is breaking any laws, but it is a disservice to fellow hikers...
    - Mike

    How bad can it be?
    Bobby

  6. #6
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    With the constantly changing conditions of the weather and the trails you will always take a chance on finding ideal conditions for what you want.

    You can break out a perfectly nice snowshoe route only to descend later and find deep post-holes. They seem to be the most dangerous on the descent as the cleat on the snowshoe (or the front of the crampon or toe of the bare boot) catches the hole and falling forward is not pleasant.

    Someone can make perfectly nice kick steps with their boots but a snowshoer comes along and wipes them out. And trying to snowshoe uphill in kick steps is not easy.

    Someone before you may have made a nice snowshoe track but their stride is different from yours so you might as well be breaking trail yourself. Or perhaps they made the track a day or two before in wet snow and now it is frozen solid. Or maybe their snowshoe was a different size and the track is now frozen.

    A trail that is heavily used will compact down to a hard surface, maybe softening in the sun and then freezing overnight. Whether people boot-, ‘shoe-, or butt-glissaded will make little difference to those out the next day. They will need traction.

    I haven’t run into any problem with dog prints but have had to avoid their droppings.

    Moose don’t have a problem doing a dance in the trail. I think they do it on purpose.

    And then there is the wind that blows the snow and covers hidden obstacles.

    I look at it as all part of the game – sometimes you win, some times you lose, but the object is to have fun.

  7. #7
    Senior Member giggy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dvbl
    This comes up every winter, but it seems like lots of trip reports this year (more than usual) include comments about post-holing
    I was thinking the same thing. way more complaining this year.
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    Senior Member Puma concolor's Avatar
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    I think it's unrealistic to expect a paved highway to the top. I also think there is a difference between "tearing up the trail" and "postholing." To me, true postholing occurs when it's warm and you start breaking through the hardpack ... leaving a hole that looks like you could stick a fence post in. Tearing up the trail happens after maybe a few people have started to pack down the trail and you come through and muck it up. It's winter and part of the challenge is the conditions. People are going to do what people are going to do.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Pig Pen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dvbl

    How about glissading? Suppose a narrow trail is hard packed and easily bare-bootable, and the three hikers in front of you descending the trail decide to glissade or swiss-bob the next hundred yards, and they turn the trail into a slick luge run. Good etiquette? Bad? Neither?
    Glissading and butt-sliding are good and always acceptable and encouraged. If you can' t handle a trail because someone else glissaded on it, then stop winter hiking.

    I've never understood postholing, I find it way easier to use snowshoes under almost any snow conditions because of grip and stability. Holes don't bother me that much but skiers don't like them at all.

  10. #10
    Senior Member giggy's Avatar
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    funny thing is - I was winter hiking for a few years before finding out about VFTT and never even gave postholes a second thought when seeing them, just walked around them, never got hurt, never even occured to me that you could get hurt. Never thought of them as a big deal at all - still don't. then started hearing people blasting postholes - even saw someone get yelled at once. yelling at someone for not using them is bad form if you ask me.

    I don't see not using them (in typical winter conditions) bad form - I think its up to the person - what works for me may or may not work for you, - now 3 weeks ago with 3 feet of snow its just common sense to use them.

    I don't get the fuss really. never did and probably never will - but, I don't really care for using them either if i don't have to. how many here have said - lets leave em in the car. - don't lie?????

    I know most climbers don't bother with them unless totally needed - in fact, postholes around jackson and webster are probably climbers topping out of the gullies there and taking the trail down.
    Last edited by giggy; 03-06-2007 at 02:13 PM.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member dug's Avatar
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    I think the concern with some deep postholing is that after another snow storm, you don't always see them. They can then be dangerous.

    As for the glissading, I've mentioned this in year's past as well.

    Why is it OK that we can complain about someone postholing, but it's not OK to complain about glissading? I've seen some perfect kick-steps wiped out by someone sliding down...why is that OK?

    I honestly couldn't really care. Unless you come to an area like I had on Saturday. After digging out a snowmobiler on the Carriage Rd. that got stuck, there was a 100' section of trail that was downright nasty.

  12. #12
    Senior Member dr_wu002's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pig Pen
    Glissading and butt-sliding are good and always acceptable and encouraged. If you can' t handle a trail because someone else glissaded on it, then stop winter hiking..
    Quote Originally Posted by giggy
    funny thing is - I was winter hiking for a few years before finding out about VFTT and never even gave postholes a second thought when seeing them, just walked around them, never got hurt, never even occured to me that you could get hurt. Never thought of them as a big deal at all - still don't. then started hearing people blasting postholes - even saw someone get yelled at once. yelling at someone for not using them is bad form if you ask me.
    .
    Here Here! Some rational sense! It's winter hiking after all, there's snow and sometimes conditions are crappy whether man-made or not. I think snowshoeing through 6' of fresh snow would be a lot more challenging than snowshoeing through 2' of snow that somebody had postholed in.

    I don't care. I hate postholing myself so I wear snowshoes. However, if you want to posthole and then ruin the trail with yer butt, more power to you. Isn't that part of the fun of hiking in winter?

    -Dr. Wu
    To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.
    -Thomas Paine

  13. #13
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by giggy
    ... now 3 weeks ago with 3 feet of snow its just common sense to use them...
    There were several people in the ADKs sadly lacking in common sense that weekend!

    Honestly, I feel sorry for people who do not wear snowshoes when they should be. It's just so much easier to strap them on at the trailhead and go for it, (unless the trail is bare rock!)
    Tom Rankin
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  14. #14
    Senior Member cbcbd's Avatar
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    Sloppy seconds is never as much fun.

    There is really no ethics book, only subjective views on the subject (except for adk rules).

    Truth is, you can't control everyone and everyone likes to do something else in the land of many uses (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, climbing, glissading, etc) and if you don't like postholes... well, it only takes one person to create big ones.

    Get there first and early and you'll have virgin snow for you to do with what you please...

    ...the uncontrollable aftermath of snowshoers, snowmobilers, postholers, skiers, glissaders is called "life"



    ps-if someone wants to posthole in 2' of snow... well, I'm pretty sure their time sucked more postholing then for me snowshoeing around their postholes... so whatever.
    Last edited by cbcbd; 03-06-2007 at 03:31 PM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member dug's Avatar
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    I decided one weekend before Memorial Day to not bring snowshoes on a Kilkenny Traverse. I was fine, except for a stretch between The Bulge and Unknown Pond. It was a precarious balancing act of trying to find solid footing on rotten snow with a full pack. Step, step, POW! Through to my chicklets. Step, step, step, POW! Through again. Step, POW! POW!

    The absolutely most miserable experience of my life. I was literally in tears I was losing my mind.

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