I was out cross-country skiing last week and was shocked to see people walking towards me on the groomed trail with their two dogs. Had they forgotten to don their skis? Probably not. This means they either didn’t know the trails weren’t for walkers and their dogs, or they were being downright ignorant by using the trails unlawfully.
The trails at Hiawatha Highlands are groomed exquisitely, for specific purposes. There are trails for classic cross-country skiing, there are skate skiing trails, and there are snowshoeing trails. In fact, there are 50 kilometres of groomed ski trails and 7km of groomed snowshoeing trails. There are no trails groomed for people-walking or dog-walking.
There seems to be a misconception that the Hiawatha Highlands are owned by the city, but they are not. There are no “free” trails at Hiawatha, as it is not public property. If you are on the trails without a pass, you are, in fact, trespassing. In addition to breaking the law, if you are walking on the trails, you are pissing off the members.
Members buy day or seasonal passes to use those groomed trails for skiing or snowshoeing. Members subsidize said grooming, which means they don’t want dogs and people wrecking trails.
The signs are quite clear at Hiawatha: “Valid trail pass required & visible. No Trespassing. No walking. No pets.” Unless my walking “friends” are illiterate, or purposefully took an unmarked access path onto the trail, they were ignoring the rules.
Why would members care if others walked on their trails?
As a beginner skier the last thing I need is to have the groomed tracks for my skis broken by dog paws and/or people feet. Without those perfectly groomed tracks, my skis aren’t totally sure where to go. When a large mammal steps on the side of the ski track, it gives my ski an opening to escape from the groomed track. When that happens, my rogue ski bolts and my feet suddenly find themselves sliding further and further apart.
The additional concern about dogs on the trail is that my skis (with their grooved underbellies) might find themselves meeting up with a doggie parcel.
If you are a dog-owner, and a winter sport enthusiast, fear not as there are trails for you too. The Wishart Park trail has groomed ski trails and dogs are allowed. Similarly, the Mabel Lake trail is groomed for snowshoeing too, and is dog-friendly.
If your holiday shopping isn’t complete, why not give the gift of winter fitness and fun at Hiawatha? Consider buying your loved ones a pass for the Highlands. Snowshoeing day passes are only $5.50 per day. Ski day passes cost $15 for adults and $13 for students and seniors. As a bonus, children under age 12 get access to the trails for free if they have their own equipment. Gift certificates are also available for rentals, day passes, and seasonal passes.
I hope you do get a season’s pass under the Christmas tree, and I’ll see you and your family out on the trails this year — as long as you aren’t walking on them.
Another winter pet peeve of mine is that the city doesn’t plough all of the sidewalks. If you live on a street where they don’t, like me, the message unfortunately feels like: “your tax money is subsidizing clearing other sidewalks but not your own.” If you have children that get dropped off from the bus, and it is not directly in front of your house, like me, they either have to navigate through the mountainous sidewalks (if you have equipped them with hip-waders), or they have no choice but to walk on the road (which really doesn’t spell safety with a capital S).
With Christmas right around the corner, do you think I could ask the city to plough my sidewalk as a holiday present? (If you have some pull there, please put in a good word for me).
If after reading this, you are now asking yourself where you should go for a wintery walk with your family or your dog, the answer is: not at the Hiawatha Highlands. Try the Hub trail, or the Fort Creek trail off Second Line, or even my unplowed sidewalk if you are truly looking for a little adventure.