Chester Lake Ski Trail now one-way

The lower (old logging road) sections of the Chester Lake trail have been designated as one-way trails. The more popular and slightly steeper west branch is marked for downhill travel only. The very slightly longer east branch is designated for uphill travel only. In other words, you are now expected to ski these two trails in a counter clockwise direction. The two trails merge into a single, narrow, winding forest trail that leads to the upper meadows and the lake.
The reason being given for designating the wide trails as one-way only is for “public safety”. Presumably skiers descending the west trail have been crashing into skiers and/or snowshoers heading up the same trail. It seems odd to me that the logging road width lower trails are too dangerous for people to ski both ways, yet the upper forest trail has been intentionally narrowed with pointy rocks and forest deadfall. The only response to that public safety hazard has been the erection of a sign warning people of potential trail hazards.
The notice goes on to remind snowshoers to use the designated snowshoe route to Chester Lake, rather than using either of the ski trail options.
What do you think of this change at the Chester ski trails. Any thoughts about the upper forest-meadow section of ski trail. If you snowshoe, are you happy with sticking to the designated snowshoe trail?

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8 comments… add one
  • John Alliston Jan 19, 2011, 10:39 am

    We skied Chester trail on Jan 16. There were tons of skiers due to the closure of the Burstall trail as a result of a couple of skier fatalities. There was also lots of snow, so good control for most skiing abilities. Not surprisingly there were a lot of wide skis because of the Burstall situation and these skiers seemed capable and in control. A few we talked to liked the idea of the one-way system on the lower 2km section. It seems to be a cheap fix as the trails are already there. Only one or two signs are required. The route keeps skiers to the right going up and coming down.

    I my opinion these two route sections have never been a problem as they are fairly wide. The narrow section from the interstion to the lake has more potential for incident in my opinion as there are several very steep places with right angled entry and exit points making visibility and collision avoidance much more difficult.

    Intentionally narrowing the longer section above the one-way intersection has compounded the safety concern, especially for the less experienced skiers with very light cross-country equipment. Snowshoers can at least make quick moves to left or right to avoid contact by stepping into the adjacent trees – assuming the poor sight lines are not a factor and they can see the approaching person.

    A big part of the attraction for people going to Chester Lake is the short distance from the trailhead to the Lake – so there will always be (hopefully) large numbers of people (skiers and snowshoers – no winter hikers please!) with wide ranging abilities. The fact that the trail has some challenges (steep sections, corners, etc.) is also the attraction for some.

    Make it safe, but don’t ruin the attraction.

  • Alf Skrastins Jan 18, 2011, 10:39 pm

    NOTE: I have corrected the post to properly describe the recommended direction of travel: up the east half, down on the west half of the trail.

  • David Wiley Jan 18, 2011, 9:56 pm

    I looked at the announcement on the trail report site ( http://tpr.alberta.ca/parks/kananaskis/trailreport.aspx ) and here is what it says

    uphill travel only on the eastern section of the loop; downhill travel only on the western section of the loop (i.e. ski the loop in a counter-clockwise direction).

    So yes it is skied counter-clockwise but the the downhill is on the western section. This is the way I have always skied Chester and seems to me to make the most sense. The only times I have had problems though with the trail width is when while coming down I met a party of snowshoers spread across the entire road just around a corner on one of the steeper hills. It took some luck and quick turns to make it through without hitting them or the dogs with them. Hopefully the signs will at least direct snow shoers up the up track if they miss the showshoe trail.

  • Steve Riggs Jan 18, 2011, 9:01 pm

    I’m a bit confused here- wouldn’t west leg for uphill, east leg for downhill be clockwise, not ccw?
    Anyway…
    Sometimes I wonder if the people responsible for decisions like this actually get out and ski the trails.
    First off, we had the lining of the winding upper trail with logs and rocks, which are bound to cause serious harm to a skier sooner or later.
    While the goal of reducing summer trail widening is laudable, the method is insane, especially given Chester’s popularity as an early season ski tour. When I was up there in November, these intentionally placed hazards were lurking just under the new snow surface, just inches off the beaten track.
    Now we come to the one way designation. This seems like a solution waiting for a problem, as I have skied Chester many, many times without any issues on the logging roads with other users. Not only that, but if it really is west=up, east=down, they got it wrong!
    West makes for a better down as it is more continuous with no ups, while east is flatter, and going downhill has one short uphill to deal with, plus a steep, sun exposed hill that is often rocky in early season, and icy in the spring, thus making east leg a better choice for going up.
    Why not just leave things as they were, and let the users decide which way they prefer?

  • Rachel Jan 18, 2011, 1:39 pm

    I’ve both skied and snowshoed up. The designated snowshoe trail is far superior for snowshoeing, and way more fun. I don’t understand why anyone would want to snowshoe the ski trail.
    I also think it’s nice to have separate trails where possible, and I don’t find it at all arduous to stick to the snowshoe trail where one exists. When I’m skiing, I appreciated other snowshoers doing the same.

    I’ve only skied up mid-week, running into few or no people along the way, so I’ve never felt a need for more direction. I can imagine it being crowded on the weekends though, and don’t think it would bother me to loop it, so I don’t mind a designated one-way. It might not be necessary, but it won’t bother me.

  • Derek Ryder Jan 18, 2011, 9:12 am

    Chester attracts a lot of skiers of all abilities. Traffic volume is high, and the trails exist to make them “double lane,” so I am not surprised that they did it for the low, low cost of a few signs. Ever since they “improved” the upper forest section, I have avoided the place entirely (summer and winter), as while I can understand why they did it, I don’t like what they did.

  • Debbie Jan 18, 2011, 8:54 am

    As a snowshoer, I am quite fond of the Chester snowshoe trail and always use it and not the ski trail. I find the trail signage to be excellent. I do notice a lot of snowshoers using the ski trail and I’m not sure if they’re doing it by choice or because they miss the snowshoe trail turn-off after the bridge. Maybe a bigger sign at the turn-off would help. Not having done the ski trail, I can’t comment on those changes.

  • Edgepath Jan 18, 2011, 6:14 am

    I am happy staying on the snowshoe trail when using that mode of travel. Quiet and peaceful. Also, don’t need to worry about keeping off the skiers track.

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