Bring the Dogs

By Michael Roche
Posted March 1st, 2000

Dogs at cross-country ski centers: a hot topic in the industry and on the trails.

Cross-country skiing is a great way for dogs and their owners to exercise together.  But are cross-country ski centers appropriate places for dogs?  Some say yes, some say no.

Read the article below for both points of view.

Dogs at cross-country centers are a tough sale. They get in the way, they poop on the tracks, their paws put holes in the groomed snow. So why let them on the ski trails?

Well, because many skiers want to bring their dogs and they are starting to frequent the places that allow them. In the right place at the right time they can be a wonderful addition to a cross-country experience.

As I see it there are only two ways to get ski centers to change their minds. One is peer pressure. We need to continually ask the larger areas to allow dogs. Second, we need to take our skier dollars to the places that allow them.

Blueberry Lake in Warren, Vermont is probably the most dog-friendly ski center in the state. “We have 30 kilometers of trails for skating and classical. Dogs are on all of them, and I’ve never had a single complaint,” says owner Lenord Robinson. They do not charge extra for the pets. “You have to be a dog lover to understand, I suppose,” said Robinson. “I groom my trails every day,” and there is hardly ever any dog poop on them. “The owners seem pretty good about cleaning it up.” Asked about holes in the snow from paws sinking in, Robinson responded, “My racing pole makes a larger hole in the snow than any dog paw.”

Craftsbury Nordic Ski Center and Bolton Cross Country are two other centers that allow dogs with restrictions. Craftsbury likes to keep dogs on their two large frozen lakes. “It’s somewhat limitless out there,” said director John Brodhead. “You can go for miles on and off the groomed areas of the lakes. We also just had the Craftsbury True Companion Dog Sled Race (held the last weekend in January). There were dogs and skiers all over the place. It was one of our best weekends ever. We’re starting to see the economic benefits of allowing dogs and skiers.”

Bolton has Doggie World—more than ten kilometers of backcountry trails, completely separated from the other trails at the resort. The trails were built by volunteers and named after their dogs—Polar, Mooseski, Django. They do not groom Doggie World, but “We hope to begin grooming there next season,” said one staff member. Bolton doesn’t allow dogs onto their groomed trails now because of dog fights in the past.

Stowe Mountain Resort Cross-Country Center allows dogs on a groomed, four-kilometer loop separate from the Center’s trails. “After the skier pays for a day pass, we’ll direct them to the dog trail. We really don’t want them on any of the other trails,” said director John Higgins. Trapp Family Lodge doesn’t allow dogs on any of their trails. Both centers cite past problems with dogs as to the reason for strict canine rules.

Because of this, I would like to propose a solution. It would be great if cross-country centers allowed people to ski with their dogs once the sun goes down. It’s still light enough to get a forty-five minute workout in before it’s too dark. If the moon is high or you bring a headlamp, then you can ski even later. Only experienced skiers train at this hour. Most likely, they too, would like to bring their dogs.

I believe cross-country centers should give dog owners an opportunity to enjoy skiing with their pets without impacting the non-dog owners. If we don’t clean up after our pets then that’s it. We’re out for good. However, if the ski areas give us a shot then they can benefit economically because they will grab a few more season pass holders and day tickets. Besides, then the cross-country center owners and managers can then ski with their dogs too, and feel good about it.