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FTA releases trails survey data for winter users

Feedback was positive, but with some users highlighting a bias towards fat-biking
The FTA got positive feedback for winter trails usage this winter. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fernie Trail Alliance trail user survey results have revealed there’s no one overwhelmingly popular winter activity around town, so the FTA’s wider network will remain multi-use according to executive director Todd Penke.

Of 327 respondents, 59 percent said they walked and hiked on the trail network over winter, while 59 percent did Nordic skiing, and 54 percent were fat-bikers. Snow shoeing was an activity enjoyed by 47 percent of users, while 35 percent did alpine ski touring and 20 percent were trail runners.

The survey, done between mid-April and early May was voluntary, and asked for feedback on trails managed by the FTA.

Satisfaction with the trails overall was high, with 88 percent giving a score of 4 or 5 out of 5, but FTA analysis suggested that many users felt the network, and the FTA itself was too fat-biker-focused.

Feedback on what the FTA should prioritise for winter grooming was varied, with no stand-out ask besides an obvious desire for more grooming. Respondents were asked to pick their top three priorities, with 39 percent asking for increased education on responsible trail usage, 38 percent asking for more groomed trails (and another 27 percent asking for ‘increased attention to maintenance of winter trail issues’ and 25 percent asking for more frequent grooming), 36 percent asking for better reporting of conditions and 12 percent asking for improved signage.

15 percent of the respondents said everything was great as it was, with no suggestions to make.

FTA executive director Todd Penke said that heading into the next winter season, education would be the main focus of the trails alliance.

“Our take is to be more proactive early in the reason in terms of education, both so tat people are more aware that these are multi-use trails that all user groups have right to use, and education around mindful trail use.

Penke said that a focus on education wasn’t targeted at any particular user groups. “Post holding and rutting affects all users - fatbikers, hikers and trail runners alike.”

The multi-use system had a lot of benefits anyway, and the FTA was planning on retaining it across its network.

“Our groomers have noted that a combination of trail users can make for a more resilient (groomed) trail when done right.”

Under the FTA umbrella, the Fernie Nordic Society maintains a nordic-skiing only network, which has always been for nordic skiing. The other local trails group, the Coal Creek Heritage Society – which maintains trails in the Montane and Ridgemont area – has nordic skiing-only trails in the Montane area, and began designating fabiking and snowshoeing-only sections in the last winter season.

But what’s next for the FTA?

“Our plan is you focus on increased and earlier education, and earlier grooming if possible of the shuttle trail area which is primarily used by fat bikers,” said Penke.

Penke said that FTA would also be exploring setting up specific volunteer days to repair trail damage, like it does in summer.

The full survey results can be found on the FTA website at

READ MORE: Summer riders give Fernie trails two thumbs up
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