An incident on the groomed Teton Canyon Road at the end of 2019 served as a reminder to the community about the importance of keeping it cool in the snow.
“We all need to try and be good stewards and be respectful,” said Teton Basin District Ranger Jay Pence.
On Dec. 27, a cross-country skier confronted a fat-bike cyclist on the road and when the cyclist tried to exit the conversation, the skier grabbed her on the arm. Teton Canyon, as noted on the Teton Valley Trails & Pathways website, is on public land and open to all users: skiers, fat-bike cyclists, snowmachiners, snowshoers, walkers and dogs. As a result, the extremely popular road has a reputation for being something of a free-for-all.
Teton Valley Trails & Pathways has recorded some impressive visitation numbers at Teton Canyon; in the last two winters the organization tracked more than 10,000 users each season, and that total did not include travelers on the user-compacted Sheep Bridge Trail.
Teton Valley Trails & Pathways employs a dedicated paid groomer for Teton Canyon and the road is groomed five days per week, and sometimes six depending on conditions. Last winter, Teton Valley Trails & Pathways' grooming efforts totaled 282 hours in Teton Canyon alone.
“We spend the most time grooming that particular venue and it’s also open the longest of any groomed trail,” said Teton Valley Trails & Pathways Executive Director Dan Verbeten. “After a storm it can take up to five hours to compact that great, light-density Teton powder.”
The nonprofit also stocks a staggering 3,000 dog poop bags at the Teton Canyon trailhead each winter and now sells Puppy Permits in addition to Trail Support Vehicle stickers to fund grooming.
Verbeten said that ideally Teton Valley Trails & Pathways could some day employ its own version of the Teton Pass Ambassador to educate users and encourage good behavior on trails.
As visitation numbers grow, Pence often hears about user conflicts on groomed trails within the national forest.
“Different entities are getting grumpy,” he said. “We get that all the time. Some people choose to be respectful and some don’t.”
He acknowledged that foot traffic and tire prints can churn up or mar the surface of a groomed track, and that ill-behaved dogs can be very disruptive. But there are places in the valley where one can avoid the chaos of Teton Canyon.
“If you want a pristine cross-country skiing experience, go up to Targhee,” he said.