Skier-hiker skirmishes reported as Round Valley’s popularity soars |

Skier-hiker skirmishes reported as Round Valley’s popularity soars

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The number of cross-country skiers putting on their skinny skis in Round Valley has soared this winter, resulting in arguments between the skiers and hikers, a leading figure in the local Park City cross-country skiing community said this week.

Charlie Sturgis, who is the executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation and has long been associated with White Pine Touring, an outfitter that caters to cross-country skiers, said he is aware of arguments between the skiers and people who are hiking in Round Valley. He said, though, there have not been any fights between the two segments.

Sturgis estimates there could be between 40,000 and 50,000 user-days by cross-country skiers in Round Valley, a measurement that counts one person skiing for all or part of one day. The figure would make the 2010-2011 season the most popular ever in Round Valley, he said.

The cross-country skiing trails in Round Valley, a vast expanse of open space sprawling between Park Meadows and Quinn’s Junction, have been smoothed regularly with a grooming machine starting last winter. Sturgis said the number of miles of groomed ski track has also been expanded.

The favorable snow conditions this winter has been a draw as well, Sturgis said.

He said cross-country skiers and hikers in Round Valley come into conflict given the skiers are traveling faster than the hikers. In previous years the encounters occurred "once in a while."

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"It’s basically someone going ‘Hey you,’" Sturgis said.

There have also been issues involving the speed of skiers in Round Valley, Sturgis said, with experienced cross-country skiers pushing themselves faster. That can be disconcerting to the skiers of lesser ability, Sturgis said.

He also said there have been mountain bikers on the trails in the winter.

Meanwhile, Sturgis said he supports someone’s ability to bring well-behaved dogs off their leashes into Round Valley. He said he prefers they be put on a leash as the owner heads into Round Valley and then released once into the open space. Confrontations involving dogs typically occur in congested areas like trailheads, he said.

"The area is used a lot as an off-leash area," Sturgis said, estimating there could be hundreds of loose dogs in Round Valley in a day, even in the winter.

Mountain Trails Foundation this winter installed trash cans where people can throw away dog waste, Sturgis said.

Leash laws are in effect throughout Summit County, and the laws require that dogs be leashed in areas like Round Valley.

The director of Summit County Animal Control, Bob Bates, said officers regularly patrol trailheads, including those at the entryways into Round Valley. He said he has not been told of problems involving cross-country skiers and dogs off their leashes this winter. He is not aware of stepped-up enforcement by Animal Control in Round Valley this winter.

Sturgis said Mountain Trails Foundation wants the trails in Round Valley to be self-policing rather than law enforcement becoming more involved.