Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Mike McGrew
President, Seeley Lake Nordic Club 

Response to Dog Ban on Seeley Lake Ski Trails


SEELEY LAKE - I am writing in response to the letter in the Jan. 7 edition of the Pathfinder concerning the prohibition of dogs on the Seeley Creek Ski Trails.

The ski trails are located on National Forest ground and are maintained by the Seeley Lake Nordic Club through a cooperative agreement with the Forest Service. The rule banning dogs on the trails comes from the Forest Service, not the ski club. However, the ski club is in agreement with this policy for several reasons.

There are obvious safety concerns involving allowing dogs on our trails. The possibility for aggressive dogs to attack other dogs or people, the danger of collisions between skiers and dogs on some of the faster sections of the course and the fact that most dogs don’t respond well to voice commands in a new environment are several reasons that come immediately to mind.

Additionally, the Seeley Creek Trails have earned an excellent reputation regionally for having the best and most consistent grooming of any trail system in Western Montana. The ski club has invested tens of thousands of dollars and our volunteer groomers put in hundreds of hours each winter ensuring our trail system is meticulously maintained to the highest standards. Dogs detract from the quality of the skiing experience by their feet punching through soft, freshly groomed snow and by defecating on the trails.

Many ski club members are dog lovers and owners who enjoy skiing with their dogs. The option we choose is to exercise our dogs on the local snowmobile trails. While not exactly the same level of ski experience, it is a viable option and if you’re lucky enough to get first tracks behind the snowmobile groomer, the conditions can be outstanding.

There is a myth that snowmobilers and skiers don’t get along but I can assure you that is far from the case. In my experience snowmobilers are unfailingly courteous and always reduce their speeds when encountering my dog and me. In almost forty years of cross country skiing in the Seeley Swan I have never had a negative encounter with a snowmobiler while skiing the roads with my dogs.

We realize that not being able to ski the trails with their dog is a deal-breaker for some folks. However, after maintaining the local trails for over twenty years, the Nordic club has come to realize that the ban on dogs is a policy that makes sense.

For more discussion and comment on this issue, and to learn more about Nordic skiing in Seeley Lake, please visit our website at This week’s Compulsive Skier blog post is devoted to this topic.


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