Ski club rolls over on dog fee

Local pooches hoping to hit the trails this winter can stop saving their pennies.

Local pooches hoping to hit the trails this winter can stop saving their pennies.

The Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club has overturned its decision to include annual or daily fees for skiers who wish to bring their dogs on the trails, the club announced Wednesday.

The annual fee of $20 for one dog, $25 for two, will now be accepted by the club on a voluntary basis.

“When it comes down to it, the ski club is a big organization – 1,300 members, we have a $400,000-a-year budget,” said club treasurer Claude Chabot. “It’s a big operation and with 1,300 members, not everyone is going to agree on everything.

“We had all this issue on dogs on leashes (last year) and we did a bunch changes to the dog trail system and had a bunch of modifications. And somebody down the line suggested we need more revenue to pay for all of this, so let’s toss in a nominal fee for the dogs, that’ll help towards the cost of this. We didn’t think it would be a big issue, but I guess it was.”

The announcement that skiers with dogs would be charged an additional fee came a month ago when season passes went on sale. The club estimates about a third if its members bring dogs on the trails on occasion, a handful of which opposed the fee. Whitehorse’s Cord Hamilton was one of them.

“I didn’t believe the fee, as it was described as being applied, was fair,” said Hamilton. “Essentially the fee was identified as being required to account for some expenditures related to work on the dog trails. But the reality is the dog trails are used by a very broad selection of the membership over and above dog owners. On that basis it did not seem fair or reasonable to expect one user group would be responsible to cover the costs of those improvements.”

“I was grateful and satisfied they listened to concerns and made a reasonable decision,” he added of this week’s decision. “There was a group of skiers who volunteered to assist the board in looking at some dog-related issues over the summer, and the bulk of those people continued to supply advice about this issue the last several weeks.”

About a third of the club’s 85 kilometres of trails are dog friendly. Last season the club had another canine controversy when it introduced on-leash requirement for dogs between the “dog parking lot” off Hamilton Boulevard and Telemark Hill.

This season Sundog Trail is an off-leash area while Dog Trail – yep, that’s the name of the trail – up to Telemark Hill is now an on-leash area.

“We’ve done some changes on Sundog Trail, so when you’re out of the parking lot you can go right on Sundog Trail and be in an off-leash area right away,” said Chabot. “The whole area of Dog Trail to Telemark Hill is a really popular spot for lessons and school groups because of the terrain. So we were always a little bit nervous about loose dogs, especially when they are really hyper – they’re right out of the car they get hyper rushing around. We were just nervous about safety. That was the original intent behind that leash rule.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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