Lalley: Herein lie the rules for winter recreating in Sioux Falls

Skiiers, walkers, bikers, snowshoers must live in harmony to make it to spring.

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A cross-country skier at Spencer Park in Sioux Falls.
Patrick Lalley / Sioux Falls Live

SIOUX FALLS — It’s been a few years since we’ve had a proper winter in the Upper Midwest.

Sure, it’s been cold, but not much snow.

Things have changed.

Today, there’s 30 plus inches of snow covering my backyard and multiplying into towers along the driveway.

So I can understand if some of you have forgotten the rules.


Rules for what, you might ask.

Driving on back streets where there’s only room for one car?

No, although there’s certainly room there for commentary.

Holding the door open at the restaurant while you wait for your husband/partner to shuffle along the sidewalk, meanwhile letting the cold roll over the rest of the guests?

No, but come on man.

Allowing the snow to accumulate on the top of your SUV because you don’t have room in the garage because of all the bikes until it becomes something akin to a pyramid at Giza?

OK, that one’s me, but we’re not talking about me.

We’re here today for you.


These are the rules for winter recreation in the Best Little City in America.

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A rider on the groomed fat bike trails at Yankton Trail Park in Sioux Falls.
Patrick Lalley / Sioux Falls Live

Now, before we get started, I need to clear something up. I'm involved in all these activities on one level or another. So, if the people participating in your favorite activity are included here, rest assured it’s not personal.

Also, these are primarily flat-land activities available within the city parks system. There may be different rules where you live. Different opportunities or alliances that create a starkly different reality.

Finally, this is a “circle of life” thing, where all the pieces interact with, and are dependent upon, the others. It’s a yin-yang of winter sports.

Now that we have the ground rules for the rules, they are as follows:

Walkers, with or without dogs. Please don’t walk on groomed trails, either for skiing or fat biking. You’ll know it’s groomed because of the grooves in the snow. It’s not that we don’t want you and the pooch out there but if your foot is breaking through the packed snow, it’s damaging the experience for others. And if you’re going in up the knee, it might be a good idea to get back on the pavement.

Fat bikers. Don’t ride on the cross-country ski trails. This hasn’t been as much of a problem since Falls Area Single Track started grooming for fat bikes at Spencer, Yankton Trail and Pasley parks, but it still happens occasionally. You may think that a ski trail is firm enough to ride on, but the tracks do cause difficulty for skate skiers and if you break through, it’s a real pain. You have other places to ride so just don’t do it.

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A snowshoer on the banks of the Big Sioux River through Pasley Park in Sioux Falls.
Contributed / Brian Kittelson

Snowshoers. You people can go pretty much wherever you want. In fact, snowshoeing the fat bike trails usually helps pack it down and makes the groomer more effective. Now, I’d recommend staying off the ski trails as there is no real reason to go on them. Plus, as mentioned, you can go anywhere. It’s more fun to explore, right?


Skiers. Again, this is cross-country specific. You guys are fine. There’s not really much you can do anyway. I’d probably not ski on fat bike trails as they are narrow and kind of twisty. But that’s on you.

The greenway that follows the Big Sioux River is a wonderful place to recreate and exercise, even in the winter. But that also means that the various disciplines are intertwined by location.

If we all show a little courtesy – and follow the rules – we can get through this without going mad.

Now, about those streets …

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at
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