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Status of Mr. Van Ski Trail

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  • Status of Mr. Van Ski Trail

    Does anyone know if any part of the Mr. Van Ski Trail has been closed or abandoned?

    I recently noticed someone modified OpenStreetMap's version of the Mr. Van Ski Trail. The section between the Van Hoevenberg Trail and the Marcy Dam Truck Trail was removed. In related notes, the map editor who removed it (adkbenb) claims to maintain the Adirondack Mountain Club's ski trails (but does not explain why this section was removed). I contacted the individual many days ago but have not received a reply.

    If that section of the ski trail has been abandoned then, as per OSM's best practices, you simply indicate its new status in its meta-data (i.e you tag it as being abandoned; you don't delete it). However, if the Club has closed this section of the trail and now wishes to discourage people from using it (so that it may revert to its wild state) then deleting it from OSM would be justified.

    I appreciate any information anyone has to offer about the ski trail's status.


    Upon closer inspection, I believe I understand what the person attempted to do. They changed that section from being a hiking and skiing trail to a skiing-only trail. That modification made it disappear from all hiking maps. They did the same thing to the Whales Tail Ski Trail and now it no longer appears on any OSM hiking maps.

    I would appreciate guidance from others on how to handle these two trails. They have always been shown on hiking maps because they are passable (or mostly passable) outside of winter. Removing visibility of the Whales Tail Ski Trail from hiking maps also caused a problem because its eastern end had campsites and now the map shows no trail to them.
    Last edited by Trail Boss; 01-12-2020, 05:26 PM.
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  • #2
    An interesting question about how to show trails where one use is preferable to other uses. The ADK High Peaks map shows the Mr. Van Trail between ADK Loj and the truck trail as "unmarked/minimum maintenance" to indicate that it may not receive a regular maintenance as other trail. We could add a note "no bridge" at the crossing of Marcy Brook to indicate there might be problems with that crossing. There are also frequent problems with beavers, so that, what might be skiable when the ponds are frozen, would not be suitable for hiking.
    The ADK High Peaks map still shows the Whales Tail Ski Trail as a "regular" trail, and one that would save 0.3 mi. between Marcy Dam and the Algonquin Trail. I am guessing that the Open Street Map editor, who wanted to show it for skiing only, was concerned that too much hiker traffic would cause erosion on the "unhardened" trail. Experience has been that not many actually do hike it, and the Guide discourages its use as a route between Marcy Dam and the Algonquin trail.
    So, how to show these trails on a map is far from clear, but I am open to suggestions. Any text "clarification" would need to be very short, but that is a possible addition to future maps.


    • #3
      Tony, thank you for your insight.

      The concern I have with what this map editor did is that if one were to follow his lead, all ski trails would disappear from OSM's hiking maps (including the network of trails at the Olympic Ski Center). That's not beneficial for the average hiker. Encountering a trail, or trail-junction, where the map shows none only serves to convince the hiker their map is incomplete.

      There are situations where ski trails should not be shown on hiking maps. The best example is a ski route crossing a lake. Having that appear on a hiking map is silly. I have added ski trails running across Avalanche Lake, Lake Colden, and Flowed Lands, but they do not appear in OSM's hiking maps (only its ski maps).

      In OSM, a path's characteristics are described using tags (meta-data). So it's easy to specify if a trail's main purpose is for skiing but also supports hiking (or not). Some map publishers, that use OSM, can render the trails using different line styles or colors to identify its characteristics. Worst case, you add "Ski" to its name to make it plain for all to see. This is what was done for Whale's Tail Ski Trail, Mr. Van Ski Trail, Van Hoevenberg Ski Trail (the ski trail running alongside the hiking trail from approximately Phelps Brook to Indian Falls) and Avalanche Pass Ski Trail.

      If I don[t hear back from adkbenb by mid-week, with a convincing explanation for why the changes are an improvement, I intend to revert it all back to its previous state. In its current form, its less useful and more confusing.

      Only slightly related but does anyone know if DEC designated campsites were added at Scotts Pond and Wallface Ponds? Adkbenb added them but overlooked to indicate (in the meta-data) if the sites were official or not. Given how little traffic that trail sees, I'd be surprised the DEC established sites there. However, I have not hiked it in many years, so maybe I'm wrong.
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      • #4
        Have you heard back from adkbenb yet?

        I agree with your concern and support you reverting the status of the Whales Tale Ski Trail and the Wright Peak Ski Trail.

        While adkbenb's tagging may have been technically correct at some level, skiers often have to use the hiking maps, because those are the maps that are available on our devices. Many of us use devices or apps on or devices that support maps published for hiking, but not ski maps. So the tagging sometimes need to be based on a pragmatic rationale. I'm out of state and my paper maps are not, but my recollection is that many of the paper maps do not show the ski trails.

        I like how you handled, for example, the Lake Colden crossing by changing the tagging so the part of the "Lake Colden Ski Trail" that traverses land shows on hiking maps but the part on water does not. Winter hikers intending to cross the frozen lake can see the trail leading to the lake on their devices' "hiking" maps.

        It's can be confusing to everyone, summer hikers, winter hikers, and skiers alike when the map shows three trails at a junction and there are four trails on the ground. (The junction just north of Lake Colden on some maps for example.) This is a reason to show ski trails on "hiking" maps. The hiker on the ground will see the ski trail between the trees, but if it's not on their map, they could be confused and might even think they are at a different junction.

        I'm all for being pragmatic and showing the ski trails on the hiking maps. Name them as ski trails. Strictly one could say this should be the decision of the map publishers, but we don't have all the choices of published maps we might desire, and devices and apps are often very limited in the maps they support.

        Yes, I know I have simply reiterated some of your points. But they are good points.

        On a related topic, I ran into another situation where there was a trail junction showing three trails on the map, but there were four trails on the ground. This is the junction of the Van Ho Trail and the Van Ho Ski Trail just south of the bridge crossing Phelps Brook. There is a fourth trail, a well-cut and apparently maintained side loop on the ski trail, that was not on OSM. I took one trace and added it. There was some minor evidence in the Strava Heat Map for it, but lots of skiers ski random track through the woods, so grain of salt and all that. I don't know the history or status of this side loop. It did not appear to be brushed in. Here's my changeset: for your comments.


        The other Tony.


        • #5
          I agree that a case can be made to show ski trails so that all trails at a junction are shown. We have been very reluctant to show the Wright Peak Ski Trail as we don't want hikers going off the summit of Wright through the alpine vegetation to look for it as a descent route. The plan is to reroute the bottom of that trail so that it joins the Whales Tail Ski Trail while also ceasing maintenance of the long traverse to just under the summit. The question is whether hikers would appreciate from the map that the ski trail didn't come anywhere close to the summit and still try to use it for hiking. I'm also not sure whether we can effectively show the Lake Colden and Avalanche Pass ski trails effectively at the scale of the High Peaks map. But I agree we should at least revisit the issue.


          • Teleskier
            Teleskier commented
            Editing a comment
            Just an aside to the main thread, but as a long time backcountry skier it saddens me to hear that about no longer maintaining the WPST to the summit. I guess backcountry skiers really are the poor stepchildren of outdoor users. Because I'm trying to imagine the reaction from the Adirondack Mountain Club and the hiking community if say, DEC announced that the hiker's spur trail to the summit of Wright would no longer be maintained. I imagine the lobbying and acitivism against that decision would begin yesterday.

          • tgoodwin
            tgoodwin commented
            Editing a comment
            Teleskier, cutting out that portion of the trail was seemingly the only way to get permission to cut a new finish to the Whales Tail Ski Trail. This new finish is a huge improvement because skiers will no longer have to compete with hikers heading for Wright and Algonquin. Ron Konowitz worked very hard to push this through, but even he had to realize the there is "no such thing as a free lunch" when it comes to dealing with the DEC and new trail construction.

        • #6

          It's been over a week and I never received a reply from adkbenb. I will be reverting many of the changes adkbenb implemented. The ski trails will be re-tagged as also supporting hiking (thereby restoring their visibility in hiking maps).

          Adkbenb's decision to rename all unmarked trails from "Trail" to "Herd Path" is problematic:
          1. OSM disallows using information from copyrighted material yet adkbenb's changeset clearly states the decision was based on terminology found in the ADK Mtn Club's guidebook. The changeset's reversal could be justified on this basis alone.
          2. The DEC's information is permissible for use in OSM and it refers to (most of) them as trails, not herd paths.
          3. Identifying these well-used, lightly maintained trails (think of the one to Tabletop) as being herd paths will open a can of worms. Other map editors may believe it's now fair game to map real herd paths thereby attracting increased traffic to areas that can't support it.

          I believe adkbenb may have been trying to indicate the trail's characteristics in its name but that's the function of its tags. Years ago, when I first began updating OSM's ADK data, I encountered trail names that included the words "unmaintained" or their marker color. That's not how it's done in OSM; those characteristics belong as meta-data (tags) and not in the name.

          I agree with your statement: "tagging sometimes need to be based on a pragmatic rationale". Here's a case in point: yesterday I was contacted by another map editor who pointed out that, 2 years ago, I had used a deprecated tag to identify campsites along Meadows Lane. I no longer recall why I had used the tag ("camp_site=camp_pitch", it may not have been deprecated 2 years ago) but agreed to remove them. All other camping sites that I had entered were tagged as "tourism=camp_site".

          Now here's the issue: according to OSM's standards, a spot where you pitch a tent to camp is called a "camp_pitch" (tourism=camp_pitch) whereas a place where there are many places to camp (what North Americans would call a campground) is called a "camp_site" (tourism=camp_site). However, if you tag the spot as "camp_pitch" it will not be rendered on OSM's default map.

          I used tourism=camp_site to identify a single camping spot and it is rendered on OSM's maps. However, technically speaking, I labeled it a campground when it's actually just one tent site (camp_pitch). So if I were to comply with OSM's standards, the resulting map becomes far less useful to hikers and campers. I can live with the fact that the ladders and cables I added to OSM are not visible on its default map but hiding all camping sites is unacceptable.

          One of my motivations to get involved with OSM was to identify the location of all DEC designated campsites to benefit campers (I'm a day-hiker; the location of campsites isn't even important to me). Nevertheless, it was fun surveying all the campsites and I learned more about many nooks and crannies. To now make all those campsites disappear from the default map would be ... ridiculous.

          FWIW, adkbenb added three camp_pitch sites along the Wallface Ponds Trail. That was over a month ago and none of them are visible on OSM's default map nor the common maps based on OSM's data. It's as if map publishers haven't found the need to expose data tagged as "camp_pitch". In this particular situation, it may be good thing because I have my doubts those three sites are DEC designated campsites; I would appreciate confirmation from anyone that they are, or are not, designated sites.

          Regarding your changeset, I'm unfamiliar with that bypass but if it's as you've described (appears to be intentionally cut and maintained) then it's worthy of inclusion. If you have any doubts, contact the 'gold standard' for High Peaks information: Tony Goodwin. He has has helped me sort things out several times.
          Last edited by Trail Boss; 01-20-2020, 11:10 AM.
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