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Understanding Catwalks In Skiing: A Safety Guide


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Elaine Wen



Welcome to the exhilarating world of skiing! Whether you are a seasoned enthusiast or a beginner looking to experience the thrill of gliding down snow-covered slopes, understanding the various elements of skiing is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience. One aspect that often goes overlooked is the significance of catwalks in skiing. These narrow trails serve as essential connectors between different ski runs, allowing skiers to navigate from one part of the mountain to another. Catwalks, also commonly referred to as traverse slopes or groomed trails, play a vital role in maintaining the flow and accessibility of ski resorts. They can range from gentle downhill slopes to flat stretches, providing skiers with a relatively easier path compared to the steep and challenging runs. While catwalks may seem straightforward, it is essential to have a solid understanding of their characteristics and potential hazards to ensure safety on the slopes. This comprehensive guide aims to shed light on the importance of understanding catwalks in skiing and provides practical tips on how to navigate them safely. By familiarizing yourself with the unique features and potential challenges of catwalks, you can enhance your skiing experience while minimizing the risk of accidents. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of catwalks and discover how they can contribute to an unforgettable skiing adventure!


What are Catwalks in Skiing?

When you embark on a skiing adventure, you’ll come across various types of terrain, including groomed slopes, moguls, and powder. Among these, catwalks are distinct trails that provide a connecting pathway between different ski runs. These trails are typically wide enough for skiers to traverse and are designed to facilitate ease of movement across the mountain. Catwalks are often groomed to create a smooth surface, making them suitable for skiers of all levels. They are marked with signs and are an integral part of the ski resort’s infrastructure, allowing visitors to access different areas of the mountain with relative ease. Catwalks are usually located in between runs, providing a means to move from one section of the resort to another without having to ski down a steep slope. Catwalks can vary in length and steepness, ranging from short, flat stretches to longer, gently sloping pathways. They may also include gentle turns and bends, adding a touch of excitement to the journey. While catwalks are generally designed to be easier to navigate than downhill ski runs, they still require attention and proper technique to ensure a smooth and safe journey. It’s important to note that catwalks may have different names depending on the ski resort or region. For example, they are also called traverses, roads, or trails. Regardless of the terminology, catwalks serve the same purpose – connecting skiers to various parts of the mountain and enhancing the overall skiing experience.


Importance of Understanding Catwalks for Safety

When it comes to skiing, safety should always be a top priority. Understanding catwalks and their role in the skiing environment is essential for ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience on the slopes. Here are some key reasons why it is important to have a solid understanding of catwalks:

  • Navigation: Catwalks serve as critical pathways for skiers to move from one area of the mountain to another. By understanding their layout and location, you can navigate the ski resort more efficiently, saving time and energy.
  • Reduced Risk of Accidents: Catwalks are designed to be relatively easier to ski on compared to steep downhill runs. However, they still come with their own set of challenges. Being familiar with the characteristics of catwalks can help you anticipate potential hazards and minimize the risk of accidents.
  • Confidence Building: Skiing on catwalks can be less intimidating for beginners or skiers who are still building their confidence. By understanding the layout and terrain of catwalks, beginners can practice their skiing skills in a controlled and less challenging environment.
  • Route Planning: Catwalks can provide you with alternative routes to access different ski runs or areas of the mountain. Understanding the layout of the catwalks allows you to plan your skiing routes effectively, taking into consideration your skill level and desired challenges.
  • Emergency Situations: In the event of an emergency or injury, having knowledge of catwalks can be crucial for getting help or safely navigating to a more accessible area. Understanding the layout of the ski resort ensures that you are aware of the nearest catwalks or exit points.

Overall, understanding catwalks enhances your overall safety on the slopes and allows you to make informed decisions while skiing. It empowers you to confidently explore the ski resort, enjoy your skiing experience, and minimize the risks associated with unfamiliar terrain.


Characteristics of Catwalks

Catwalks, as integral elements of ski resorts, possess specific characteristics that differentiate them from other types of ski terrain. Understanding these characteristics is essential for safely navigating catwalks. Let’s explore some key features of catwalks:

  • Width: Catwalks are typically wider than narrow ski runs, providing enough space for skiers to traverse comfortably. The width may vary depending on the ski resort and the specific catwalk, but they are generally designed to accommodate multiple skiers at the same time.
  • Surface: Catwalks are regularly groomed to maintain a smooth surface. Grooming involves flattening the snow and removing any bumps or obstacles to create an optimal skiing experience. This makes catwalks easier to ski on compared to ungroomed or uneven terrain.
  • Slope: Catwalks can have varying degrees of slope. Some may be relatively flat, while others feature gentle inclines or declines. It is important to be aware of the slope of the catwalk you are skiing on to adjust your speed and technique accordingly.
  • Turns and Bends: Catwalks often feature turns and bends to accommodate the natural contours of the mountain. These turns can range from gradual curves to sharper bends. Approaching turns with the appropriate technique and speed is crucial for maintaining control and safety.
  • Signage: Catwalks are usually marked with signs indicating their names, locations, and any specific rules or cautions to be aware of. It is important to pay attention to these signs as they provide valuable information and help maintain skier safety on the catwalks.
  • Terrain Changes: Catwalks may intersect with other ski runs or terrain features, such as moguls, trees, or off-piste areas. Being aware of these changes in terrain allows you to adjust your skiing technique accordingly and avoid potential hazards.

By understanding the characteristics of catwalks, you can adapt your skiing technique and approach to ensure a smoother and safer experience. Paying attention to the width, surface condition, slope, turns, signage, and terrain changes will help you navigate catwalks with confidence and make the most of your skiing adventure.


Hazards and Challenges on Catwalks

While catwalks are generally designed to provide a smoother and more accessible route for skiers, they still present their own set of hazards and challenges. Being aware of these potential risks is crucial for maintaining safety on the catwalks. Here are some common hazards and challenges you may encounter:

  • Crowded Conditions: Catwalks can become crowded, especially during peak hours or popular skiing periods. This congestion can make maneuvering more challenging, requiring skiers to stay alert and exercise caution to avoid collisions.
  • Uneven Surfaces: Despite regular grooming, catwalks may still have sections with uneven surfaces, such as icy patches or small bumps. These uneven surfaces can affect your balance and control, so it’s important to ski with caution and adapt your technique accordingly.
  • Traffic Patterns: Catwalks often have specific traffic patterns indicated by signs or markers. It is important to understand and follow these patterns to ensure a smooth flow of skiers and minimize the risk of accidents.
  • Hidden Obstacles: Catwalks can occasionally hide hidden obstacles beneath the snow, such as rocks, tree branches, or protruding roots. These obstacles can pose a hazard if encountered unexpectedly, so maintaining focus and awareness of your surroundings is crucial.
  • Sudden Drops or Rises: Some catwalks may have sudden drops or rises in the terrain. These changes in elevation can catch skiers off guard and disrupt their balance. Approach these areas with caution and adjust your speed and technique accordingly.
  • Merging Skiers: Catwalks often intersect with other ski runs or trails, leading to merging points where skiers from different directions converge. It is important to yield the right of way and maintain awareness of skiers merging onto the catwalk to prevent collisions.
  • Weather Conditions: Catwalks can be exposed to different weather conditions, such as high winds, reduced visibility, or changing snow conditions. These weather factors can affect the stability of the catwalks and make skiing more challenging. Stay updated on the weather forecast and adjust your skiing plans accordingly.

By acknowledging the hazards and challenges that catwalks present, you can approach these trails with a heightened sense of awareness and caution. Adapting your skiing technique to accommodate crowded conditions, uneven surfaces, hidden obstacles, and traffic patterns will help you navigate catwalks safely and enjoy your ski adventure to the fullest.


Tips for Navigating Catwalks Safely

As catwalks are an essential part of skiing, it is important to have a good understanding of how to navigate them safely. By following these tips, you can enhance your safety and enjoyment while traversing catwalks:

  • Observe and Yield: Always be aware of other skiers on the catwalk and yield to those ahead of you. Keep a safe distance and maintain control to ensure a smooth flow of traffic.
  • Maintain a Moderate Speed: While catwalks are generally flatter and easier to navigate, it is still important to maintain a reasonable and safe speed. Ski at a speed that allows you to maintain control and react to any sudden changes or obstacles.
  • Use Proper Skiing Technique: Employ proper skiing technique while on catwalks, including using your edges, bending your knees, and keeping your weight centered. This will help you maintain control and balance, especially on uneven sections.
  • Watch for Changes in Terrain: Stay alert for any changes in the catwalk’s slope, including drops or rises. Be prepared to adjust your speed and skiing technique accordingly to maintain control and balance.
  • Be Mindful of Ski Tips: Be cautious of ski tips crossing or overlapping with other skiers on the catwalk. Keep your skis parallel and avoid any sudden movements that could cause collisions.
  • Keep an Eye Out for Signs: Pay attention to signs indicating any specific rules or cautions on the catwalks. These signs will help you navigate safely and anticipate any potential hazards ahead.
  • Stay Visible: Wear bright and visible clothing while skiing on catwalks. This will make it easier for other skiers to see you and reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Respect the Environment: Remember to respect the mountain environment while on catwalks. Avoid littering and stay on designated trails to preserve the natural beauty and integrity of the area.
  • Be Prepared for Weather Conditions: Catwalks can be exposed to changing weather conditions. Dress in layers and carry essential gear such as sunglasses, sunscreen, and extra layers to protect yourself from harsh elements.

By following these tips, you can navigate catwalks confidently and safely. Remember that catwalks are shared spaces, so it’s important to ski with awareness, respect for others, and a commitment to maintaining a safe skiing environment for everyone.


Proper Etiquette on Catwalks

When skiing on catwalks, it is essential to observe proper etiquette to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. Here are some guidelines to follow when it comes to catwalk etiquette:

  • Stay to the Right: Keep to the right side of the catwalk, similar to how you would drive on the road. This allows faster skiers to pass on the left and promotes a smooth flow of traffic.
  • Signal and Communicate: Use clear and visible signals, such as arm signals or verbal communication, to indicate your intentions to other skiers. This can include communicating when you are about to pass, merge, or make a turn.
  • Yield to Uphill Skiers: Give the right of way to skiers who are skiing uphill. Uphill skiers have limited visibility and may require more space to maintain their momentum. Allow them to ski without interruption.
  • Practice Responsible Passing: If you need to overtake a slower skier, do so responsibly and safely. Ensure that there is sufficient space and communicate your intentions clearly. Avoid passing too closely or in a way that may startle or intimidate other skiers.
  • Control Your Speed: Ski at a speed that allows you to maintain control and react to any unexpected situations. Avoid skiing at excessive speeds that may endanger yourself or others on the catwalk.
  • Respect Personal Space: Give plenty of space to other skiers, allowing them to ski comfortably without feeling crowded. Avoid abruptly stopping in the middle of the catwalk or blocking the way for others.
  • Assist as Needed: If you notice a fellow skier who needs assistance or is in distress, offer help if you are capable and it is safe to do so. Skiing is a community, and helping others promotes a positive and supportive environment.
  • Be Mindful of Equipment: Be careful when removing or adjusting your equipment on the catwalk. Move to the side and out of the way of other skiers to avoid causing any obstructions or accidents.
  • Keep the Catwalk Clean: Respect the mountain environment by not littering or leaving any waste on the catwalk. Carry a small bag and dispose of any trash in designated containers at the appropriate locations.

By adhering to proper catwalk etiquette, you contribute to a safe and harmonious skiing environment. Remember, respect for fellow skiers, clear communication, and thoughtful consideration of others are the foundations of good catwalk etiquette.


Common Mistakes to Avoid on Catwalks

While skiing on catwalks, it is important to be aware of common mistakes that can potentially lead to accidents or disrupt the flow of traffic. By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience on the slopes. Here are some common mistakes to steer clear of:

  • Stopping in the Middle: Avoid stopping abruptly in the middle of the catwalk, as it can obstruct the pathway for other skiers. Move to the side if you need to take a break or adjust your equipment.
  • Not Yielding Right of Way: Failing to yield the right of way to other skiers can lead to collisions and accidents. Always be vigilant and give the appropriate right of way to uphill skiers or those merging onto the catwalk.
  • Speeding Excessively: Skiing at excessive speeds on catwalks is dangerous and can be disruptive to others. Maintain a moderate and controlled speed that allows for proper maneuverability and reaction time.
  • Ignoring Signs and Warnings: Pay attention to signage and warnings posted along the catwalks. Ignoring these signs can lead to potential hazards or conflicts with other skiers. Adhere to the instructions and cautions provided.
  • Not Adjusting to Changing Terrain: Catwalks can have variations in slope, turns, and surface conditions. Failing to adjust your skiing technique and speed to these changes can result in loss of control and accidents.
  • Not Communicating or Signaling: Clear communication is key on catwalks. Failing to signal your intentions or communicate with other skiers can lead to misunderstandings and potentially dangerous situations. Use hand signals or verbal communication to indicate your actions.
  • Neglecting Personal Space: Skiing too closely to others or invading their personal space can make them feel uncomfortable and increase the risk of collisions. Give ample room for skiers to maneuver comfortably.
  • Underestimating the Importance of Awareness: Lack of awareness of your surroundings and the actions of other skiers can lead to accidents. Stay alert and be mindful of the movements and behaviors of skiers around you.
  • Not Adhering to Catwalk Etiquette: Respect and follow the proper catwalk etiquette to ensure a smooth and safe journey. Failure to adhere to these guidelines can disrupt the flow of traffic and compromise the safety of yourself and others.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can promote a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone on the catwalks. Remember, skiing is a shared activity, and being considerate, alert, and proactive can help create a positive skiing environment for all.



Understanding catwalks in skiing is crucial for both safety and enjoyment on the slopes. Catwalks serve as essential connectors between different ski runs, allowing skiers to navigate the mountain with ease. By familiarizing yourself with the characteristics of catwalks and following proper etiquette, you can enhance your skiing experience while minimizing the risk of accidents.


From their width and surface conditions to potential hazards and challenges, catwalks offer a unique skiing experience. By skilfully navigating these trails, you can improve your route planning, build confidence, and ensure a smooth flow of traffic among skiers.


Remember to observe proper etiquette on catwalks, such as yielding to uphill skiers, maintaining a moderate speed, and respecting personal space. Clear communication, adaptability to changing terrains, and a keen awareness of your surroundings are key factors in skiing safely on catwalks.


By avoiding common mistakes and following the guidelines outlined in this guide, you can enjoy the beauty and excitement of skiing while prioritizing safety for yourself and others. So, strap on your skis, embrace the adventure, and have a fantastic time exploring the mountain while gliding along the catwalks!