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By Taryn Lyman
Weber State University students parking their vehicles on Skyline Drive have been using a hidden trail, cutting an estimated 15 minutes off their walks to class.
The unofficial trail, not maintained by the university, starts on Skyline Drive and cuts through the trees, ending behind the parking lot north of the football field.
Students using the path explain that from the street, the path looks manageable, but as they start the descent, walking without slipping or dropping things becomes difficult.
“The trail is incredibly icy and can be difficult and dangerous to walk down,” said WSU student Brittany Karling, who has been using the shortcut for the last two semesters. She said she now has to wear her boots with little cleats so she can walk a bit faster on the trail.
WSU sophomore Claire Lore said she only uses the trail once a week, while WSU student Cody Zesiger said he has used the trail “every day this week,” though he only found out about it a week ago.
Several students have fallen down, though none of them have sustained any serious injuries, and many students who park on the “ice sheet,” as they are calling the icy parking lot on Skyline Drive, said they would rather risk falling on the slope than trying to race down the busy street to make it to class on time.
During the summer months the trail needs no maintenance, as the dirt gets packed down when students walk on it, but during the winter, the snow is getting packed down, making it icy.
WSU Facilities Management staffers said they don’t want to pour salt on the trail, because the salt kills everything they pour it on. They also said that, since the lot above campus is an unofficial parking lot and the shortcut is an unofficial trail, they are not in charge of maintaining it, even though it is on university property.
Rick Wade from Facilities Management said they do maintain official trails on campus and even have warning signs at these trails to warn students of potential hazards such as rattlesnakes, but when students choose their own route, using what Facilities Management calls “goat trails,” WSU is not responsible for making sure those are hazard-free.
Many students using the trail said that even if there were signs warning them the trail was unsafe, they would still probably use the shortcut, as it saves precious time when trying to get to class.
Wade made it clear they “do not encourage students to use the trail,” and asked that students use the designated sidewalks and stairwells on campus.
Adam Chase, Trails section editor for “Running Times,” said a safety tip he gives is to use “smaller steps to decrease the chance of slipping and try to distribute your weight evenly across your feet.”
He also said to stay relaxed, because most people walking on icy trails tend to tense up, lean back and often resort to jerky movement in an attempt to adapt to the slick surface.
“That is just the opposite of what works when walking on an icy trail,” Chase said. “By relaxing and resisting the impulse to tense up or make sudden movements, which all too often leads to slipping even more, you’ll increase your chances of recovering, or at least falling more gently and decreasing your likelihood of injury.”