WINTHROP -- You know those dogs that regularly bring their cross country skiers out for a jaunt on the freshly groomed Nordic Ski trails in the Methow Valley?
This year, just like you, they'll be buying a pass.
Well, actually -- like everything else these canine masterminds convince their owners to do -- the skiers will be doing the buying.
For the first time, this winter the Methow Valley Sports Trail Association will require a pass for dogs -- $5 a day, or $35 for the season.
After being allowed on their cross country ski trials for years, dogs have become users too, and should be asked to pay, said Danica Ready, the ski association's program manager.
She said the passes provide an opportunity to educate dog owners about trail etiquette, from making sure their pets are under voice or physical control to cleaning up any messes they leave behind.
Ready said she doesn't expect skiers to balk at the proposal. Last year, dog owners voluntarily bought about 70 passes for their canine friends. Most were likely locals or second-home owners, since doggie day passes weren't yet available.
This isn't because other skiers are complaining about dogs on the trails, she said. "People who are averse to it have plenty of other places to go," she said, adding, "We have the largest trail system in the country, so we have the ability to partition use." Some 38 kilometers of trails are open to dogs out of more than 200 kilometers that are groomed daily.
She said some skiers questioned the initial decision to allow dogs on the trails, and voiced concerns then. "But those were far outweighed by the amount of canine and human happiness that has come out of it," she said, adding, "We're trying to increase access, and dog is family for a lot of people."
She added, "For us, access is our big headline. We're letting kids 17 and under ski for free this year, which is unheard of in the industry."
At most cross county ski trail systems, she said, the age limit for free skiing is 12.