Navigation for the Modern Trail Runner


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  • Who: Beginner and Intermediate trail runners, ski tourers, hikers, etc… looking to improve navigation techniques.
  • Canmore Dates: October 5th or 6th (6:00pm) at SkiUphill in Canmore
  • Crowsnest Pass Dates: October 8th or 9th (6:00pm) at Spry in Blairmore

Navigation for the Modern Trail Runner

We’ll start by covering map reading basics, then dive into the nuts and bolts of how to use online resources like Google Earth, FatMap, and GaiaGPS to plan a route in the mountains, as well as how to load the route to your device and use it for navigation. We’ll talk about decision making while navigating, spatial awareness on the trails, and what to do when your device fails!

The one night, two-hour class will be led by professional athlete and coach, Eric Carter. We only have room for 10 participants (to maintain shop distancing rules). Masks will be required as per town/shop rules – please bring your own! The presentation will be led on the overhead screen with each attendee following along on their own computer/device. This will be your chance to go through the entire trip planning process and ensure the technology works on your device!

Questions? Email us at:

Course Topics:

How a map is made and how to read it:

  • Shaded relief & contours
  • What do terrain features look like?
  • What are other features on a topo map?
  • Determining difficulty of travel

Trip Planning/Ideas:

  • Resources:, guidebooks, paper maps
  • Downloading GPX files: Strava

Route Design:

  • GPX, KML, TCX, FIT, other file types
  • Google Earth, Cal Topo, Gaia GPS, FATMAP
  • Getting to the trailhead
  • Tracing a route on trail
  • Approximating a route off trail

Importing to a Device:

  • GPX into Gaia
  • GPX into watch (Coros, Suunto, Garmin)
  • Pitfalls of GPX files – bounce while sitting, incorrect routes, incorrect data

Navigating on the Trail:

  • Monitoring the map
  • Adding waypoints
  • Recording tracks

Spatial Awareness:

  • Thinking about your surroundings continuously
  • Each decision in context, down to the next step
  • Easiest line
  • Hazards

When the GPS fails?

  • Handrails
  • Shading
  • Elevation


  • Conserving power
  • Backups (paper & watch)
  • Battery bank (emergency only)


  • Communicating with 911
  • InReach devices


  • Resources
  • Confidence
  • Choosing a plan for the weather, not despite it