I’ve always wondered how long my sanity would last on an ocean cruise. Stuck in a boat with thousands of souls, worrying about what disease du jour is spreading. Frantic activity. Noise. The cruise band covering 80s rock. A swimming pool with hundreds of screaming kids. You herd like cattle at every port so you can see the standard tourist sites, then it’s back to the deep where you sunbathe ten hours a day and stare at endless ocean, probably not even knowing where you are, and knowing your location doesn’t matter anyway.
Sometimes, skiing out of the Wasatch canyons in Utah is like being on that cruise ship (the crowded part of my fantasy, anyway). Especially if you’re doing it from a resort or a helicopter. But even Wasatch backcountry skiers crowd each other with sheer numbers. Add helicopter and sidecountry skiers to the mix, and it gets downright European — only (from what I’ve seen) sometimes worse because road and cableway access is nearly non existent in comparison to the western European mountains, thus forcing most human powered skiers into small areas fed by roadside trailheads.
The greater Wasatch is not lacking in terrain. And even a fair amount of legal Wilderness is designated. If you’re fit and have the time, much of that uncrowded wild can indeed be reached during day trips. But most Wasatch backcountry skiers just mix it up in the easily accessed multi use areas, much of which they share with the whirlybirds.
The U.S. Forest Service recently renewed the Wasatch Powderbird Guides heli skiing permit for a whopping ten years. In a nod to sharing land with human powered snow players, the permit bans heli skiing in the three canyons on Sundays and Mondays. But that’s a mere pittance, as one helicopter can have the impact of dozens of human powered skiers, and more, while in the air it compromises the solitude of a wide area.
The Utah advocacy group Save our Canyons wants to make more legal Wilderness in the Wasatch, which perhaps would mitigate some of the crowding and user conflict by shutting heli skiing out of more areas. But just as our own Wilderness addition proposals here in Colorado seem like a sledgehammer approach, so does expanding Wilderness acreage in Utah (thus banning mountain bikes, hut building, timber management and so forth). Then again, after experiencing myself how ridiculous it gets when you have hundreds of backcountry skiers trying to co-exist with helicopter skiing in the limited terrain near the Wasatch canyons, perhaps the velvet sledgehammer of more legal Wilderness is the only answer.
Anyone know the solution for the Wasatch canyons cruise ship dilemma? Montana?