News — White Mountain NF Prelim Approval for Ski Glade Cutting


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 31, 2017      

Ah, the 1960s, Beatles were together, logging was evil. Or… Ah, the 1930s, when you could log a ski trail in New Hampshire and it was considered public service. Things come full circle (other than the Beatles). Now it is 2017, new generations are realizing that cutting vegetation can be desirable. For example, glading ski runs on forest choked public land. To that end, Granite Backcountry Alliance (GBA) has received preliminary Federal approval for ski glading projects in New Hampshire and Maine.

Granite Backcountry Alliance volunteers. Looks like they're ready and willing to re-create some of those classic ski trails!

Granite Backcountry Alliance volunteers. Looks like they’re ready and willing to re-create some of those classic ski trails! Photo courtesy of Granite Backcountry Alliance, used by permission.

We commend GBA on their vision, and commend the White Mountain National Forest on their willingness to work with human powered recreation. Apparently, these projects are waiting for actual go-ahead pending evaluation of viability. We hope that does not mean challenges such as wildlife biologists, tree fanatics and NEPA roadblocks. Those things can stop you as quick as being clotheslined by a low hanging maple limb. Lightly condensed and ((annotated)) press release follows:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Two Federal Tree-Skiing Projects Approved for Review in White Mountain National Forest

May 25, 2017 (North Conway, NH) – Granite Backcountry Alliance has obtained preliminary approval from the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) for two backcountry tree-skiing projects in the Forest. ((Bear in mind this is preliminary approval.))

White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) Supervisor Tom Wagner delivered the message to GBA stating “at this time, I am willing to move forward on evaluating the viability of two of your proposed projects: Bartlett Mountain (Bartlett, New Hampshire) and Baldface (Chatham, NH / Stow, ME)”.

The initial approval is a major milestone for GBA, WMNF, and the backcountry skiing community, since thinning of trees for backcountry glade skiing is prohibited without approval. ((It’s well known that skiers in many areas of North America have thinned vegetation for over a century — by approval or on the sly. The trend to legalizing this would seem to be wise, as that way the process can be managed for effectiveness and sustainability.))

To date, WMNF has never approved a glade skiing project in its nearly 100 year history. ((Unbelievably tragic, though we’re not understanding how the early 1930s trails got cleared if not in conjunction with the Federal forest management.))

In just nine months of existence, GBA has gained the support of the WMNF by demonstrating the surge in backcountry skiing and riding in the WMNF and the need for expanded terrain options. GBA’s Tyler Ray said, “We are thrilled the WMNF has taken a pragmatic approach to backcountry skiing initiatives in the WMNF, resurrecting a prominent activity in the national forest dating back to the 1930’s. We are confident that, with formal approval, our user base will rise to the challenge and make these projects a long-lasting success in partnership with the WMNF”.

Although the two projects are subject to environmental review and the scope of the projects may change during the review process, Ray indicated that “the takeaway is that, at its most basic level, the WMNF publicly supports the movement of responsible glading for backcountry skiing on public lands and that’s a big win. Combined with our low-impact and sustainable approach to developing tree-skiing, we anticipate being able to provide safe yet exciting options for a variety of user abilities whether for exploratory day tours or as an alternative to the risk of avalanches or other extreme hazards found in the high alpine”. ((Playing the safety card is wise and legitimate, always hit that one if you’re trying for government favor when it comes to vegetation management. Likewise, fire hazard mitigation is a big one and legit as well. A case can also be made for removal of hazard trees near trails and structures.))

Long-time skier and outdoors advocate United States Congresswoman Anne Kuster (NH), who provided critical initial support connecting GBA and WMNF, stated “I am so excited for the opportunities this will bring to the North Country of New Hampshire – more skiers, more terrain, more economic activity. I want to commend the Granite Backcountry Alliance, the White Mountain National Forest, and Tom Wagner and his staff for working together over the past 6 months to develop a path forward to increase the terrain available for backcountry skiing in the White Mountains…”

((This all seems a bit overly optimistic and premature, but we here at Wildsnow HQ we admit we’re a bit giddy in anticipation of what this could bring to the rest of our fair land.))

PROPOSED BACKCOUNTRY GLADE PROJECTS

Bartlett Mountain – The Bartlett Mountain project delivers on GBA’s strategic intent to revive former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) ski trails across New Hampshire and Western Maine, of which there were at one time over sixty trails in New Hampshire alone. The storied Maple Villa Ski Trail, named for a hotel at the end of the original ski trail, was quite popular, according to Jeff Leich, Executive Director of the New England Ski Museum. “Maple Villa was a popular ski trail cut by the CCC in the 1930s that was very close to the Intervale train station, where the Boston snow trains stopped”. The run originally contained an impressive 2,000 foot plus vertical drop in over two and a half miles.

Although GBA is reviving the classic run, the methods of thinning the forest will be modernized to reflect the desire for skiers and riders to ski through the trees instead of openly cleared trails. Maple Villa will provide access to Bartlett Mountain for uphill climbing and for skiing out. The purpose is to align the glade cutting with GBA’s low-impact, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly standards. “We will restore the spirit of the trail to the extent possible” says Rick Jenkinson, Board member of GBA and Bartlett Mountain Glade Chief, “but we’ll incorporate methods of professional glade design, habitat awareness, and forestry practices, all to create a true human-powered backcountry experience”.

It’s not about just re-creating one glade, said Ray. “We are in phase one of a larger plan where, if successful, Maple Villa will be a stepping stone to connect to other potential glade areas in the Bartlett zone – so we have much broader and bigger plans for skiing and riding enjoyment for these areas assuming they are well-received by the public and WMNF”.

South Baldface – Located almost directly on the state line separating Chatham, New Hampshire and Stow, Maine, South Baldface Mountain has long been an area of desire by skiers due to its tree-less alpine summit. However, due to the dense nature of the woods, the area below tree line is not able to be skied “without a hockey mask” says Baldface Glade Chief and GBA Board Member Steve Dupuis… The trailhead has existing parking and bathrooms so the area is “a turnkey project”, said Dupuis. “GBA is looking forward to creating new and approved terrain in Evans Notch, diffusing congestion in other parts of the Whites, the economic impact it will bring to the local businesses, and mostly the quality of skiing. We’ll be able to take advantage of the area’s alpine conditions and weave that into gladed ski runs creating an incredibly unique user experience…”

Check the Granite Backcountry Alliance website for info about volunteer opportunities and events.

Comments

12 Responses to “News — White Mountain NF Prelim Approval for Ski Glade Cutting”

  1. Joe John May 31st, 2017 8:13 pm

    Right on!

  2. Jack June 1st, 2017 1:55 pm

    Thank you!
    This is great news and was completely off my radar screen.
    (the only problem is those guys/gals in the photo are roughly between half and a third my age). %^)

  3. Quasimoto June 2nd, 2017 9:45 am

    Although I strongly support efforts like this, I think it’s worth pointing out that not everyone thinks this is a good idea. There are folks who are decrying BCA (and similar RASTA efforts in VT), claiming that projects like these are somehow bad for BC skiing. They propose that off-piste skiing in New England requires learning how to ski watercourses, super-tight trees, and slide paths. Gladed zones are somehow soft – like you can’t really claim you’re a New England BC skier until you’ve mastered those arts. They are also worried that sanctioned glades will lead to more people hunting for skiing and creating their own, illicit glades. Finally, they seem to think that making more places to ski will encourage more people to leave the resorts behind, causing more crowding and fewer powder turns for everyone.

    As I said, I disagree with these folks – I don’t understand how opening up more terrain (or rather, re-opening old terrain) could be bad for our sport. And I don’t really know how many people think this way; there are some loud voices online, but they may just be trolls looking to rouse a response. If anyone wants to learn more, check out the forums at timefortuckerman.com.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 June 2nd, 2017 9:55 am

    Quasi, thanks for bringing that up. Yes, there will always be those who claim that the more difficult the sport, the better. They usually sing a different tune as the years march on. I can see it both ways, when I was 25 I was a downright jerk when it came to stuff like that, I remember putting up rock climbing routes for example with such poor protection they were super dangerous, and just saying something to my buddy like “if they can’t hack it, let them suffer!” What a jerk I was. Seriously.(I think the routes were ok, it was just the attitude that was off…)

    Main thing is that we have lots of situations, including what I understand is often your case in the Northeast, where there is actually a bunch of terrain and access is the key. Thusly, in reality we can all have it both ways. We can have difficult brush choked skiing (which we even have here in Colorado as well) along with places where logging or glade cutting has created easier access. Interestingly, many of the places we ski below timberline here in central Colorado were actually thinned by recent or even much older logging operations. Lot’s of people don’t know that and just assume they’re in a “natural” forest.

    As for us, we’re glad to see what’s happening up your way.

    Lou

  5. Lou Dawson 2 June 2nd, 2017 11:41 am

    Also, on both sides of the issue there exists a logic trail that should be the subject of thought experiments. On the cutting side, specifically, how much is enough? On the anti side, who should be allowed to cut on public land, and how much? Should it just be resorts? Logging companies? Home owners clearing defensible space or removing hazard trees? Or should every whip and scrap of vegetation be 100% off limits to human intervention, including that vegetation along roads and on resorts?

    Especially on the anti side, rather than the shouting, whining and sophomoric anonymous comments on some forums, it would be nice to see some specific ideas about how much…

    On both sides, perhaps re-cutting and maintaining the government cut trails of the early days is a good start as to what’s ok.

    Lou

  6. Greg June 5th, 2017 6:57 pm

    Those interested in developments like this should check out the Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance (RASTA) and Catamount Trail Association in Vermont. RASTA led the charge in getting approval for developing gladed terrain on National Forest Land. The process took a few years to go from proposal to approval to cut. But it’s this work that has set the stage for other organizations such as the GBA.

    The Brandon Gap Zone managed by RASTA is pretty dang cool. The zones have been laid out in a variety of ways, and during the offseason they are working with Dartmouth College to monitor the different areas to see how the different cutting techniques have effected the forest.

    We’re not currently to the point yet where we can say for certain what the best practices are. That’s part of the process and is still being developed.

    Anyway… You can learn more about these organizations on their websites:
    Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance – http://www.rastavt.org
    Catamount Trail Association – http://www.catamounttrail.org

  7. North Woods June 10th, 2017 6:00 am

    I’m not against cutting down trees or any of the bleeding heart stuff Lou brings up earlier. However, as someone who has paid dues and done plenty of bushwhacking around the north country I think this project is F’ed. Tyler Ray the leader of G.B.A. is a lawyer from out of state who has pushed his vision of what backcountry skiing should look like with little regard for other opinions.
    As an outsider here is what you should know before making blanket statements:

    1. There is plenty of accessible B.C. in the area that this group operates in. Sadly you won’t be able to find much of it on social media or your Iphone and you may have to actually get to know someone who can tell or show you how to get there. I guess these days that means it doesn’t exsist.

    2.It is important for people who are skiing or riding in this area to develop tight tree skills as many “trade routes” out here require this skills either on the entrance or egress. To counter what Lou said earlier about climbing protection, sure ‘if you can’t hack you deserve to suffer’ can screw people over or get people hurt. Hopefully you figure out where your abilities lie at some single pitch crag before you head up to climb something long. If the general standard lies above your abilities you need to figure that out before you get a couple miles into the woods and have to ski something above your head.

    3. To go back to the climbing it is generally considered bad form to go bolt something that’s been climbed on gear by those before you. One of the projects mentioned above has been skiied and ridden by people with a variety of skills for a long long time with out being a “glade project”. So the fact that someone wants to make it one is very confusing. I know people who are not great teleskiers by any means that have done it in leatherboots.

    I just thought I’d give you some more background. You people from away can think whatever you want. Most of these Granite Backcountry people are from away. You won’t know what it takes to make a living up here. If I had the time I’d start a counter group but I don’t and there’s bigger problems then a bunch of friggin massholes and lawyers and their kids can’t hack what people have been skiing for 40 years.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 June 10th, 2017 7:01 am

    Thanks North for sharing your opinions, lots of good points. Sadly, your closing statement about “friggin massholes” brings it down to a lower level, makes it hard to take you seriously. I’d suggest if you want the decision makers to listen to you, perhaps attempt to stick to specific facts, name or GPS the areas you dispute, and refrain from childish name calling. I also don’t understand what making a living has to do with glade cutting, and your calling out of “you people from far away” indicates to me that you’re perhaps succumbing to the elitist local syndrome. Another thing to consider, if you want people to take you seriously post under your own real name rather than anonymously. Lou

  9. Jack June 12th, 2017 3:16 pm

    Let me preface this by saying that I have a quite “out there” idea that is only tangentially related to clearing brush on BC glades.

    My notion is to find/prepare a short (maybe 40 vertical feet) practice zone for learning steep skiing technique. I’m picturing a small slope with a safe rock/tree free runout and sections with angles from 45 deg. to 60 degrees or so.

    Does anyone know of anyone who has done this? Sort of a rock climbing gym for steep skiing.

    I warned you it was out there.

  10. North Woods June 12th, 2017 6:26 pm

    Sorry for the anonymous post I don’t want to get caught up in any conflicts of interest. This is a small town.

    We’ll call that last part regional humor. Don’t worry I’ve heard what you guys out there say about Texans though. In good humor though can you imagine what would happen in Colorado if a bunch of Texans decided to start cutting glades in areas that people had already been skiing for a while and all the while making sure it was well publicized on social media.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 June 15th, 2017 6:56 am

    North, fair enough. I’d offer that it’s important to remember what sounds funny while talking to friends at a local watering hole might come across as acerbic or worse when put in writing on a public web forum. And two wrongs don’t make a right (regarding how other folks refer to other people).

    We obviously don’t mind the anonymous posts, but when doing so we ask that you actually raise your standard of civility, unlike other web forums that are desperate for content and let anything go, at least until “anything” violates their own somewhat hidden and unevenly enforced standards…

    Lou

  12. Tyler June 22nd, 2017 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the article, Lou! Sure did create a bit of response here from our community which is great – praise or dissent – constructive is good!

    I’d like to add that we have a trail work weekend THIS weekend on Mt. Washington with an after-party saturday night at Black Mountain in Jackson, NH. I mention this because it is A GREAT opportunity to come see what GBA’s all about and ask us questions about projects and intentions. Often a face to face conversation goes a long way and may help folks like North Woods see the forest from the trees.

    One question i will answer in advance of the event (actually, it’s a correction) is that no I am not “from away” as North Woods declared. I am actually local and live in a town called North Conway, New Hampshire. I am native of western Maine (town called Bridgton) which is the foothills of the Whites, just over the state line. I very much understand what it’s like to live in the North Country – not only in my own experiences but through the many clients i serve in the region. And quite frankly, recreation is a huge part of it. GBA considers its role as part of a greater plan to help develop the area with a human-powered outdoor economy. It’s all very exciting as we look to the future and growing something organically.

    The catalyst behind most of how GBA started was to open up some new terrain so i could grab some dawn patrol or lunchtime runs without traveling or touring or adventuring 10-12 hours (although geez i wish i did have more of those tours!). Kids, Work, Wife = need efficient terrain.What I’ve discovered through this process is something much greater – these glades are desirable not just for their skiing but something larger – creating and fostering community – which is a special thing if you live in a small town in the North Country.

    So in short we like to look at the big picture and not fall prey to fear of change. We find that most dissenters don’t understand nor take the time to understand what we’re up to – so events like this weekend is a time we hold ourselves out there to discuss. We will also have events in July and August.

    Check out our website http://www.granitebc.org for more info.

    See you in the woods!

    Tyler

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