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.
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.