US Forest Service Nixes Davenport Fourteeners Movie

Post by blogger | November 27, 2006      

Update from Chris Davenport, November 27 2006:
Hi Lou,
Wow, what a breathtaking set of comments to this thread. Let me do my best here to set the record straight, as there is quite a bit of misinformation in these comments.

First off, I was irritated by a certain posters comment about me being some “millionaire” with helicopters flying around skiing and filming in the wilderness. As anyone who knows me can attest, this is very far from the truth. I live my life humbly and with respect for life, Mother Nature, and the mountains. My goal in life is to raise my two boys to love and appreciate all of the beauty and potential of the mountains, just as I was raised. If I was to quit being a sponsored pro skier tomorrow, I would still be climbing and skiing peaks, because that is who I am.

When I set out to climb and ski all of Colorado’s 14ers last winter, my goal was singular; to challenge my skills and abilities with a difficult goal. I did not seek fame or fortune, or even hope to make a statement to the world, I simply wanted to take a break from years of doing the same thing and try something different. Though I won’t claim to be indifferent to all the positive media coverage my project has garnered, the goal was pure and straight from the heart. My friend Ben came to me after I had begun the project and asked if he could film some of the peaks and document the project. I agreed and he began climbing peaks and filming my skiing. In the last ten years I have been involved in over twenty ski films by several different companies, and never once has any of these companies (the largest and most successful in the industry) gotten a permit to film anything.

There is a precedent out there, and while it may not be right, it exists. But I chose to take the higher ground with my project and follow the correct procedures. When Ben and I decided that we actually had enough good footy to make a film, I went to the Forest Service, sat down with them, told my story, and they provided me with the proper documents to fill out and file with the head office. It was not until almost two months later, when I received a scathing letter from the forest supervisor, that we realized we could not use the peaks which lie in the wilderness in our film.

Now I will be the first to admit that had we done our homework more closely we probably could have determined that this would be the outcome. On the other hand, we could have just released the film and dealt with the consequences later, but I would never have chosen that option. I am currently working with the forest service to resolve our differences and find some common ground. Any money raised from the sale of this film was going to go directly to the Wilderness Workshop, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, and the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center. But that doesn’t change the fact that there is “commercial” value in the film, and that is the sticking point.

We hope to have a resolution this winter and I will keep everyone informed as to the outcome of this situation. The bottom line is that, film or no film, the project has been an amazing personal journey for me. I will work all summer on my book about skiing the 14ers and that should be out this fall. (don’t get me started on shooting digital stills versus video in the wilderness) I am touring around the country speaking about my project with a great slideshow at REI stores, and will be in Denver tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. if any of you would like to come by and ask questions.

Thanks to all of you for your support and concern, and have a deep and safe winter.

Update from Lou, November 27 2006:
First, let me thank all you blog readers for taking the time to make comments about this issue. That said, I’m concerned about comments that are potentially libellous of Chris Davenport, and make statements about his income and lifestyle that are unsubstantiated and untrue. I’m considering deleting the more nefarious examples of that (for reasons of both legality and propriety), and would ask that you all would temper any personal attacks in the future. Let’s keep to the issues, and the issue is not what kind of living Chris makes, but rather if the USFS is being fair in their Wilderness filming policy and enforcement thereof.

I just got off the phone with Chris and he clarified a few things. First, he and his film maker went to the Forest Service soon after they started filming, when they knew they had a viable project going (not when they were done.) According to Chris the Forest Service appeared to be ready to work with them, and it was with great surprise they received a letter from the USFS telling them they would not be able to use their footage shot in legal wilderness. What’s frustrating to Chris and to myself is that many movies have been shot in legal Wilderness over the years in Colorado, and few if any have even bothered with any permitting process. (Not to mention the weird difference in enforcement between still photography and motion, when they’re more similar than different.) Chris took the time and effort to put the permitting process in motion, and not only that, when he started his film making project he planned to use any profits to support local environmental organizations such as the Aspen Wilderness Workshop. What’s more, all of Davenport’s filming was done with great sensitivity to the environment. As I alluded in my rant below, any impact from human powered filming of ski mountaineering pales in comparison with common Wilderness activities allowed by the Forest Service.

Lastly, I can say from personal knowledge that Chris is a good man who means well, and nothing about his fourteener skiing project involves any kind of undue commercial aspect or hype. It is indeed quite the opposite, and celebrates the history of 14er skiing and general Colorado mountain culture like few things ever have. Chris deserves our support in this.

Original Post from November 23, 2006:
The debacle started a while back, but was a dark-room issue for a while. Now it’s public. Turns out that Chris Davenport’s nearly miraculous Colorado 14er skiing movie has been declared persona non grata by the U.S. Forest Service. What!?

No kidding. Turns out you can shoot still photos in legal Wilderness, such as those frequently in the Aspen newspapers and visible in thousands of other places, but string together a bunch of stills into motion (which is all a movie is), and you’ve violated some sort of imaginary Wilderness boundary. Thus, after the incredible amount of work and risk Davenport and his companions exerted to produce a movie that celebrates respectful human powered climbing and skiing down our Wilderness peaks, said footie is required to remain available for private views only.

Regular blog readers know I’m no fan of Forest Service management of legal Wilderness. In my view, Davenport’s situation is yet another example of the incredible ineptitude and downright weird interpretations of the Wilderness Act that the Forest Service exerts in fascist style on the public — we the public who actually own the wilderness! Oh no no no, don’t makie no little movie, but go ahead and ride your horse up those trails and turn them into quagmires of equine feces, go ahead and produce nature porn and publish enormous tree consuming coffee table books that celebrate “the wild” with a nauseating drone, feel free to ride your snowmobile in legal Wilderness off the Independence Pass road in Colorado (with a one in a million chance you’ll be caught,) go ahead and climb the peaks in summer ’till you’ve eroded a network of trails that will require years of work to repair. But oh you little sinner you, don’t publish any footie.

Word is that Chris has a lawyer working on this. Outcome uncertain. If you’re a knee-jerk fan of legal Wilderness and have never seen a Wilderness law you didn’t like, you might take a second look at what’s going on here.

Should we just convert all our Wilderness into nature preserves and be done with it? No skiing, no hiking, no people? Or can we have some balance?

Comments anyone?


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


58 Responses to “US Forest Service Nixes Davenport Fourteeners Movie”

  1. gene November 23rd, 2006 2:48 pm

    Let’s face it, the long term goal of our current government leaders, the UN, and the globalists that want to dictate how every soul on earth should live, is to remove humans from all wilderness. The plan is to have high-density population centers, which are easier to manage and control, connected by corridors we can use to get from one center to the next. Only the rich and privileged will be allowed to experience true wilderness. Obviously, these elite planners need to work in small steps towards this goal, or we’d revolt. This is what you are seeing, and it will continue until we, the people, figure out what the grand plan is all about. The answer is to take control of our local decisions and not keep transferring power to ever higher and further removed government entities that we will then have even less chance of influencing. The US Constitution is in their cross-hairs. Are we going to let them kill it?

  2. Lou November 23rd, 2006 3:22 pm

    Gene, I tend to agree. Government keeps getting bigger and our individual rights seem to keep getting eroded. Heck, Patriot act might be problematic, but it’s the everyday “taking” performed by bureaucrats such as Forest Service that has me more concerned. It’s amazing the power these guys have.

  3. Steve November 23rd, 2006 7:29 pm

    After stumbling upon this website looking for ski conditions around Aspen, I have to agree with you Lou. It seems as if the goal of the wilderness act is to keep the public out of the wilderness. In this day and age of video games and general coach potatoness (is that a word?) the Forest Service should distribute Davenport’s video to spark interest in the wilderness and raise public awareness to preserve these beautiful places. By the way, the climbing looks sick in Joshua Tree, wish I was there as opposed to the snowless Roaring Fork Valley.

  4. Derek November 23rd, 2006 10:01 pm

    So I guess he failed to get a filming permit? So they are sticking it to him. Well, I know lots of film companies that make no effort to get filming permits, but get away with it. That is very unfortunate that he has to battle this stuff. I was really looking forward to seeing the film.

  5. Carl November 23rd, 2006 10:11 pm

    What does Wilderness have to do with this?

    The restrictions are for USFS land. Period. Why? So people don’t make tons of bucks filming on land owned by the entire country – passing the bill for damage onto everyone and taking the profits for themselves.

    Furthermore, the restrictions on commercial photography:

    “Commercial or still photography will NOT be permitted if the Forest Service determines that any of the following criteria apply:

    * There is a likelihood of resource damage that cannot be mitigated.
    * There would be an unreasonable disruption of the public’s use and enjoyment of the site (beyond short term interruption)
    * The activity poses health or safety risks to the public that cannot be mitigated.”

    are entirely reasonable, IMHO.

    Nice Red Herring Lou.

  6. Derek November 23rd, 2006 10:14 pm

    More on BLM Wilderness permits here.

    Monitoring fees can be $100-200/day for a site monitor. Forest service filming fees can be $150/day. The costs add up, and it’s pretty unreasonable to think a small time production company could afford them. Perhaps PJ Productions, but for most others, it is unaffordable.

    Sad, but true.

  7. Andrew McLean November 23rd, 2006 10:14 pm

    Do a few laps on EBGB (Eebee Geebe?) for me and behave yourselves in the park. NO ROUGH HOUSING OR TICKLING OR YOU WILL BE FINED!

  8. Yurtmiester November 23rd, 2006 11:23 pm

    Sounds like Dav didn’t do his homework. You’re suppose to secure “Special Use” permits before commencing commercial projects on National Forest lands. At which point he would have learned about no commercial filming in Wilderness Areas. Did he not fully research the possibility of the USFS requirement for a filming permit?
    I think the intent of the non-commercial filming language in the Wilderness Act is to keep Hollywood out of the backcountry. If you let Dav in, does that mean TGR, Matchstick, Toughguys, KGB, Discovery channel and so on can follow suit? Herein lies the debate, is the 40 year old language of the Wilderness Act still appropiate in this day and age? Obviously not in this case or others!
    In defense of the USFS, they’re stuck with enforcing an Act of Congress whether they agree with it or not. Just like our State Troopers who are obligated to ticket any person speeding.
    In sum, I think Dav might have had a chance convincing the USFS for a permit on the front end of his project. If he could have demostrated his intensions were congruent with ‘wilderness ethics’, the USFS might have been persuaded to make an exception.
    On a personal note, I too was eagerly awaiting his film art.

  9. Derek November 24th, 2006 7:51 am

    You can’t film on snow in wilderness, but the Forest Service can plant cyanide bombs in wilderness to kill coyotes/wolves to protect grazing permits of ranchers. You can’t film in wilderness, but the Forest Service subsidizes ranchers with expensive heli time to shoot coyotes/wolves to protect grazing permits.

    Anyone need a wool sweater?

  10. Lou November 24th, 2006 9:43 am

    Indeed, ski mountaineering is one of the least impactive uses on the National Forest, as is filming of such provided it doesn’t involve too much aircraft time. For the USFS to restrict filming and allow so much else to happen is basically absurd. But then, government tends to be absurd. Necessary evil I guess…

  11. Lou November 24th, 2006 9:58 am

    Carl, I had no intention of posting a red herring. I was told that the problem with the filming is that restrictions are stricter for doing it in legal wilderness, and it’s tougher to repair any permit oversights and such after the fact because management of legal wilderness is so touchy. From conversations with various folks involved I still believe this to be so. IMHO legal Wilderness is managed in a ridiculous fashion and far too restrictive of human activity, and this whole thing is a good example.

    My impression of the situation is that Dav and his crew were having such an incredible experience, and doing things in such a grassroots fashion when it came to the filming, that they were simply operating in a realm where dealing with bureaucracy was the farthest thing from their minds, and they overlooked or forgot about film regulations.

    Let’s just hope they get things worked out. The film is a legitimate expression of American mountain culture, and celebrates human powered low impact recreation. We need more of that. I’m tired of watching the latest Everest debacle films and AK heli skiing footie –and I know others who feel the same way.

  12. Mike Marolt November 24th, 2006 10:52 am

    I actually had Dav signed up to do a public showing / benefit for people with MS. He had to cancel on some folks that really need all the help they can get; they don’t have the ability to go out and use the public lands, but films like Dav’s would not only generate financial benefit, but let them enjoy it via a camera. There is no value to how this film could benefit certain people that simply can’t use the lands first hand. Living vicariously through efforts like this is very enjoyable and important for everyone at some level.


  13. Don J November 24th, 2006 11:05 am


    It’s just another example of environmental unreasonableness. I’m surprised your surprised. I for one am sick and tired of the current state of public land management. The biggest joke of all is the national park system, where they’ve turned some of the coolest areas in the country into unusable, overcrowded tourist destinations. If they don’t build all the trailheads, restrooms, gift shops, and lodging, wild places tend to stay more wild in my opinion.

    If Chris doesn’t get things worked out legally, I hope a copy of his movie accidentally gets “leaked” onto the internet. I for one will send him a donation if I ever end up with a copy of it.

    Yea, the Forest Service is required to enforce the laws, but the failure to use any common sense in enforcement is where they fall flat on their face. They have definitely forgot that the land is NOT theirs, it is ours.

    Well, I’m heading up to Copper to get a few turns in right now, where that is somehow better for the environment than shooting some video in the backcountry??? Chris deserves better than this.


  14. Matt Kinney November 24th, 2006 12:05 pm

    Sorry Lou but siding with the feds on this one. Same problem that Larry Czonka got into up here and then pleaded ignorance.
    There is defined set of rules for filming commercial material on federal lands. Those rules have not changed in 20 years and wether you are filming a car commercial in Yellowstone, or bagging 14er descent for commercial value (Davenport is a professional skier first and foremost) you must pay for it. THis is not new. Davenpost stood to possibly profit off the film as would others.

    Obviously Davenport effort is full of commercial value in many ways. He has a litany of ski sponsors. This is way different than mom and dad taking a picture or video of mountain on the familiy

    As and owner of these public lands, I see no reason for someone to profit commercially with out a permit. The form take about an hour to fill out. Perhaps while lounging in the hottub in Vail with his crew waiting for a storm, Chris and his buddies could have web searched “Film Permits on Federal Land”.

    Ignorance was a problem here, but most figured it out and quit crying about it.

  15. Lou November 24th, 2006 1:01 pm

    I have to say I was ignorant of the regulatory details. I know so many photographers that shoot thousands of photos on public land and make a living from them, and don’t get permits every time they go on a hut trip or climb a mountain, that it just never occurred to me that shooting motion would be treated any different. Likewise, I also know of a few other movies out there that show footie on National Forest, but didn’t obtain a permit when they shot it. As far as I know, those movies are doing fine. (I’ll not mention much in the way of names for fear the ‘crats might be reading this.) In the back of my mind I thought there was some sort of dividing line in economic numbers, or perhaps numbers of people involved. In other words, the small operations such as Dav or a still photographer are okay without a permit so long as they obey existing laws, but larger operations would need the permit.

    I guess what made me rant is simply the fact that Wilderness management is so uneven. And I’m of course biased and want to see people enjoy a fourteeners movie!

    Needless to say, it would be interesting to see a list from the Forest Service showing permitted movies, and compare that to what we know is out there being shown. Heck, last year’s Aspen Skiing Companies promo film (Power of 4) has footage shot in legal Wilderness behind Snowmass Ski Resort. One has to wonder if they had a permit for shooting in legal Wilderness.

  16. Derek November 24th, 2006 2:16 pm

    National Parks require atleast a permit application, costing $100. With that you need proof of liability insurance. After that, they have monitor fees. For small crews (

  17. g woelk November 24th, 2006 6:40 pm

    I agree without about everyting previously said, both sides. But lets face it, Dav gets to tramp around the backcountry and ski for a living, (while I sit at my desk and wait for the weekend). If he was NOT making money, (or at least breaking even on the project), he probably would not be doing it. If TGr has to pay money for a permit, so too should Dav. After all, he stands to make something out of it, as it is a project which is fed by the commercial aspect of hes related sponsorships, advertising on the web site, sale of movie, etc. (In that regard, I question whether he is permitted to post the pictures on a website that is permeated with advertising.) The filming of a movie for profit on federal land is no different than requiring an individual to obtain a permit if they want to run a commercial guiding operation. Lou, would you suggest you would have no problem with unpermitted commercial guiding operations? A local mountain shop in my town would love to offer guided adventures of all sorts in the surrounding mountains, the problem is obtaining permits. Wilderness rules and opinions aside, it comes down to the driving force of our existence, “Nothing is for free.” Especially when the something you want will might make you money. nuf said

  18. Ed Butch November 24th, 2006 6:58 pm

    This post edited by blog moderators to delete unsubstantiated negative information and potential libel.

    Dav is not soulskiing these mountains. He is skiing these mountains to furthur promote himself. These mountains are being used by him to sell more red bulls. At this point, it is all about relentless self promotions. Crossen and crew are the real deal(just like yourself.) Guys traveling around the state in a super luxurios truck loaded to the gills with every toy a person can buy, so he can race home and brag to avy web sites (and his own personal self made shrine and web site) is a bunch of bull. I say no to pimping my mountains to sell more.

  19. g woelk November 24th, 2006 8:53 pm

    With that said, the title of this rant “beautiful expression of mountain culture” might want to be revisited. I always thought the beauty in the expression was watching my buddy ski a line on a bluebird day with noone else around to know about it except us. In fact, I always thought the greatest part of a day was getting back to the road and knowing the persons driving by had little to no idea what I had just experienced. Posting the pictures or movies on line for all to see really have nothing to do with the expression, or for that matter, the beauty of the moment. Though I guess, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  20. Lou November 24th, 2006 9:33 pm

    You guys have some valid points. Bottom line is that in terms of fairness Davenport does want to obtain and pay for his permit, only he started the permit process a short time after starting the movie, then later received the refusal from the USFS due to legal wilderness. Seems to me the USFS in this case could be lenient. Sure, Dav is indeed sponsored, but his operation is not some big commercial deal but from what I saw has as much soul as necessary to qualify as legit in terms of being true to the mountaineering spirit.

    In other words, I don’t buy this negativity that keeps coming up and defining one person as more soulful than the other just because they aren’t making a living from their sport. There are plenty of dirt poor egotistical jerks out there, by the same token, many professional athletes are fine people who give much back to society.

    In other words, the amount of money a person makes off a sport doesn’t necessarily dictate how much or little soul they have. The noble dirtbag is a fun concept (sort of like the noble savage) but reality is that some guys make money, and some don’t, and doing so is sometimes just the result of how good at business you are — not a measure of what kind of person you are.

    RE “expression of mountain culture,” one of the things I really enjoy is the artistic expression of alpinism in words and images. If you do it for yourself and take only memories, fine. If you make a movie, fine. I don’t see one as being superior to the other. In fact, it could be said that keeping it to yourself is selfish when you could share it with folks who perhaps because of circumstance or age or even physical disability can’t ever do the same thing, but enjoy spectating.

  21. Derek November 24th, 2006 10:41 pm

    I get sick of the word ‘soul’ coming up in these discussions. It’s invalid, and can only be known by the person doing so. One could argue Dav has less soul because he is sponsored, or one could argue he has more soul, because he is making a living out of it. Who cares either way. It doesn’t make anybodies experience better because of media, or lack of. Why get hung up on that?

    The point of this blog was, I think, that Lou was disappointed he wouldn’t get to see the finished project that was probably going to be pretty fun to watch. I’m sure he’ll see it in private, but the general public will miss out.

    I’m bummed because it seemed like one of the few ski movies this year that might have had some sort of story, instead of just pounding music and avalanches.

  22. Ed Butch November 25th, 2006 7:34 am

    Derek ,
    Don’t drink a red bull for me at your personal viewing.

  23. Derek November 25th, 2006 8:44 am

    I’m more of a black coffee kinda guy. Don’t need all the sugar in Red Bull. Maybe he’ll have some good Pete’s.

  24. Lou November 25th, 2006 9:31 am

    One Red Bull would probably kill me.

  25. Pat Carroll November 25th, 2006 9:50 am

    Unfortunately the USFS has become as politicized as the “Department of Homeland Security.” In some areas the USFS District Rangers are pretty well hands-off, in others they are very anti-user. The anti-user ones tend to read their responsibilities as very restrictive toward recreational (and related) uses, while ironically (or maybe not ironically) being exceedingly lax toward extractive uses like salvage logging and timber sales.

    Locally in Western Montana, we have recently found summer uses well under siege, with new readings of “wilderness” to go along with an expansion of new Wilderness area.

    While I am quite in favor of increasing the amount of Wilderness, the point of Wilderness designation is to prevent commercialized development and over-use, not limitation of the human recreational experience within Wilderness.

    The more anti-user USFS personnel unfortunately disagree, and see their mission perversely. The only way to rectify these errors is to sue the USFS. This is a sad reality, that our government has come to be our enemy.

    And I’m not even commenting on lib-conserv or Dem-Repub. That’s a whole other issue for a totally different discussion.

  26. Glenn November 25th, 2006 2:33 pm

    Here’s my take on the film debacle: The Wilderness Act is being used by the enviro-extremists to foist their anti-business, anti-people, anti-everthing view of the world onto the rest of us. We all go along without much thought, patting ourselves on the back and thinking we’re saving the seals or something, until it hits us close to home. I’m all for protecting the environment, but the environment is just a pretense for these nihilists.

  27. Brownie November 26th, 2006 11:35 pm

    I wonder if Chris could skirt the ‘rules’ by showing the film specifically to raise money for causes such as MS, the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center, etc (donations only of course). I’m sure the media would dig on that to a point where he could make more money from the exposure and ‘goodwill’ than the movie would generate on it’s own.

  28. Derek November 27th, 2006 7:13 am

    Let’s revisit the Forest Service and BLM policy…….

    “The proposed rule would permit aerial gunning and motorized vehicles in Wilderness areas to trap and kill predators and meet nebulous “wildlife management” objectives”

    I guess it’s ok to bend the rules to suit ranchers.

  29. patrick November 27th, 2006 10:32 am


    as a daily reader of this blog, i would appreciate it if you could research the issue a little more before you post a rant without any detailed background information. a knee jerk “wilderness and forest service management blows” post brings down the inherent quality of this fine blog, and i’m not saying this in a patronizing manner.

    i say that because it doesn’t seem like you or the folks posting responses (including myself!) actually know the specifics as to why the film got shut down (beyond the wilderness aspect: what is the rule? what’s the philosophy behind the rule?) and what policy was actually being violated! and in a quick cursory glance at the 14er site, it’s pretty vague. what rules are there? what are some stats on commercial applications for filming on forest service and its wilderness areas? what’s the logic of the person not allowing the wilderness peaks to be posted and what’s the code behind it? there is always something behind the story that we’re not getting.

    i’m not saying i agree with what happened by any means, but without any details and specifics, this all turns into playground speculation with no basis in reality. you can dislike management of wilderness and the agencies that manage or mismanage it, it’s your blog and your place to share what you think, but throw us a bone here.

  30. Lou November 27th, 2006 1:41 pm

    Hi Patrick, point taking and apologies if I went off a bit… I just get so frustrated with how our public land is managed, and this seems like a good example. I was told by both Davenport and Ben (the film maker) that the problem in getting a permit after the fact was the legal Wilderness aspect. By their request, I didn’t blog on it ’till Davenport went public himself, both on his blog and in an interview with the Coloradoan, see

    Chris just sent me an email with a comment, and I went ahead and posted it as an update to this post. I also posted an update myself after speaking with him on the phone. Check it all out, as it clarifies what’s going on here.

  31. TeleTim November 27th, 2006 2:33 pm

    You are way off base on this rant.

    The USFS exists to protect our public lands (that statement ought to get a few blood pressure’s boiling).

    Don’t you want Lou Jr.’s kids and their kids to be able to enjoy the same pristine wilderness that you and I are currently experiencing?

    My dad retired after 37 years working for the the forest circus, as we usually called the USFS, and although he always preached that federal lands are a resource for our use, and consumption, he also understood that preservation of federal lands, especially designated wilderness areas that he played a role in defining, is a role the forest service serves.

  32. Lou November 27th, 2006 2:56 pm

    Tim, of course I want our land protected, but not from things like human powered low budget movie making about the wonderful activities done out there. There has to be a balance. The land is preserved for the people, not preserved from the people.

  33. Dav November 27th, 2006 3:14 pm

    So TeleTim,
    Does this mean that you support road building, mineral extraction (mining), and trail building in the Wilderness?

  34. Scott G. November 27th, 2006 5:05 pm

    Lou – Thanks for posting Davenport’s reply. Looking at some of the things he says:

    “First off, I was irritated by a certain posters comment about me being some “millionaireâ€? with helicopters flying around skiing and filming in the wilderness. As anyone who knows me can attest, this is very far from the truth.”

    I’ve never met Davenport, and I won’t speculate on his financial situation, but he did mention the helicopter as part of his Castle Peak trip report. He also mentioned scouting pyramid peak from an airplane.

    “I did not seek fame or fortune, or even hope to make a statement to the world”

    Well, he did create a professionally designed/sponsored website, and sent out dozens of emails detailing his exploits.

    I’ve personally enjoyed following Davenport’s project, and I think he has some outstanding accomplishments. I also don’t have a problem with how he chooses to make a living – he’s clearly a good self-promoter and a successful businessman. However, he should realize that when he writes about trips to Europe or Alaska or South America, or about being filmed by helicopters, scouting routes from airplanes, or driving around the state for a month in a fully loaded RV, he’s going to convey a certain image. That image isn’t one of a humble ski-mountaineer pursuing a goal that is “pure and straight from the heart”.

  35. Lou November 27th, 2006 5:20 pm

    Well, while Chris did promote what he was doing, I don’t think he was seeking fame and fortune in terms of it being anything beyond an effort to be a professional skier and a genuine desire to share the experience. I believe that’s what he means when he says “I did not seek fame….” As for the heli, I do know that some filming was done from a helicopter at some point during their skiing of Castle Peak, I also know they never used any helicopter access for the project in terms of a substitute for the climbing.

    As for what one drives, I don’t see how that makes any difference in how pure and straight from the heart one’s activities are, ditto for scouting routes from airplanes — a time honored activity in mountaineering.

  36. Yurtmiester November 27th, 2006 6:30 pm

    Just remember USFS are public servants.
    You need to go up the chain in command. Skip the District Ranger and go over the head of Forest Supervisor. Invite the Regional Director to your Denver slideshow, his office is in Lakewood. Good Luck.

  37. Brittany November 27th, 2006 6:39 pm

    I have been following this issue and it’s very interesting. I can see where the law was most likely developed to minimize Hollywood and big movies coming in, potentially harming wilderness areas for days on end if a set is created. However, this certainly is not the case. Furthermore, the issue of WHY Davenport’s permit was denied still perplexes me. Was it because Dav applied for the permit shortly after he had begun filming? If this is the case, it seems strange. How many times have I skied and filmed things just to film them?– As just another form of documentation or another way of sharing your experience. It seems to me that actually turning the film into a commercial endeavor was an afterthought. When Dav realized this, it seems he did performed the steps necessary to procure a permit. But, in the end, I still don’t know why that permit was denied. Can you explain exactly why? (if you can share).

    All this aside, I hope that this legal mumbo-jumbo blows over quickly and Dav’s movie can be released. It was one of two movies I was really looking forward to seeing this year.

  38. Lou November 27th, 2006 7:02 pm

    Hi Brittany, as far as I know the permit was denied because “commercial” film is not allowed in Wilderness. (I’m sure Dav will see this and correct me if I’m wrong.) Main gripe on my part is that the definition of “commercial’ is totally arbitrary, and what the heck’s the difference between film and still, or even a painting, for that matter? Very frustrating, but then, I’ve been frustrated with weird Wilderness rules for a long time — since the anti bicycle ruling years ago, as a matter of fact.

    We all like legal Wilderness in the correct dosage, debate is in how it’s defined and managed.

    Indeed the rule was probably well intentioned as large film productions are most certainly hard on the land, if not unsightly. But applying that standard to a small human powered production the promotes Wilderness values – ludicrous. More, I smell some anti-business sentiment here, and that bothers me. Our incredible lifestyles are the result of a vital capitalist economy, and we need to accept that as part of how things operate. A for-profit film made in Wilderness is not inherently corrupt. It just has to be done in the correct way and it’s fine.

    But then, who has not seen part of the Federal government as ludicrous at one time or another. As a commenter said a while back, why be surprised?

  39. Brittany November 27th, 2006 7:09 pm

    If the permit was denied because a commercial film was not allowed in Wilderness, that seems pretty darned absurd to me in many ways. I can see where not all commercial films would be wanted or good for Wilderness. But, Dav was going to ski the fourteeners with or without a movie. It didn’t caused barely any impact at all to slap a camera in a partner’s hand. As you have said, the interpretation of the law here is just plain silly.

  40. Kevin November 27th, 2006 9:15 pm

    I think Davenport’s problem is he’s donating the proceeds to the Aspen Wilderness Study Group. Remember there’s a Bush appointee somewhere up the chain of command making decisions on these things, hence if he wants to fast track his permit he should donate the proceeds to some timber lobbying group.

  41. Lou November 27th, 2006 9:26 pm

    Kevin, now that is funny, but has a sad kernal of truth! On the other hand, I really doubt it was a Bush appointee who decided to nix Dav’s film. But you never know. Would be interesting to find out.

  42. Scott Newman November 28th, 2006 6:46 am

    Just becuase Dav makes his living doing something that you love, while you slave away behind a desk, doesn’t mean that he is souless or is a bad person. Dav is a professional and good at both self promotion and his sponsor’s promotion (which he gets paid for). While it would be difficult to question, Dav’s devotion to the mountains and love of the the sport, what goes unmentioned is his willingness to share ‘his’ sport and this love with others. And not onlythrough lectures, skideshows and movies. He talks to everyone and derives joy from turning others onto the sport that we ALL love.

    I know Chris. I haven’t spoken to him about this project, but I can assure you that his motives are pure.

  43. Teletim November 28th, 2006 7:06 am

    What’s your point? I don’t see the USFS building roads or mining in any wilderness, do you? For the record, no I don’t support any such use of OUR wilderness areas.

  44. gbx November 28th, 2006 9:45 am

    The lesson here:

    better to ask forgiveness than permission

  45. Lou November 28th, 2006 9:46 am

    Teletim, there are actually quite a few roads and mines within legal Wilderness, though such are often separated out of the actual Wilderness boundary by “necks” in the boundary line. Another example of how weird this whole deal really is. I mean, if the land a few hundred yards from a road can be designated as Wilderness, but the road is not, what makes the designated land qualify as Wilderness when it’s that close to a road?

    More, existing legal Wilderness has plenty of non-Wilderness content. For example, go to the Hunter Fryingpan Wilderness in Colorado and you’ll find water diversion installations smack dab in the middle of legal Wilderness.

    Following from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance website:
    “Extractive uses that existed before wilderness designation, including valid mining claims and oil leases, are allowed to continue until either they expire, are purchased by the government, or are abandoned by the owner. Existing dams, developed springs, pipelines, and other water projects are allowed indefinitely. Reasonable access to state lands and private property, by such means as motorized vehicles, is allowed within wilderness, but the land management agency generally attempts to acquire these inholdings on a willing-seller basis.”

    In short, existing application of the Wilderness Act has all sorts of room for interpretation and “non Wilderness” use. If you think our legal Wilderness is some kind of pristine heaven, managed perfectly to keep out all people except hikers and horseback riders, think again.

    Wilderness fanatics would have you think this, as would the nature porn coffee table books, but reality is quite different.

    How does this relate to Dav’s film? Just that something as benign as a low-budget movie about human powered skiing shouldn’t be discriminated against. There are bigger fish to fry. I think that was Dav’s point.

  46. scott November 28th, 2006 11:20 am


    Love the blog. Lots of interesting perspectives on this subject. I hope you leave all the comments as they provide an eye opening view into the hearts of our back country “brothers”. It’s curious to me how viteralic so many folks can be towards a person that almost none of them knows, all apparently because he’s a self starter doing what they’d all love to be doing.

    While I don’t know Chris or many of the folks he’s skiing with I’m willing to bet the filming project didn’t leave any more impact on the backcountry then the typical spring melt off would leave. I’m also truely perplexed by the forest service destinction between film and still photo’s. I can easly take my stills to a basic home computer platform and turn out a flowing slide show that is little different from film. I agree with the yurtmeister Dav needs to take this up the chain of command.

    From what I’ve heard and read this is a beautifully composed film that will do way more to benifit wilderness then the supposed harm that might have occurred. So hopefully our government “servants” will get a clue for a change and help this thing move forward.

  47. The Dude November 28th, 2006 12:27 pm

    Seems pretty simple to me.

    First: Yes, the Wilderness Act *IS* intended to protect the wilderness from humans. That is the entire point of it! Yes, mining and grazing were permitted when it was passed in 1964 to overcome the political hurdles and for the greater good provided by the overall protection over time.

    Second: Whether Davenport is a saint or demon, the cold fact remains that he and the filmmakers will personally benefit from a film made of him. Period. Whether the profit goes to a good cause is not the point. A commercial operation is a commercial operation.

    Personally, I feel that if “Dav” can make a living as a professional skier, more power to him. Perhaps the virtolic comments come from the fact that Dav’s “singular” goal has morphed into a self-promotional sideshow where it appears, though perhaps not intentionally, that we are being duped.

    Answer: Continue the project, drop the film. The FS, Dav, and everyone will be happy.

  48. Matt Kinney November 28th, 2006 2:37 pm

    This is so funny because many ski film crews (some possibly included Davenport) flew around up here for years wracking up insane amounts of footage of heliskiing in Alaska. Much of it was on Chugach National Forest and BLM lands, both of whom require film permits. The problem is they never told anyone or asked. They just cowboyed around claiming first this and first that. Before anyone noticed it in many of these successful films, they had gone south taking the permit fees and reels of commercially viable footage for sponsors with them (those tax dollars they ignored stay here for local improvements and permit enforcement). Things improved about 5 years ago. The heli-operators each get their own permit and film companies can hire them and film under their umbrella permit.

    So in the end, the free ride is over here and was over a long time ago in CO. The deluge of steep ski-films made good easy money off Alaska and as a result, many of the skiers and especially the sponsors are famous, or made their name off public lands in Alaska for free.

    Perhaps the feds in CO are all too aware of such promotions of adventure skiing based on how it was abused in AK. The federal government and its land owners (you and I) lost revenue.

    Personally I could care less about the movie stuff and wish Chris D. the best on the remaining 14ers project.

  49. Lou November 28th, 2006 2:52 pm

    Interesting take Matt, thanks for the comment.

  50. Brownie November 28th, 2006 3:11 pm

    I just want to clarify that I’m in full support of Chris’ goal. I think the movie would be cool (especially given his commitment to MS, RFAC, etc.). My previous comments were only to find a way to make the movie work. Frankly, I hope he makes money also. I, for one, am sick and tired of the football player types making millions a year while the ‘real’ athletes sleep in the back of their Subarus.

    Whoever thinks you can get up at 2:30 am and hike a 14er that can end your life, family and career without soul is a crazy. The fact that the proceeds of the film were going to great cause alone shows the guy has soul. As Matt said, film or not, 99.9% of us are behind you man.

  51. Lou November 28th, 2006 3:20 pm

    Right on Brownie!

  52. DeanD November 28th, 2006 6:33 pm


    Everyone in some form or fashion documents their adventures. Whether its taking pictures, video, your own little diary, or other formats. Just because the FS denied his right to make a film of the project to show the public, does not mean he can’t continue to proceed with filming for his own documentation like everyone else.

    If Chris really wanted to do a commercial thing,because he is a professional skier, he would have gotten all his ducks in a row before the project started. He would have lined up sponsors, set up shots, hired crews, paid his team, and most likely worked with a big film company such as TGR. By the fact that he didn’t consider the idea of a film until afterward says that this was not a commercial operation. Once he realized that it may be possible to make a film to show us his project, he did the right thing by trying to obtain a permit.

    Sounds like to me Dav is doing the right thing and should be given credit where credit is due. The 14er Project is a true adventure that very few people have the talent, skills, drive, and balls to try let alone complete. Give him credit and hope he continues to film

  53. Will Stenzel November 29th, 2006 9:45 am

    Reality Check:

    16 U.S.C. 460l-6d, part of the law establishing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, clearly provides that filming for commercial purposes requires a permit on all lands administered by The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture – including federally designated wilderness. Still photography does not require a commercial filming permit unless it “uses models or props which are not part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.� Davenport’s movie was made for commercial purposes and therefore subject to the law.

    A few comments on the situation:

    1. The commercial filming permit isn’t something cooked up by the evil USFS while the rest of us weren’t looking. This rule was expressly provided for by Congress. It is silly to blame the USFS for enforcing the law.

    2. This isn’t some secret rule used to bash Davenport. The first person who picked up the phone when I called the USFS office in Golden knew about the commercial filming permit. Even the briefest inquiry by Davenport or his crew would have revealed this requirement.

    3. There is nothing weird or irrational about requiring a permit for commercial filming as opposed to commercial photography. The purpose of the law is to protect resources and cover administrative costs, both of which are presumably higher for commercial filming rather than photography. This view is reflected by the municipal codes of every major city in the country (and probably Aspen). The law also provides that a permit be required for commercial photography under certain impactive circumstances.

    4. I don’t understand that the law is somehow invalid if intermittently enforced and/or applies to even minimum impact commercial filming. If you get caught speeding, it doesn’t often help to tell the cops, “Well, everyone else is speeding, too,� or “I speed all the time and never got caught before.�

    I’m not always a big fan of the USFS, but they seem to be doing the right thing in this situation. After I read this story, I called them right away to see what the story was – I love to take pictures/vids of my backcountry adventures. They don’t care how you record your epic hucks/descents/etc. if it’s for your own use. They do care that you use Forest Service/BLM/National Park/etc. as a movie set.

  54. Lou November 29th, 2006 2:12 pm

    Excellent comment Will, thanks.

    I think one of the problems in this situation is indeed very uneven enforcement of the law. I know that’s not much in terms of legal justification, but fairness is most certainly a consideration in any regulatory system, especially when it can be related to favoritism, racism, or any other ism.

    Also, the division of film from still is what I would continue to call “weird.” Anyone knows that a film or video is just a bunch of still photos strung together. More, all my slideshows are done with “stills” strung together using video software, with zooms, pans, and even animation using successive stills. Do I need a permit for that?

    My point is that it sounds like the law is rough in many ways, and Chris got caught in the middle of it because he tried to do the right thing. As stated above, plenty of films have been done with no permit. Enforcement of the law always has grey area and room for judgement calls, I for one am asking that the USFS simply work with Chris by helping him fit into one of the grey areas and allow the public to see the film made on our public land… One thing that might work is to somehow convert the film over to a “non commercial” use.

  55. Dav November 29th, 2006 11:53 pm

    Thanks to all of you for your supportive, informative, and rousing comments.

    Just to clarify Will’s point #2, our “brief check with the forest service” yielded encouraging talks and the handing over of necessary permit forms by the NFS employees, not a delivery of the federal laws which we now are aware of and have to work with. Had I walked in the door of the NFS office and gotten a stern rebuke or warning or anything of the sort I never would have filed the permit. Just to set the record straight the NFS has been helpful and willing to work this out, but just in case… anyone’s dad or uncle or friend a Senator?

    Lots of fun over the last two nights with my slideshows: 300 people at REI in Denver last night during a blizzard and 100 people at REI Seattle tonight. Glad to see folks are interested in the peaks and the project. I wanted to show them the film teaser SO bad!

    time to go ski some more 14ers.

  56. Jason Hendrickson November 30th, 2006 9:19 pm


    Did you not recieve my comment, or did you decide not to post it? Just curious.


  57. Lou November 30th, 2006 10:37 pm

    Hi Jason, I’ve had a rare problem with comments being lost by my software before they get posted. I suspect that’s what happened to yours. We value comments and hope you can try posting again. Apologies for this. I know creating a comment takes some time, and I feel bad having wasted your time…

    When doing comments, you might copy to clipboard to make a backup in case it gets lost. Then if you don’t see it appear, you can re-do. Once you’ve had a comment approved they should go in automatically if you’re doing it with the same name and email, but I’m not sure that works 100%. If I have to approve the comment, I do it quickly if I’m at my desk, but sometimes that process gets delayed by hours if I’m out and about. If I’m away from the computer for extended time I have someone else check for comments needing approval.

    This process is mostly to prevent spam.

    I don’t really know what to do about this (the lost comments) , but I’m considering trying to find an expert who can help me troubleshoot the blogging software.

    Thanks for your patience.

    If anyone else has had this problem, again, my apologies.

    ‘best, Lou

  58. Karla May 15th, 2008 10:54 am

    No one said anything about no humans in wilderness……this is some serious drama queen writing. Anyway, the hitch lies in the idea of it being a commercial product for sale. Go read your wilderness act. No one said you can’t take footage for yourself and celebrate climbing. You can even have your won home movie. JUST DON’T SELL THE WILDERNESS FOR PROFIT ON FILM. What part don’t you understand? What happened to self discovery?

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