Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | September 13, 2007      

If you are a backcountry skier, you can’t help but notice the brouhaha surrounding Paul Poulin and Alan Ritter’s alleged illegal trail cutting near Jay Peak ski area. What they are said to have done appears to have definitely gone overboard. Yet while looking at the news reports and chat room comments I can’t help but notice a rather shrill condemnation of their actions. This considering the fact that ski areas cut down trees all the time, not to mention the long-standing Northeastern tradition of skiers “cutting” trails on various mountainsides. More, anyone remember where most of our older ski resorts came from in the first place? Answer: Locals went out and cut trails, with or without “official” sanction. It appears Poulin and Ritter simply took the tradition a bit too far and don’t deserve to be lynched. They’ve pled not guilty, so perhaps the whole thing is a tempest in a tea pot?

Perhaps I’m a lone voice crying in the vast wilderness of trees on Jay Peak, but I’ve got sympathy for these guys. News reports.

Longs Peak
The latest iteration of Chris Davenport’s new 14er book just came in for our perusal. Above is another sample to whet your hunger — shot on Long’s peak during one of Dav’s attempts at skiing the ever elusive one. Publication is still scheduled for around Christmas.

And whew, how many ski films can you watch? In the tradition started years ago by the likes of Warren Miller and his predecessor John Jay, all the footy masters are “hucking” their wares in fall premiers. Meathead Films (quite the active website), Matchstick Productions (their website design is over the top!), Powder-non-pc-explicatives, (boo hoo, no Masterpiste Theater this year), TGR (rulerz of the universe), and of course those ubiquitous climate change apologists KGB Productions. (defunct Thrillhead Productions link removed 2015)

For some reason, web community culture is on my mind (too much time in the office?). As far as I’m concerned there are three top backcountry skiing forums out there: Teletips, TGR, and Backcountry World (formerly Couloir Mag). Of late I’ve noticed a marked differentiation in each of these place’s style.

Teletips has gone berserk in their level of chatty off-topic stuff, meaning it provides a nice place for vociferous folks to hang their hats. (Though one wonders how the forum member’s spouses or kids are doing while said posters are online in endless chat. Perhaps the family is online chatting too? I’m waiting for that ultimate chat post: “Honey, isn’t it time to pick up the kids at school?).

If it hadn’t already, TGR has also gone over to an amazing amount of off topic, and frequently off-color spew. More, any web savvy person knows that rowdy chatrooms such as TGR may be populated by thousands of user clones, e.g., aliases, e.g., people posting under different names for various reasons. Low and behold, that recently became an issue at TGR. Can’t say I was surprised. You can find a few good backcountry skiing posts now and then at TGR, but the cost of hot water for the showers afterwards tends to mount up.

Then we have little old Backcountry World, where I’m one of the moderators (ol’ Iron Hand) and we have a mission to be the “focused” forum where chat needs to have some tangible relationship to skiing or backcountry activities. Those of us who manage Backcountry World know that more banter could get us the traffic and is perhaps what some people want. But Ttips and TGR provide plenty of that, so we still aim to be different. Just as with any other online chat, look at Backcountry World as a social experiment — perhaps a long running one, but nonetheless of value. After all, is not diversity the end-all be-all?

We’ll that’s it for today’s broadcast from a sunny Colorado fall morning. High clouds are kissing the Rocky Mountains near here, I think I smell snow…



21 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. Graham Gephart September 13th, 2007 8:04 am

    There’s a huge difference between trimming trails, and doing what these guys are accused of. Per their arraignment, they allegedly cut down 873 trees!! This isn’t their own property, but state-owned conservation land. I would doubt you’ll find much sympathy for these guys around Jay either, as they likely screwed up access for the general skiing population too. Reforestation efforts there may include closing the area to all skiing, and regardless the cutting that they did looks pretty sloppy, with huge stumps left lurking under the snow. Big Jay is already great sidecountry tree skiing, and the idea that you need to cut a swath straight down the gut of it is ridiculous.

    They’ve pled not guilty, so it looks like this will drag out in court, but it should be an interesting one. They’ve now decided to represent themselves, and their not guilty plea will somehow have to reconcile the fact that they turned themselves in and confessed, after being seen coming and going.

    There’s certainly quite a bit of trail trimming in the NE, but this was not trimming. This was a stupid personal effort to sanitize some great tree skiing in the East.


  2. BJ Sbarra September 13th, 2007 8:46 am

    Having skiied some of the backcountry woods off Jay, I think these guys went a bit overboard. The glades that I experienced were plenty open for skiing. Sure a little thinning here and there has been going on for a long time, but this appears to take it to a whole new level.

    And for the record, there was 3 inches of snow at 14,000′ on Monday morning, most was gone by the afternoon, but the north side of Capitol was looking like winter!

  3. Rob Story September 13th, 2007 8:52 am

    There is still a TON of good stuff to be found on the TGR forums. Granted, there is a bunch of fluff to get through right now during summer, but I have learned more about skis and skiing in the past 7 months reading through those forums than I thought possible. When winter gets cranking again, there will be some amazing trip reports posted, stoke will be had, and people will become more focused on ski related content.

    But you are right about the aliases. With the exception of a few humerous ones, they are driving people (me included) crazy over there right now.

  4. Mark September 13th, 2007 10:07 am

    These guys certainly went overboard in their cutting. Maybe something charitable can be done with all that cut timber. How about using it for lumber to make affordable homes for the needy?

  5. DJT September 13th, 2007 10:35 am

    I’ve skied Big Jay about 10 times. I’ve gotten hung up on some pretty dense sections near the top, so I could see why someone would want to prune some of the thicker sections. But from what I can tell, they just went WAY overboard. From what I saw on the BFP website: this was flat out vigilante clear cutting, not pruning or trimming. In this day and age, this is not acceptable. Sure, people cut trails without authorization in the past, but today these people should know better. Especially a chemist with a PhD.

  6. laseranimal September 13th, 2007 10:52 am

    The problem with these guys is that ski areas “generally speaking” have to get approval and permitting to take down trees. On the other had the local “trimming” is simply that, pruning with loppers, and using hand saws to remove dead fall. If you have to use a chainsaw, you obviously aren’t doing the work properly, which includes making a smart choice where to trim and route your line. There are a more then a few examples of poorly chosen cuts which are un-skiable because their creators didn’t factor in slope aspect/elevation or the prevailing wind direction.

    There’s also the resort that has to factor in here as well. Jay Peak has had an open boundary policy in place for a few years now, but if numerous people wander out on to Big Jay, get lost, and S+R/Ski Patrol are forced to come provide aid does the Ski Area begin closing the boundaries? Does the state begin looking at the costs of rescues/taxpayers complaints vs just closing the area to recreation?

  7. Lou September 13th, 2007 10:55 am

    Yeah, like I said in my post those guys definitely went overboard — but I’m not ready to vilify them like I would a child molester or something. Ever considered all the trees avalanches knock down every winter in the west? Millions. Not to mention what wildland fires burn up every year. Many milllions. Somehow I’m just not that bothered by 800 cut down on Big Jay.

    Though I totally agree they shouldn’t have done it!

  8. mike s. September 13th, 2007 11:29 am

    Also check out the “Return to Schralptown” trailer from Thrillhead Creations:
    “Return to Schralptown� will feature secret stashes in the Colorado backcountry, exploration of first descents deep in the Coastal Range of British Columbia, a women’s specific segment, a quest to Kite Board across North Dakota while raising awareness for the potential of Wind Power from ND to help power the country, a June trip to Alaska to attempt Mt. Foraker and Mt. Hunter which will make Zach Marquis the first person to ski the two along with Mt. McKinley.

  9. laseranimal September 13th, 2007 11:33 am

    Yeah but the problem isn’t limited to what they did, its the repercussions of their actions which has led to them being treated like child molesters. As you’ve observed nature has a wonderful way of regenerating and healing itself, but it does take some time, and people are I think genuinely concerned about the potential for losing skiing privileges in that area. Coupled with the proximity to a ski resort and the potential for some people to get into conditions that are over their heads. I guess out West this would be akin to putting in a high visibility gate to the backcountry in an area that leads directly to a known avalanche slope, which after skiing it deposits skiers into a gully that requires a 1 mile slog back to a road where they may or may not be able to flag down a ride back to the area. While you hope that anyone who exits out the gate would have an idea of what they were doing and would be carrying the proper gear, the fact is that many don’t. This is ESPECIALLY a problem out here where people think that the consequences are muted since the East doesn’t have “big” mountains. The woods are not a fun place to be after dark if you’re not equipped, and you don’t need mountains over 14k to get hypothermia after the sun goes down.

    I also think you can also draw a distinct differentiation between natural events and human driven ones. Everybody loves to ski the “slides” in the Adirondacks, but make those slides the result of logging operations and the tenor of the conversation changes considerably.

    Perception is FAR more important to the study of history then the actual reality.

  10. Lou September 13th, 2007 12:10 pm

    WOOPS, I forgot the Thrillheads! Bad Lou. Whew, anyone else?? Cuseo, you guys got something coming up?

  11. Dav September 13th, 2007 12:50 pm

    check out the trailer for ” Years Later” from Shineline Productions. Local Elk Range stashes and Chilean Andes session.

  12. Dav September 13th, 2007 12:50 pm

    Whoops, that was supposed to be “8 Years Later”

  13. Randonnee September 13th, 2007 4:56 pm

    In regard to the tree-cutting: Clearly, those guys are busted and will have to be creative or lucky to beat the rap. And it is of course obvious that many do some relatively harmless cutting in a stealthy manner, and are never discovered or pursued by authorities.

    It is a sad consideration that this may affect backcountry ski access, I sincerely hope that that will not be the case. If so, you guys there need to get active with your elected leaders and maintain your access.

    It is very interesting to see so much self-rightous criticism, and a lot of the self-righteous criticism by self-professed trail cutters who state that they do it properly! In other words, illegal activity done in the proper manner as is acceptable by some social group is somehow OK or a “tradition.” Sort of like smoking illegal drugs but acting as if it is cool and perhaps superior because a certain strata of our society says so. Wow, the 60’s really screwed up a lot of individuals’ logical thought processes, man!

    I have not read whether anyone considered the possibility that any others were involved in this large cut. Oh yeah, that due process thing- but some just ignore it when they and their ilk decide something is a certain way. It seems like there is a rush to ostracism, conviction, and probably castration by the environmentalists. Which leads to the next topic- the environmental effects.

    Does anyone know if or how many times previously that the slope in question has been scalped by lumbermen? If not, the trees are probably too poor for lumber. The trees will grow back. It is difficult to believe from a practical point of view that it is so harmful, unless landslides result. But then, landslides would make some ski runs, as I have learned about the NE. That should do it, now the indignant goofy environmentalists can shoot arrows my way. As the slogan read on my 1980’s t-shirt when I worked as a logger in
    NW old-growth forests between ski seasons,
    “Sierra Club Kiss My Axe” : ) }

  14. Mark Worley September 14th, 2007 6:35 am

    Check out Return to Schralptown as it’s sure to be cool. My split boarding co-worker was a producer of Schralptown, and a lot of hard work went into that one.

  15. Mark Worley September 14th, 2007 8:04 am

    Well, the forest cut these guys allegedly made looks pretty puny to me (see Burlington Free Press website). Makes me wonder why the outcry is so massive.

  16. frik September 14th, 2007 8:54 am

    re: the cutting b@stards:
    I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one Lou and anyone else who thinks these guys went “went a bit overboard”.
    These guys went way way way overboard. Unlike the west, here in the east the amount of public land available for outdoor pursuits is extremely limited, and terrain suitable for B/C skiing is a tiny subset of that. These guys have quite possibly created some access problems for the adjacent area which is one of the few reliable stashes in the east. They have also drawn unwanted attention to the time honored tradition of “trimming”. And to anyone who thinks that there is an equivalence here between what these guys did and the normal minor trim jobs because they are both illegal (at least here in the east) i’ll say: Well driving over the speed limit is illegal too, but we don’t equate someone doing 5 mph over the limit with someone driving 50 mph over the limit. Someone also said they aren’t getting too upset about the relatively small scale of the destruction here, because well, you know, historically this in no big deal, they used to clear-cut the woods etc, etc. True, but besides the fact that “we” used to do all sorts of questionable stuff that “we” realized maybe we shouldn’t do anymore, the landowner(in this case the state) will not look at this as “no big deal”. Among the reasons a lot of people in New England are so upset about this and are ready the throw these clowns to the wolves, is that: They have without doubt brought the issue of illegal cutting of ski trials to the public’s attention which is not a good thing. And while legally these guys are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, considering that they have already â€?turned themselves inâ€?, AND ADDMITTED their guilt, whatever transpires in court is moot.

  17. Doug September 16th, 2007 10:04 am

    “As far as I’m concerned there are three top backcountry skiing forums out there: Teletips, TGR, and Backcountry World (formerly Couloir Mag).”

    Much as I enjoy Teletips & at least the former Couloir forums don’t forget there’s more to the web than English language sites – skirando can be pretty good & I’ve no doubt there’s equivalent in Italian & German

  18. Lou September 16th, 2007 11:36 am

    Doug, yeah, there is a ton more out there. Biglines tends to have some interesting takes as well.

  19. Matt Kinney September 17th, 2007 7:41 am

    Good read on the websites. Tks. Moved to Backcountry with my comments. More focus on pure skiing versus the dating games. subaroo repairs, and “my favorite beer or dog” thread for the 10th time.

    I have only been to TGR once and that was a couple years ago.

  20. Dostie September 18th, 2007 12:47 pm

    Just a brief report here. Seems word is getting out. Don’t know if it is due to the merger of two readerships and adding the loyalty of Backcountry readers to the Couloir/BackcountryWorld forums, or just that others are finally gettin’ tired of the lack of civility and/or focus, but the number of folks visiting is definately on the upswing.

  21. Lou September 26th, 2007 6:16 am

    Dostie, yeah, I’ve noticed that too. Interesting to watch the ebb and flow of all this, or is it like watching grass grow? Each to his own (grin).

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