Is muscle powered recreation now the force from the dark side?
(January 8, 2001) According to Associated Press and Denver Post articles, after trying to build a backcountry ski hut on two different sites in the Vail Pass areas, plans for building the hut been scrapped.
The articles say that according to Summit Huts Association (those who proposed the hut), this unfortunate event happened because nearby land owners were concerned about parking problems and increased use, and other people, both within and without the hut group, worried about the hut being bad for wildlife.
All this despite the lack of any solid scientific evidence that building such a hut, and managing it with care, would cause any kind of significant environmental problem — especially in regards to wildlife.
In my view, if you’ve been to Vail Pass and seen the mass of skiers and snowmobilers, or executed a deer with your bumper while driving the nearby asphalt, thinking that another winter backcountry ski hut in the Vail Pass area is some sort of unacceptable affront to wildlife is nothing less than delusion. Add to that the huge nearby ski areas, and viewing a small hut as a problem begins to look like a symptom of Prozac shortage.
Indeed, this is a good example of the vilification of recreation, wherein recreation is viewed as a nonessential and often environmentally damaging activity that might be best curtailed. Worse, it appears the land owners may have invoked the E-word, (as in E-nvironment), to manipulate the thinking of the decision makers. What else could be true, since they already own land in the area, and have not donated it to the Nature Conservancy or some other conservation group for perpetual exclusion of humans and prevention of “parking problems” and “increased use?”
Of course I’d agree it would be nice if hut building could be done in places less popular than Vail Pass, in order to spread out the crowds. But this hut was killed with no alternative for another building site (the funding is being donated to a college). And to nix the project because of wildlife? Come on…
Summit Huts Association is an excellent outfit with a solid track record. It’s too bad opponents of huts played the bambi card — and won this hand.
Back to the crowding issue: I’ve written before about how ludicrous it is to keep crowding everyone into the patch of land southerly of Vail Pass, when Colorado has millions of acres of prime uncrowded backcountry where we could spread out the use. Perhaps that’s the lesson in this.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.