Backcountry skiing is hip. Especially if you can ride a lift or snowcat to do it. At least that’s the approach resorts all over North America are taking as the promote their sidecountry options and develop new terrain defined by natural snow, no snowmaking, and often (but not always) challenging topography.
But why not serve up sidecountry with a dose of muscle power instead of machinery?
Case in point is Mount Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Definitely one of the original sidecountry promoting resorts what with their “extreme” terrain, CBMR has been embroiled for years in an embroglio involving expanding their lift served to an area called Snodgrass Mountain. Vehemently opposed by a group of local backcountry skiing activists, the proposed expansion was recently obviated by the Forest Service. Article here. Big blog post about Snodgrass is here.
But, the USFS is apparently not going to remove Snodgrass from the CBMR permit area.
This opens up some interesting possibilities. Suggestion: Do a small amount of glading and brush cutting each year on Snodgrass, build a self-service hut and warming house on top, and promote the heck out of the area as backcountry light that is accessed via human power. Ergo, sidecountry.
Another similar situation in Colorado may arise at Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs. Within Sunlight’s permit area is a popular low-angled timbered backcountry skiing area on a small bump known as Williams Peak, or Willie’s for short. It’s a terrific place to go get some exercise when avalanche conditions are too heinous in the Colorado depth hoar alpine.
Sunlight periodically mumbles about developing Willie’s as part of their resort, presumably by cutting runs and installing lifts. But what if they built a cool hut on top, gladed the overgrown and unhealthy forest that presently graces the area, but kept it all human powered?
My crystal ball is a bit cloudy on this one, but the trend is pretty obvious. Hiking for turns (uphilling) is addictive. As I’ve blogged about before, there are resorts in Europe where MORE people are hiking than riding the lifts. Yeah, slackcountry and resort uphilling are not backcountry skiing as we define it here at WildSnow HQ, but they’re still part of the whole muscle powered skiing ecology and more of that is always better.
We shall see.
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.