Thanks all for your excellent comments about the Jay Peak trail cutting. To sum it up, this interesting email came in today — we thought it would make a good guest blog as it seems to focus in on a core issue that for backcountry skiers might be THE issue.
By Chris Skalka
Hi Lou, I live in VT near Jay and so have some local insight into the “Jay Peak Cutters” (call them JPCs).
There is no doubt that trail cutting is very active and generally accepted around here. In fact, that has a lot to do with the negative reaction to the JPCs among locals. The thing is, there are relevant conditions which are specific to the cutting up here:
– The geographic area is really small compared to the West, the terrain rarely requires technical mountaineering skills to access, and there are a lot of people skiing, so you need to “fog out” your stashes to keep out the riff-raff.
– There is a lot less wilderness up here than in the West, and the political attitude is much more conservationist, so you need to be very subtle about cutting to maintain the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy practiced by the ski areas, or to avoid outright prosecution by the Parks Services frantically trying to protect the little wilderness they have.
In short, the understood norm is that cutting should be very low-key — entrances and exits should be invisible, don’t cut anything thicker than your thumb, etc. It ends up being more a matter of clearing pucker from otherwise skiable glades than outright cutting a new trail (though of course we all cheat a little sometimes).
So, what the JPCs did was violate local etiquette and endanger cutting in general, since the average Joe will identify all cutters with the JPCs (note in particular that Big Jay is a favorite BC stash, and even the access situation there is *very* tenuous due to the management of Jay). And they did it in such a wildly over-the-top fashion (the fact that their cut is visible from Jay resort is almost laughable), that it is clear they’re total newbies, almost certainly not experienced BC skiers. So of course, that such tyros would endanger our sh*t is really making people see red.
Anyway, I certainly understand the points you’re making, but I wanted to point out that there are some local peculiarities relevant to the situation.
Hope it’s snowing for you in CO, we’re just heading into Fall up here and can’t wait for the skiing.
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.