Winter Wildlands Alliance ambassador and professional photographer Jason Hummel has spent decades skiing and exploring Washington’s jagged, remote mountains. Over the years, his objectives have become more than just a single peak. Hummel’s adventuring is a means to understand the mountains around him. 

In Washington, there are 10 non-volcanic peaks that crest 9,000 feet or higher. They are remote and difficult to access. Hummel has skied them all, pioneering five new ski descents while he was at it. He has circumnavigated four volcanoes—Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, and Glacier Peak—as well as Mount Olympus. He’s working on the Washington Traverse, to ski from the Canadian border all the way to Oregon and the Columbia River. This one was inspired by Lowell Skoog’s Cascade Traverse, which took 25 years to complete. 

And then there’s Hummel’s Washington Glacier Ski Project. 

Hummel has a list of 263 glaciers throughout the state, and he’s making his way down the list, ticking off ski descents on all of those glaciers, one by one. His list includes more than just the glaciers officially named by the USGS. He’s also skiing glaciers with unofficial names adopted from guidebooks, old maps, photographic documentation, and word of mouth. 

“Glaciers are the cumulation of winter’s past,” writes Hummel on his blog. “They are nestled throughout the peaks I grew up among. They are where I learned to enjoy winter and, in turn, backcountry skiing.”

The view of a glacier in Washington's Olympic Peninsula

The Christie Glacier. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

Earlier this summer, Hummel embarked on a ski traverse with three ski partners—Jeff Rich, Carl Simpson, and Jake Chartier—on the Olympic Peninsula that started in the Sol Duc Rainforest and ended eight days later in the Quinault Rainforest.

“Why, you may ask?” writes Hummel. “Because, in my bullheaded opinion, the best ski adventures should begin and end in jungles.”

In between, he skied eight glaciers: Delabarre, Christie, Queets, Bear Pass, Elkorn, Ferry, Carrie, and Fairchild. Four of those glaciers—Delabarre, Christie, Queets, and Fairchild—were the last on his list to ski on the Olympic Peninsula. Which means that Hummel has now skied all the glaciers on the Olympic Peninsula, an effort that took him a combined 50 days to complete. His full trip report is something to read and take in, with dozens of beautiful photos. 

So why is Hummel skiing glaciers? He explains it thoroughly on his blog, which is a worthwhile deep dive for anyone who’s looking for a bit of inspiration for a decades-long pursuit. It’s full of trip reports, incredible photography, a map, and a list of all of 263 glaciers.

“Ultimately, the Glacier Project has grown into something more than a personal goal,” writes Hummel. “I’ve been able to see our glaciers, many of which have disappeared since I first skied onto a glacier, and document their health with photographs and on-site observations. Moreover, I’ve been able to write about backyard adventures and share stories of remote places few if any have ever skied. My hope is to inspire the adventurous spirit in each of us, even among those that will never see these places. Every one of us can appreciate and value natural wonders we may never see. It’s nice to know that they are still there, or exist at all.”

A backcountry skier with his skis on his backpack jumps in mid-air at the trailhead in the rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula

Ski ballerina. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

A backcountry skier with his skis attached to his backpack stands on a ridgetop overlooking mountains in Washington's Olympic Peninsula

Jeff Rich overlooking Mount Olympus. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

A backcountry skier makes turns down a glacier in Washington's Olympic Peninsula

Carl Simpson on the edge of oblivion. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

A group of skiers traverse a ridgetop near Bear Pass Glacier in Washington's Olympic Peninsula

Nearing Bear Pass Glacier. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

Several backcountry skiers skin up a glacier in Washington's Olympic Peninsula

Skinning up the Queets Glacier. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

Several backcountry skiers skin across a glacier in Washington's Olympic Peninsula

Climbing over Mount Meany. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

A backcountry skier with his skis on his backpack hikes through lush ferns in the rainforest in the Olympic Peninsula

Listen and ye shall hear. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

Four backcountry skiers on a mission to ski glaciers in Washington's Olympic Peninsula pose for a photo in the rainforest

…all of us. Left to right: Jeff Rich, Carl Simpson, Jason Hummel, Jake Chartier. Photo Credit: Jason Hummel

Break trail, not public processes. If you want to have a voice in the management of public lands, now is the time to speak louder than ever. Photo Credit: Thomas Woodsen

Have you ever commented on a winter travel plan, forest plan revision, or other Forest Service project? You were able to do it because of a law known as the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

Right now, the Forest Service is considering some broad, potentially devastating changes to how it implements NEPA that could drastically reduce your ability to have a voice over your public lands. Under the guise of increasing efficiency in environmental decision-making, the agency is proposing to create loopholes that would fast-track logging, road building, and other development on public land and cut back or eliminate public participation on the vast majority of all Forest Service projects.

NEPA was enacted in the 1970s to ensure that government agencies make informed and transparent decisions. It gives the American public a voice in agency decision-making. Among other things, NEPA is the law that ensures that you have a say in how public lands are managed. NEPA is arguably the most important environmental law in the U.S. since it requires agencies – like the Forest Service – to alert the public and evaluate the potential impacts on the environment, recreation, and more when considering whether to approve a project or make changes in how public lands are managed. It’s what puts the public in public lands.

Industry groups who know their actions have a big effect on the environment would like to see NEPA rolled back to make it easier and faster for them to develop public lands. However, changes to NEPA could come at a big cost for the environment and for your ability to participate in decisions around public lands and waters.

The Forest Service is accepting comments on their proposed changes until August 12. We’ve made it easy to submit a comment directly to the Forest Service and would encourage everyone who cares about public lands to do so.

Click Here To Comment Now

Here are some more details about what’s going on. If you really want to dig deep, click here to head over to the Forest Service website and read the full proposal.

Due to budget and staffing cuts, staff turnover, and inconsistencies in how NEPA is utilized across the Agency, the Forest Service is not always the most efficient when undertaking a NEPA analysis. However, rather than addressing these real and solvable issues, the Forest Service is proposing to gut NEPA in order to fast-track industrial and extractive development.

First, Understand the Levels of NEPA Analysis

There are three levels of NEPA analysis: categorical exclusion, environmental assessment, and environmental impact statement. We could write a whole book on these, but the biggest differences have to do with how much information is collected and analyzed, and how much you get to be involved in the decision-making process.

Categorical exclusions involve a cursory amount of analysis and limited opportunity for public comment, while environmental assessments and environmental impact statements are increasingly more detailed, require more analysis, and have more opportunities for public involvement. Generally, the more complex the project the more detailed the NEPA analysis.

Why Scoping Is a Big Deal

One really concerning thing about the Forest Service’s proposed revisions has to do with scoping. They’re seeking to eliminate the current requirement to conduct scoping for projects being considered under a categorical exclusion or environmental assessment. This means you’d be kept in the dark on up to 98% of Forest Service projects.

Scoping is a key process that informs the public that a land management agency is considering changes, and is the only opportunity for the public to weigh in on a project that is “categorically excluded” from analysis. Let’s go back to 2017, when the Wasatch Powderbird permit was renewed using a Categorical Exclusion. Under the current regulations, the Forest Service had to go through scoping and thus inform the public that the permit was up for renewal. This gave us and the entire backcountry community a chance to weigh in. Almost 300 people submitted comments. In the end, our fuss didn’t lead to the change backcountry skiers had hoped for in the final decision. But the bigger point is that, because the public process was transparent, we had the opportunity to voice our concerns—and that’s the crucial part we need to fight for now.

Scoping is also important for environmental assessments, because it gives the public an opportunity to weigh in on a project at the very beginning, and alerts people to the fact that the Forest Service is considering a project in the first place. Recently, the Forest Service wrote a winter travel plan for a portion of the Sawtooth National Forest using an environmental assessment. Scoping afforded a public comment period, which gave us, along with other conservation groups and members of the public, the opportunity to share information with the Forest Service early in the process. We documented important wildlife areas: namely, wolverine dens and mountain goat winter range areas. As a result, the final plan protects important wildlife areas, while still designating lots of terrain for snowmobiling.

Loopholes in the Law

The proposed changes to NEPA would also eliminate public input beyond scoping. The Forest Service is proposing to adopt seven new Categorical Exclusions and expand two existing Categorical Exclusions. These are essentially loopholes that allow projects to move forward without environmental review or public comment (except scoping, which they’re also hoping to get rid of). These new Categorical Exclusions include authorizing up to 6.6 square miles of commercial logging; converting illegal off-road vehicle routes to official Forest Service roads and trails, and building new roads – all without any public input or environmental analysis.

The Threat to Pending Environmental Protections

The Forest Service is also proposing to eliminate important protections for Inventoried Roadless Areas and potential Wilderness Areas. Currently, if a project is proposed in either of these types of areas, it must be analyzed with an Environmental Impact Statement. Under the proposed revisions, logging and other projects in these sensitive areas could be done under a Categorical Exclusion, shielding them from public scrutiny and environmental analysis.

Relying on Outdated Information to Make Big Decisions

Finally, the Forest Service is proposing a new way of dodging environmental analysis and public input. They’re calling it a “determination of NEPA adequacy,” or DNA. Using a DNA, the Forest Service could claim that an existing NEPA analysis can be applied to a new, different project and therefore no further analysis or public input is necessary. This is a problem because the prior analysis could be outdated, or it may not consider current outdoor recreation activities or changing landscapes, and therefore it wouldn’t have considered or analyzed the specific impacts of the new project.

If these revisions go through, you’ll be in the dark about most Forest Service projects. You may not even know that your local forest is considering building a new road or approving a new logging project, and litigation will be your only option for speaking up for the public lands you value. Cutting corners and disenfranchising the public is no way to manage our national forests.

The Forest Service is accepting public comments on these proposed revisions until August 26. It’s incredibly important that they hear from you about how these revisions would affect your ability to participate in public land management and in protecting public lands.

Click Here to Comment Now

*2018-19 season info

SCREEN FILMS. RAISE FUNDS. KEEP WINTER WILD.

The Backcountry Film Festival is a turn-key fundraising event to raise money and awareness for organizations, backcountry retailers, university clubs, and other groups focused on protecting wild winter landscapes and recreation in their local communities. Hosts use the Backcountry Film Festival as their biggest fundraiser and membership drive of the year!

“Hosting the Backcountry Film Festival has been a fun and effective way to celebrate winter and build community in Mt. Shasta. It helps us raise essential funds for our Ski School Program and we look forward to it every year.”
Jenna K. (Mt. Shasta, OR)

What are the benefits?

  • Raise funds – all proceeds from your event go back to your organization and local backcountry community.
  • Raise awareness – bring attention to your cause or to the Winter Wildlands Alliance cause within your local community. Attendees are current and future members, volunteers, and supporters of your organization, so bring them in for an event that ignites their stoke on winter advocacy at a local and national level!
  • Raise community – make a meaningful impact and bring together all of your social media followers, your email subscribers, your members, and your volunteers to celebrate your local backcountry community. Use the films’ pow shots, inspiring human-powered stories, and “oooh-ahhh!” worthy moments on screen to inspire the current and future supporters of your cause.
“Nothing brings the solitary backcountry skiers out of the woods more than a night of films, beer, and community.”
Gus B. (Wenatchee, WA)

How do I host?

We’ve made it easy for you! We provide the pre-produced film reels via download for free or via DVD/Blu-ray for extra, marketing materials to put your logo and event information on easily, helpful timelines and an event planning guide, and all the support in the world to ensure your event is as successful as possible. By providing a turn-key film festival event, you can focus on connecting with your local backcountry community to raise funds, raise awareness, and have a good time.

  • Step 1 – APPLY to host by emailing your name, host organization information, preferred screening date, venue, and location to Backcountry Film Festival Manager, Melinda Quick: mquick@winterwildlands.org. The screening details can change, but we like to have a basic understanding of the who/what/when/where before asking you to sign your host contract. Additionally, current hosts (aka hosts that have screened in the last season or seasons) have priority in terms of the premiere date within an hour of their location. We will be sure to communicate if you are a new host what options you have and if there are any confirmed screenings in your area already.
  • Step 2 – CONFIRM your screening with the BCFF Manager and you will receive a link to sign the host contract.
  • Step 3 – SIGN the contract, you’ll be invoiced for your host fee (details here) which covers our production costs with creating the Festival, social media coverage of your event on our pages, and ensures our 110% support throughout your planning and event process.
  • Step 4 – ACCESS the Host Media Kit after payment is received, which includes the film download links; marketing materials such as posters, press release templates, and social media content; a copy of the host contract and helpful timelines for planning your screening; and how-to’s for any national sponsor activation opportunities (such as getting Sierra Nevada beers donated for your event!).
  • Step 5 – ORGANIZE and host your screening! In the process, we’re always here to help, so please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, ideas, etc.
  • Step 6 – FOLLOW UP with us via our host survey sent to you after your event, which lets us know the successes of your event and provides you the opportunity to give us any feedback on how we can better the host experience. We also require you share attendee information (first name, last name, zip code, email address) so we can add your attendees to our national sweepstakes and send them a one-time follow up email about the Festival and WWA.
  • Step 7 – RELAX and feel great about putting on a stellar community event that benefited your organization locally and the national wild winter community.

Additional Host Opportunities

Photo: Granite Backcountry Alliance

Sierra Nevada – Our incredible sponsors at Sierra Nevada are happy to provide donated beer to your event as a Backcountry Film Festival host! Information on how to do so is included in the Host Media Kit.

Raffle – We provide a small amount of raffle items for ALL hosts and will mail them out to you the month of your event. We encourage you to seek out additional raffle items from local businesses and any national partners you may have outside of our national sponsors (see below).

Local Sponsors – Raise more funds by having local businesses and organizations table at your event, sponsor your event, or donate raffle items to your screening!

National Sponsor On-Site Activation – Sometimes our national sponsors like to get wild and get out there themselves. If they would like to be a part of your event, we will contact you with advance notice to figure out what opportunities there are to have them be involved.

Ready to host?

Email your name, host organization information, preferred screening date, venue, and location to Backcountry Film Festival Manager, Melinda Quick: mquick@winterwildlands.org.

“When I found myself hibernating metaphorically from the wild outside, this festival got me excited to get back out there again, the cold be damned.”

Megan G. (Syracuse, NY)