Thank you for supporting Balance in the Backcountry


A huge and hearftelt thanks to the Winter Wildlands Alliance members, partners, and supporters who turned out in unprecedented numbers to tell the Forest Service to bring much needed balance to the winter backcountry.  At the start of the 45 day comment period on a draft federal rule for over-snow vehicle management WWA set an ambitious goal of generating 1,000 comments from backcountry and Nordic skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers and we’re delighted to report that we exceeded that goal .  By the end of the comment period more than 1,100 of you had taken the time to write a letter to the Forest Service, with many more coming from the broader conservation community. The vast majority of comments urge the Forest Service to strengthen the final rule.

By requiring National Forest Units to zone routes and areas where winter motorized travel is  allowed, restricted, or prohibited, the proposed winter rule is a step in the right direction, but the draft has some significant shortfalls that need to be addressed in the final rule.  Our message rang loud and clear through the thousands of comments from our partners and supporters, which you can view here.   In addition, WWA Executive Director Mark Menlove and Policy Director Cailin O’Brien-Feeney traveled to Washington D.C. in late July to meet with Forest Service decision makers and deliver in person our comments and suggestions for improving the rule.  The Forest Service got the message –  winter travel planning is important and the human-powered recreation community is paying attention!

Bringing balance to the backcountry is a multi-step process and we’re on our way.  First, there was Winter Wildlands Alliance’s historic win in 2013 when a Federal Court ruled that the exemption of over-snow vehicles (OSVs) in the Forest Service’s 2005 Travel Management Rule was unlawful.  Then, in June of this year, the Forest Service released a draft of their new rule for managing snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles.  Now that the 45-day public comment period for the proposed rule is over we expect to see a final rule early this fall.  Once the OSV Rule is finalized, National Forests across the country will begin the process of drafting winter travel management plans.  We look forward to engaging with other Forest officials and other stakeholders and we will be making sure our community is well represented.  WWA will be tracking which forests are working on travel plans and will reach out to our members and partners to let you know how best to engage.  With your help, we can work through the travel planning process to protect specific areas for human-powered winter recreation on forests across the country.

This is an exciting time to be a backcountry skier – stay tuned for the final rule and to learn how this process will unfold on your favorite National Forests!

Winter Wildlands Alliance Releases New Advocacy Tools


Have you ever wondered just how much backcountry and Nordic skiing contributes to our economy?  Or perhaps you’ve noticed more people enjoying the backcountry each year and you’re curious about just how much your favorite winter activity is growing.  Well, you’re in luck.  Winter Wildlands Alliance is pleased to share our latest report summarizing the trends and economic contribution of human-powered snowsports.  We hope that this report helps you get educated on where trends are headed in the backcountry, and as a tool for commenting on public lands projects and proposals that impact your favorite area. Human-powered snowsports are a significant, and growing, part of our local economies and protecting high-quality backcountry experiences is critical to sustaining this economic engine.

Human-Powered Snowsports: Trends & Economic Impacts

Winter Wildlands Alliance has long advocated for balance in the backcountry, and common-sense regulations governing over-snow vehicle use play a role in finding that balance and ensuring great backcountry opportunities for all users. We aren’t just concerned about snowmobile use on public lands because we like to ski untracked powder – the environmental impacts of snowmobiles are well documented, but often ignored. That is why the second report we are releasing summarizes the impact that snowmobiles have on air, water, soils, and wildlife.  Pollution and disturbance stemming from winter motorized use have real consequences on the natural environment, and those that live in it – including us. This second tool is a useful reminder as land managers begin to take the more proactive approach to managing winter motorized use we have long advocated. The backcountry has plenty of room for all to roam, but not enough for a free-for-all.

Environmental Impacts of Snowmobile Use

Does winter travel management seem daunting? Are you hoping to not reinvent the wheel when it comes time to help develop a winter travel plan for your favorite national forest? Sometimes it helps to see examples of what works and what doesn’t. To this end, we’ve pulled together a number of case studies on winter travel planning efforts across the West. This report highlights what has proven to work, and not work, in winter travel planning and should help guide future efforts in this regard.

Winter Recreation Planning


Backcountry Film Festival Final Report

This year’s Winter Wildlands Alliance’s Backcountry Film Festival Tour is wrapping up a stellar year. Celebrating the human-powered experience, the festival promotes the work of grassroots filmmakers who tell entertaining and compelling stories of the backcountry, non-motorized outdoor recreation and environmental preservation.

High fives and fist pumps to all who came out to support the film festival. The 9th annual film festival toured 90 cities, 4 continents, 6 countries, 16 states and was enjoyed by over 13,000 outdoor enthusiasts!

Collectively, the 9th annual Backcountry Film Festival raised over $140,000 dollars for our Grassroots Members, SnowSchool sites and University Outdoor Education Programs. The dollars raised benefitted local communities by funding outdoor education programs, Avalanche Centers and the purchasing of winter equipment.

The Backcountry Film Festival is made possible with generous support from our like minded friends in the outdoor industry. The success and growth of the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival is made possible with support from;

Mountain Khakis
New Belgium
Backcountry Magazine
Elemental Herbs
Outdoor Research
Point 6
Endurance Conspiracy
Goal Zero
Black Diamond

The 10th Annual Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival is already starting to take shape and we are looking forward to another amazing season full of adventures. Please consider submitting your human powered winter film to us and help celebrate the stoke of winter!

Shelley Pursell
Event and Outreach Coordinator


Outdoor Industry Supports Balance in the Wasatch


With today’s announcement of a proposal to link the seven ski resorts in Utah’s Central Wasatch Range via new ski lifts, Winter Wildlands Alliance is pleased to be playing a lead role along with our Utah grassroots group, Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, in proactively advocating to protect the remaining undeveloped lands in this backcountry skiing mecca.

Winter Wildlands Alliance and Wasatch Backcountry Alliance coordinated a sign-on letter from 190 outdoor industry leaders and attendees from the recent Outdoor Retailer Market held semi-annually in Salt Lake City urging Utah’s Governor and other key decision makers to “lead the way in ensuring the critical balance between resort and backcountry winter recreation opportunities is preserved,” and to “be vigilant and wise in preserving this irreplaceable resource not just for today but for future generations.” We will remain engaged as more details of this proposal unfold, and will alert you to the best ways to have your voice heard.

Outdoor Industry Letter to Governor Herbert 3_2014 FINAL

School’s Out for Winter: SnowSchool’s Outdoor Science Classroom

This January, 70 elementary kids filed out of Boise’s Bogus Basin Nordic Center in groups led by SnowSchool volunteer guides. They were bound for the surrounding wilderness and the educational wonders it held. As they ventured through the forest on snowshoes, they caught glimpses of Treasure Valley and the Seven Devils Range in the distance. Along the way, they stopped to learn about the area’s plants and animals, discuss its ecosystem, and conduct a snow pit analysis. For many students, this was their first time snowshoeing—and their first visit to a national forest.

For 10 years, the SnowSchool has aimed to introduce students, often those underserved, to winter’s landscape and ecology, and foster an appreciation for nature, as well as a healthy, active lifestyle through snowshoe recreation.

Every year, the national program hosted by Winter Wildlands engages approximately 28,000 students at 45 independent sites across America’s snowbelt. The science-based program seems enough to make adults jealous.

“The kids conduct snow/water equivalency tests, climb inside the SnowSchool igloo and of course go belly sliding,” says Kerry McClay, national SnowSchool director. “And snowshoes provide a critical means of exploring the natural world through an experience that is both exciting and educational.”

The hands-on outdoor science lessons connect to classroom curricula. “Back in their classrooms the students will work through the winter with local hydrologists to continue to monitor their local snowpack depth and water content via SNOTEL data,” says McClay. The program has been a huge success with teachers, kids, teens, parents and public land managers.

In the woods, instructors say it’s hard to deny the excitement and smiles on the students’ faces as they watch them experience for the first time the inspiration that nature provides.

For more information on the SnowSchool, as well as a list of SnowSchool sites by state, visit: www.snowschool.org.

MSR annually provides approximately 150 new pairs of discounted snowshoes to Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchool sites nationally.