Winter backcountry recreation is on the rise. Advances in backcountry skiing and snowboarding equipment, improved access and the relentless search for fresh snow, solitude and adventure have driven more people into the backcountry in recent years. As is so often the case, increased use can lead to greater impacts to the landscape as well as on others seeking the same experiences. Trash, human waste issues, excessive noise and disturbances to wildlife have all been cited as issues that can be addressed successfully with relevant Leave No Trace education.

In July of 2014 the Vermont Backcountry Alliance, a Winter Wildlands Alliance grassroots group, contacted the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (the Center) about the development of a “winter backcountry code of ethics” for use in Vermont. They chose to align their proposed code with Leave No Trace to ensure a unified, science-based set of minimum impact guidelines.  After the Vermont-specific guidelines were completed, Winter Wildlands Alliance worked with the Center to adapt the Vermont guidelines as set of Leave No Trace practices for backcountry winter snowsports that would have more national relevance.

Through this collaboration, both Winter Wildlands Alliance and the Center are able to promote relevant and area-specific Leave No Trace information to help skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and others to enjoy the backcountry responsibly and safely. With backcountry winter use increasing, Leave No Trace information is imperative for ensuring long-term protection and stewardship of these shared lands. Because of the Center’s partnership with federal and state land managing agencies, this set of winter backcountry Leave No Trace practices is already vetted and approved for use on signs, maps, etc. and is the standard for recreating in our national parks, national forests and other public lands during winter.

The long version of the national guidelines are available for download here.  You can also download a “short” version, which is better suited for signs and other displays, here.

Theses guidelines are designed to be widely disseminated and heavily utilized by both land managers and the backcountry snowsports community. Appropriate uses of the guidelines include: signage, trailhead kiosks, backcountry access points from ski areas, websites, trail maps, guidebooks, etc.  For information on how the guidelines can be used, posted, reprinted or disseminated, please visit the Center’s website.

If you, other organizations, or your agency partners want to create signage, or other products using the guidelines, please contact Ben Lawhon at the Center for more information.