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From WWA Executive Director, Todd Walton, about the upcoming season and encouraging everyone to “Ski Kind”.

Announcing the 2020-21 Backcountry Film Festival lineup – coming soon to a couch near you!

Flikr photo by Michiel van Nimwegen

Skiers, snowmobilers, conservationists and other winter recreation stakeholders come together to help protect and find ways to co-exist with the iconic mountain carnivore

Known for its ability to cover distance quicker than a Nordie with perfectly waxed skis, and to cruise up and over mountains faster than the gnarliest ski-mo racer, the wolverine is among the most iconic of winter wildlife species. Skiers, snowmobilers, and others who love spending time in snowy places feel a special affinity with and appreciation for wolverines. Like wolverines, we’re snow-dependent critters who are facing a serious threat because of climate change. Unlike wolverines, we can handle a crowd — even if we’d prefer not to.

Winter recreation stakeholders and conservationists working together to find common ground and develop recommendations for the Forest Service.

Winter Wildlands Alliance has been working with the Idaho State Snowmobile Association and Round River Conservation Studies to reach out to the backcountry Snowsports community with information about wolverines, how our activities impact the species, and how we might mitigate that impact.

Unfortunately for all concerned, new research shows that backcountry winter recreation — snowmobiling and backcountry skiing alike — impacts wolverines. With help from skiers and snowmobilers using GPS units to track their own movement in the backcountry, scientists discovered that wolverines strongly avoid areas with lots of human activity, whether we’re snowmobiling, skiing, or just tromping through the woods on snowshoes.

Wolverines may use areas adjacent to popular winter recreation areas, and they may pass through areas with heavy recreation pressure, but they’re not sticking around in places where there are lots of people. In short, wolverines don’t den, rest, or eat in places that get a lot of backcountry ski or snowmobile use — even if those places are part of a larger wolverine home range. This is called “functional habitat loss,” and it poses a real concern for wolverine survival.

Wolverine and ski tracks, Moose Basin, Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Forrest McCarthy

The conservation concern here is two-fold. First, wildlife biology 101 tells us that an animal’s home range is the minimum amount of space that an individual requires to live and reproduce. If backcountry skiing and snowmobiling are effectively eliminating portions of a wolverine’s home range, it’s likely we’re having a negative effect on that wolverine’s ability to make a living and reproduce. And since wolverines are pretty rare, impacts to even a few individuals could have population-level impacts.

Second, because of climate change, there are (and will continue to be) fewer and fewer places for all of us — skiers, snowmobilers, and wolverines — to find snow. Pair this loss of snow with a growing interest in backcountry snowsports and new tools and toys that help us travel deeper into the backcountry than ever before, and wolverines may have a tough time finding snowy places that aren’t overly impacted by humans.

The good news is that with some self-imposed restraint we — the backcountry snowsports community — can help reduce our impact on these tough but vulnerable animals, without greatly impacting our own opportunities for fun and exploration in winter.

We’re all familiar with the concept of suburban sprawl. Now think about your favorite backcountry area and how recreation use can sprawl across the landscape as people seek out the next untracked peak or meadow. By limiting that sprawl, we can limit the functional habitat loss that wolverines are experiencing.

As tempting as it is to explore deeper and further into the backcountry, by sticking within established and agreed-upon recreation areas when skiing and snowmobiling in wolverine habitat, you can help reduce your personal impact on the species. And, if we all limit our personal impact, together we can make a big difference in wolverine survival.

To learn more about wolverines,  check out the brochure that we recently produced in partnership with the Idaho State Snowmobile Association and Round River Conservation Studies:

Wolverine Final Brochure

 

It’s our 14th Annual Festival season and we’re ready to dive deep into the powder with our film line-up announcement! As the backcountry community’s leading film festival, this year will host a variety of films focusing on education, advocacy, diversity, and environment.

Premiering in our hometown of Boise, ID on Saturday, Nov 3 at The Egyptian Theatre, the Backcountry Film Festival will then hit the road through the winter months to over 100 mountain towns around the world. The tour serves as a fundraising and education tool for local grassroots organizations and backcountry communities as well as travels the globe exploring themes connected to Winter Wildlands Alliance’s mission of promoting and preserving winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands.

We’re stoked to announce the following films as part of our 2018-19 production:

Ode to Muir

Teton Gravity Research – Our exclusive Festival cut of Ode To Muir speaks the entire feature-length film as professional snowboarder, adventurer and founder of Protect Our Winters Jeremy Jones joins forces with two-time Olympian Elena Hight to embark on a 40-mile foot-powered expedition deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness.

Ski the Wild West

In 2017 Drew Petersen sought to ski the 11 highest peaks in the American West on one epic road trip. Accompanied by filmmaker and Winter Wildlands Alliance Ambassador, Thomas Woodson, this film is sure to be a pleasant walk down memory lane for anyone who has adventured throughout the West.

The Abbey

DPS Cinematic – A spiritual view into any snowbird’s head waiting for the season to start.

The Backcountry Snowsports Initiative

In this upbeat, Sunday morning op-ed of a short film we learn about the human-powered recreation advocacy organization, the Backcountry Snowsports Initiative, and their annual hut trip near Leadville, Colorado where they host a variety of stakeholders to ski, cook, and talk about winter recreation policy.

Abandoned

Another exclusive Festival cut focusing on Berthoud Pass, a crew of backcountry skiers set out to explore Colorado’s lost ski areas hopes to find adventure amongst the ruins.

Blue

Blue is a testament to the inherent creativity, innovation and strength forged in women of the north. In it we present a spectacle of winter innovation—the icy playground providing a visual journey as never seen before by bike.

I Am Here

“My parents never even thought about climbing a mountain.” Yesenia grew up living in a small farmer’s cabin in the apple orchards of Oregon’s Hood River Valley. Watch Yesi’s journey to climb Mount St. Helens, pursue her own American dream, and inspire Latinx outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.

Surfer Dan

Beyond the tale of his frosted beard, this is a story about Dan Schetter’s passion for surfing and how he credits the sport to saving his life.

Searching for Christmas Tree

A university teacher looking to break free from a life of routine in China and a mysterious frozen waterfall that no one knows the whereabouts, spins this story of seemingly futile quests and ultimately transcending climb.

Westward: Brennan Lagasse

An important message from Winter Wildlands Alliance Ambassador, educator and athlete, Brennan Lagasse, on the significance and the impact of the backcountry.

 

We hope to see you this season and Keep Winter Wild together! Email Melinda Quick, Backcountry Film Festival Manager, with any questions about how to see the Festival in your mountain town: mquick@winterwildlands.org.