The Stash—May 2020
In the high country, as the snowpack settles down and springtime opens up road access to mountain passes, ski season often extends into June. But this year isn’t like other years, and though the snow still lingers in high places, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the range of things we have to consider.
At the peak of backcountry ski season, based on public health directives and pleas from the search and rescue community, many of us hung up our gear and backed off the mountains. Thank you. Now, as states begin to reopen and restrictions start to lift, many of you are probably wondering whether you can sneak in a late-season corn tour. The decisions we make about whether and how to go skiing are important not just for our own safety but also for our ability to maintain access to the mountains in these complex times. To that end, here are a few guidelines to help us recreate outside safely and responsibly during COVID-19.
If you feel sick, or suspect you might have been exposed to COVID-19, please stay home.
Even if you’re healthy, please stay local, or as close to home as possible. This isn’t the year to road-trip and camp for a ski mission hundreds of miles from home.
Always follow federal, state, county, and city directives and health recommendations.
Know your limits and dial it way back. Be chill about your objectives. Come prepared; many facilities, including bathrooms, are closed, which means we should be prepared to pack it out.
Remember to be kind to one another. That person who’s ahead of you on the skin track? They might be trying to stretch their legs after a long week of juggling their job while also homeschooling their child. Maybe they just got furloughed. Maybe they lost someone they loved. All of us are trying our best in this moment and we come to the outdoors to heal—not to judge.
Finally, research and respect closures. As places begin to open up, the more we respect guidelines and practice physical distancing, the more likely access will stay open.
Want more? Tune into this great conversation from our friends at Outdoor Alliance (including Surfrider, IMBA, American Whitewater and Access Fund) to hear how others in our community are grappling with the complexities of responsible recreation in these times.
Help Us Save Moose Mountain in Northern Minnesota
On the northwestern shore of Lake Superior, a community of backcountry skiers is growing. The heart of the community is Superior Highland Backcountry, a grassroots group for human-powered winter recreation and a member of our alliance. Superior Highland reached out to us recently. A ski resort has proposed a development on 495-acres of public land that include some of the best backcountry terrain in the state. Superior Highland wants to see skintracks instead of chairlifts, base lodges, mountain-top chalets, and parking lots on Moose Mountain, and we agree. We’re asking the Forest Service to consider a backcountry skiing alternative in the environmental impact statement they are preparing. Help us save Moose Mountain. The window for public comment on this huge development is a very short 30 days, during COVID-19. The deadline is May 28th.
What’s Next? The Great American Outdoors Act
Rewind back to the beginning of March, when Congress was building bi-partisan momentum to pass the Great American Outdoors Act. This was big news. It would approve permanent and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and give public land managers desperately-needed funds to address nearly $16-billion worth of backlogged maintenance projects in our forests and parks. Congress was right to pivot to focus on their response to the pandemic, but we hope that the Great American Outdoors Act becomes part of the broader economic stimulus to follow. Investing in our public lands pays off, and this is an important first step.
Submissions Are Open to the Backcountry Film Festival
We’re not just looking for ski movies. We want stories that help us find meaning in the outdoors during winter. The Backcountry Film Festival tours globally to raise awareness about human-powered recreation and conservation of public lands. It’s a major fundraiser for nonprofits who do important, on-the-ground work to save wild spaces. Help us fill next year’s lineup with diverse voices and perspectives. All films can be submitted for free.
May is for Giving
In Idaho, a statewide campaign for giving wraps up today and the support Idaho has shown to Winter Wildlands Alliance has been huge. We want to say thank you. We can’t do the work to protect public lands and advocate for human-powered winter recreation without your support. If you’d still like to give, even if you don’t live in Idaho, consider becoming a member or donating directly.
Out There: What We’re Reading
As both houses of Congress kick the tires on draft 30×30 resolutions to “establish a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and ocean of the United States by 2030,” to “help address the current extinction, climate and biodiversity crises,” we thought it would be a good idea to read Edward O. Wilson’s Pulitzer-prize winning book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life—the book that planted the seed for 30×30 (and eventually 50×50!) in the first place.