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Author Topic: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance  (Read 2380 times)
Randy
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #25 on: 11/08/17, 04:04 PM »

and one collision is probably enough to threaten access for all.

How so ?  Plenty of collisions and injuries happen every  weekend at Alpental and the other ski areas.  Also Washington state law explicitly makes the descending skier responsible for any collisions.

Quote
The resort has been exceedingly generous in its handling of the traffic lot 4 receives from non-paying customers.

Huh?  The land is USFS public land.  If the resort were to try to exclude the public from using that route (which has been in use since before Alpental existed) they would need to get the forest service to agree to changes in their special use permit.
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Chuck C
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #26 on: 11/08/17, 09:37 PM »

How so ?  Plenty of collisions and injuries happen every  weekend at Alpental and the other ski areas.

There really aren’t too many collisions/injuries at Alpental, especially compared to the other areas up there. But I’ve accosted numerous people skinning up the middle of the runs on weekends, a few times with their unleashed dogs. Once they told me they didn’t know the area was open.  The spandex must’ve been too tight.
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Randy
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #27 on: 11/08/17, 10:19 PM »

There really aren’t too many collisions/injuries at Alpental, especially compared to the other areas up there. But I’ve accosted numerous people skinning up the middle of the runs on weekends, a few times with their unleashed dogs. Once they told me they didn’t know the area was open.  The spandex must’ve been too tight.

Point is people get hurt pretty frequently at lift served ski areas -- Those sleds get used with some frequency -- more frequently at Summit West and Central than Alpental I would agree.
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Ldawson
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #28 on: 11/09/17, 08:07 AM »

Awesome! Thanks for all the work in getting this going. I'm in full support of the projects outlined on the site. Especially the ones related to some of the "arbitrarily" locked gates around the state. What are some good ways for us to get involved and help out?
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CBAlliance
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #29 on: 11/10/17, 11:24 AM »

Thank you for taking concrete steps on advocacy. It's a comparatively thankless job -- thank you.

I'm not certain that we need representatives to speak for us, but we absolutely need catalysts to get everyone to speak and advocate in a timely fashion as backcountry usage grows.

Looking around the CBA website, I don't see anything relating to the leadership, structure, bylaws, and financial statements. Transparency may be of critical importance when inspiring solitude-seeking skiers to coalesce as a group.

In particular, before donating to any such group, I absolutely need to know what that money might do, how decisions are made, and who is making those decisions. Such documentation needn't be complex, just clear and accurate.

Thank you again!



Charlie,

Thanks for the input. You raise some good points. Regarding someone speaking for you: I really want to emphasize that we are not trying to dictate an agenda or speak arbitrarily. We want to serve as a mouthpiece and a conduit. You tell us what to say, we try and pass that message on to other organizations. The key here is that we present a somewhat organized and united front on different issues. It is much easier to engage with government entities and advocate when we act as a legitimate group. That said, we also want to encourage people to provide their own direct input during e.g. public comment periods and other times when more voices are better. To this end, we hope to keep people informed about when they should speak up, and provide tools (contact info, etc.) to do so.

Regarding the website and transparency: we've built a "who we are" page which you can check out here. Both you and Andrew suggested this, and it wasn't our intention to be obscure- we're just small and new, and have day jobs. If you'd like to view our articles of incorporation, you can look at them here.

As far as our bylaws: as I said to Andrew, I don't want to publish them until I am certain they are correct- we have a draft but are still trying to ensure they are fully compliant with Washington State law. Believe me, I would love for this documentation to be clear and simple. It inherently isn't, due to the legal requirements of the document. We will not be asking anyone for money until this document is out. We also hope to finish electing an official board soon, but we want to make sure that we get a effective and representative mix of people to serve. Our budget is also a bit of a cart and horse problem right now- we don't know exactly what projects will cost because we are still talking to the Forest Service and other entities. Any project we solicit donations for will have a published budget estimate.

Anyways, it is all a bit of a slog, but we are striving hard for legitimacy, and advocacy isn't thankless: you just thanked us!

Conrad
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CBAlliance
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #30 on: 11/10/17, 11:36 AM »

It would be great if the CBA would also include backcountry snowshoeing. They face the exact same issues with access and parking, so interests should be pretty well aligned. The typical dont-destroy-my-skin-track problem is often more front country problem with novices and hopefully those minor issues with each others mode of transportation can be overcome in the alliance. The good thing is that the 'mission' page of CBA is neutral on the mode of travel, but in the announcement here you wrote "Western Washington is finally getting its own backcountry ski and snowboard advocacy group", so I'm concerned it will mostly be for skiiers. Might be nice to also ask for feedback in places like NWHikers where many avid snowshoers hang out.

Hi,

Our primary concern is the ski and snowboard community, simply because snowshoers are somewhat under the wing of the WTA and the Mountaineers. However, we do recognize that we all use much of the same  terrain, and generally the same trailhead. I think that the issues of conflict are much less than what we share together in the grand scheme of things, and we want to have room to advocate for our shared interests. We are still working out how representation of the snowshoe community will work, whether that be a board seat or simply some tweaking of our messaging and outreach efforts. I will post on NW Hikers as well.

As a comment above makes clear, areas of conflict definitely do exist, and we do want to work to resolve them. Some positive steps here will be looking for ways to mitigate front-country conflict, hopefully through emphasizing that everyone is basically out to have a good time in the snow. You aren't alone leaving the parking lot anymore, and if ten minutes of chewed up skintrack, or downhill skier dodging is required, we want to make sure friendship and politeness rules the day. That said, we also want to implement as much infrastructure as we can (e.g. marked or suggested travel routes) to help mitigate conflict. We have to get land managers on board with this before we go around sticking signs in the snow.

Thanks for speaking up for your mode of travel!
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CBAlliance
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #31 on: 11/10/17, 11:54 AM »

Thanks for all your work and time!  I think your group is correct to focus initially on USFS, where the chances for skier-friendly access improvements seem greatest.
   
I don't care much for the aroma, but I smell changes coming in our National Parks' winter operations from Zinke's latest scam.  I'd expect additional fees for plowing, parking, and other traditional basic services fairly soon.  It looks as though motorized recreation advocacy groups will dominate his process, so it could lead to snowmobile tours, winter RV & sled camprounds, who knows, maybe even renting buildings out and cat-skiing at Paradise (Edith Basin & Paradise River headwaters are gerrymandered out of the official Wilderness):

"Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is moving to form a Recreation Advisory Committee to develop suggestions not only on how "public-private partnerships" can improve access and infrastructure on public lands, but also on how to generate more user fees to support sustainable operations."

"We used to have a Bureau of Recreation – we're bringing recreation back," Secretary Zinke said. "So I've hired a former Navy SEAL captain to evaluate our public lands and look at the recreation opportunities, so the American public can enjoy our lands.
"


Thanks for your input. We hope the Forest Service will be responsive to our efforts. In general, the Forest Service has a bit more of utilitarian mandate, which means that speaking up can produce results. Both the Forest Service and the Park Service face the same problem, however, of being perpetually underfunded and under-resourced.

Currently, the Park Service is proposing a massive fee increase for many parks, including Mount Rainier. Single-vehicle entrance fees would be $70 under this proposal, although only during 5 peak travel months starting June 1st, 2018. You can read about the proposal on the NPS website here.

Generally, the CBA agrees with the following statement from the Winter Wildlands Alliance:

"The Park Service is proposing this fee increase, which is projected to generate $68 million, in order to address an $11 billion maintenance backlog. We accept that fees increases are appropriate or necessary in some limited circumstances but we cannot and should not address a multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlog on the backs of Park visitors. This fee increase strikes us as unreasonably high, particularly when proposed in conjunction with overall Department of Interior budget cuts to the tune of $1.5 billion, including a $380 million cut to the Park Service budget."

The public comment period is open until November 23rd. You can comment directly by going to this NPS planning site. If you join our mailing list (on our website, we will not spam you), we will send out an email reminder about this a few days before the comment period closes. We will keep an eye out for other proposed changes at MRNP.
« Last Edit: 11/10/17, 12:11 PM by CBAlliance » Logged
CBAlliance
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #32 on: 11/10/17, 12:11 PM »

Awesome! Thanks for all the work in getting this going. I'm in full support of the projects outlined on the site. Especially the ones related to some of the "arbitrarily" locked gates around the state. What are some good ways for us to get involved and help out?

Appreciate your support and encouragement. Do you have specific gates in mind? We have some ideas, but want to hear from folks. Beyond that, a big priority for us is building relationships. If you or other people have contacts with the DOT, Forest Service, ski areas, or any other entities, awesome. We want to reach out to them and ask what their concerns are with skier usage and traffic, and establish ways to advocate for what we want as well.
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Ldawson
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #33 on: 11/10/17, 04:29 PM »

Appreciate your support and encouragement. Do you have specific gates in mind? We have some ideas, but want to hear from folks. Beyond that, a big priority for us is building relationships. If you or other people have contacts with the DOT, Forest Service, ski areas, or any other entities, awesome. We want to reach out to them and ask what their concerns are with skier usage and traffic, and establish ways to advocate for what we want as well.

Sounds good! 

Here's a little list of gated areas that have frustrated me over the years. Many of these have already been mentioned. Of course some of those might have legitimate reasons for being locked, and many are probably outside the realm of immediate possibility. One can dream though, right?

Gates on Cascade River Road. I can't even count the number of times I've walked the last few miles on dry pavement. Also, plowing that road would be incredible.

Mowich Lake road: often gated until well after the snow is gone on the road. I've ridden my bike up there several times when it was gated, and there was no snow in sight.

410 gate and sunrise road

Skyline divide road

Twin lakes road: Not sure if this is the case anymore, but it when I lived in Bellingham a few years ago it often had a big snowbank plowed in front of the road entrance. The road would often be clear for several miles other than that. I asked the forest service and DOT about the snowbank, and if I remember correctly they said it was more of just a convenient place to put the snow. They said it was fine for me to go and shovel it out and drive over it, which I did a few times. Even if the snowbank isn't an issue anymore, getting some plowing up that road would be absolutely amazing.

It'd be great to get the paradise gate unlocked a few hours earlier in the morning, and maybe stay open later at night.

Twin sisters road (from the northern side). I know this is more of an issue with the logging company than a governmental agency. However, Having that road open would open up a pretty incredible area for skiing and other recreational opportunities.

It'd be cool to have the west side of HWY 20 gated higher up. Probably fairly unfeasible due to avalanche danger and other reasons. However, it'd be pretty rad to have snowmobile access to Washington Pass similar to what the east side has.

Colchuck lake road.
« Last Edit: 11/10/17, 04:36 PM by Ldawson » Logged

freeski
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #34 on: 11/12/17, 10:46 AM »

Andrew,

Thanks for the response. The CBA has no affiliations besides the Winter Wildlands Alliance, which is a national nonprofit group that has helped us organize and get our paperwork in order.

As far as the primary members: I currently work for International Mountain Guides. The past 4 winters you may have seen me at Pro Ski and Mountain Service in North Bend, where I worked in the shop. Some of our key members are also in the industry, and work for guide services such as Mountain Madness and Alpine Ascents, as well as Ascent Outdoors in Seattle. Others work at resorts, other retailers, and at gear companies.

To be very clear: we do not represent the interests of any of these institutions as the CBA. We are all avid recreational skiers who want to help address the needs of the recreational community. While obviously the industry benefits from more skiers and more backcountry users, the point is that we as recreationalists have a political voice- for-profit entities already have the means and resources to advocate for themselves.

I should have signed the first post, apologies.

Cheers,
Conrad Wharton
so an organization to promote commercial interests on public land disguised as a Backcountry skier Alliance.

No thanks.
« Last Edit: 11/12/17, 10:50 AM by freeski » Logged

"I'm not making love to anyones wishes, only for that light I see." Cat Stevens
alecapone
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #35 on: 11/15/17, 06:23 AM »

Excellent!

Thanks for the efforts to those involved. I would think that being a collective of various industry professionals only adds to the legitimacy. And possibly makes it easier to gain the ears of those that need to listen.

I predominantly ski Stevens pass area through out the winter. I've racked my brain over the years on what possibilities there where for access. Other then creating a few winter parking areas as mentioned, not much you could do with a plow truck.

The underutilized areas might be Martin Creek drainage, nason ridge(a mile long ridge that rarely sees tracks east of the first lump). The low elevation start at the west side train yard. Cascade meadows. I frequent all these places, and only see Chris and Radka.  And that snowshoer guy up there. Wink..

The minor issues seem to be parking, and the occasional legal snowmobile mixing in. overcrowding of slopes and areas doesn't seem  to be a problem. I could be wrong though.. I'm sure the more astute gentlemen of the pass can or already have weighed in.

Thanks again, best of luck, and I hope I'll somehow be able to collectively chip in and do my part.
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scott
CBAlliance
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #36 on: 11/15/17, 10:51 AM »

How so ?  Plenty of collisions and injuries happen every  weekend at Alpental and the other ski areas.  Also Washington state law explicitly makes the descending skier responsible for any collisions.

Huh?  The land is USFS public land.  If the resort were to try to exclude the public from using that route (which has been in use since before Alpental existed) they would need to get the forest service to agree to changes in their special use permit.

Hi,

Sorry for the delay in reply- I wanted to take the time to dig up some actual documentation on this. Access at ski areas is a big discussion flash point, and often generates confusion.

The scenario I was envisioning would be an uphill traveler skinning to Source lake, but within the ski area permit boundary and on a groomed exit track. In other words, a collision between a paying downhill skier and a nonpaying user. This would be a bad deal for us uphill folk, because it would create a crystal-clear public safety reason to limit access. Basically, ski resort on FS land, as dictated by their permit, have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for the public. You can read a blank version of their permit by clicking
 here. The relevant language is "The holder has the responsibility of inspecting the area authorized for use under this permit for evidence of hazardous conditions which could affect the improvements or pose a risk of injury to individuals." Secondary to this, the resort is required to create an operating plan which takes safety into account, carry an insurance policy which may further dictate their operations, etc. So they have a safety mandate dictated to them.


The resorts also have a set of rights which are available to them, which are laid out in the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act (SAROEA). This act was updated in 2014, and the update includes some information on access to ski areas by the non-paying public. I have uploaded it to our google drive, and you can read the entire document by clicking here. The relevant section is on page 20.

Basically, resorts have the right to charge for their facilities, including plowed parking lots. They also have the right to limit access for public safety reasons. However, they cannot fully restrict access by charging an "entrance fee", and they cannot "charge for the use of National Forest System lands in which they have made limited or no investments.  Holders may not charge for use of non-motorized or motorized trails that are constructed and maintained by the Forest Service." Additionally, "Authorized Officers should strive to ensure that, to the extent possible based on public safety considerations, some portions of the permit area remain open to the public without charge, so that the holder’s charges do not constitute de facto entrance fees."

Basically, the resort has a general directive to allow access by the public, but the right and in fact the responsibility to limit access in specific cases where there is a threat to public safety. In the case of the Alpental valley, there is some ambiguity. It would seem that the resort couldn't limit access to the summer trailhead for Source Lake, as it is a FS facility. On the other hand, they could easily be able to justify limiting access to Lot 4 on the basis of e.g. unsafe parking lot conditions, or on uphill travelers using their groomed trail out of the lot. It is my understanding that a similar situation exists at Baker, where the resort could technically not charge everyone for parking (as was apparently threatened), but could charge or limit access to some specific areas. This is also why Crystal now makes some provisions for uphill travel, but Silver Basin is permanently closed.

The ambiguity of the language in these documents is what leads to a lot of confusion in these discussions. However, the point I'd like to convey most clearly is that we as a community will get a lot farther by working with resorts to achieve their public safety goals. Yes, in general, we can't be barred or required to pay a private entity for access to the backcountry. However, in almost any specific case, we have a lot to lose. Acting in good faith and being understanding of the position of the resort is imperative to avoiding situations like what happened at Crystal.
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CBAlliance
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Re: Introducing Cascade Backcountry Alliance
« Reply #37 on: 11/15/17, 11:22 AM »

Sounds good! 

Here's a little list of gated areas that have frustrated me over the years. Many of these have already been mentioned. Of course some of those might have legitimate reasons for being locked, and many are probably outside the realm of immediate possibility. One can dream though, right?

Gates on Cascade River Road. I can't even count the number of times I've walked the last few miles on dry pavement. Also, plowing that road would be incredible.

Mowich Lake road: often gated until well after the snow is gone on the road. I've ridden my bike up there several times when it was gated, and there was no snow in sight.

410 gate and sunrise road

Skyline divide road

Twin lakes road: Not sure if this is the case anymore, but it when I lived in Bellingham a few years ago it often had a big snowbank plowed in front of the road entrance. The road would often be clear for several miles other than that. I asked the forest service and DOT about the snowbank, and if I remember correctly they said it was more of just a convenient place to put the snow. They said it was fine for me to go and shovel it out and drive over it, which I did a few times. Even if the snowbank isn't an issue anymore, getting some plowing up that road would be absolutely amazing.

It'd be great to get the paradise gate unlocked a few hours earlier in the morning, and maybe stay open later at night.

Twin sisters road (from the northern side). I know this is more of an issue with the logging company than a governmental agency. However, Having that road open would open up a pretty incredible area for skiing and other recreational opportunities.

It'd be cool to have the west side of HWY 20 gated higher up. Probably fairly unfeasible due to avalanche danger and other reasons. However, it'd be pretty rad to have snowmobile access to Washington Pass similar to what the east side has.

Colchuck lake road.


Louis,

Thanks for laying out a sweet "wish list." Many of these areas are on our radar already.

From north to south:

Twin lakes and Skyline divide road are our main priorities on the 542 corridor. The local sled groups feel similarly, and we are trying hard to get the attention and engagement of the FS and hopefully the DOT. If you're interested in supporting this project, send an email to Erin Uloth, the District Ranger for the area, at euloth@fs.fed.us. I'd welcome any users here reaching out to her and letting her know that you use these areas and access there is important to you. I would say that these roads are probably the most likely places for us to change the status quo, maybe in the entire state.

Twin sisters road I will look into a bit more, I am familiar with the area but we hadn't put it on our list yet.

West Side highway 20 is unfeasible to due to avalanche hazard- it has actually been moved further west in some years due to avalanche and rockslide hazard.

Cascade River road: We (the various CBA founders) have also spent much time walking on this dry road. Basically, the park doesn't have the resources to even closely monitor it, much less plow it, so it is often arbitrarily closed. This is extremely frustrating, and we are hopeful we can make some headway on this road in particular because of the incredible nature of the terrain up there. It is an underutilized resource for sure. Odds are this will be a long, uphill battle involving high-level funding problems, which is depressing.

Colchuck lake rd: I walked this entire road, dry, the day before it opened last spring. Brutal timing. We met a FS crew that had driven up there and talked to them about the road a bit. Apparently opening that road is bureaucratically very dense- I think local law enforcement is involved, many papers have to get signed, etc. We are planning to weed into that thicket a bit more next spring, as I think winter plowing of this road is threatened by avalanches and a huge long shot. Expediting the opening, or moving up the gate to temporary higher spots as the snow melts, would be more of a priority here.

MRNP roads: Again, lack of funding and resources at a high level. Right now, we really are hopeful to just get some better information out there about the state of these roads. It is often unclear which gates are locked and which are not. hopefully more to come on this soon.

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