Online Guidebook: Where Did It Go?

Where’s the Guidebook? Good question. After the Wolf Creek imbroglio , I decided that I didn’t want to be in the business of writing skiing guidebooks. My hide is not thick enough to ward off so much hate.


Even though I think all guidebook writers tend to get a lot of shit from the locals (eg, rock climbers, mountain bikers, or hikers), skiers are probably the most possessive. And for good reason: powder snow is a very limited and fragile commodity. Once a guidebook is published for your secret powder stash, things quickly change. In the secret glades you could hit days after a storm and find fresh tracks, now you have to be there at dawn on the day of a storm to get fresh tracks. And, to make matters worse, the new comers might give you shit when you show up because you are invading their stash! It’s funny how quickly people become possessive of an area.

But the problem is now much bigger than a new guidebook. The problem is that more and more people are using the backcountry. You can’t blame them. With the great equipment, and the countless videos showing people skiing untracked snow, it would be hard to resist. You just can’t get that kind of skiing at a resort. But there are also a LOT more people, period. The same thing that happened to the surfers in the 60s and 70s is happening to backcountry skiing now.

On a more positive note, the more people who enjoy the backcountry on their own two feet, the more people there will be to lobby for machine-free areas to ski.

While backcountry skiers have increased dramatically since the 80s, so too have Hybrid skiers. Hybrid skiers are basically resort skiers who want backcountry conditions and use snowmobiles to access the terrain. Some hybrids respect traditional backcountry ski areas and go deeper into the backcountry to find good snow. As a result, you won’t have to compete with them for your local powder stash. However, not all hybrids respect traditional backcountry areas and there have been numerous conficts at traditional backcountry ski areas like Red Mountain Pass and Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado, and even Teton Pass in Wyoming.

I recognize that hybrids have rights to access the backcountry too. However, the majority of all backcountry ski terrain is  inaccessable to a healthy, backcountry skier: they are too remote to access in a one day outing. For these inaccessible areas, hybrids should be granted access. However, hybrids should not be allowed to access roadside attractions such as Teton Pass, Wy, Wolf Creek Pass, CO, Red Mountain Pass CO, or any other popular backcountry ski areas within the one-day range of a backcountry skier.

So, if you have your dander up about too many skiers, maybe divert some of that guidebook-writer-hate-mail energy to try to restrict hybrid use from traditional, roadside backcountry ski areas used by non-morotized skiers, snowshoers, snow boarders, or hikers.

If you are a Colorado skier, you can join Backcountry Snow Sports Alliance to try to save your area from motorized use.

The Backcountry Snowsports Alliance represents winter backcountry recreationists by advocating the creation, preservation, and management of non-motorized areas on public lands. We work to preserve backcountry areas for quiet human-powered use, promote winter backcountry safety and ethics, and cooperatively resolve conflicts among backcountry users.

If you are not a Colorado skier, find or create a similar organization in your state. Although you probably can’t stop the influx of skiers to the backcountry, you can help to preserve it.

Enjoy the skiing. If you can’t find a guidebook for an area you’d like to explore, try asking someone on the trail. I find that most of skiers I meet on the trail are friendly and willing to discuss places to ski. They might not tell you about their secret powder stash, and you can’t blame them. But if you ski enough and are willing to explore, you’ll probably stumble on it anyway.

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