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Backcountry Skiers And Riders Plan For Future Growth

Ember Photography
Backcountry skiers head into the woods.

Backcountry ski enthusiasts will meet in Rochester tonight to brainstorm how to better organize the state’s growing backcountry community, expand trail options and work on rules of the trail.

The number of skiers and riders seeking untouched pockets of powder and steeps between the trees has grown tremendously. Members of the Vermont Backcountry Alliance - which is now part of The Catamount Trail Association - believe they need to be more proactive in expanding areas where they can ski and ride - while at the same time ensuring they’re respectful of property lines and the wilderness.

Alliance member Brian Mohr says those are some of the topics they’ll address at tonight’s meeting. “The terrain end of things is a big focus of the Backcountry Alliance and its partners,” says Mohr. “So we’re working toward establishing guidelines with the different land owners like the state of Vermont and the departments that manage land, especially Forests Parks and Rec.”

He says they’re also working with individual towns that want to open their municipal land to backcountry enthusiasts - much as they have to snowmobilers. “Communities like Rochester which are not necessarily thriving economically are really interested in providing more reasons to come to Rochester and they’re making reasons out of growing mountain bike trail networks, hiking and trail running opportunities and now backcountry ski options.”

The Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance has been working with the Green Mountain National Forest to develop and maintain a handful of new backcountry zones on national forest land. The proposal is currently moving through the approval process and Mohr believes other communities will follow suit.

Amy Kelsey, Head of the Catamount Trail Association, says a recent survey of backcountry skiers found that while many believe the sport could be an economic engine for the state,“They’re a little bit concerned at losing their favorite place in the backyard and I think that what that requires is a lot of really strong education and outreach and some parameters around what is allowed and what is not.”

She says tonight’s meeting will be a good place to begin working out those parameters.

The Second Annual Vermont Backcountry Forum will begin tonight at 6 at the Pierce Hall Community Center in Rochester.

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