Backcountry skiers ready for annual forum

Photo courtesy Brian Mohr/EmberPhoto

ROCHESTER, Vt. — On Nov. 5, the Pierce Hall Community Center in Rochester, Vt, opens its doors for the annual Vermont Backcountry Forum & Celebration. In its third year, the event is an opportunity for Vermont’s growing community of backcountry skiers and riders to connect, learn about backcountry projects and programs around the state, and celebrate the coming winter season.

“After laying a solid organizational foundation over the last couple of years, Vermont’s backcountry community is now moving ahead with some very exciting projects,” says Brian Mohr, a volunteer co-founder of the VTBC. “Be it RASTA’s developing backcountry zones, the revival of old ski areas like Hogback and Ascutney for human-powered skiing and riding, or the emergence of more winter-friendly backcountry huts in Vermont, there’s some great energy stirring.”

The forum is free and open to the public and is presented by the Catamount Trail Association (CTA),  it’s Vermont Backcountry Alliance (VTBC) program, the Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance (RASTA), Voile and Outdoor Research. It will feature a community potluck, live music by Josh Panda, a fundraising raffle of outdoor gear, and a presentation entitled, “The Future of Backcountry Huts in Vermont.” Doors open at 6 p.m. with the potluck, a social hour, cash bar and raffle ticket sales kicking things off. Proceeds from the event will directly support backcountry projects and programs in Vermont that are guided by the CTA/VTBC and RASTA.

This past summer, RASTA, with the support of the CTA/VTBC, raised over $9,000 through an online fundraising campaign to support trailhead and parking improvements, and glading work in RASTA’s Braintree Mountain Forest backcountry zone (a glading work weekend is scheduled for Oct. 24-25). Over the summer, the organizations also secured a $12,000 RTP grant to support glading work in the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) near Brandon Gap. In early October, RASTA and the backcountry community received conditional approval from the GMNF for a proposed network of backcountry glades near Brandon Gap – the first project of its kind on national forest land.

“It’s really promising to see Vermont’s land managers embracing the evolution of backcountry skiing and riding, and to see our community coming together around these projects,” says Angus McCusker, volunteer co-founder of RASTA and the VTBC. “Any support or volunteer time people can contribute is greatly appreciated.”

CTA/VTBC is also working closely with the Vt. Dept. of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) to help update land management strategies to better accommodate backcountry skiing and snowboarding on Vermont state lands, including Willoughby, Camel’s Hump and Mt. Mansfield State Forests. This coming season, the groups will also be ramping up the promotion of the Vermont Backcountry Ethics, guidelines that were co-developed by the CTA/VTBC, FPR, GMNF and several conservation partners.

Evan Johnson

Evan Johnson is the staff writer for Vermont Sports Magazine. The native Vermonter enjoys steep and deep skiing and wandering all over the state by Subaru. Find him on Twitter at @evanisathome.