The goal of Granite Backcountry Alliance is to promote the sport of backcountry skiing in New Hampshire and Western Maine to provide low-impact human-powered backcountry skiing opportunities to the public through the creation, improvement and maintenance of ski glades. To meet that objective, Granite BC will invest resources in land conservation and access, safety and education, and partnerships and collaboration.
Granite BC will be governed by a working Board of Directors and an Advisory Group of diverse industry professionals and service providers from across the State of New Hampshire and Western Maine. The group is established as a “hub and spoke” model in which Granite BC will be the “hub” (or parent) and local chapters will be “spokes”. Initially, Granite BC will operate in incubator mode prior to development of chapters. Once processes, formulations, and relationships are established will we consider chapters. Chapters may develop organically or upon fit of existing group. Granite BC will rely upon the experience of its advisory council. Granite BC Advisors are at the top of their game. Our advisors are deeply experienced in all things backcountry – whether in a profession, skill or role. We are fortunate to tap into their knowledge base to navigate the twists and turns associated with pursuing our mission and goals. We will also offer a Snow Ranger program to tap into our grassroots efforts at generating interest and understanding the local areas in which Granite BC does not have any contact.
Hub and Spoke Model
Granite BC as the hub will serve as the unified voice of backcountry skiers and advocate for the expansion, development and maintenance of glade skiing across New Hampshire and Western Maine. The organization (and/or its chapters) will identify key areas for glade skiing as well as aid and support local efforts led by various chapters for terrain creation / improvement. The group and/or chapters will collaborate with public and private landowners to create a fluid stewardship plan consistent with the objectives of the parties involved. Granite BC and the relevant chapter will either jointly contract with landowners for development and maintenance of ski glades or in the absence of a local chapter do so independently. In either case, Granite BC and/or its chapters will also be responsible for continued maintenance and trail improvement as the need requires.
The local chapters will support and foster localized development of backcountry skiing opportunities consistent with the framework established by Granite BC. Each chapter will have independent leadership and manage day-to-day operations related to its glade projects, recreation or social events, or fundraising activities. Chapters will agree to comply with certain standards and requirements of Granite BC as far as leadership and accounting matters and Granite BC will offer general insurance policy coverage for chapters and fiscal agent services. Fee-based membership chapters will enter into a cost-sharing agreement with Granite BC whereas non-fee voluntary/informal chapters will enter into agreement only (without the burdens of cost). In addition, Granite BC will provide chapter services related to leading or assisting in fundraising efforts (including fiscal agent services), coordination of volunteers for trail-glading, and general administrative support.
For the remote areas in which Granite BC is not present, nor is a chapter under development, Granite BC offers a Snow Ranger program. The Snow Ranger role is the ambassador program of Granite BC. In distant areas of NH and western Maine, we are looking for correspondents to inform us of activities and snow conditions in remote local zones, whether it be formation of a chapter, representation at events, supplying ski/rider content, and general conditions reports. The Snow Rangers are experienced backcountry skiers and riders and love to spread the stoke of the GBA mission.
Funding will come in the form of donation, grant and/or crowd-funding, depending on the project, activity or event. Granite BC plans to host an annual Backcountry Film Festival each fall, recreational and social events in the winter and spring, and conclude the skiing season with its early April signature event “Wild Corn”, which will act as Granite BC’s “backcountry-apres” event catering to membership interests of GBA and neighboring backcountry ski alliance groups. Summer months will be for work weekends trail-glading together with general administrative preparation for the upcoming year.
Policy, Advocacy, and Education
Granite BC will advocate in regard to legislation, regulations and rules with public policy makers on new forestry management plans and other policies, similar to other recreational lobbying groups representing snowmobiling, alpine and nordic skiing, hiking and mountain biking. Granite BC will provide educational opportunities for ecological awareness, avalanche and general winter safety, including publishing a backcountry skiing ethics handbook and guidebook, and drive conservation efforts for partnerships with key landowners (USFS, state, private, land trusts, etc).
Education will also be an item on the Granite BC’s platform. We are affiliated with Winter Wildlands Alliance, a national non-profit organization focused on the human-powered backcountry experience. We will participate and present at events such as Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop (presentation with USFS, November 2016) and create events and awareness through social media, backcountry ethics handbook, trail signs and skier/rider responsibility user code. We will also partner with industry professionals to help promote safe winter travel, avalanche education, first responder training, mapping and cartography courses among other topics that come up from time to time.
The New Hampshire and Maine culture, traditionally, have been one of open land, with strong landowner liability laws that help property owners feel comfortable with open use. Granite BC seeks to capitalize on this tradition and provide safe and sustainable trails and backcountry ski glades for visitors and locals alike.
Granite BC is optimistic in that public and private land can be managed in a favorable way to incorporate backcountry skiing; however, the group is realistic in that such progress is and can be slow-moving and face a variety of hurdles to overcome. Certain existing and/or known challenges can be identified as follows:
- 2005 forest plan treats backcountry skiing as unmanaged use and does not specifically discuss backcountry skiing;
- Experienced backcountry skiers resistant to change and evolution of the “new normal” which we classify as disclosure, transparency, and permission;
- Development of trust and credibility with partner organizations such as the USFS;
- Determination of legal access to trails;
- Consideration of natural habitat (i.e. streams, soil, botanical, wildlife), aspect, elevation;
- Avoiding sensitive ecological areas that contain Bicknell’s Thrush, a bird habitat, in spruce fir areas (found at 2,500 elevation and above);
- Creation and/or determination of adequate parking (and consideration of the potential increase) as well as existing on-site bathrooms;
- Monitoring rogue trail cutting and minimizing such efforts through educational and team-building efforts; and
- Overcoming a negative image of backcountry skiing by the public at-large.
Nationwide Backcountry Skiing Trend
Although much of the backcountry skiing scene died with the advent of chairlifts and other modern luxuries and amenities, a resurgence nationwide – even globally – has created a significant increase in demand for backcountry skiing opportunities. The trend is spread from hard goods to hut trips to land conservation. New advocacy groups including the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, Tahoe Backcountry Alliance and the Montana Backcountry Alliance, as well as neighboring Vermont Backcountry Alliance (“VTBC”) and Adirondack Powder Skiing Association, all seek to create new opportunities for backcountry skiers. VTBC, for example, and its pilot chapter Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance (“RASTA”), have received approval from the Green Mountain National Forest for the glade development of “Brandon Gap” which is in development (the first of its kind in the USA). These groups derive support from the Winter Wildlands Alliance, a national non-profit, and ultimate parent, of the various alliances.
Increased demand, however, comes at a cost. Lost skiers, bootleg trails, damage to the environment, avalanche dangers. The need for education is real. The dangers of doing nothing have already impacted landowners, businesses, and communities. Granite BC will propose backcountry ethics handbook and principles, which can be posted at each skiing trailhead, educational sessions and offerings, skinning policy for resorts, and other measures to develop a sense of culture in the community (and prevent individuals unilaterally and without authorization removing or clipping vegetation on their own).
Without sufficient terrain, education and safety, backcountry skiing in New Hampshire and Western Maine will continue unregulated and pose a heightened risk to future advancements and/or partnerships for this growing segment of the sport. Granite BC will fill that gap and seeks to be the unified voice of the backcountry skier to open new terrain, promote a culture of respect and improve the image of backcountry skiing.