Backcountry Forum Attracted Big Crowd, Lots of Interest

Communities / Nov. 13, 2014 10:53am EST

By Martha Slater

Members of the Rochester Area Sports Trail Alliance were thrilled with the success of the Backcountry Forum held Thursday evening, Nov. 6 at Pierce Hall on Main Street in Rochester.

RASTA member Dan McKinley noted that the forum, which was cosponsored by RASTA, the Vermont Backcountry Alliance, and the Catamount Trail Association, was attended by over 200 people from all over the state, as well as one person from the Adirondacks.

“The forum was a follow-up event to a smaller one held last year when RASTA was exploring how to work with the U.S. Forest Service and the state to find the best way to develop backcountry terrain for skiing and snowboarding,” McKinley said, “and out of that meeting last year, came the formation of the Vermont Backcountry Alliance.”

The VBA has been working on what their mission will be and developing what McKinley called a “backcountry ethic—the rules for how we interface with landowners, how we treat the environment when we’re skiing, and how we get access to the backcountry. The VBA wanted to have this forum to share its progress in those areas and what different groups and clubs are doing around the state.”

Among the speakers at last week’s forum was Dun Cochran of the Green Mt. National Forest, who presented results from a survey he conducted as part of his master’s thesis at Antioch College, showing a lot of interest in the state in backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

Angus McCusker and Zac Freeman reported on RASTA’s activities in the Braintree Mt. Forest, where areas of backcountry terrain are being created on land donated to the New England Forest Foundation by Paul Kendall and Sharon Rives. The couple received a standing ovation that evening in recognition of their donation.

McCusker and Freeman also spoke about a project RASTA is working on to do some additional backcountry terrain development in the Brandon Gap area of the Green Mt. National Forest; and a representative from Bolton Valley spoke about that ski area’s terrain development program.

Following the speakers, everyone was invited to visit four stations around the room to give feedback on issues such as how backcountry development could be an economic driver for the area, and share ideas on what the VBA could do to advocate for backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

The evening also included a large raffle of ski clothing and outdoor equipment donated by ski companies, clothing shops, etc.; a potluck dinner, and live music played by the Main Street Syndicate.

“Brian Mohr of the Vermont Backcountry Alliance did a wonderful job of organizing the forum, with help from RASTA and the Catamount Trail Association,” McKinley said. “We had a great turnout, with lots of good energy and ideas. It just shows how skiing and boarding in Vermont isn’t just about what happens at ski areas.”

For more information about RASTA, which meets once a month in Rochester, contact McKinley at mckind@comcast.net.

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