Riding the movement alliance clears way for backcountry skiing local news conwaydailysun.com

Ray, 40, of Kearsarge is a real estate and business attorney for Cooper Cargill Chant P.A. of North Conway. Drummond, 36, of Madison, is an elite athlete who runs Ski the Whites, a back country rental skiing outfit enjoying great popularity at Black Mountain in Jackson — appropriately enough, the same area where J. Arthur Doucette ran his ski school.

Wild Corn Shindig will feature a variety of events and activities, including featured speaker Brody Leven, a professional skier; music from the Maine-based and nationally acclaimed Pete Kilpatrick Band; skimo race hosted by Ski the Whites; an all-day backcountry gear demo with 10 splitboard and ski companie; and a beacon transceiver game park presented by Mammut.

Additionally, more than 40 local, regional and national vendors (including Ragged Mountain Equipment, Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, HubNorth, DPS Skis, Appalachian Mountain Club, and Liberty Skis) will be situated in and around the Lostbo Pub.

It also held three trail weekends over the summer, working on the Randolph Glade, rerouting the Doublehead Trail in Jackson (a trail, ironically enough, which was once worked on by Doucette in the 1930s as a town-funded project), and on the Sherburne Trail, the populr ski run leading from Tuckerman Ravine to Pinkham Notch. They worked on the latter project with the Friends of Tuckerman Ravine and the U.S. Forest Service. A work weekend is planned June 23 on the "Sherbie" with the USFS, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Created in 2016, and now featuring more than 200 members and overseen by a 12-member diverse board of backcountry enthusiasts, Granite Backcountry Alliance’s goal is to increase the amount of gladed terrain on non-lift-serviced national forest and state park land as well as municipally- and privately-owned land in New Hampshire and western Maine in a responsible, resource-sensitive way, working with such groups as the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust

They note that New Hampshire and western Maine are blessed with a rich ski history that includes a deep heritage of backcountry skiing from Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine to the many ski trails developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s (some of which, like the Sherburne Trail, still remain today).

Based on a similar group in Vermont, RASTA (Rochester Area Sports Trail Alliance), Granite Backcountry Alliance’s platform includes terrain management and stewardship, partnerships and collaboration, community and education, safety and advocacy.

As Ray and Drummond noted in an interview at Ray’s Kearsarge home Tuesday, that effort took two big steps this week: Ray and Drummond announced that two glade-clearing projects have been approved by the White Mountain National Forest’s Saco District.

“This is a historic approval and first of its kind in the Whites,” said Ray. “They’ve allowed for the cutting of trails, but never glades. So, it’s like skiing has gone back full circle to like it was when the CCC first built trails in the 1930s.”

The Decision Memo, issued on March 30 and executed by Jim Innes, district ranger of the WMNF’s Saco District, addresses the substantial rise in public demand for tree (or glade) skiing and to protect forest resources from unauthorized tree cutting.

The document stated: “The purpose of the backcountry ski trail project is to provide high quality experiences in backcountry ski areas, while protecting wildlife habitat and other resources. In addition, the WMNF will work collaboratively with GBA to promote partnerships and stewardship of public lands.”

“We commend the WMNF for recognizing the surge in skier demand for backcountry terrain and look forward to working with the National Forest on these projects and others in the future. (This) decision marks a new-normal in how public lands are managed for glade skiing — through a thoughtful, transparent and candid partnership. This decision will provide a significant boost to our community of backcountry skiers.”

“We look at groups such as the Granite Backcountry Alliance as partners to help to manage the resource,” said Johnston, a former snow ranger in Tuckerman Ravine, where he has seen the use of backcountry skiing increase from only in spring at the start of his career to throughout the winter.

“We are kind of looking at this as a good opportunity to engage user groups, to try something new learning, determining if this is a good thing to consider less or more, and seeing whether there is availability of parking and how this group responds to unauthorized maintenance.”

In an era of pressurized demand for recreational resources, whether it be in Tuckerman Ravine all ski season or Diana’s Baths mainly in summer, Johnston said the USFS acknowledges it can’t do it all, and that’s where groups such as the New England Mountain Biking Association, Granite Backcountry Alliance, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine and other volunteer groups can help.

He said groups such as Friends of Tuckerman Ravine (which is presenting the 2018 Tuckerman Inferno Pentathlon April 14), Granite Backcountry Alliance, the Appalachian Mountain Club and NEMBA hold trail weekends which assist the USFS’s trail maintenance efforts.