Arts, Dining & Entertainment

VT Backcountry Community builds momentum, plans 3rd annual forum

©Brian Mohr/EmberPhoto

There’s never a shortage of fresh powder in the backcountry!

Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. — ROCHESTER — On Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m., the doors will open at the Pierce Hall Community Center in Rochester for the 3rd Annual Vermont Backcountry Forum & Celebration, co-hosted by the Catamount Trail Association (CTA) and its Vermont Backcountry Alliance (VTBC) program, as well as the Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance (RASTA), a pilot chapter of the CTA. In its third year, the event is a fun 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, presented by partners Voile and Outdoor Research, is free and open to the public. 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, successfully raised over $9,000 through an online fundraising campaign to support trailhead/parking improvements and glading work in RASTA’s Braintree Mountain Forest backcountry zone. Over the summer, the organizations also secured a $12,000 Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant from the State of Vermont to support glading work in the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) near Brandon Gap. In early October, RASTA and the backcountry community also 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 recently co-developed by the CTA/VTBC, FPR, GMNF and several conservation partners.

“Increasingly, we view the Catamount Trail as the backbone, or gateway, to Vermont’s backcountry, rather than solely an end-to-end corridor,” says Amy Kelsey, the CTA’s executive director. “It’s a different scene now than when the CTA was founded in 1984. Although we’ve been happy to see modest increases in the number of people utilizing the main stem of Catamount Trail in recent years, there is no question backcountry skiers and riders are now more vertically-oriented than ever.”

For more info, visit catamounttrail.org, vtbc.org or rastavt.org.

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