Introducing the CBA
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
The human powered winter backcountry recreation community is a growing scene in the Pacific Northwest: skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers are getting out to enjoy our wonderful mountains capped in a snowy coat with increasing numbers. With new touring focused ski shops popping up, organizations offering education and guided opportunities, and a thriving avalanche forecast center, it could appear like the community is thriving. And in many ways, it is. But as of Fall 2022, there is still no unified voice to represent the needs of this user group. We want to change that.
The preservation of public lands for recreation is not an accident. Without intervention, capitalism would encourage extraction of value at the cost of public well being and land managers would not have the input to make well informed decisions to benefit the users of their land. The incredible natural resource that is the Issaquah Alps - a haven for bikers, hikers, and equestrians - is a result of 46 years of advocacy by the Issaquah Alps Trail Club, as well as trail maintenance by organizations like the Washington Trails Association and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. Many of our local climbing crags are made safe and accessible by a variety of institutions including the Access Fund and Washington Climber's Coalition. Preservation is not an accident; it is the direct result of advocacy by invested user groups working in conjunction with land managers and decision makers.
There are many looming threats to access for human powered winter backcountry recreation. Although we have seemingly limitless mountains, their ruggedness and steepness means that there are relatively few access points to a reliable snowpack and good backcountry terrain. Increasing parking and crowding at ski areas is forcing resorts to make hard decisions about preserving public access while also ensuring the ability of their customers to ski. Public agencies face budget shortages, forcing them to consider reducing plowing and access to certain spots. In the long term, climate change will raise the typical snow line, rendering some traditional access spots less desirable or even obsolete. Without collaboration and hard work, these threats will not resolve themselves.
Back in 2017, Conrad Wharton spearheaded the effort to bring representation to backcountry skiers and snowboarders, founding the Cascade Backcountry Alliance. Along with some spirited members, they made progress in the first three years, connecting with ski areas and land managers, and working to understand the systems through which action occurs on our public lands. They dissolved activity in 2020. Conrad has met with us and given us the go ahead to carry the torch of the CBA, while also giving us advice that he learned through the first attempt.
While the original iteration of the CBA was focused on skiers and snowboarders, we want to also represent backcountry snowshoers. The Seattle market is the biggest snowshoe market in North America. There are plenty of snowshoers exploring the winter backcountry. They have similar needs as backcountry skiers and snowboards - access to a reliable snowpack and engaging terrain. Including snowshoers increases both the inclusivity of our constituency and overall size of our cohort.
Admittedly, advocacy is a new challenge for us. That is why, to start, we are focusing on learning from others. We have consulted with Issaquah Alps Trail Club to learn about running an advocacy group. We have met with Central Cascades Winter Recreation Council to understand the process of getting new Sno Parks approved and implemented. We have met with leaders of the Northwest Avalanche Center to learn about the history of avalanche forecasting in this region and how they have managed to work with land managers. We realize that it takes many years to make inroads, develop relationships, and see meaningful change. This is why we are going to start with smaller, more achievable goals.
Are you interested in helping out? If so, please reach out to us in our contact form. We are especially looking for invested individuals with legal or communication background.
Going forward, we will use this blog to share updates about our progress. Subscribe for updates as we go through our first season. And thank you so much for following along!