Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Forest Service mandate - this land is your land

This week the Forest Service reiterated their stance on skiing beyond the boundaries of ski resorts that are operating on Forest Service lands when spokesman Matt Mathes said,
"Our guiding principal is that national forests are public lands and we should not restrict access to the public's lands. If someone wants to leave the ski area boundary and ski into the backcountry, that's their prerogative as a citizen."
In the past couple of years this issue has surfaced, often inciting heated discussion between ski area operators, the skiers who want to go beyond the boundaries and the search and rescue crews who are often called upon to rescue lost and buried skiers. Such was the case last year when a large avalanche just outside the boundary of The Canyons killed one man and became national headline news.

The reiteration of the Forest Service stance comes upon the heels of three separate rescues near Lake Tahoe just outside the ski area boundaries of Heavenly Ski Resort.

The bigger issue at hand (which US skiers and ski areas need to come to terms with - perhaps following the lead our European friends) was summed up by what Search and Rescue Deputy Mike Sukua said:
"The bigger issue is: are you prepared to go in the backcountry, whether it's legal or not. People should get out there when they are ready, not just because they can."
Well put indeed.

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