December 2023 Update

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Whew! What a storm to give a big kickstart to our season!  While the conditions are a little challenging, it’s great to get a base, and since it’s happening, we thought we would get going with a few early season updates. We have been busy meeting with UDOT, the Forest Service, Interstate Parking, and Cardiff Fork stakeholders, hosting events, beginning to install trailhead counters, planning for the Backcountry Shuttle, re-doing our website, and launching our membership program. Lots to update you on, so buckle up and visit the links to our website to learn more.


PARKING

You may have heard that some changes to roadside and early morning parking in Big Cottonwood Canyon began the first of this month. Read our latest blog on parking updates in BCC to learn about those changes and how they will impact backcountry users: Parking Changes in BCC

BACKCOUNTRY SHUTTLE 

Back for yet another season is the WBA Backcountry Shuttle with service to LCC and BCC. It will run every Saturday and you must reserve your spot ahead of time. Service will start on 12/9 for BCC and 12/23 for LCC. To kick off the season, the BCC Shuttle will be FREE this weekend only. It will cost $5 to ride as a WBA Member, and $10 for non-members. Learn more and book a seat

CARDIFF FORK

As backcountry access currently stands, there are no changes from last season: accessing Cardiff from the bottom involves crossing a few swaths of private land. And the choice by landowners to not renew their Special Use Permit last year means that they are not allowed motorized access up the drainage, nor are they compelled to allow public access.  This past September, WBA volunteered to help the Forest Service conduct an updated GIS survey of the public land in the drainage. Unfortunately, the usable survey data will likely not be available for a year at best. In the meantime, we are still working with various entities to find ways to deal with  this tricky issue. For more details read our latest blog: Cardiff Update 2023/24 

TRAIL COUNTING

We have started installing our Trail Counters throughout popular trailheads. This program provides the first-ever long-term record of human-powered winter recreational use in the Central Wasatch which is invaluable when talking to decision makers. Learn more about our Trail Counting Program.

FOREST SERVICE MEETINGS

Recently, we met with the new temporary acting Ranger for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest while the current ranger is on assignment in the Bridger-Tetons. We brought up the idea of strategic glading to help with wildfire mitigation and improving backcountry runs. While this is very much in the idea phase, we are excited at the possibility of following in Granite Backcountry Alliance footsteps. Winter Wildlands Alliance just published a great podcast on this very topic. Give it a listen!

As you might be aware, the Forest Service was unable to issue guiding permits to all but three outfitters, who are grandfathered into their permits. While there are rumors circulating that this was a malicious act to unfairly benefit certain groups, we confirmed that it truly is due to the bandwidth of their short-staffed team. 

It’s worth noting that the permit is technically a “lottery” despite numerous guides relying on this for their winter income. The Forest Service is planning on resuming the lottery in time for the summer season, but likely will not change for the winter. Speaking of staffing issues, we are sharing Forest Service job postings in hopes that they find a good fit: 

Forestry Aid/Forestry Technician https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/755177700 

Forestry Technician https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/755177600

WBA MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM

In exciting news, we recently launched the WBA Membership Program! With so many faces in the Wasatch backcountry, our goal is to build a stronger force to help protect the places we love to recreate. For only $35 a year, your membership will fund current and future projects, while connecting you with fellow community members through social gatherings and education. Learn more and sign up here.

Did you know that WBA has been volunteer-run for the past decade? We are excited to announce that we have hired our first part-time director! Learn more about our history and our team by visiting our updated website. If you wish to support our projects and missions, consider becoming a member, or donating to WBA. We truly are thankful for our community and support. 

This fall, we hosted our 10th Anniversary Powder Party at Fisher Brewing Co to celebrate a decade of advocacy and human-powered winter recreation in the Central Wasatch! Thanks to Fisher for providing a beautiful event space and The Pickpockets Bluegrass for helping throw a fun party! We have some fun upcoming events, including our annual Backcountry Film Festival at Brewvies. 

Remember to check resort uphill policies and practice safe and respectful touring within resort boundaries. Having a respectful community goes a long way when we are negotiating with resorts and other stakeholders. Visit Ski Kind by Winter Wildlands Alliance to brush up on skin track etiquette and visit Utah Avalanche Center to brush up on your safety skills.

Keep your eyes out for another big email update on the LCC gondola decision by UDOT.  

Thanks for making it to the bottom of this update and for your continued support of Wasatch Backcountry Alliance! We hope you are enjoying the start of the season and avoiding sharks!


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