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March/Covid Update

Photo by Ron Winsett Images

Howdy Wasatch Backcountry Enthusiasts!

As another series of storms delivering good powder has exited our beloved mountains and the season snowpack total has just gone over 500”, the harsh reality of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hang over our nation and community, and will for some time. These are unusual times – resorts closed, travel severely curtailed, friends and family out of work, loved ones caught in worrisome hotspots, and the virus continues to infect and kill people; even young, healthy, and strong athletes. Governor Herbert, SLC Mayor Mendenhall, Salt Lake County, and Summit County have recently issued their own version of ‘Stay-At-Home’ directives in an effort to limit the spread of infection by human contact.

These directives continue to align with previous communication provided by Wasatch Backcountry Alliance on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Specifically, essential travel includes being able to participate in outdoor activities within the community, as long as social distancing parameters are maintained. As the pandemic evolves, and if users are not compliant, this could certainly change.

At this point the National Forest lands are still open, and outdoor exercise on those lands is still permitted. That said, in order to keep it that way, it’s important for all of us to abide by some simple guidelines, some of which you’ve no doubt already heard many times lately.

The Wasatch Backcountry Alliance created a simple-to-follow list to summarize actions the backcountry community should embrace to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when we are out recreating. In doing so, we help our community, neighbors, and ourselves stay as healthy as possible.

  • Practice social distancing of 6 feet or more between non-household individuals and groups at trailheads, in the skin track/trail (at least a full ski length beyond tip-to-tail on the skin track, and let other folks by if there’s a pace differential), at transitions, and on summits.
  • Keep group sizes small – even though the Governor has said to keep group sizes under 10 people, we think that the smaller the group, the better.
  • Go to less traveled places – this includes trailheads, parking lots, and terrain selection.
  • Don’t carpool with non-household individuals. We realize that this is counter to our transportation woes, but it is a temporary change. Avoid hitchhiking, and don’t make unnecessary stops along your drive.
  • Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer liberally.
  • Make conservative route finding and terrain decisions. Minimize the risk of getting injured or having an accident. There have been a lot of human-triggered avalanches in the last week, and while your decision making should always be about your own/your partners’ personal safety regardless of a global pandemic, any injury/accident in this new environment puts you, rescuers, and healthcare providers at greater risk of virus transmission.
  • Respect closures of ski resort terrain and parking lots.
  • Avoid travel outside your community/county as well as guest visitation.
  • If you are sick at all, stay home.
  • Remember this is not necessarily about changing behavior to avoid infection; rather, assume you are infected and change your behavior to avoid spreading the virus.

The Wasatch Backcountry Alliance will continue to stay abreast of the issues that affect our backcountry community. We will continue to work on and inform you when important events occur, and if actions are necessary. At the moment, however, many of the traditional hot topics have taken a back seat to the challenging circumstances involved COVID-19.

As you know, this situation is very dynamic. Local and state leadership are making near-daily decisions – and we don’t want to add to your COVID-19-filled inbox – so we encourage you to continue to check with official sources for the most up-to-date information.

We are so fortunate to live in this amazing mountain community. If we work together, we can get through this together.

Lastly, thanks very much to all those who participated in our survey earlier this month. We are working on sorting the results now, and this will help us understand your perspective better so that we can accurately advocate on your behalf.

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