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Do backcountry skiers object to snowmobilers in ski terrain? #5533
Back To Discussion List Written: 2020.01.09 by: Jeff Corbett

Local snowmobilers are advancing the argument that backcountry skiers and snowmobilers can share the same terrain without conflict. Essentially they are saying snowmobiles do not degrade the quality of the backcountry skiing for skiers, backcountry skiers do not object to snowmobiles using the same terrain that backcountry skiers use, and backcountry skiers do not need terrain that is free from snowmobiles.

So I am soliciting comments from backcountry skiers on the attitudes of backcountry skiers.

1) Do backcountry skiers object to skiing the same terrain used by snowmobilers? Or, do backcountry skiers object to snowmobilers shredding their ski terrain? I'm not talking using a snowmobile to access ski terrain. I'm talking about snowmobilers on the terrain that backcountry skiers are descending.

2) Does snowmobiling degrade the quality of the ski experience for backcountry skiers? If so, what is it about snowmobiles in ski terrain that bothers you? 

3) Is it desirable for backcountry skiers have terrain that is free from snowmobiles?

Please make comments expressing your how you feel about the above questions.


#6644 - 2020.01.30 Paul Kubik - Sledder skiers want terrain preserved from snowmobiles
Some sledders are also backcountry skiers. They object when the ski slopes they want to ski are shredded by other sledders. Stupid question. Obviously, the sledders asking it are pulling your chain.

#6639 - 2020.01.14 Jeff Corbett
No, these are not rhetorical questions. But I agree, the answers are so obvious that these questions should not have to be answered. But the reality is that these questions do need to be answered. Last year, while advocating for backcountry ski terrain that is free from snowmobiles, I was caught off guard when the snowmobilers advanced the argument that skiers don't mind snowmobiles in ski terrain and claimed there are no problems or conflicts when both groups share the same terrain. Therefore, the snowmobilers conclude that there is no reason to restrict snowmobiles from any terrain - snowmobiles should be allowed to go anywhere and everywhere they want to go. So answers to these questions are necessary to demonstrate that: 1) backcountry skiers do indeed have a problem skiing alongside snowmobiles, 2) skiers do indeed very much desire to have terrain that is free from motorized users, and 3) to give the reasons why skiers object to snowmobiles in their terrain. Thanks to those who have posted comments. And no, I am not talking about skiing in a recognized snowmobile area, and then complaining about the snowmobiles. That would not be fair to snowmobilers. I'm talking about snowmobilers taking over more and more of our traditional backcountry ski areas, and skiers being pushed further and further back into ever more inaccessible places. This can't go on like this forever - skiers have a right to suitable ski terrain in the same way that snowmobilers claim the right to suitable snowmobile terrain. I support snowmobilers having access to suitable terrain for their recreation. But this is a two-way street - backcountry skiers have the same right to quality ski terrain. So please continue to post. Within traditional backcountry ski terrain, are snowmobiles compatible with backcountry skiing? and if not, why not? 

#6637 - 2020.01.12 Dean Richards - Noise is the killer
I don't really have experience ski touring around snowmobiles per se, though I'm sure that'll change. But I can say that hearing any motorized activity, even if it's a helicopter, considerably degrades the experience for me. It's like hearing a chainsaw when hiking, it largely defeats the purpose of the activity, which for me, is to escape an overdeveloped civilization in a way that I can at least pretend what it would be like if the peace and quiet in the backcountry extended everywhere. Same reason I don't want to see cutblocks or tourists when I hike. So noise is the main concern for me, given my own experiences. It's distracting in the extreme.

#6635 - 2020.01.11 George Hill
1) You ask two questions. My answers are No and Yes.

1a) If I a skier deliberately travelling into an area traditionally used by snowmobiles and designated fairly for snowmobile use, then no because it is my decision to enter that terrain. Generally however, for reasons listed in #2 and because of the far distance required to get there by self-propelled methods, it is not often that many skiers will put themselves in this situation. One instance where they might would be the Pemberton Ice Cap. It's not traversed super often on skis but it is regularly accessed terrain for snowmobiles.

1b) Yes. See my response to question 3.

2) Yes. As mentioned by others, avalanche risks are assessed dramatically differently between snowmobiles and skiers and it is not safe in near any skiable circumstance to be near a snowmobile. An unsafe backcountry experience is an unenjoyable one. Second to that is noise. It reverberates throughout the valleys. Part of the enjoyment of ski touring is being out in the wilderness and the quiet which accompanies it.

3) Yes. Good self propelled ski terrain is still generally difficult and time consuming to reach. It does not seem fair that snowmobiles get to have access to this terrain when there is far more terrain just as suitable for skiing that is not easily accessible by self-propelled means. This is particularly evident at Brew Hut, a beginner friendly and historically self-propelled area that routinely gets destroyed by snowmobiles. Imagine if you snowmobiled 8-10 hours only to find at your destination every single beginner slope already trashed thoroughly by snowmobile tracks.

So to change your original post:

Snowmobilers can share their terrain with backcountry skiers without conflict, however the reverse is not true. If backcountry users must share their terrain with snowmobiles there will very likely if not always be conflict. Snowmobiles DO degrade the quality of the backcountry skiing for skiers, and backcountry skiers DO object to snowmobiles using terrain that is easily/traditionally accessible to self-propelled backcountry skiers. Backcountry skiers DO need terrain that is free from snowmobiles.

#6632 - 2020.01.10 Steve Grant - Are these rhetorical questions?
I am as anxious to share terrain with snowmobilers as I am to have a bbq in the centre of a busy intersection.

#6631 - 2020.01.10 Scott Nelson
1. Yes I do object. If backcountry skiers didn't object we would still see lots of backcountry skiers at Brandywine

2. Snowmobilers degrade the quality of the backcountry skiing experience with a) deep tracks that persists long afterwards and throw lighter skiers off balance. Snowmobile tracks are much worse, and take more snowfall to fill in than ski tracks b) noise of snowmobiles c) stench of snowmobile exhaust d) safety. Snowmobilers and backcountry skiers manage avalanche hazards differently and it is not safe to mix in avalanche terrain. I have been ambushed by snowmobiles several times in avalanche terrain in ways that I felt was unsafe.

3. I won't go backcountry skiing if an area is heavily used by snowmobiles. Do you see many backcountry skiers at Brandywine anymore other than very early and very late season when the snowmobiles are gone? Snowmobile free areas are essential. This is why the sea to sky LRMP has established non-motorized zones.