Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Backcountry Skiers Continue Push For Glades

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI overslept yesterday, so rather than cheat my employer out of a few hours of labor, I decided to take the day off and ski the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway.

It was my first ski of the season. November 12th isn’t my earliest start to the ski season, but I was feeling pretty good about it.

Not surprisingly, I ran into Ron Konowitz, president of the Adirondack Powder Skier Association. It was Ron’s thirteenth day on skis.

We talked for several minutes about the association’s campaign to maintain ski glades in the Forest Preserve. Adirondack Almanack reported on this initiative back in May. Since then, the association has been meeting with environmental activists and government officials to drum up support.

Konowitz is hopeful that the idea will win approval. So far, he said, he has not encountered much outright opposition. However, not everyone has made up his or her mind.

Essentially, the Adirondack Powder Skier Association wants to trim brush and saplings and cut or remove blowdown in natural glades to keep them suitable for skiing.

One big question is whether or not the maintenance of ski glades would require an amendment to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which dictates what can and cannot be done in the Forest Preserve.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt a public meeting in May at Saranac High School, an official with the state Department of Environmental Conservation said it would be illegal to maintain glades in the Preserve under the existing plan. Amending the plan is a difficult and time-consuming process.

Konowitz, however, said yesterday that the skier association believes that glades are analogous to trails and thus could be allowed without an amendment.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Adirondack Park Agency, which administers the master plan, to rule on the legal issue. Typically, the APA consults with DEC on master-plan questions.

APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the agency is aware of ski-glade initiative. “We’ve had a few informal meetings with the Powder Skier Association,” he said. “We’re encouraging them to do some research and present some proposals.”

The association has attracted a fair amount of publicity for its initiative. Articles have already appeared in the Adirondack Explorer, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Powder Magazine, and Adirondack Life, and Konowitz said one will appear soon in Backcountry Magazine. The organization recently created a Facebook page.

As to the skiing … conditions on the highway were very good. With recent snowfalls, it was possible to begin skiing right at the tollhouse. It’s supposed to warm this week, so the thin snow at the bottom of the road might melt. Even so, there should be skiing at higher elevations.

Photos by Phil Brown: the Whiteface Highway (top) and Ron Konowitz.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

6 Responses

  1. Josh says:

    Powder for the People!

  2. Paul says:

    They are not “analogous” to trails they ARE trails. Trails used for skiing are all over the place now. I don’t see what the big deal is.

    • Avon says:

      Paul, I don’t know you too well, but it’s nice agreeing with you on this site for once!
      In fact, Ron Konowitz has argued – quite sensibly – that glades are not only like trails, but even better: less in impact than trails, because upland trails are built by removing soil down to the rock. Ski glades not only leave any soil and vegetation beneath the snow, but don’t cause erosion the way heavy steel-edged downhill skis do, as they wear out the slush on Ski Area “trails.”

  3. Andreas says:

    go Phil

  4. Arrgee says:

    I am conflicted about this. One part of me wants to protect the Adirondack forest in every way possible. The other part of me loves to ski in those same forests, where I can. I love the challenge of finding natural forests that have enough room between trees and shrubs for skiing. But I have to admit, a downhill run through a relatively clear (human-enhanced) glade sure is fun, like the glades you’ll find all around Mt Mansfield in Vermont. But this is the Adirondacks… It’s *different* here. Wilder, less friendly to humans. That’s what makes the Dacks something special, at least for me. Perhaps there can be limited areas gently cleared for skiers in the Wild Forest areas. But I definitely feel conflicted about clearing glades in Wilderness Areas (as defined by the SLMP).

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