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December 2020 Newsletter

Welcome to winter 2020-2021! Below are updates on what is happening in our area and what your Teton Backcountry Alliance (TBCA) has been up to.

• FLAP grant application is submitted: TBCA worked with Teton County, USFS, WYDOT, Wyoming Pathways, and others to draft and submit a proposal for funding from the Federal Lands Access Program (“FLAP”). The proposal includes plans to construct a Forest Service trailhead parking lot at the summit of Teton Pass that is outside the WYDOT pullout area, a westbound left-hand turning lane into Trail Creek Road, a hitchhiker/chain-up pullout east of the Heidelberg, a pedestrian walkway underpass at Coal Creek, two vehicles for a Teton Pass Shuttle, and several signs at various locations where backcountry users walk to warn motorists that there might be “pedestrians ahead.” In addition to construction projects, the proposal requests funding to launch a “Comprehensive Teton Pass Corridor Plan” that will examine year-round issues facing the stretch from the Wyoming/Idaho state line to Wilson. The full FLAP proposal was submitted by Teton County and could provide up to $5.2 million in funding.

• 2020 Skinny Skis Avy Night now posted: Avy Night was virtual this year, which means you can now watch/listen to the talks posted on-line while sipping wine and wearing PJs. Check out Sarah Carpenter’s excellent keynote lecture. • Pandemic Powder: Many are predicting we’ll have an extremely busy winter of backcountry skiing & riding because of the reduced capacity at resorts and a general interest in getting away from others into the wilderness. Articles in the NYTs and WSJ referencing backcountry skiing as “the sport of the pandemic” and listing Teton Pass as a great place for beginners are cause for concern. Some are worried that the year will bring overloaded parking and many inexperienced people traveling the backcountry. TBCA has been working with BTNF and others to communicate key messages to visitors so they understand the ethics of going into the backcountry and have access to information resources. To help spread the word, social media and hard copy flyers (below) will be distributed to all who rent BC gear and purchase guidebooks. Please help spread the word. (Thank you Jen Reddy for your art/design work!)

• TBCA launches Volunteer Teton Backcountry Ambassador Program: In the coming weeks you will be seeing Volunteer Backcountry Ambassadors at key locations. The new program, sponsored by Stio and the Community Foundation, will expand on the tireless work of Teton Pass Ambassador, Jay Pistono. We anticipate having 4 to 6 people who will share information, help orient visitors, and encourage humility & respect.

• TBCA comments on proposed ski area expansions: Both Snow King and Targhee have submitted proposals to the Forest Service to expand their boundaries and add new lift service operations south of the existing resorts. The Snow King expansion has completed its EIS process and the Forest Service has released a Record of Decision approving the expansions. The Targhee proposal is currently in review by the Forest Service. Both expansions involve areas with historically low snowfall, meaning that snowmaking will be required for downhill skiing, drawing on precious water resources and altering their soundscape. TBCA has submitted comments on both, noting how these expansions would reduce backcountry skiing / riding opportunities, and create significant impacts to their ecosystems. TBCA encouraged the resorts instead to modify operations within their existing permitted areas.

• Avy Beacon Park at Coal Creek Trailhead: With support from BCA and Yostmark Mountain Equipment, a beacon park will be installed just north of the Coal Creek parking area. This is an opportunity to hone your avy rescue skills before or after your tour.

• Common Group Radio Channels? The Wasatch and Telluride areas now use designated radio channels that can be monitored by groups to allow for inter-group communications. These channels are not for chatter, but for sharing critical information, such as observations of avalanches or calling others in your immediate area to help with a rescue. No decision has been made on the use of this system for the Tetons. Please write to let us know if you think such a system would be helpful here.

• TBCA needs you! Become a member: Please go to the TBCA website to become a member. Your $20 membership fee helps TBCA keep our winter backcountry accessible and safe. Additional contributions are appreciated.

Thank you! Your TBCA Steering Committee: Peggie de DePasquale, Kim Havell, Gary Kofinas (chair), Josh Metten, Mike Parris, Jay Pistono, Tom Turiano

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