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Mountain News: Backcountry becoming commercialized, mechanized



JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Both commercialized recreation and motorized recreation continue to make inroads into the national forests around Jackson Hole.

The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to more than double the number of skiers that High Mountain Heli-Skiing can drop in a wilderness study area. Meanwhile, the Forest Service also recently authorized the Jackson Hole Resort to expand the number and score of guided backcountry trips into an area adjacent to Teton Pass.

At issue, says a group fighting the guided backcountry trips, is commercialization of the public lands. "With me, it’s more of a moral issue with the commercial interests crowding in on where the less privileged have skied for years," C. "Stearney" Stearns, a member of a group called Powder to the People, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. Stearrns had skied at the pass before the ski area opened. He and others want Jackson Hole to stick to areas adjacent to the ski area.

The overriding issue, however, is the general growing use of quasi-backcountry areas close to highways, something that is happening across the West.

"Ten years ago, people could still park at the summit of Teton Pass late on a powder day and wander into the woods to find abundant, untracked snow." notes the Jackson Hole News & Guide. "Today, the parking lot is jammed on weekends and the well known and accessible – even the dangerous – runs are tracked before noon."

Lots of interest in housing

ASPEN, Colo. — The market was at risk this year in Aspen for deed-restricted affordable-housing units. A one-bedroom condominium listed at just below $100,000 drew 67 bidders. A studio unit drew 51 bids. And a three-bedroom, two-bath home priced at $173,000 drew 49 families, reports The Aspen Times.

Aspen also had its second million-dollar affordable housing unit sell during the past year. Several somewhat larger single-family houses are designed for such people as doctors and lawyers. The initial price was not capped, although resale is limited to 4 per cent annual appreciation and to the local workforce.

Price tag on sledding

MINTURN, Colo. — Hard along Interstate 70, just west of Vail, is a place called Meadow Mountain. It once was a downhill ski area, but the Forest Service got the property in a land exchange. And so locals used it for several decades as a sledding hill, with parents taking their small children to the hill on weekends for cheap, outdoor entertainment.

But as Vail’s various suburbs grew, so did use of the hill. A few people became a lot of people, and by the late 1990s accidents had begun occurring, primarily because of sledders sliding into one other.