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Partners Promote "Leave No Trace" Backcountry Winter Practices

From Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is joining with the Green Mountain Club, the Vermont Ski Areas Association and the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers to encourage backcountry enthusiasts to learn and abide by ‘Leave No Trace’ principles this winter.

Leave No Trace is a nationally recognized program designed to help outdoor enthusiasts travel safely and reduce their impacts in the backcountry. The program strives to educate those who enjoy the outdoors about techniques to prevent and minimize impacts to natural resources.

“Vermont has a vast beautiful backcountry through which Vermonters and our visitors can ski, snowboard, snowshoe and snowmobile. While there are few things better than fresh tracks in knee-deep powder, these temporary tracks are the only evidence of our presence that should be left behind,” said Jason Gibbs, commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. “Everyone who ventures into the backcountry this winter can ensure their own safety and help to protect our natural resources by knowing and abiding by the Leave No Trace principles.” Vermont’s state parks also promote Leave No Trace on-site educational programs during the spring and summer camping season, Gibbs added.

The Green Mountain Club offers a variety of Leave No Trace outdoor ethics presentations and workshops, either at its headquarters or on the trail. For more information, or to sign up for a course, visit or call 802-244-7037.

“Everybody who gets out in the backcountry in wintertime—by ski, snowshoe, snowboard, or snowmobile—experiences a special thrill of adventure and solitude. The Leave No Trace principles call on us to leave places just as pristine as we find them.” said Ben Rose, executive director of the Green Mountain Club.

Vermont’s ski areas are also encouraging outdoor adventurers to learn the commonsense principles. “Backcountry excursions often originate from or near ski areas and we want to be sure everyone has the information they need to be safe in the backcountry and help us be stewards of these important resources,” said Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association. “We join with our partners in encouraging everyone who visits the backcountry this winter to learn and abide by the Leave No Trace principles.”

Jay Peak Ski Resort, for example, has been a leader in encouraging Leave No Trace backcountry skiing principles and has been out in front of the effort to promote responsible backcountry skiing ethics. As most backcountry skiers know, responsible backcountry skiing and riding is about finding your own lines through the woods – not about cutting new ones. To help spread this message, Jay Peak has crafted a clever new campaign they’ve dubbed “If you can’t hack it, don’t hack it.”

Snowmobilers also enjoy the backcountry experience and do their part to protect the places they love. They know when they leave the groomed trail they are trespassing, going where they don’t belong, and they remember the snowmobiler’s motto, “Safe Riders! You Make Snowmobiling Safe,” said Bryant Watson, executive director of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers.

“Snowmobiling is a fun and family-oriented activity and VAST is pleased to work with all of our winter recreation partners to encourage everyone to do their part to help protect and preserve access to backcountry lands and the ecosystems they contain by learning the Leave No Trace principles,” Watson added.

The Winter Leave No Trace principles are:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Know the area and what to expect; ALWAYS check weather reports prior to departure. Consult maps and local authorities about high danger areas, safety information, and regulations for the area you plan to visit; prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies; monitor snow conditions frequently. If travelling in areas where avalanches may occur, check the avalanche report, and carry and use an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel. Educate yourself by taking a winter backcountry travel course. Visit the backcountry in small groups, but never alone. Leave your itinerary with family or friends. Repackage food into reusable containers. Use a map and compass to eliminate the need for tree markings, rock cairns or flagging.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
On the trail, stay on deep snow cover whenever possible; in spring conditions, stay on snow or walk in the middle of the trail and avoid creating new trails and damaging trailside plants. Travel and camp away from avalanche paths, cornices, steep slopes and unstable snow. At camp, choose a site on durable surfaces- snow, rock or mineral soil- not tundra or other fragile vegetation. Camp at a safe, stable site out of view of heavily-traveled routes and trails. Keep pollutants out of water sources by camping at least 200 feet (70 adult steps) from recognizable lakes and streams- consult your map.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack It In, Pack It Out. Pack out everything you bring with you. Pick up all food scraps, wax shavings and pieces of litter. Pack out all trash: yours and others. Pack out solid human waste. In lieu of packing it out, cover and disguise human waste deep in snow away from travel routes and at least 200 feet (70 adult steps) from water sources. Use toilet paper or wipes sparingly. Pack them out. If necessary, use small amounts of biodegradable soaps for dishes. Strain dishwater into a sump hole. Inspect your campsite for trash and evidence of your stay. Dismantle all snow shelters, igloos or wind breaks. Naturalize the area before you leave.
4. Leave What you Find
Leave all plants, rocks, animals and historical or cultural artifacts as you find them.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
Campfires cause lasting impacts in the backcountry. Always carry a lightweight camp stove for cooking. Use dead downed wood if you can find it. Put out all fires completely. Widely scatter cool ashes. Do not cut or break limbs off live, dead or downed trees.

6. Respect Wildlife
Winter is an especially vulnerable time for animals. Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them. Never feed wildlife or leave food behind to be eaten. Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Be respectful of other users. Share the trail and be courteous. Yield to downhill and faster traffic. Prepare for blind corners. When stopped, move off the trail. Separate ski and snowshoe tracks where possible. Avoid hiking on ski or snowshoe tracks. Learn and follow local regulations regarding pets. Control dogs. Pack out or bury all dog feces.

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