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The environmental impacts of corduroy, or why keeping it savage saves

Image: media photos, Sunday River

Jesse Huffman over at ESPN has a great article today comparing the environmental impact of groomers  versus “cleared” runs– those that have had most of the trees removed but where land is not shaved down to corduroy by Cats. (Alpental vs. Summit Central, and even most of Stevens and Crytsal)

Not surprisingly, “cleared” runs cause less damage to the environment. They don’t necessarily encourage wildlife to linger, but they do keep the soil, stumps and shrubs intact, saving the hillside from unisolated water run or even flood destruction.

Huffman cites a recent study in the journal Ecological Applications. And his answer to the issue is encouraging for me, and probably for this guy, and many others who stray from the steeze and like snowboarding in the raw mountains. Huffman says:

“Reducing the number of corn-field-flat groomers on the ski area and letting the actual character of the mountain shin through is one suggestion. Powder and freeride Meccas like Mt. Baker, Snowbird, and Jay Peak all utilize cat tracks to link up various areas of the mountains, but a lions share of the trails are about as free-range as they come. If you go to most ski areas in interior BC or Washington in the summer, you’ll see what’s under that 5-foot base of snow: major stumps, rocks, fallen logs and other ‘natural’ character.”

This is precisely the reason I ride Alpental. Of the 18 runs listed on Alpental’s Web site, three are groomed. And on a powder day you sure as hell won’t even see those Cat-carved.

Keeping it raw, ‘core, savage– whatever you want to call it–the essence is keeping it real.

Thanks to Huffman and everyone else doing so!

Image property of Summit at Snoqualmie, photo by Jeff Caven

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