Backcountry dilemma |

Backcountry dilemma

Too much love can be a problem.

Many Nevada County residents live here precisely because they want easy access to the spectacular backcountry of the Sierra Nevada. But how do you balance access for all while maintaining the beauty and solitude that attracted all those people in the first place?

Snowmobilers and snowshoers, for example, have diametrically different – and frequently opposite – views as to how to enjoy that wilderness.

Snowlands Network has placed itself squarely in the middle of the debate. The organization, which has an office in Grass Valley, was established in 2001 to, in its own words, “advocate for the needs of all those who venture into the winter backcountry in search of peace and solitude.”

The group wants to improve access for “human-powered winter sports” and carve out areas that would restrict snowmobile use.

Volunteers mark and maintain some backcountry trails and improve trail parking. Snowlands Network also leads ski and snowshoe tours, as well as hosting some ski-waxing clinics.

In the past, Snowlands Network has worked to prohibit snowmobiles on the south side of the Mt. Rose Highway at Tahoe Meadows and opposed a proposal to create a snowmobile-ride business at Echo Summit.

The group currently is focusing on Lake Tahoe, where there are two snowmobile companies that “inundate” Spooner Summit and Brockway Summit, founder Marcus Libkind said.

“Both have eliminated backcountry skiing in these areas,” he said. “One has 100 snowmobiles. They get out there and it’s a zoo. We’re going to work to create a small, non-motorized area.”

Libkind, the author of seven guidebooks to backcountry skiing in the Sierra Nevada, argues his group is not “hard-core” when it comes to snowmobiling.

“Everybody in our organization looks at creating opportunities for both uses, or balanced access,” he said.

“Of course, the motorized community says you can ski anywhere we drive – but there’s several problems with that. One is safety. The other is the noise and the smell. You can’t get around it.”

There is a sector of the snowmobile community that enjoys “high-marking,” or tearing up a hillside to see how high they can get, Libkind added.

“Two snowmobiles can churn up every bit of snow in a half hour,” he said – making it impossible for skiers or snowshoers to enjoy the trail.

“There should be a place set up for non-motorized users, so they can enjoy the aesthetics,” Libkind said.

Most wilderness areas are far from the trailheads, so access is restricted, he explained.

“Our goal has always been to try to create some areas close in, where there is access to non-motorized areas,” he said.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call (530) 477-4229.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User