Outdoors blog

Snowmobilers desecrate backcountry skiers' favorite slopes near Mullan

The West Willow Peak basin south of Mullan, Idaho, prized by backcountry skiers has become a target for snowmobilers. (Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition)
The West Willow Peak basin south of Mullan, Idaho, prized by backcountry skiers has become a target for snowmobilers. (Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition)

WINTER SPORTS -- A clash has been brewing for years near Lookout Pass as snowmobilers' insatiable appetite for high-marking and tracking fresh snow continues to invade more and more areas used by backcountry skiers.

Thirty years ago, snowmobilers tended to stay north of I-90 while skiers found peace and quiet to the south in the St. Regis Basin, around Stevens Peak and other areas.

Snowmobilers pretty much drove skiers out of the St. Regis Basin by the late 1990s -- their high-marking and potential to set off avalanches often made it dangerous to be a skier below.

A backcountry skier can make only a few runs up and down a mountain slope in a day.  A snowmobiler can foul an entire basin with tracks and noise in a few hours.

This winter, snowmobilers seem to be making a point to go in an trash some sacred ground for backcountry skiing in the West Willow Peak area south of Mullan. 

Backcountry skiers, who seem to shun organization, are starting to react.   Check out the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition website, and the update on what skiers encountered last weekend.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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