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Backcountry films at GU benefit winter access

Splitboard mountaineer Kyle Miller slides on Mount Baker for a film documenting his descents off Washington’s 10 highest summits.
Splitboard mountaineer Kyle Miller slides on Mount Baker for a film documenting his descents off Washington’s 10 highest summits.

The Backcountry Film Festival’s road show of human-powered outdoor recreation films will be back for the third year at 7 p.m., Jan. 30, at Gonzaga University’s Jepson Center.

The seven featured films are the top 2012 picks by the Winter Wildlands Alliance and sponsored in Spokane by Gonzaga and local outdoor clubs as a fundraiser for efforts to maintain nonmotorized access to the region’s top winter backcountry.

In addition, the short film FreeRider will be shown, featuring Washington splitboard mountaineer Kyle Miller during his quest to snowboard Washington’s 10 highest summits.

John Latta of the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance said proceeds will be used for efforts to keep backcountry skiing on the front burner of public land planning at two important sites for muscle-powered recreation:

• Stevens Peak Backcountry Area, rare easy-access powder skiing slopes threatened by the boom in over-snow vehicle use and the proposed expansion of Lookout Pass Ski Area.

• West glades of Mount Spokane, threatened by the proposed expansion of Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

“Members have been working on Lolo and Idaho Forest Planning for more than 10 years and currently are seeking – and possibly partnering with the Forest Service – to create a collaborative forum for all stakeholders with interest in the Stevens Peak area,” Latta said.

The area includes Copper and St. Regis drainages on the Lolo National Forest in Montana and the nearby Willow, Boulder and Gold Creek drainages on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. These areas – all accessible from Interstate 90 – have been traditional backcountry skiing destinations for more than 40 years.

“Should the proposed expansion of Lookout Pass Ski area proceed, there will be additional pressure on over-snow vehicle riders to avoid St. Regis basin in Montana and ride in the Willow and Boulder Creek drainages of Idaho,” Latta said.

“We are not opposed to ORV use,” he said. “But we believe there are areas where it is appropriate to segregate motorized-nonmotorized users to avoid conflict between users and preserve opportunities for quiet winter recreation.”

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