Film fest celebrates ‘the snow less traveled’ |

Film fest celebrates ‘the snow less traveled’

Alan Maguire, The Park Record

Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, "the recognized voice for the backcountry community involved in human-powered winter recreation in the Central Wasatch Mountains," is presenting the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival Wednesday, March 11, at 7 p.m. at the Prospector Theater. Proceeds from the event will benefit the nonprofit.

The Boise-based Backcountry Film Festival is in its tenth year and this year’s program consists of nine short films that aim to "inspire winter adventurers to seek the snow less traveled."

Tom Diegel, a director at Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, said the organization got started "at the encouragement of" the Winter Wildlands Alliance during the SkiLink proposal debate. He said that One Wasatch, the current proposal to connect ski resorts, is "five times worse," because it involves five new chairlifts instead of one.

"The terrain, particularly in the upper Cottonwoods, is really some of the most prime terrain for people to backcountry ski in the Wasatch. It’s easy access, it’s relatively low-angle, and therefore it’s not as avalanche prone. That means people can go in there that either don’t have as much fitness or avalanche savvy and because it’s less avalanche prone in general, it means you can get in there when there is a moderate to high danger," he said.

Wasatch Backcountry Alliance is participating in the ongoing Mountain Accord effort and said One Wasatch is "a large subset" of that process. He said the Alliance is happy to be involved.

"We’d only been around as an organization for four or five months or something and then we were asked to be a participant in the Mountain Accord process and we were pretty happy with that," Diegel said.

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"The biggest thing we are doing now, and we’re pushing for hard at every level is, people should really take the time to learn as much as they can about the Mountain Accord process that’s happening right now, because anybody who recreates in the Wasatch Front or Back is going to be affected by what happens in this process," he said. "It’s super important that people educate themselves and then comment because even though the Mountain Accord process itself has been criticized for not really getting very effective communication from the public, this time they are really making a big effort and they’re really going to listen this time.

"We’re happy to be part of it. Believe you me, it’s created a ton of work and heartache and effort on our part but we really see it as being the foundation of what the future of this range is going to be."

Funds will be raised at the Backcountry Film Festival screening from both ticket sales and raffles of items including skis, outdoor apparel and other outdoor products. Those funds will help the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance’s efforts in preserving local backcountry areas.

"Our operation is fully volunteer. We have 13 [board] members and then a bunch of folks who have been willing to help us out. And none of us are paid, it’s all free. And we have been pretty lean, we haven’t had very many expenses, but as things go along, expenses come up," Diegel said.

Among those expenses is a study the Alliance commissioned from the University of Utah to gather information this winter on backcountry use in the Wasatch range, including installation of counters at trailheads.

"That study with the U of U was really expensive and that has been our biggest expense so far. And they are encouraging us to do a phase two of the study, which would be quite a bit more expensive," he said.

Litigation is also expensive. "We feel a bit of a need to raise some funds in case we need to file suit against sort of, what we would see as, adversarial encroachments on the backcountry terrain," he said.

Diegel expects that Wasatch Backcountry Alliance will be active for the foreseeable future.

"If we had assurance that the balance of resort terrain and backcountry terrain was going to be maintained in perpetuity, then we would just go ‘OK.’ We are not necessarily naïve enough to think that that might happen, so we think we’ll probably have to maintain our status as the voice of the Wasatch backcountry users, for at least the near term," he said.

The Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival will come to the Prospector Theater, 2200 Sidewinder Drive in Park City, Wednesday, March 11. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the films begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and will benefit the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, as will raffled items. For tickets and more information, visit