The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 16, 2014

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Uphill Snow Travelers Organization promotes safe access

Uphill Snow Travelers Organization, or USTO, is a group of uphill travel enthusiasts that would like to ensure the safe development of the fastest growing segment of skiing.  USTO is any form of up hill travel: snowshoeing, split boarding or skinning. Our goal is to work with ski areas and private landowners to help create policies that promote safe uphill travel. It is now time for us to organize our membership, gather ideas and create effective lines of communication.

Everyone has noted that Killington and Pico ski areas have done an amazing job this year with snowmaking and grooming making this a fabulous season. It is extremely important we continue to work closely with the resort to create a functional policy that provides safe travel without interfering with mountain operations.

Over the past few years Alpine ski resorts have noticed more and more uphill travelers on their trails. Ski areas have been trying to find a way to accommodate these individuals and all have struggled with creating a common policy of ski safety and balanced land use. Early this season three uphill enthusiasts were invited to Killington/Pico Resort to take part in exploring an uphill policy. We had two very productive meetings in December. What came from those meetings was designating areas to park (so the they would know people are on the mountain) and designating routes to go up Pico and Killington.

We also discussed a forum where people could go to get information about trails closed, grooming operations and the do's and don'ts for safe uphill travel at Killington/Pico Resort. This is where USTO comes in. As this sport grows, it is crucial that we actively educate new athletes to maintain the record of safety that is in place.

Unfortunately, do to scheduling difficulties there has not been a follow-up meeting to discuss the success of this program or the creation of a formal policy, but it is likely there will be in the months to come.

In the meantime, it is important for uphill travelers to come together to establish strong lines of communication to ensure safe uphill travel. If you are an uphill traveler, please sign up and join the group. Membership is free. Simply contact basecampvt@mac.com or call 802-775-0166 and mention USTO and you will be added to the information email list. All contact information will be protected.

Thus far, USTO has approximately 50 members.

Lets get together to be one voice so we can continue to enjoy the outdoors and support our local resorts.

Mike Miller, owner of Base Camp Outfitters in Killington, Vt., is an avid uphill traveler who has spearheaded communications with Killington Resort and recently founded the USTO group of athletes.