Relationship to Mountain Accord

Recently I showed the video at a dinner party. Afterwards a friend commented, “so this is pro-Mountain Accord.”

The stance in the essay and the video is not for or against Mountain Accord (MA). It understands that MA is, as Carl Fisher puts it, “the table around which these decisions will be made.” At this table sit stakeholders from every vocation and value set that work speak to or work within the Wasatch Mountains. It is a city and county effort. There are developers and fierce land advocates.

Because of these, all of these perspectives are represented in MA. It is our duty, and the work of this thesis to know which of those values we as citizens want to uphold. So through the ongoing work that the MA has created we must continue to petition and comment on the various components that we care about.

This is more clear in section five of the “full thesis,” entitled, appropriately “Mountain Accord.” Skip to that area if you are particularly interested in learning more about this on-going and important dialogue.

The process

Oh the video.

Early mornings, long days. My inadequacies as a first time film maker. Technical issues, gear, hardware, software, screen time. But lots of alpine time, lots of skiing.  Lots of amazing people.

The video’s strongest point is the interviewees. Their five lifetimes of diverse experience dealing with land, water, wildlife, and snow is amazingly inspiring and I am so glad they all were able to participate in the project. They make the message shine through. In actually setting up the interviews, I was put to task. I needed to engage brilliant professionals in front of the camera. I would like to thank Mary as she was first and as such, had to deal with my most amateur moments.

But thanks to Matthew he kept the camera rolling while I conversed. From the shots themselves to the answers I received, I am blown away by the stories and passion.

The production of the “wilderness” shots was equally as hilarious. Hauling camera and gear into the cold forests on at snowy dawn. We filmed snow crystals and vast arid peaks. I camped in Maybird Gulch under the Pfeiff and almost keeled over dealing with my heavy pack. It was eye opening and built a huge amount of respect for those that do this professionally.


When you see a truly beautiful shot in a film understand that a serious amount of work and sweat went into that. I will never watch a film, especially a wilderness documentary with the same eyes again.




This project was a conflicted issue. I love skiing. I have ridden Alta and Brighton for years and enjoy the facilities and ability they provide to me and to millions of others. I also love skiing in the backcountry.

But I found that the industry that I was a part of was also pushing beyond what I have learned to be acceptable for the environment and “wilderness.” Values that I also love are being destroyed at a rate that I find very troubling.

I watched this video: Defined by the Line which tells at the end that ” just caring about a place is not enough.” One must take action. I took it upon myself in my years of graduate school to answer this call here in the Wasatch Mountains. I would urge others to do the same. If you care about something, if you love something then work to protect it.

Selections from AWV: Camp part 1

I decided to get into the Little Cottonwood backcountry. Contrasted with much of the off-piste skiing in the Wasatch, the area I chose feels more wild because of its remoteness. It is quintessential high country. From the city and road it looks unapproachable. It is abstracted in steep pitches and jagged peaks. The fuzzy blur of trees cling to the wall of toothy mountains.This is contrasted with a large majority of other Wasatch terrain that is either lift accessed or a quick tour from the road. I didn’t want it to be easy. I wanted to know those distant away sights, trees, rocks, and snow. The wilderness area a couple miles south of the road is known as the “Lone Peak Wilderness” but from the trailhead one can access four distinct drainages, each of which I wanted to explore. I knew there were paths to the high places.

The trip began as many do with a last minute stop at Wal-Mart. I exited my van in the South-Towne-sprawl headed toward the door of the superstore. A raven sat on top of a light-pole and squawked at me. As the automated glass slid open I grabbed an oversized cart and listened to the bird’s continued cries. The doors closed behind me and I embarked on the first of many exhausting walks of the weekend. It was St. Patrick’s Day.

Inside I found all the calories and last minute supplies I would need for the coming days. Apples, beans, canned herring, black tea, a wrist watch. I moved quickly through the isles of DVDs, shampoo, food, tires and toilet paper. I saw families: a girl with a short dad and a tall mom, two punks with skateboards and pimples and leather coats, and I heard a young woman with long dark wavy hair ask her sweat-panted boyfriend if Wal-Mart had green cookies. I paid for my pitiful cart of goods and exited the store.

The raven was gone.


I unloaded all of my gear into the White Pine trailhead parking lot. I stuffed my recent goods into my bags and shouldered them: the larger, on my back, and the smaller slung across my front. I was laden with weight and became exhausted just putting my skis on next to the porta-pottie. Folks in the parking lot laughed as I awkwardly took my first skin steps. I slid down a small slope and started walking across the bridge over Little Cottonwood creek. The snow was so high that I was parallel with the handrail. I was unbalanced with the weight around my shoulders and I could have easily toppled into the bubbling stream. I pushed this and moved onward. I began a long hot hike up into the woods.

I passed brown U.S.F.S. signs, first at the trail head, and again along the way. The Forest Service offers rules that govern the mountains. The signs are similar to those all over the country, brown and wooden, etched with information and regulations. These showed simple maps, identified different land destinations, told me where I could or couldn’t have a fire. They come from a long and fraught relationship with the land. I took the signs, as I always do, as a reminder that this is a “land of many uses.” I would soon pass into the area that was designated as “wilderness” which I knew had the highest protection from human utility.

As I rounded that corner into the Lone Peak Wilderness, I looked down into the city. The view down Little is a brilliant sight and one that is often used to promote the Wasatch. At the bottom of the steep and wide granite walls of the canyon, the city is cradled. In this giant “U,” one can see history of the geography through the glacier’s path as well as the road the miners took. The city then stretches from the bottom of the canyon out to the Oquirrhs which creates the edge of the Valley and the beginning of the Great Basin. It beckons the imagination with the grandness of the West and the dream of freedom. This is seared into my mind as an ode to the mountains I love and their closeness to my home in the city.

I looked down onto the concrete snake, the canyon road. I set my bags down and popped a seat in the snow. I needed a drink. The sun was still high overhead but I could imagine the pink and gold sky that it would create in a few hours. I couldn’t wait for sunset. I had to pitch my tent before dark and I still had far to travel. It was going to be cold, and I was already beat from my haul. As I sipped water and looked out over the city, I thought more about my place in the West. How had I come here? Why did I have the privilege of terrific access to a wild environment? What did all of those signs I saw on the way to my repose really mean, what foresight did they hold? What would my future children see from this same view?