Tahoe backcountry access important issue for all

Jamie McJunkin and Jillian Raymond climb for more turns in the early morning light overlooking Lake Tahoe. “Sometimes mornings with friends, professional or not, land covers. I love it even more when the friends aren’t pros, just out for a good time,” said photographer Ming Poon. Read Tahoe Weekly’s annual Backcountry Guide in this edition for the latest on the State of the Backcountry, OSV access and tips for traveling in the backcountry. | MingPoonPhotography.com, @Ming.T.Poon

Tahoe backcountry access important issue for all

Most Tahoe Weekly readers likely spend most of their time in the Tahoe Sierra skiing and riding at a local downhill or Nordic ski area where the parking is ample and access to the trails is included with a lift ticket, which are groomed nightly.

But the same is not true for backcountry users who choose to ski, snowshoe and snowmobile into the further reaches of the Sierra Nevada. They choose to skin or snowshoe up mountain peaks to enjoy skiing down untouched powder or snowmobile deep into the wilderness to explore even more untouched terrain. They do so on public lands that are collectively owned by all U.S. citizens that have been designated for the public’s use (and managed using public tax dollars).

The public’s use of these lands, however, is severely limited in the winter by a lack of public parking to access these lands, the lack of alternative transportation available to reach them, a lack of public facilities like trash service and restrooms at the trailheads, and at times conflicting uses between motorized and nonmotorized users.

The public’s right to access these lands is an important issue to me, and one that we’ve devoted countless pages in Tahoe Weekly to covering. This edition features our 2nd Annual Backcountry Guide, covering a number of these winter access issues, along with tips for backcountry users.

Sean McAlindin has long covered backcountry access issues for us and gives an update in this edition on efforts to increase parking access, including increased microtransit to backcountry trailheads, by the Tahoe Backcountry Alliance in his story “State of the Backcountry.”

Sean also has an update on the over-the-snow vehicle (OSV) plans all Forest Districts must complete in his story “State of snowmobile access.” It’s not surprising that a suit against Stanislaus – the first in our region to complete its plan – is still making its way through the courts, while many other plans have stalled. The good news is that Eldorado, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Tahoe forests expect to make progress in 2023.

Whether or not you use the backcountry in the winter, it’s your lands and your tax dollars at work. It’s important to be aware of these issues and to have your voice heard for how you want these lands managed on your behalf.