Populism Heads into the Backcounty

A new coalition of volunteers, ski areas and landowners team up nationwide to restore historic ski trails—and launch a backcountry movement. By Jeremy Davis

The power of the people is gaining traction deep within the hardwood glades of New England, and spreading to the backcountry nationwide. Nonprofit groups, passionate skiers, landowners and ski areas are moving beyond traditional rivalries to band together to reopen historic trails.

New England is full of such remnants of its skiing past. More than 600 rope-tow and lift-served areas have closed in the past 80 years, along with downhill trails unserved by lifts. The Granite Backcountry Alliance (GBA), based in northern New Hampshire, is part of a new movement that’s looking to skiing’s past as a path to its future. The GBA, 400 members strong, recently resuscitated the long-lost Maple Villa Trail, in Intervale, N.H., on the outskirts of North Conway.

Though the unofficial hub of this trail reclamation phenomenon is anchored in the history rich—and therefore opportunity rich—mountains of New England, just about anywhere there are skiers, there are historic trails being rebooted—or at the very least, backcountry skiers banding together to preserve access to popular routes...

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