• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

Peace in the powder as snowcat operator drops legal action against old guidebook book on Buffalo Pass

ByKeith M. Jones

Dec 3, 2020



The feuds between Steamboat Powdercats and an editor of an upcoming guide ended in a peace loving powder.

Author Stephen Bass and his editor, Andy Sovick, have agreed that their next Buffalo Pass guide will not include the names of the trails and locations used by Steamboat Powdercats, which has been guiding customers skiing around Buffalo Pass since 1983.

The snowcat operator hit those race names and argued in a lawsuit filed last month in Routt County District Court that Bass, a former guide to the company, was using proprietary information and “trade secrets” in his next guide.

Following widespread trial news, the author and editor of the guide visited the director and director of Steamboat Powdercats and came up with a plan to replace all the names in the book, which will include an app, maps and recommendations to help snowmobile skiers better access to Forest Service lands around Buffalo Pass.

Most of the route and place names “stemmed from memorable events or people from our past,” Eric Deering, director of Steamboat Powdercats, said in a statement he emailed to the Colorado Sun.

“Company information is important to our day-to-day operations and is certainly an integral part of our customer experience,” he said.

Andy Sovick’s Beacon Guides published the Guide to Snowmobile Backcountry Skiing Around Buffalo Pass. (Provided by Beacon Guides)

After creating new names for the tracks and locations in the guide, Sovick and Bass sent a copy to Deering. Then they came up with a plan to include suggestions to help alleviate parking and traffic issues on the pass. The book also includes several tips on backcountry etiquette during a guided operation and on how to ski and snowmobile around a track.

“After hearing some of our concerns regarding the ongoing parking issues and permit zone rules and safety guidelines, Andy expressed his willingness to receive feedback that we believe could help the bigger picture,” especially as the area continues to gain popularity, ”Deering said. .

Bass, a ski patroller in Utah who worked for Steamboat Powdercats for two seasons, originally offered the book to Sovick as a way to “help organize crowds and move people more safely,” said he told the Colorado Sun last month. Sovick’s Beacon Guides provide photos, maps, and an app to help skiers navigate popular backcountry areas in Washington and around Crested Butte, Silverton, and Berthoud Pass.

The two sides did not speak until the operator of the snowmobile took legal action. After word of the legal skirmish spread, they found a way to resolve their issues.

“Overall, the process we just went through is a testament to the fact that two parties are working together to resolve an issue and seek common ground,” Deering said. “We’re grateful to have had this conversation and certainly appreciate Andy’s straightforward approach. Our business is founded on helping people access their public lands and we are grateful to continue on this path.

Sovick’s initial concern about changing the names of features, descent lines, exits, and drop-off and pick-up points around Buffalo Pass was that new names could confuse the scene, especially for teams from search and rescue trying to reach someone in need of assistance.

“These are also names that we use and that others use. These are not just Powdercats names. They don’t really own those names. These are pretty common names that existed even before Powdercats, ”said Andy Wiener of Routt County Search and Rescue. “So it could be confusing for us. If somebody calls for help and says they’re at Johnny’s Rock or whatever, we’re going to say ‘Where the hell is that?’ “

The Routt County Search and Rescue Team saw some early drafts of parts of the guidebook and was able to comment on “potentially dangerous places,” Wiener said, adding that Sovick had responded to their suggestions. .

Sovick will also send the team copies of the book and maps, so they can learn the new names of the locations on the pass. But with modern technology, place names are losing their importance. 911 calls from mobile phones often include precise GPS locations for medical and emergency teams.

“So I wonder if the names are really going to make a big difference to us,” said Wiener, who noted that the names are useful when cell phones have no reception and researchers are using radios to indicate which ones. locations.

Sovick said the app it offers along with the guides will provide GPS coordinates, and the maps will also have grids – known as Universal Transverse Mercator systems – that allow users to locate their coordinates.

“It’s a bummer,” Sovick said, “but I don’t think it’s a dangerous situation to have multiple race names out there.”

When Sovick first received a cease and desist letter and then a notice of prosecution, he believed Steamboat Powdercats was trying to prevent people from gaining access to public lands where the operator holds a license to guide the skiing for almost 40 years. Buffalo Pass is increasingly used by a growing race of skiers using snowmobiles to access remote powder reserves around Buffalo Mountain and Soda Mountain.

Read more outdoor stories from The Colorado Sun.

The growth has challenged Steamboat Powdercats, which builds and maintains some of the routes used by travelers in the Buffalo Pass area. Since the mid-2000s, skiers and snowmobilers must register for a free permit to access a 7,300-acre area on the west side of Buffalo Pass, where some areas are reserved for non-motorized use.

After speaking with Deering of Steamboat Powdercats and Kent Vertrees, longtime director, Sovick said he recognizes that operators are “open to sharing the land” and “are active and caring stewards”.

“They’ve certainly put a lot of effort and time into making sure things run smoothly for all backcountry friendly Buff Pass users,” Sovick said. “I hope I was also able to show them that the Buff Pass products I have created – like all of our guides, maps and apps – will provide useful communications and information to new and old users.”

Steamboat Powdercats shares the roads and trails of the Buffalo Pass with an increasing number of skiers and snowmobilers. (Provided by Steamboat Powdercats)

Sovick doubts the argument put forward by Steamboat Powdercats – that the names of ski lines on public land are “trade secrets” – would stand in a court case. He hopes the bickering serves as a lesson so like-minded fans of snow-covered public lands can work together to settle disputes before bringing in lawyers.

“I hope when people are out there this winter they remember to respect everyone, whether they are on snowmobiles, snowmobiles or snowshoes,” he said. “We are all in the same boat, we have a personal and societal responsibility to treat the land, access and other users with genuine respect. “


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