After putting in the skin track and skiing the Banana Couloir on Prospectors Mountain last Friday with some friends, and then hearing about another party using the track to summit Prospectors Mountain proper on Sunday (which in turn sent some bighorn sheep running), I thought it would be an appropriate time to remind Teton backcountry skiers of the winter closures in Grand Teton National Park. Even though Prospectors Mountain and many other rad skiing peaks and lines ironically lie in and around Open Canyon, in fact, the majority of the slopes in that area are closed to human travel to protect bighorn sheep habitat through Dec. 1 – April 1st every year. The Banana Couloir is the only slope that is open to human travel during this time frame.
Yeah…it blows…I know. Every year, I find myself planning trips back into the Open Canyon region, only to be reminded that I’ll have to wait until April to follow through with them. To be totally honest, it bugs me a little to hear of another group violating the closures, because even though they might not have known it (or about the closure in general), while they were on the summit…they were being glassed by park service officials and biologists. Makes me wonder if there was a ranger waiting for them when they got back to the trailhead.
Teton bighorn sheep biologists are already hitting skiers up to carry GPS units at the trailheads to track their movement, so you know they are looking at what effects backcountry skiers might be having on the already threatened species. Though I usually politely pass on carrying the GPS units because of my own personal beliefs, I have listened and talked to the biologists about skier impacts and bighorn sheep habit in the park. And from what I understand, things aren’t looking very good for the Teton bighorns, as there are only two very isolated groups of sheep (one in the southern range and one in the north, where there are not currently any closures), with zero breeding between the two groups. I guess this isn’t very good for the future, since it in turn provokes inbreeding and disease.
Please Grand Teton National Park skiers, let’s not give the government any more ammunition that might make them close off more areas where we ski. KNOW YOUR RANGE AND RESPECT THE PARK!!! You will be rewarded with amazing ski terrain for years and years to come!!!!