14ers group backs star of nixed ski film | VailDaily.com

14ers group backs star of nixed ski film

Ted Mahon/Special to the DailyBig-mountain skier Chris Davenport drops down Pikes Peak May 15 during his quest to ski all of Colorado's Fourteeners in one calendar year.

ASPEN ” A group trying to protect Colorado’s mightiest peaks from the onslaught of human visits believes Aspenite Chris Davenport’s successful mission to ski the state’s fourteeners helped, rather than hurt, its cause.

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative endorsed Davenport’s effort to ski all 54 of the peaks higher than 14,000 feet within one year, said executive director T.J. Rapoport.

“We think what Chris did is an amazing accomplishment,” Rapoport said.

Davenport discussed his feat as keynote speaker Friday in Denver at the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Fiesta for the Peaks.

The timing couldn’t have been better for a lively debate about the condition of the fourteeners and the effects humans have on them. A U.S. Forest Service decision this week prohibits the commercial release of a movie that shows footage of Davenport skiing high peaks within specially designated wilderness areas.

A permit was legally required for the filming within wilderness. Davenport and filmmaker Ben Galland didn’t acquire a permit before shooting footage, so the film must be edited.

The White River National Forest supervisor’s office ruled that the film about the “ski challenge” didn’t promote wilderness values or ethics.

“In order to be beneficial to wilderness, a film must benefit wilderness values, including concepts such as solitude, untrammeled nature and the absence of urbanism,” the forest service said in a press release. “Additionally, the film poses the serious threat of attracting more individuals to undertake the same dangerous feat as Davenport, leading to increased use in certain wilderness areas.”

About 34 of the 54 fourteeners are within wilderness on national forest.

Rapoport said his organization is a partner of the Forest Service and that the organization wasn’t taking sides by enlisting Davenport as a speaker. The organization simply views Davenport’s quest differently.

Davenport followed so-called “Leave No Trace” principles in attempt to have as little impact on the peaks as possible, Rapoport said.

Davenport skinned up and skied down the mountains on snow so as not to damage soil. Also because of the snow, there was no risk creating a new trail across the fragile high-altitude vegetation, as can happen with summer use, he said.

Davenport has also taken the opportunity to discuss the pressure the 54 fourteeners face from high use during summers.

“Chris is drawing attention to a problem that needs attention,” Rapoport said.

About 500,000 people visit the fourteeners annually, almost all of them during summers, according to the Fourteeners Initiative’s Web site ” http://www.14ers.org.

The mountains are getting trammeled, Rapoport said.

HIs organization attempts to deal with the the heavy traffic and minimize damage. A typical project is closing braided trails that are susceptible to erosion and creating a designated, sustainable route.

Rapoport said the publicity surrounding Davenport’s adventure is bound to generate more winter use of the high peaks. The organization already has anecdotal information about people Davenport inspired to ski the peaks themselves.

But the number of people in the world with the skills to undertake what Davenport did is small, Rapoport said. Winter use on the fourteeners will have “negligible impact” on the environment because the surface is covered by snow, he said.

Davenport previously said he disagreed with the Forest Service’s decision but will abide by it. He will edit the film and take out any scenes of him skiing within wilderness.

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