Dave Shively: Blurred lines
December 10, 2006
Steamboat Springs — If a skier drops in the woods, will anyone hear him?
More importantly, will anyone believe the feat if it’s not captured on camera? Recorded footage has become a part of daily life for anyone seeking to capture an experience and prove it to others.
And that’s just fine for posting a trick caught on your camera phone onto your blog.
But it’s a crime to film within the boundaries of federal wilderness areas, if you plan to use your film for profit.
Aspen’s Chris Davenport is nearing the one-year mark in his attempt to ski all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in a single calendar year. The original goal was to ski all 54 during the 2006 ski season, but weather conditions forced him to extend the timeline.
Davenport is not the first to attempt the feat, nor the first to film it, but he has hit stumbling blocks in the commercial release of the footage.
Recommended Stories For You
While keeping one eye on the weather, Davenport must focus his other eye on his legal debate with the U.S. Forest Service, which has denied him a commercial filming permit to include segment captured in designated wilderness areas. Roughly two-thirds of Colorado’s fourteeners fall in that category and include the best ski lines worth watching.
Commercial film permitting involves a set of bureaucratic hoops to jump through that must be approved directly by a forest supervisor. Commercial still photography does not require clearing such hurdles.
I asked Lou Dawson what he thought about Davenport’s struggle. Dawson was the first, and many argue only, to ski all 54 peaks, from 1978 until 1991.
As the author of numerous guidebooks and the backcountry resource Website http://www.wildsnow.com, the 54-year-old ski legend believes technology is blurring the lines of the federal regulations.
Dawson understands the importance of regulating commercial activities in a public resource like our wilderness, but he said the rules need to be evaluated.
“There’s a lot of people that are physically unable to access the legal wilderness. They may not have the resources, so they enjoy it through the artwork and cultural side,” Dawson said, “You have to think that you’re depriving some people.”
What convinced me was Dawson joking that his photography gear now weighs more than his digital video camera, meaning more damage to a fragile tundra environment if dropped.
I’m not advocating sending Hollywood film crews into the wilderness. The permitting regulations should be revised to assess the ecological impact of individual film crews – especially in the winter. T.J. Rapoport, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (one of the nonprofits Davenport was going to donate film proceeds to), pointed out that from a Leave No Trace perspective, there are few, if any, impacts of winter use on the fourteeners compared to the summer.
What damage can one videographer and one skier do? People should have a right to see the footage, even if there’s a price tag attached.