Wouter Van Tiel


Wouter Van Tiel

I was born and raised in the Netherlands and came to the US in 1981. By way of NYC, San Diego and South America, I found Crested Butte in 1995 and quickly realized that the isolated nature at the end of the valley was the perfect place for adventure. Whether it is riding bikes or on foot hiking, running or backcountry skiing, the emphasis for me is getting away from human creations and connecting with the earth. Sure some of my outdoor exploits are in competitions such as the Leadville 100, a few 50 milers and some 20 finishes in the Grand Traverse. Those are fun, but the essence of nature, it’s quiet being under the sun and the clouds that is the poetry. The quiet of the mountains is one of my greatest enjoyments when I can take a break from being father and husband to my family and that other thing called work.

I spent well over a decade in the corporate environment and I know that world. I feel very lucky to have escaped it on time. Everybody should have a chance to be able to get away from it all. Spaces for that experience should remain available forever. Yet, I am seeing these places abused more and more and a proper management plan is becoming critical. What sets the Gunnison / Crested Butte area apart from many other places, especially the European mountain ranges, is the amount of natural space without any human infringement. Coming over Cottonwood you can sit and see nothing but nature, and there are many such places around here. But what you see and what you hear are two different things. Sound travels in strange ways. There is a need for quiet corridors to accompany the view and usage corridors.

I have played with motorcycles since a young age, I still do. I have been a snowmobile guide and I owned one once. However, I also spend time quietly recreating in the outdoors far away from civilization. This duality towards recreation underscores the need for both forms to be available to all of us. There is room for both. The issue with motorized recreation is that it has a huge impact on the quiet form, but not the other way around. One snowmobile in a basin can ruin the entire quiet experience for miles around. It is very important that there is good separation of use especially in the form of sound.

That is why Elk Mountains Backcountry Alliance has such an important mission. In light of the increase in the number of users we need to establish better boundaries for a proper balance of use in the backcountry. Some areas have less to offer snowmobilers even-though currently they are allowed in, and these places need to be reconsidered. I am specifically thinking of the Friends hut drainage. After a 6 hour tour into the hut the entire experience was ruined by two snowmobilers playing around all over the hut area and beyond. A good plan for the protection of quiet areas will take some work because how sound travels counts more in this equation than arbitrary lines in the sand. Other areas are perfect for motorized use and those can be rounded out. However, the abuse of pristine areas that are off limits should carry penalties.

“One can choose to go quietly into the wild, only when others will allow your nature experience to remain silent”