Inaugural backcountry festival a hit

Written by Casey Kellas, The Observer February 22, 2013 08:39 am

Michael Halle photo Events like the Eastern Oregon Backcountry Festival give people a chance to see country they’d never have a chance to see otherwise. MICHAEL HALLE/The Observer
Michael Halle photo Events like the Eastern Oregon Backcountry Festival give people a chance to see country they’d never have a chance to see otherwise. MICHAEL HALLE/The Observer

by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer

ANTHONY LAKES — The inaugural Eastern Oregon Backcountry Festival went off without a hitch Feb. 8-10.

According to EOU Outdoor Program Coordinator Jerry Isaak, the three-day event raised $300 for the Wallowa Avalanche Center, an impressive figure seeing as each event was free to attend.

“It went excellent,” Isaak said. 

“We had great participation and great snow.”

The weekend started off with the Winter Wildland Alliance’s Backcountry Film Festival held at EOU.

Seven clips were shown from submitted films, including a six-minute preview for the upcoming (Fall 2013) documentary on the history of backcountry skiing in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, titled “Winter in the Land of the Winding Waters: 50 years of skiing in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.”

Isaak said that 70 people attended the film festival.

On Saturday, the festival took to Anthony Lakes Ski Area, where a number of clinics and an uphill/downhill race were the highlight of the day.

The main race loop covered just under three miles and gained 1,175 feet with a descent of 1,128 feet. Isaak said that 16 people participated in the race. In the afternoon, clinics were offered on companion rescue/avalanche beacon practice, downhill telemark skiing techniques, uphill touring tips and tricks, and a snowshoe tour.

The weekend was capped off with “Social Sunday,” where skiers were encouraged to hit the mountain and explore the backcountry.

“We had a lot of people from out of the area who had never been to Anthony Lakes,” Isaak said of some of the participants.

“The event was primarily for people around here, but the idea was to bring more people in.”

Isaak said that next year he is going to look at moving the event to a three-day holiday weekend to try and draw an even better crowd.

But with that said, this year the festival did just what Isaak wanted: get support for the avalanche center.

“We wanted to bring attention to the avalanche center and their cause,” Isaak said.

“And I think we did that.”