The Backcountry Map Project: Crowdsourced Backcountry Lines to Have Fun and Stay Safe

Clay Malott | BackcountryBackcountry

Hello, my name is Clay Malott, I’m a high schooler in California and an avid backcountry skier. For the last few years, I have been working on a project to map and catalog my favorite backcountry ski lines in the Tahoe area. It has been a huge success for myself, I have over 75 descents recorded including parking, ascent route, and descent route. If I’m in the mood for some mellow powder skiing, I just look at the map and find a descent. Steep skiing? Same thing.

It is always a goal for me to help others, and landing this internship at SnowBrains has really allowed me to do so. A few weeks back I launched my Backcountry Safety Basics campaign on SnowBrains in an effort to educate SnowBrains readers on the dangers of backcountry skiing and how to minimize those dangers to the greatest extent possible.

I know that for beginners looking to get into more backcountry skiing, it can be hard to find new areas to explore. And, if they do choose to venture into the backcountry, they may be getting in over their heads but they don’t know it until they’re in the thick of it.

This is where my project, the Backcountry Map Project, comes in. My project aims to map backcountry ski descents all around the world so users can find ski descents near them. Some descents will have details in the map itself, others will just be labeled with the name of the descent, which would force users to research the line themselves.

The project is now live, and I kickstarted it by adding all of my favorite backcountry zones in the Lake Tahoe Basin. I am writing on SnowBrains in an effort to raise awareness of the project and to try to get people to contribute to the cause. The site is now live and available to users.

The more users we have, the better, so I urge you to please contribute to the site. There is some sort of honor system to the project, where I rely on users to contribute at least a few lines in exchange for the resources hosted on the site. Please share it with friends, as well. I hope that this project will someday become a great resource for backcountry skiers around the world to use.

Google is relatively simple to add, and I have the sharing settings to allow anyone to edit. Please do not edit or remove descents that are already on the map. Below are a few instructions for how to add a descent and format it correctly.

If you would like to add a route to the map please include:

  • Marker at the parking location including short one-liner describing parking i.e. “Parking pullout on right” (after adding the marker, click on the marker then click on “style” and select the little “P” to mark the parking area)

  • Ascent route (red)

  • Top of ascent route (mark with a marker, select the marker, and then choose the snowflake icon as the style)

  • Descent route (blue)

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14 thoughts on “The Backcountry Map Project: Crowdsourced Backcountry Lines to Have Fun and Stay Safe

  1. I’m Super Stoked I found this thread. I have been exhaustively creating something like this in onX backcountry. I’ve been trying to input all the beta that I can for my own personal use for backcountry. I was able to download all the .KML files and import them straight to my onX app. It’s going to save me a ton of time.

  2. Clay,
    Don’t worry about all the jerries in the thread acting like they invented backcountry. This has all happened before, it will happen again. The backcountry has already been “ruined” thirty times over. Enjoy your project. The Wasatch has been cataloged exhaustively, and there are still plenty of quiet places to go. Enjoy.

  3. Agree with the intent, but the results will be more goobers in more places possessing less than ideal safety skills. This web site needs to stop telling people where to go, or where they can go. The good resorts are ruined. What’s left is getting overrun. Now, let’s add more access/trash/people to the quiet places? Shame on Snow Brains.

    1. When did I ever say they were secret? All I’m trying to do is build a comprehensive catalog of lines that I’ve skied in the area to share with others.

      1. Clay, I’m defending your work and responding to the usual “let’s keep it a secret” nonsense from tahoe joe and another one that was subsequently deleted.

        I live in Tahoe and get annoyed with the rampant tribalism present in my home town. I like your work and support it. I’m new to backcountry skiing myself and out on the skin track everyone has been supportive, but when you dip your toes into the internet all the anonymous haters come out.

        1. Ah, gotcha. I appreciate it man. The backcountry is something that should be a joy for everyone, and having resources that allow said skiers to enjoy it should be made readily available!

  4. Real backcountry skiiers keep things a secret! Your just gonna get more people out there and more people killed!!

    1. You probably didn’t read the full article. The goal of this project is to keep backcountry novices safe by giving them beta on lines.

  5. Maybe write something about avalanche potential skill level and approach. Spots like the halls can be mellow for some but really should not be trifled with for many.

    1. I agree. Logistically, however, I doubt a lot of people would be willing to take the time to fill in that info.

  6. Great idea. You have to parlay this into high school credit.

    Might add a descriptor notation for ascent/decent. A single alpha character may do if legend is included. My thought is that newbies will seek different routes than experienced folks, a note on holds snow in spring/summer, avoid XX path, etc . Maybe not so helpful for experienced locals, but useful for newbies and visitors.

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