A Conversation with Anthony Cupaiuolo, New TBA Executive Director

Anthony en route to a line.

The Tahoe Backcountry Alliance is excited to announce the hiring of new Executive Director, Anthony Cupaiuolo! Anthony is a long time splitboarder, South Tahoe local, and passionate advocate for public lands access. When not advocating for backcountry access in Tahoe, Anthony is a photographer, filmmaker and director at First Tracks Productions. TBA recently sat down with Anthony for a conversation to get to know him a bit better, learn about his backcountry roots, and where he sees opportunities for TBA and the greater Tahoe backcountry community. If you run into Anthony in the skin track or at the store, be sure to give him a hearty hello. We’re thrilled to have Anthony aboard!

Q: Can you describe your first experience in the backcountry and what made it stick?

I grew up in New York about 45 minutes from New York City. My parents were born and raised in the Bronx and never had the opportunity to get to the mountains in the winter. 

I was fortunate that the school I went to had a ski club and we’d go to small ski areas in western Massachusetts or Southern New York one day each weekend during the winter. I fell in love with sliding on snow during those early trips. 

Fast forward a bit to college and I was going to school in Western New York and teaching snowboarding at a very small hill, Swain Ski & Snowboard Center, and my love of sliding on snow grew even more. So much so, that my spring breaks weren’t to beaches, but to the mountains. 

During my Junior year, I convinced a friend to go to Jackson Hole with me. Neither of us had done any skiing/snowboarding outside of east coast resorts and Jackson Hole blew us away. On our second day, we saw people leaving the resort through gates and hiking out a ridge line. And, of course, we decided to follow suit. No backcountry experience. No avi gear. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but we were so clueless we had no idea what we didn’t know. 

Although we were somewhere we shouldn’t have been, based on our lack of knowledge, equipment and skillsets, the experience of riding terrain away from–even if very close to– a resort was transformative. 

That was over 25 years ago and I still experience the same wonder and awe that I did that day throughout each winter. 

Q: What is one of your favorite descents in Tahoe?

A: There’s a lot of amazing terrain and plenty to pick from here, but I’m going to go with one of the chutes on the south bowl of Mt. Tallac. This line has a great combo of fun terrain and epic (is that word trademarked?) views. The massive wall on the skiers left side of the line makes you feel like you’re in the Eastern Sierra, but there are huge views of Fallen Leaf Lake down below. Yeah, that’s definitely one of my favorites. 

Q: What do you think is one of the biggest areas of opportunity for the backcountry community? 

A: I think backcountry skiing/snowboarding has grown substantially in recent years. And, for some, that can be an annoyance – more people in your “backyard”. But, I like to look at it as an opportunity to work toward common goals. And, it can be easier to do that with a larger group as there are more resources available. We’re going to continue to work on behalf of this large/growing community on a variety of access issues. Access to me goes beyond just parking at trailheads. I don’t mean to dismiss that. That’s incredibly important and will be a large part of TBA’s work in the years to come. But, it also means access for people that might not otherwise have the opportunity to take part in the experiences we’re so fortunate to be a part of. TBA will be supporting and partnering with organizations that seek to break down some of the barriers to access. And I’m really excited about that opportunity.

Q: What do you think is a big challenge for the Tahoe backcountry community? 

A: This builds a bit off the previous question. We have a bigger group of backcountry users than we had before and that includes a lot of new folks just getting in to touring. With that, there’s the potential for users to have sub-par experiences. If you get to a trailhead and it’s full because people didn’t park correctly, you see trash at trailheads or along the skin track, neighbors complain about noise at trailheads in their respective areas… all of these can detract from the experience that we look for when we’re spending a day in the backcountry. So, with all that said, I think a big challenge is education. Avalanche education is essential – but I think there are other areas where education can be incredibly important and TBA will continue to and expand on our role of fulfilling that need. 

Q: What are you most excited about serving as ED of TBA? 

A: I’m especially excited about getting to be ED of a growing organization that has already accomplished a lot in a short period and has a lot of passionate people working together–often behind the scenes–for common goals. Oh, having meetings on the skin track isn’t too shabby either.

Anthony can be reached at anthony@tahoebackcountryalliance.org