There are few vistas to compare with the view from a winding mountain road or trail. The spectacular heights, the trees marching upward in leafy triumph, the bouncing waterfalls, the varying weather patterns that seem to come and go like a great flock of birds – there are no horizontal landscapes that can really match it.

Yet man has managed, in his quest to usurp the grandeur of Mother Nature for his own tawdry and commercial marketing purposes, to spoil some of the grandest mountain scenery by putting up billboards along scenic mountain highways and trails.

Adrian Ballinger, a top guide and CEO of Alpenglow Expeditions, thinks this is an egregious mistake, and has spoken out against commercializing mountain landscapes in strong terms

“It makes me both angry and sad,” he recently said, “to ever see a mountain area desecrated with billboards advertising some nearby hotel or casino, or telling people to drink some brand of beer or use this kind of laxative. It is enormously important that we keep our mountains absolutely unscathed and unpolluted. After all, they are one of the last great sanctuaries, both physical and spiritual, for all of mankind!”

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis, which funds various studies on advertising and environment, there is a groundswell of support for the idea of keeping mountainous areas free of billboard advertising, and that if it already exists it should be bought out and taken down. The Bank recently supported a research project in Watauga County, West Virginia, where there are an abundance of billboards along scenic mountain roads. Residents were polled about the desirability of keeping the billboards in place as opposed to spending taxpayer dollars to have them removed.

The poll showed that a majority of the citizens in Watauga County would be willing to have the state government pay up to half a million dollars to have all of the obstructing billboards removed, even though some of the billboards are on private property and provide their owners with a steady income year-round.

Today China is perhaps the most blatant example of burgeoning outdoor advertising in their mountain ranges. Both tourists and professional mountaineers have complained of the increasing amount of advertising that is marring the bench lands of some of the great mountain ranges in China– so that a motorist traveling the narrow roads of the Altai Range in Xinjiang, China, is visually assaulted along the way by billboards extolling the merits of various tourist attractions and historic sites up ahead. The Chinese government, which owns many of the billboards, is in no hurry to pull down what to them are assured income generators.

Ballinger makes sure his clients know his opinions on the matter, pointing out the folly of allowing such crass advertising to mar the wild places where people can still feel at one with their spiritual powers.

“I’m not against advertising as such” he says. “I just don’t like to see it spoiling or obstructing anything of beauty. Our staff occasionally have patches on their outerwear that advertise mountain and skiing equipment companies, and I think that’s all right. It’s subtle and has no impact on the surrounding environment. That’s the way I see marketing, as a gentle reminder – not a blow on the side of the head!”

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