Get “Avy Savvy” with the CMC Backcountry Snow Rangers

By 2021 Snow Ranger Kricket Olin

As Snow Rangers in western Colorado we are thrilled that the snow has finally arrived!  The 2020/2021 Snow Ranger season is in full swing in the northern San Juan Mountains.  Brain Ducay and myself (Kricket Olin) are two Snow Rangers working in a united program for the US Forest Service and Colorado Mountain Club.  Brian’s background is in mountain rescue and mine is in the snowsports industry and Natural Resource Management.  The “Feds” (USFS) working with a CO non-profit (CMC) is a unique and brilliant working relationship combining two powerhouses dedicated to the management of our public lands.  This season marks the second year of this program and things are off to a good start even with a weak start to snow accumulation.

Our office is based in Montrose, CO but we patrol a large area in western Colorado including Red Mountain Pass, the Mt Sneffels Range, the Uncompahgre Plateau, the Cimarron Mountains and the Grand Mesa.  Our mission is to see how the public uses their land in the winter time, to encourage a “savvy avy” mindset and an attitude of caring for the land and having respect for the different user groups recreating in the snow.  

Every day is different.  Snow conditions play a big role in where we work and we start off each morning combing through the CAIC website.  From there we decide what area to patrol.  If we are on Red Mountain Pass, we ski and split-board tour thanks to our generous sponsors Black Diamond and Weston.  In less accessible areas, we snowmobile to Wilderness boundaries and check for proper signage and use.  Other days, we can be found cross-country skiing along popular hut routes or underneath popular ice climbs outside of Ouray.  Several times a month we assist The Nature Connection with their 4th and 6th grade ski programs.  These days are a blast and it is so satisfying to see kids skiing for the 1st time and loving it. What a great way to reach the next generation!  

Regardless of where we are working, we document information such as user numbers, vehicles, out of state visitors, issues and public comments.  We also keep track of how people are enjoying the snow whether it be on snowshoes, snowmobiling, winter hiking, ice climbing, split boarding, xc skiing or even snow kiting.  There are so many ways to get outside and enjoy your land.  We hope that you have a great winter, especially with this fresh snow and remember to check CAIC before you head out and take a beacon, shovel and probe with you when you go.

We hope to see you out there!

Kricket and Brian

This year we want to make a special shout out to our partners who have helped make this program possible.  Athletic Brewing, Black Diamond Equipment, the Telluride Foundation, Weston Backcountry, Winter Wildlands Alliance, and of course the U.S. Forest Service.

For more info about the Snow Ranger program, check out www.cmc.org/snowranger

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