The winter of 2020/21 marks the second season of the Snow Ranger Program: a combined effort between Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) and the US Forest Service (USFS). The Ouray Ranger District, located in Southwest Colorado, encompasses popular winter recreation areas including Red Mountain Pass, the Cimarron Mountains, Mt. Sneffels area, and the southern portion of the Uncompahgre Plateau. User groups include skiers, snowshoers, splitboarders, snow-kiters, snowmobilers, fat bikers, hikers, dog walkers, ice climbers, avalanche classes, guided backcountry groups, and overnight visitors to rental and privately owned huts and yurts. Colorado Mountain Club hosted two seasonal Snow Rangers, Kricket Olin and Brian Ducay to patrol these areas during the peak months of winter use from January into April.
Season by Numbers Snapshot:
- The Snow Rangers were in the field 57 days and over 900 hours this season (up 30% from the previous season).
- They completed 13 training days including: Avalanche Companion Rescue, Avi Rec 2, Avi Pro Level 1, USFS Snowmobile Training, and USFS Trailer Operation.
- Rangers contacted over 560 members of the public and surveyed 61 backcountry users
- Additionally, Rangers submitted 62 Visitor Use Assessments using the RIMS mobile app to track user type and parking (full details below!)
- Visitor Use Surveys captured 629 people recreating on different parts of the forest
- Parking surveys on Red Mountain Pass documented almost 1,700 parked vehicles of which 83 had trailers
- 86% of Vehicles parked on Red Mountain Pass were from CO. The most common out of state vehicles were from AZ, CA, NM, UT, VA and unmarked government vehicles (Military Training).
- 75% of seen dogs were off-leash
The USFS provided a truck, trailer, two snowmobiles, emergency communication devices, and fuel. Colorado Mountain Club provided uniforms, touring gear and avalanche safety equipment with generous support from Black Diamond and Weston Backcountry. The Nature Connection lended two crosscountry ski set-ups for the duration of the season. Support for the program was also provided by Athletic Brewing, the Telluride Foundation and Winter Wildlands Alliance.
RIMS Visitor Use Monitoring
Using the CMC RIMS Mobile App, the Snow Rangers completed visitor use monitoring at locations across the forest. In most locations, they counted an average of 5-10 users per assessment but, on busier days, up to 58 users and 100 vehicles were recorded. Backcountry and Nordic skiing were the most common user types, followed by snowshoeing, winter hiking and snowmobiling. Trends at Red Mountain Pass showed the highest use in January and February followed by a steady decline into mid April. Screenshots below highlight some of the data collected by the Rangers. The Ouray Ranger District utilized a custom RIMS dashboard to access and review this data.