By Conservation Director Julie Mach
Two new staff joined the CMC Conservation Department this winter to help the Forest Service manage winter recreation in the San Juan Mountains. Chris Snell and Kricket Scheerer are our new Snow Rangers and we spent a day touring with them near Ridgway to learn what the program is all about.
Basically, they get paid to ski (or split-board, or snowshoe, or even snowmobile depending on the location). Definitely a dream job but there is a lot more to winter recreation management than just touring. The Snow Rangers are tasked as the primary contact point for users in and around the Red Mountain Pass / Sneffels / Cimarron area. They educate folks about local regulations, trail etiquette, avalanche conditions and much more. They are also helping to collect visitor use data to help the forest understand where different types of users are traveling, how parking and plowing meet user needs, and where user conflict may be occurring. They’re installing winter signage – especially along Wilderness boundaries – and ensuring accurate information is available for the public. They’ve been meeting with local backcountry guides, hut owners, snowmobile groups and Nordic clubs to understand their needs and strengthen relationships between the agency and permit holders. They are also helping facilitate educational outings with local school groups.
The Snow Ranger program is a new component of CMC’s Backcountry Snowsports Initiative (BSI) which works on winter recreation advocacy issues and winter travel management planning. Having eyes and ears in the field will not only help the agencies improve management but also help CMC understand local issues in these areas and work collaboratively with different user groups on future projects. This is our pilot year but we hope to expand the program in future years. Stay tuned for more about their adventures this winter!