Stewardship doesn’t sleep

/ / Stewardship

By Meghann Burke

Although it has been a late start to winter, snowflakes have finally started flying across the San Juan Mountains, and San Juan Mountains Association’s winter stewardship and education programs have launched as well. No hibernation for the SJMA crew.

SJMA has an array of educational opportunities and activities for everyone in the family this winter. In partnership with the Durango Nordic Center, we kicked off our winter events with the first Full Moon Howler of the season on December 26th. Under the radiant Wolf moon, SJMA staff and volunteers led 60 people on an interpretive snowshoe hike for an evening of intriguing facts, amazing views and hot chocolate by the fire pit. Do not worry if you missed that one. The Nordic Center has two more Full Moon Howler events planned for Jan. 24 and Feb. 24, and SJMA will, once again, be leading the interpretive snowshoe hikes.

As we wrapped up our Christmas trees for the Conservation fundraiser, our stewardship team shifted gears and started prepping for our Snow Ambassador season. Once again you will find the SJMA mobile base camp stationed at the Andrews Lake winter parking area. Colin Courtney serves as our Molas Snow Ambassador this season, and he is ready to answer your questions, share information on winter Leave-No-Trace ethics, and provide you with his knowledge of the area. He may even have some steamy hot chocolate to share. Be sure to drop in and say “hi” over the next few months.

We are also excited to announce we have expanded our Snow Ambassador program to Wolf Creek Pass. Olivia Maclean serves as our inaugural Wolf Creek Snow Ambassador. You might run into her at the Lobo trailhead if you’re skiing or sledding. A snowmobile enthusiast? Olivia will be stationed at the pass with the latest snow and avalanche conditions around the area, as well as important safety information and forest updates. Keep an eye out for her in the backcountry or at the trailheads this season.

Meanwhile, SJMA’s education team is leading experiential field trips with youths from all over the region. The education team guides young snow enthusiasts on snowshoe journeys around the Haviland Lake and other areas, spreading their knowledge of the habits of wildlife during the winter months and the importance of snow to life in our region.

When they are not out with the students, our education team and volunteer coordinator are immersed in planning for our upcoming Snow Science Socials at Andrews Lake. Starting Saturday, Jan. 13, SJMA, in partnership with Mountain Studies Institute, is bringing back our popular educational snow adventure. Starting from the Andrews lake base camp, join us for a fun half day learning about snowpack and wildlife winter habits in the San Juan Mountains. Then, stay and join us for some riveting conversations and warm beverages around the fire pit.

There is no down season at SJMA. Year round, there is an opportunity to share knowledge, ignite passion and instill respect for our public lands. We also believe winter is a time to reflect, renew and take the chance to take a breather, stop and listen to the silence of the snow.

Meg is the Stewardship Program Manager at San Juan Mountains Association and is looking forward to some winter adventures and a successful winter field season.