Winter Escapades: Embracing a Versatile Winter Wonderland

/ / Stewardship, Winter

By Olivia Maclean

As winter blankets the landscape with its pristine coat of snow, adventurers of all kinds eagerly await the opportunity to delve into the snowy wonderlands. Weather-conscious locals make the most of new snow and blue skies as the parking lots along Wolf Creek and Molas Passes fill with visitors from afar who have been tracking the most recent storm; each snowfall a fresh invitation to explore.

For skiers, the season heralds endless opportunities to carve powder-laden slopes and explore the serene beauty of the snow-covered San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests. From the adrenaline rush of downhill descents on Lobo Overlook to the tranquil solitude of Nordic trails at Big Meadows or Fall Creek, each outing offers the pure essence of winter.

Snowshoers, too, find their winter haven amidst the serene landscapes of the National Forests. Their snowshoes allow them to tread softly over the deep snow while witnessing the undisturbed wildlife and the intricate frost patterns across the landscape.

Snowmobilers from across the country keep a vigilant eye for snowfall to have a chance at cruising across vast expanses of Wolf Creek Pass with their machines; winter provides a playground waiting to be explored. While skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers share a passion for exploration, conflicts sometimes arise. Skiers and snowshoers, accustomed to the tranquility of gliding through the snow under their own power, may find the roar and tracks of snowmobiles disruptive to the experience. Likewise, snowmobilers, who relish the freedom to roam, are irritated at the thought of their terrain being diminished.

Yet, skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers share a common bond—a deep appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of the champagne powder of Colorado. The majority of motorized and non-motorized recreationists understand the importance of responsible recreation, respecting the ecosystems that they traverse and minimizing their impact on the environment.

The San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA), in partnership and with support from the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests, has employed two snow ambassadors this winter. Colin Courtney has been stationed at the Andrews Lake parking lot, where SJMA has been stationed for the 3rd consecutive winter season, and Olivia Maclean has served as our inaugural Snow Ambassador at Wolf Creek Pass.

Throughout the winter, SJMA offers educational programs centered on understanding our wintry world better. SJMA Snow Ambassadors have interacted with more than 2,300 winter recreationists – both motorized and non-motorized – to ensure that they understand daily avalanche and weather conditions and the importance of recreating responsibly. This partnership is essential in nurturing mutual respect among all individuals dedicated to maintaining unrestricted access to National Forests no matter how they enjoy the region’s vast public lands.

Many of us share a common love for the winter landscape. By recognizing and respecting each other's preferences and adhering to established trail guidelines (set in place by the respective Forest Service), skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers can coexist harmoniously, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the splendor of this region’s snowy wonderland in their own ways.

Olivia Maclean, SJMA’s Wolf Creek Snow Ambassador, cherishes both backcountry skiing and snowmobiling.