Telluride Mountain Club 2023 Recap Report
In 2023, the Telluride Mountain Club (TMtC) thrived, thanks to the collective efforts of our dedicated Board of Directors, committed staff, and generous donors/members. Together, we pursued our mission, and helped make Telluride an incredible place to recreate outdoors. Please consider supporting TMtC with an online donation that can be made here.
We’re excited to share some of our key achievements from 2023 in a concise format below, followed by more detailed insights. We want to express our immense gratitude to the Telluride community and all those who contributed to our organization this year. Your unwavering support is the driving force behind our successes. We look forward to sharing the trails with you in 2024!
Trail Planning, Maintenance & Execution
- Cleared over 135 downed trees across 14 trails
- Improved 32 miles of trail across 18 different trails
- Successfully completed the Deep Creek reroute and maintenance project
- Added two benches to the new Eider to Mill Creek Connector Trail
- Worked on trail improvements for the society turn climbing wall access trails; designed and paid for new signage
- Aided the United States Forest Service (USFS) with the rockfall mitigation project on Mill Creek / Waterline Trail
- Completed heavy maintenance on the Sunshine / T-35 Trail
- Stewardship on the Bridal Veil Trail and maintenance fixes on the bridge
- Scouted south side Perimeter Trail alignment options
- Scouted alternative alignments for the proposed Flume Trail due to private land ownership issues
- Continued discussion, plan revision, and forward progress from the USFS on TMtC’s proponent-driven trails proposal
- Resubmitted the plan in September for (pending) USFS adoption
- The plan includes 22 miles of new, proposed trails
- Communication and meetings with SE Group who will be contracted for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis
- Ongoing communication with the USFS and regional governments / landowners for trail maintenance efficiency
- Identification of future trail opportunities to aid in improved trail connectivity and variety of trail experiences
- Meetings with private landowners to understand possible future trail alignment options over private parcels
- Meeting with the USFS and Adaptive Sports to understand what trails can be improved with wider tread for adaptive athletes in 2024
Education, Awareness & Stewardship + Other Trail Initiatives
- Social media ads targeted at people visiting Telluride promoting proper trail etiquette, personal responsibility, and stewardship
- Continuation of promotion of trail etiquette messaging and visual assets for community use
- Three public/volunteer trail workdays on T-35/Sunshine Trail
- Trail updates, clearing and closure info, and news on telluridemountainclub.org, Facebook and Instagram
- Press releases about important trail information to the newspaper, KOTO, and Telluride news sources
- Updated programming for our trail counters, located on three popular trails
- Expansion of Opt in for Trails for dedicated trail funding
- Comments and objections to the draft GMUG Forest Plan
- Attended the Colorado Mountain Bike Coalition summit to understand trail planning and construction across Colorado
- We hosted a free event about mental health and how it plays into and relates to our passions in the mountains
- We collaborated on Water in the West, a talk on the pressing issues of water in the west and the use of outdoor recreation as a powerful tool to educate and raise awareness about the impact of climate change
- TMtC continued to host our annual event in town park
- Successfully completed year two of our free outdoor recreation gear drive
- Over 250 people took advantage of free outdoor gear at the community fiesta in collaboration with CAFI
- Two trailers worth of gear collected including several kids and adult bikes
- Planning, meetings, and partnerships to make 2024’s event even more impactful
- Separately, TMtC attended Durango’s Share the Love Cycle event, an event supporting Silver Stallion on the Navajo Nation
Telluride Via Ferrata
- Coordinated Via Ferrata upkeep needs with Via Ferrata Sustainability Fund (VFSF) partners and volunteers
- Organized volunteer efforts to inspect the route
- USFS signed decision memo addressing the need for future upgrades to the Via Ferrata route for USFS adoption
- Communication with the USFS about future Via Ferrata engineering and hardware replacement needs
- Continued stewardship to keep the Via Ferrata route free and open to the public
Regional Climbing Routes
- Regional climbing access trail improvement inventory for future volunteer trail work days
- Coordinate hardware upgrades and replacements on local climbing routes
Peter Inglis Avalanche Education Fund
- Hosted four free local avalanche education and awareness events (Telluride Backcountry Chats)
- Conducted a community-wide decision-making and risk tolerance survey
- Raised funds for scholarship programming through ski movie events, in collaboration with Sheridan Arts Foundation and Telluride Arts District
- Awarded $3,300 in scholarship assistance to seven individuals for avalanche education courses
- Fabricated and installed a new solar-powered beacon checker at Lizard Head Pass
- Successfully executed the third annual Skidola (in partnership with the Telluride Foundation)
- Set new records for most racers and funds raised
- Coordinated with the USFS and Friends of the CAIC on backcountry trailhead signage
- Provided ongoing support for the Telluride Backcountry Radio Program, including a review of its effectiveness and survey to improve the program
- Facilitated two Beacon Basin Practice Days at Telluride Ski Resort’s avalanche transceiver park
- TMtC is hiring a full-time, year-round Operations Director to sustain current and future growth of projects and programming for the organization
REGIONAL TRAILS PLANNING & EXECUTION
It was another busy year for the Telluride Mountain Club. We have been working hard to establish ourselves as the go-to entity for trail maintenance needs and communication in the region. This year, we cleared over 135 downed trees across 14 trails, including the Galloping Goose, Eider to Mill Creek Connector, Mill Creek/Waterline, Jud Wiebe, Boomerang, Eider Creek, Deep Creek, Magic Meadows, Alexander / Coal Chutes, Sneffels Highline, Sheridan Crosscut, Liberty Bell, Bridal Veil, Marshall Creek Trail, and more. Just on the Sneffels Highline Trail this year, we cleared 33 trees! You can learn more about our trail conditions reporting here. We are always working to improve this program and receive more feedback on the current state of Telluride’s trails.
We were successful in completing the west end Deep Creek reroute and maintenance project. The new 1.9-mile stretch prioritizes environmental sustainability and recreational enjoyment while the maintenance included drainage work and brush cutting along the entire trail. Project management was led by TMtC’s Trails Director Jordan Carr (also of Mountain Sage Trails). Machine work was handled by Shawn Gregory of Big Loop Trails, and Southwest Conservation Corps assisted with the finishing touches. The USFS provided oversight and funding for the project was produced by the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) through the National Forest Foundation. Read more about this project here.
With the help of generous donors and creative crafters, we were able to build and install two benches on the new Eider to Mill Creek Connector Trail that we built in 2022. The benches are already a favorite to take in the sweeping valley views.
Our Trails Director worked throughout the summer on maintenance to improve the Sunshine / T-35 Trail. The trail now has improved sustainability, increased drainage, widened and buffed turns, improved sightlines, wider trail tread, enhanced benching, opt-in mountain bike features, and improved trail predictability. We hosted three public trail workdays in conjunction with this project.
This summer we worked on several additional trail maintenance projects. In collaboration with San Miguel County and Mountain Trip, we were able to improve the climbing access trails at the Society Turn Climbing Wall. On this project, we also designed and paid for new signage. In the spring, we aided the USFS’ efforts on the rockfall mitigation project on the Mill Creek / Waterline Trail. The trail was rerouted around massive rockfall from the fall of 2022.
Our Board of Directors and staff aided in the stewardship of the Bridal Veil Trail on multiple occasions. Early in the spring, we cleaned paint vandalism off the bridge railing. We also fixed the wooden stair step and tightened the metal bridge access stairs to improve safety.
TMtC continued its work to improve trail connectivity and expand the region’s trail system. We met with San Miguel County, Idarado, the Town of Telluride, and surveyors to scout the best possible alignment for the proposed south side perimeter trail, connecting town park with the Bridal Veil Trail. We met with bridge specialists to understand alignment options around USFS land. TMtC staff did endless scouting for proposed Flume Trail alignments after private landowners would not grant approval to cross their land (with the most sustainable alignments). This proposal is now on 100% USFS land. Additionally, TMtC staff did other minor trail alignment scouting for trails included in our latest trail proposal.
TMtC has been working on a proponent-driven trail proposal for two years. Since the first submittal, the USFS has asked us to add and delete certain trail alignments. We have been required to wait patiently for the USFS to approve and adopt the proposal. Our latest version, submitted in September 2023 is currently being vetted by the USFS for adoption. If/when adopted, next steps will include public scoping and comments. It is our hope that this will be done near the end of 2023 or in early 2024. TMtC is in communications with SE Group, the company that TMtC will hire to do the third party National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis. The NEPA process will likely take all of 2024 and will cost TMtC approximately $250,000. In addition to the current proposal, TMtC is always looking for new trail opportunities to improve connectivity and the variety of trail experiences in the region. Often, this is easier to achieve on private or regional government land, instead of USFS Federal lands.
In the late fall of 2023, TMtC met with Adaptive Sports, the USFS, and San Miguel County to better understand and talk about collaborations for adaptive athletes on regional trails.
EDUCATION, AWARENESS, STEWARDSHIP + OTHER TRAIL INITIATIVES
TMtC continues to target people visiting the Telluride region with proper trail etiquette, personal responsibility, and stewardship messaging. As of October 15th, these ads have reached 40,399 people with 170,990 impressions since June 1st, 2023. These ads use the visual messaging that was created during the pandemic to help protect the outdoor places we love. Examples include: toilet paper is trash, pack it out; share the trails; leave no trace; stay on the trail; be a good steward; yield to others; please preserve nature.
In conjunction with our maintenance project on the Sunshine / T-35 Trail, we hosted three public trail workdays for the public to attend. Several folks took advantage of this opportunity to help steward one of Telluride’s popular trails.
Via our website, Instagram, and Facebook pages, TMtC regularly keeps the public up to date on trail notifications, maintenance efforts, closure info, timely etiquette updates, and general information. We also use these outlets to collect information on current trail conditions and maintenance needs from the public. Additionally, we put together press releases about noteworthy trail updates/info for KOTO and the Telluride Daily Planet.
This year we updated programming and the technology associated with our trail counters. These counters are used to help us understand trails use numbers to make better and informed decisions about future trails and planning. The trail counters are on two popular regional trails as well as the via ferrata.
In 2023, our Trails Director worked hard to expand our Opt in for Trails fundraising program. The funds collected through Opt in for Trails are used exclusively for new trail construction, trail maintenance, and future trail planning. This year, we were able to expand the program to Telluride Brewing and Stronghouse Brew Pub. You can see all current participating businesses here.
At the end of September, TMtC attended the Colorado Mountain Bike Coalition summit to better understand trail planning and construction across multiple trail groups in Colorado. We formed good relationships with other trail organizations to better understand where we are falling short, ideas to better our nonprofit, and understand other group’s successes with the USFS and private landowners. We were also able to better understand trail funding in other mountain towns.
TMtC is currently working with Outdoor Alliance, regional trail groups, and local entities to thoughtfully submit updated comments/objections to the current draft GMUG Forest Plan. This process has been going on for several years and we are getting closer to a final plan that will direct uses and management areas on USFS lands on the GMUG Forest.
NOTEWORTHY PROGRAMMING & OPERATIONS
In March, we hosted an inaugural event, Mental Health in the Mountains. This was in response to loss Telluride experienced in recent years. We hosted licensed counselors to help with the discussion on mental health and how it affects our passions in the mountains. TMtC collaborated to put on Water in the West with Dr. Len Necefer who provided an overview of the historical and cultural significance of the Colorado River to indigenous communities and the challenges they face in securing their water rights. In July, we hosted our annual summer event in town park with over 300 TMtC supporters.
We are currently conducting interviews for a new, full-time, year-round Operations Director. This person will manage day to day operations, programs, coordinate with the Board of Directors, manage staff, maintain partnerships, move projects forward, fundraise, plan and execute events, and complete administrative tasks. The Operations Director will drive strategic planning to achieve and expand the organization’s mission, vision, and goals. Our current Director will transition to focus on fundraising and special projects once this new person is up to speed.
We are proud to have successfully completed our second year of hosting a free outdoor recreation gear. Our intention with this event is to get outdoor recreation gear in the hands of folks who cannot afford it or don’t have the means to acquire it. We hope this is one small step in helping with access to public lands for more members of the Telluride community. This year over 250 individuals grabbed at least one piece of gear during the Community Fiesta. Our gear collection, during the annual spring cleanup/recycling event garnered two trailers worth of gear (skis, bikes, outerwear, hiking shoes, backpacks, helmets, boots, poles, surf boards, kayaks, camping equipment, and so much more). Dates are already on the calendar for 2024.
Separately, TMtC’s Director attended Durango’s Share the Love Cycle event to understand their partnership with Silver Stallion on the Navajo Reservation. The goal was to build relationships and visualize how this event could be replicated in the Telluride community and continue to help others with bike and gear donations.
TMtC works closely with our Via Ferrata Sustainability Fund Partners – Mountain Trip, San Juan Outdoor Adventure, San Juan Mountain Guides, and Telluride Mountain Guides – each summer to keep the route maintained and in good condition. Partner guide services volunteer by way of trail maintenance efforts, hardware assessments, and route inspections. TMtC can’t thank these guide services and individuals enough for helping to keep the route in good order throughout the season.
This summer, the USFS released their signed decision memo from last summer’s NEPA analysis. The memo describes that the USFS will officially adopt the via ferrata route when the hardware has been updated to the current USA standards with new engineering plans. Currently, the via ferrata is built to European standards. The USFS is essentially requesting that TMtC pay for and upgrade the route for the USFS to adopt it. This is a larger discussion that TMtC is currently having with the board and will be having with the via ferrata partners soon. There are many questions that still need to be answered before moving forward.
TMtC works with local guide companies and a group of experienced climbing volunteers to upgrade and replace hardware on local climbing routes over the summer. These efforts help create safer climbing experiences in our region.
TMtC is currently working with the climbing community to understand what climbing access trails need improvements. We are working on an inventory list for future volunteer trail workdays.
PETER INGLIS AVALANCHE EDUCATION FUND / BACKCOUNTRY RECAP
TMtC is the umbrella organization to the Peter Inglis Avalanche Education Fund (PI Avy Fund). The PI Avy Fund’s mission is to create opportunities for avalanche education and backcountry user awareness in the San Juan Mountains.
Community Outreach & Free Avalanche Education: last winter, the PI Fund created four free avalanche education events (Telluride Backcountry Chats), hosted by the Wilkinson Public Library. Each event was attended by 40 to 50 people. Audience participation was encouraged, and we are confident that a positive effect was made on the local backcountry community (both entry level and advanced backcountry users were engaged). The PI Fund fabricated and installed a new solar-powered beacon checker at Lizard Head Pass with the help of the USFS and other partners.
Scholarships: Last winter, the PI Fund received 15 applications for scholarships to help offset the cost of individual’s Avalanche Education Courses. In total, $3,300 was awarded to 7 individuals ranging in the amounts of $100 to $1000, with support from partner organizations (Auberge Resorts, San Miguel County Search and Rescue). These scholarships offer an incredible opportunity for local backcountry users who may not otherwise be able to afford the cost of an educational course. This program has grown significantly since the PI Fund was originally established.
SkiDola: The PI Fund partnered with the Telluride Foundation to put on the third annual Skidola, an uphill on-snow race from Telluride to the top of the Gondola. This event saw 77 registered participants. Prizes and awards were donated by local stores and partners, while the Oak restaurant again hosted the awards ceremony and after-party. This year’s SkiDola also included a silent auction, featuring “Pies for Pi”, which allowed locals to donate fresh-baked pies. The Telluride Foundation donated $4,200 of proceeds from the event, and in total the SkiDola generated $5,435 to support the work of the Pi Fund.
Backcountry Radio Program: The PI Fund is continuing to support the Backcountry Radio program in an ongoing manner. Jon Miller, of Jagged Edge, reports that their 6 BCA Link Radios are in good working order and see frequent rentals by members of the public. In Fall of 2023, the Pi Fund plans to survey the general public regarding the Backcountry Radio Program to identify areas for improvement.
TMtC owes so much of its success to the invaluable assistance and support provided by our partners, grantors, and private donors. We extend so much thanks to all our partners, sponsors, donors, members, volunteers, and grantors for their exceptional support throughout 2023. Without you, none of our achievements would have been possible, and we are truly thankful.
If you have questions about the projects and programming accomplished this past year, please email email@example.com. You can become a member/supporter of the club and our projects/initiatives here.
We hope you will join us in 2024!
Josh Borof – President
Nate Smith – Vice President
Tor Anderson – Board Member
Todd Rutledge – Board Member
Kevin Cooney – Board Member
Ximena Carolina Rebolledo Leon – Board Member
Heidi Lauterbach – Director
Jordan Carr – Trails Director
Chris Dickson – PI Avy Fund Director