The stunning natural landscape of the White River National Forest is the backdrop to life in Eagle and Summit Counties, providing scenic vistas, abundant recreational opportunities, clean water, and fresh air to locals and visitors alike. In 2023, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) is investing over $1.2 million in forest restoration and sustainable recreation projects via the White River National Forest Ski Conservation Fund as part of our ongoing work to support the stewardship of this landscape.
Via the Ski Conservation Fund, the NFF partners with Vail Resorts (Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail Mountain, and Beaver Creek), Copper Mountain, and Arapahoe Basin to raise funds to support forest stewardship projects. This innovative program enables guests of these resorts to donate a dollar or more when purchasing online tickets or season passes, or when staying at affiliated lodges. The NFF provides a 50-cent match on every dollar guests donate and works closely with the White River National Forest to invest those funds in projects on the Dillon and Eagle Holy Cross Ranger Districts.
Funding allocations are made with guidance from Community Advisory Committees consisting of representatives from land and wildlife management agencies, local government, tourism and lodging sectors, recreation interests, and ecological health groups. These groups communicate local stewardship priorities to the White River National Forest, who carefully consider Committee input in bringing forth potential projects and programs for annual funding consideration.
In the two years that this re-imagined process has been in place, the Committees have prioritized projects focused on watershed health, wildlife habitat, education/outreach, and sustainable/inclusive access. Stemming from this feedback, in 2023 the NFF is investing:
- Over $200,000 in watershed and forest health improvement projects, including noxious weed abatement and projects intended to minimize erosion and protect local water supplies;
- Close to $200,000 in wildlife habitat projects, with specific focus on ungulate habitat (elk, deer, and bighorn sheep), sage grouse, Brewer’s sparrow, and aquatic organisms;
- Close to $500,000 in projects and programs designed to provide sustainable and inclusive access to our public lands, including an effort to provide Spanish language versions of trailhead signage and other recreational assets; and
- Over $300,000 in educational, youth, and safety programming, including a new mobile winter backcountry safety classroom to promote avalanche safety and awareness.
The NFF strives to partner with local nonprofit partners, youth corps, and volunteer groups to fulfill the projects we invest in. Organizations receiving Ski Conservation Fund funding support in 2023 include Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance, Eagle River Watershed Council, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, and Walking Mountains Science Center.
The National Forest Foundation is grateful to Vail Resorts, Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin, and their guests for supporting these important projects.
Cover photo by Jennifer Peterson.
Bringing people together has always been a superpower of the NFF. But we can’t do it without our supporters, and that includes you. Please consider making an unrestricted gift today so we can provide the absolute best collaborative services tomorrow. Simply click here. We – and all our partners – thank you!