This summer we’ve had the opportunity to get to know some more members of our local community during both Telluride Via Ferrata and Rock Climbing trips geared toward our Latino peers. Through a partnership with the Sheep Mountain Alliance, Wilkinson Public Library and Tri-County Health Network, we learned that a whopping 30% of San Miguel County identifies as Latino/Hispanic and are native Spanish or Chuj speakers. Even though this is such a large part of our regional population, they are the most dramatically underrepresented group in our outdoors community. And yet, these same individuals represent much of the essential workforce that keeps our community running every day.
These events, built off of a Latino ice climbing day we coordinated with the Telluride Mountain Club and Wilkinson Public Library this past spring, was an absolute blast for us to be a part of. We had a group of 24 new via ferrata climbers that crushed it through their first time on the route, which was especially exciting since many of the participants have lived here for years. As Jonathan Cooper, one of the guides from the event, put it, “It was amazing to share one of the beautiful recreational mountain experiences with members of our community that have never been up there. It’s a constant reminder of how unique and special our little valley is.” It’s our hope that our first timers will be able to take this experience and the skills they learned to help them explore more of our backyard in the future.
We’ve been working with the awesome and well-informed folks of Sheep Mountain Alliance, Tri-County Health Network, Wilkinson Public Library, Collaborative Action For Immigrants (CAFI), the Telluride Mountain Club, and other Latino community leaders to learn how to best elevate inclusivity in the outdoors and remove barriers for Telluride/San Miguel County community members to participate in outdoor recreation and environmental education. Their help has been instrumental in organizing and executing these events, and we’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to learn so much about our community through them. We recognize the systemic inequities that segments of our community experience, from housing and employment to accessing outdoor recreation and environmental education. In affluent communities like Telluride, where open space is abundant, our immigrant community faces economic barriers that make it even more difficult to participate in outdoor recreation.
We love getting outside with members of our community, especially those who are experiencing the outdoors in new and unfamiliar ways, and we look forward to doing more of it in the future!