Wasatch Mountains, Utah. Photo by Adam Clark


At the crossroads of conservation and recreation, Winter Wildlands Alliance is the national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands.

Founded in 2000, Winter Wildlands Alliance speaks up for the soul of winter. As a national community that supports 100+ grassroots environmental organizations and backcountry partners, we advocate for policies that preserve and protect public lands and wild winter refuge. We also believe that engaging with current and future generations of winter backcountry travelers is essential in safeguarding the places that we love. As a result, every year our SnowSchool program takes 35,000+ kids outside for science-based winter field trips, and our Backcountry Film Festival tours 100+ locations worldwide to raise $180,000+ for local mountain communities.

Building on a string of successes in policy and education, the organization is accelerating into a new chapter of outreach and engagement with winter advocates locally and nationwide.


The Executive Director is the chief executive officer with strategic and operational responsibility across the organization’s staff, programs, mission, annual goals, fundraising, and administration.

Examples of General Duties:

  • Alongside the Board of Directors, develop strategic objectives that further the mission and goals of the organization.
  • Effectively and efficiently operationalize those strategic objectives.
  • Recruit, retain, support, and manage high-quality staff, consultants, and contractors.
  • Engage, energize, and proactively communicate with staff and board.
  • Ensure ongoing programmatic excellence and rigorous program evaluation.
  • Operate within approved budgets, maximize resource utilization, and generally ensure sound fiscal management.
  • Raise funds and cultivate donors to accomplish mission and ensure the long-term financial stability, success, and growth of the organization.
  • Develop, maintain, and support a strong Board of Directors.
  • Enable the Board, with the Board President, to fulfill its governance functions.
  • Integrate the conservation and recreation components of the organization’s mission and engage deeply with the backcountry and conservation communities.
  • Represent and proactively promote the organization.
  • Oversee, evolve, and communicate the Winter Wildlands Alliance vision and brand.
  • Establish and execute sound organizational systems, processes, policies, procedures, and recordkeeping.
  • Conduct business in a professional and businesslike manner.

Examples of Specific Duties:

  • Establish a kind, responsive, and open atmosphere within the office and with partners, donors, members, vendors, and other constituents.
  • Support, coach and manage staff, providing mentorship, leadership, vision, accessibility, and opportunities for growth. Provide clear expectations and ensure accountability.
  • Identify, track, measure, and analyze key performance indicators tied to program evaluation, funding, and other organizational objectives.
  • Obtain funding in the form of grants, donations, memberships, events and other revenues.
  • Oversee development of sophisticated outreach, membership, and fundraising programs.
  • Create transparent, thoughtful, strategic, and forward-thinking annual budgets that align with programmatic and organizational objectives.
  • Proactively advocate for the organization and mission through omnichannel outreach, including public speaking, media/PR/op-eds, and marketing.
  • Develop, cultivate, and leverage strategic partnerships.
  • Manage, negotiate, and sign contracts.
  • Serve as a board member of Outdoor Alliance, which nationally represents the greater human-powered outdoor community.
  • Develop and document relationships with supporters of the mission of the organization.
  • Keep budgetary, financial, and project records in a systematic manner sufficient to enable the easy transfer of responsibilities.
  • Other duties as required.


We expect a minimum of 5 years of leadership experience in the conservation/recreation, non-profit, advocacy, or for-profit arena. Additionally, candidate must have:

  • A deep and personal commitment to the Winter Wildlands Alliance mission and a passion for winter and the outdoors.
  • Visionary leadership paired with a get-it-done attitude.
  • Considerable and demonstrable success in leading fundraising efforts, including experience soliciting and cultivating major donors, foundations, and private corporations in support of program and operational activities.
  • Proven success in membership program development.
  • Experience with organizational leadership and effectively managing a team.
  • Excellent writing, editing, verbal, interpersonal, and organizational skills.
  • Inspirational public speaking skills.
  • Familiarity and savvy across a broad spectrum of relevant technology and software.
  • A strong public lands policy/advocacy background.
  • Familiarity with volunteer work.
  • While optional, musical talents are valued highly by the “backcountry buskers” on the staff and board.


The Executive Director reports to the Winter Wildlands Alliance Board of Directors. The board will conduct an initial 6-month review and an annual review each year thereafter. The Executive Director position is a full-time role classified as Exempt from FLSA overtime requirements.  


Strong preference to be based at Winter Wildlands Alliance headquarters in Boise, Idaho.


Competitive salary (commensurate with experience) plus exceptional employee and health benefits.


Email resume, cover letter, and salary requirements by February 27, 2019 to careers@winterwildlands.org.

Winter Wildlands Alliance is an equal opportunity employer and values diversity. All employment is decided on the basis of qualifications, merit, and organizational needs.


Back in March we put out a Winter Recreation Survey asking you how you experience winter on public lands. The survey was produced to help Winter Wildlands Alliance and our land management partners better understand what kinds of human-powered winter recreation are happening on public lands and what the biggest threats might be to the ways we like to play. The deadline for submissions was May 31, 2018. 1376 of you responded. Kristie Van Voorst from Boulder, Colorado, was the lucky winner of an outrageous complete gear and outfit package from our friends at DPS, FlyLow and Native Eyewear! Stay tuned for the next one; it definitely pays to play!

Meanwhile here are some of the top results from that survey:



Here’s a list of some fun answers we couldn’t help but share:

How do you recreate in winter?

  • Walking the cat (not dog!)
  • Winter is normally the best time for non-winter sports, like climbing and biking, in Southern Utah.
  • Pond Hockey
  • SnowBall Fights
  • Scuba Diving

What are your top threats to winter recreation?

  • Damn chain rules going to the mountain
  • The Orange Man
  • Motivating our children
  • Dog Poop
  • Winter Wildlands Alliance

It Pays to Play!!

Kristie Van Voorst of Boulder, Colorado won this sweet set-up plus a pair of DPS Skis–just for filling out our survey! Don’t miss the next one!

Cross-country skiing in the Sapphire WSA, Larry Campbell photo

IN A DECISION FILED JUNE 29, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Montana upheld the 2016 Bitterroot National Forest Travel Plan against a federal lawsuit brought by a coalition of motorized and mountain bike organizations. The plaintiffs had sought to overturn the travel plan’s prohibitions on motorized and mechanized uses within Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) and recommended wilderness areas (RWAs), while local and national conservation partners, including Winter Wildlands Alliance, had intervened on behalf of the Forest Service to help defend the travel plan.

The coalition challenging the plan included the Bitterroot Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club, the Ravalli County Off-Road User Association, the Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association, the Montana Snowmobile Association, Citizens for Balanced Use and Backcountry Sled Patriots.

“They kind of threw the kitchen sink at this to find some toehold to get it struck down,” Earthjustice attorney Josh Purtle, who represented the groups supporting the Forest Service, told The Missoulian. “It didn’t work.”

Standing with the forest service on this were Friends of the Bitterroot, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, Missoula Backcountry Horsemen, Montana Wilderness Association, Selway-Pintler Wilderness Backcountry Horsemen, WildEarth Guardians and Winter Wildlands Alliance.

Backcountry skiing on the Bitterroot National Forest, Adam Switalski photo

Back in 2016, Winter Wildlands Alliance applauded the Bitterroot National Forest for publishing a winter travel plan that protected winter wildlands on the forest from inappropriate over-snow vehicle (OSV) use in areas that the forest plan recommends for wilderness. These areas must be managed to protect their wilderness character, and the Forest Service determined that over-snow vehicle use is incompatible with such management.

The Bitterroot’s travel plan also prohibited motorized use in the two WSAs on the forest – the Sapphire and Blue Joint. Although OSVs and other forms of motorized use may be allowed within WSAs, under the Montana Wilderness Study Act, motorized uses are only allowed at the “manner and extent” that those uses existed in 1977, when they were designated by Congress.

After extensive research and analysis, the Bitterroot concluded that OSV use was hardly, if at all, present in those WSAs in 1977. Therefore, to comply with the Montana Wilderness Study Act, and to “maintain wilderness character” in the Sapphire and Blue Joint WSAs, the travel plan prohibited OSV use (and for similar reasons mechanized use as well) within these areas.

The Court last week ruled that the Forest Service’s decisions were not arbitrary and capricious as the plaintiffs had argued, but in fact well reasoned and supported by the administrative record. The ruling also affirmed that the Forest Service has the discretion to limit non-conforming uses such as snowmobiling to protect the social or ecological character of potential wilderness areas, not just their physical attributes.

This is important for us, as snowmobiling often leaves no lasting physical imprint but does drastically change the character of an area during the winter. Anybody who has been skiing in the same basin where people are snowmobiling knows that the sounds, smells, and presence of motorized recreation counters the feeling of being in a wilderness environment, even if there are no groomed trails or other infrastructure.

Pausing to take in the Bitterroots.

Recognizing the complexity of the forest’s mandate to “maintain wilderness character,” and its authority to limit uses, the judge cited analysis conducted in the Blue Joint area from 1977-2009 showing that “snowmobile use grew more than four-fold, off-highway-vehicle use grew nine-fold, and bicycle use went from non-existent to common use.”

“The wilderness-quality lands the Travel Plan protects are important to people from all walks of life in the Bitterroot valley, including hunters, fishermen, horsepackers, hikers, and skiers,” said Purtle. “The court’s decision ensures that these special places will continue to support elk and other wildlife and provide Montanans with outstanding opportunities for solitude and quiet recreation for years to come.”

Mountain Bikes in WSAs up for more Public Comment

The Court did order the Forest Service to conduct an additional round of public comment concerning the trails closed to mountain bikes in the Blue Joint and Sapphire WSAs.  However, the Court did not order the Forest Service to conduct an additional analysis or modify the travel plan in response to the public comment period.

Many skiers, all of the WWA staff included, ride mountain bikes when the snow melts. We know that defending the Bitterroot travel plan has raised a few eyebrows and cost us a few friends. However, the Wilderness Act prohibits mountain biking as well as snowmobiling, and it would be disingenuous to argue that one non-conforming use is incompatible with wilderness character while turning a blind eye to another just because the other is human-powered. In the hierarchy of Forest Service planning, travel plans tier to forest plans and the forest plan is the document that lays out the areas that will be managed to protect wilderness character and the areas where other uses, like mountain biking and snowmobiling, may be appropriate.

The Bitterroot Forest Plan is 30 years old and conditions have changed over the past 3 decades. It may be time to re-assess which areas of the forest should be recommended for wilderness and managed to protect wilderness character. However, forest plan revision, not travel planning, is the time to make those decisions. We look forward to working with all of our partners during the forest plan revision, which will hopefully start soon.

Likewise, we believe it’s time for a state-wide conversation about the future of Montana’s WSA’s. There’s no doubt that some of the areas within WSAs in Montana should be designated as Wilderness, and there’s no doubt that other areas within these WSAs should be released and open to activities like mountain biking and snowmobiling. However, until those conversations happen and Congress takes action on the WSAs, the Forest Service must follow existing law and their forest plan. That’s what the Bitterroot has done and we applaud them for it.

Over 90% of winter recreation takes place on public lands.

This guest post comes courtesy of our Red Lodge, MT based grassroots group, Beartooth Recreational Trails Association. 

The Beartooth Recreational Trails Association was the first Montana-based grassroots member of Winter Wildlands Alliance. They promote summer and winter trails in and around Red Lodge, MT, which includes operation of Red Lodge Nordic Center and grooming the West Fork (Forest Service) Road.

The West Fork, just 6 miles from town, offers something for everybody: walking, dog sledding, dog joring, snowshoeing, XC skiing (including track), skate skiing, and fat tire biking. Snowmobiling is also allowed, as there are privately owned cabins about 6 miles down the road. People also use snowmobiles on the road to access private cabins and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness trailhead at the end of the road to ski and ice climb.

BRTA has had a permit to groom the West Fork road for several years, which benefits all users and keeps snow packed and fairly smooth into the spring. Their volunteer grooms 3-4 times a month; and this season they will have available for the first time a 4 stroke snowmobile pulling a modern Ginzu groomer for grooming fresh or old snow!

The Custer National Forest (now one half of the Custer-Gallatin) has not undertaken winter travel planning. This lack of planning means that the Forest Service does not have a definition nor any rules about tracked vehicles or what types of uses are allowed on the West Fork. This is problematic for BRTA’s grooming efforts and can cause conflicts. When tracked vehicles drive around the gate they can interfere with quiet recreation and destroy the grooming efforts. BRTA also encounters problems with horses on the snow pulling sleighs on runners, which also destroys the grooming efforts.

For many years BRTA has worked with the Forest Service to address the lack of signage, which is needed to govern all the users and reduce conflicts. They are also dealing with increased warm spells which deteriorate the snow. Other issues include a lack of parking; and this year, lack of a contractor to plow the 4 mile access road. Now they are working with private land owners, the Forest Service, and winter recreationists to raise money and come up with a plan to keep this access road plowed. The Custer Gallatin National Forest does not plow any Forest Service roads, but will plow parking lots.

To learn more about BRTA visit www.beartoothtrails.org