Is the parking lot full? Is access to the trail blocked? Are the restrooms open or closed? Is the signage adequate? Is everyone being respectful of designations and other uses?
We need more data from actual winter recreationists to inform how winter recreation is managed on public lands and to ensure America’s wild snowscapes are protected for future generations. We use this data in our winter travel planning process with the US Forest Service, BLM, and other land management agencies.
What is Winter Travel Planning?
Travel Management Planning is the process by which the Forest Service designates specific trails and areas for motorized use. It can be thought of as a type of comprehensive “zoning” where some areas are designated for motorized use, and other trails and areas are set aside for human-powered recreation, or to protect wildlife and their habitat.
The Forest Service’s 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Rule made this sort of planning mandatory for winter over-snow use as well, and established guidelines for how it should be accomplished.
Winter travel planning an opportunity for all those who value the winter backcountry to find common ground. We all want room to roam — and the backcountry is big enough for all of us — but we cannot afford a free-for-all. See all of our current planning projects here.
How Do We Collect Data?
At Winter Wildlands Alliance, we work with local communities and land management agencies to inform these decisions through a variety of ways:
- Recreation Impact Monitoring System (RIMS) App – smartphone-based application that allows the public to share data with us through a smartphone app that works in and out of the skin track. Created by Colorado Mountain Club (CMC), a WWA Grassroots Group, we worked with CMC to update the app’s mapping to include winter recreation travel routes throughout the West.
- Backcountry Ambassador program (Stanislaus National Forest, California) – read about our 2022-23 program here.
2022-23 Season Data
The 2022-2023 winter marked the second full season of our national Winter Recreation Monitoring Program. Using CMC’s RIMS app, trained volunteers and nonprofit partners across 8 states and 18 National Forests collected data for on-the- ground winter visitor use assessments, to report winter recreation travel management violations and use conflicts, and to help inform Forest Service winter recreation planning and implementation. Altogether, 681 assessments and reports were collected during the winter season, with visitor use assessments being the most common type of data collected.
Check out the 2022-23 RIMS Data Report here and our 2022-23 Stanislaus, CA Backcountry Ambassador Report here.
How to Start Collecting Data
Every January 1 – April 30, Winter Wildlands Alliance hosts a Winter Recreation Data Collection Contest in California and Colorado using Colorado Mountain Club’s Recreation Impact Monitoring System (RIMS) mobile app.
WWA will choose a winner based on the highest number of quality, detailed RIMS Assessments submitted during the contest period on Colorado’s national forests during the contest timeframe. This contest is open to the public.
By using the RIMS app every time you go out, users help land management agencies better understand what’s happening out there, and to address important winter recreation issues that impact us all.
Learn more at the buttons below to get started on the RIMS app for your snowy adventures and enter to win our 2024 RIMS Contest prize package for data entered in California and Colorado.
Winter Wildlands Alliance is a national nonprofit organization working to
inspire and empower people to protect America’s wild snowscapes.