Gunnison Senior Center Carries Success of Outdoor Winter Rec. Initiative into Summer

Last winter, the Outdoor Winter Rec. Initiative helped grow the level of participation by older adults in outdoor recreation outings by almost 500%.  How?  By working with the Gunnison Senior Center (GSC) to determine key barriers preventing seniors from engaging in outdoor activities.  Key barriers for outdoor winter recreation include cost and safety.  If a senior has not engaged in activities like nordic skiing or snowshoeing since younger days, or ever, the cost of renting equipment and paying for lessons often deters them.  When it comes to safety, having sufficient, trained staff leadership to guide participants and manage unexpected occurrences can erase their fear of getting outside in the winter.  The Outdoor Winter Rec. Initiative helped overcome both of these barriers by providing accessible, free rental equipment and low-cost instruction for nordic skiing, as well as additional staff for snowshoeing and nordic skiing outings.

This summer, the GSC looked to Met Rec for continued support in this area, but with summer activities in mind.  Seniors make up approximately 1/3 of the Gunnison Valley’s population, and according to the GSC, their interest in participating in outdoor activities has increased in recent years.  Given the success of the 2021 Outdoor Winter Rec. Initiative, the GSC sought to extend the efforts into their summer programming with a specific eye to overcoming the safety barrier through increased hike leaders trained in First Aid/Adult CPR in a wilderness setting.

Grant funding awarded through Met Rec’s Community Collaboration grant program was used to bring-on five additional hike leaders to expand the reach of GSC’s low and high elevation hikes for older adults.  The GSC assisted in covering the costs for the First Aid training.  Since June, the GSC has offered up to six organized hikes a month.  Participants have enjoyed bird-watching and wildflower hikes, summited peaks of over 12,000 feet, and hiked through our beautiful public lands including Powderhorn Lakes Wilderness, Dillon Pinnacles, Scarp Ridge, West Elk Wilderness, and Agate Creek on Monarch Mountain. 

We wanted to drop a note to say thank you for offering and coordinating the ski lessons we participated in.  Each and every lesson and outing was delightful.  We so appreciate all the extra attention and instruction we got. As true beginners, we felt we came a long way toward enjoying a healthy new sport we never would have learned without these classes.

I so appreciate the care the hike leaders take on the hikes. I wouldn’t have tried coming on a longer or higher altitude hike by myself, and my friends who I used to hike with no longer can come with me or don’t live in the area anymore.