San Juan Mountains Association will host two environmental events in Silverton this week alongside ultrarunners Kilian Jornet and Dakota Jones ahead of the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run.
The first event will feature a half-day of trail work Wednesday along South Mineral Creek with volunteers removing some of the makeshift fire rings that have proliferated in the area as it has grown in popularity.
Jornet and Jones will also join San Juan Mountains Association for a discussion about climate change, conservation and local action Thursday afternoon at Coffee Bear in Silverton.
“It’s a chance to hear from people that are highly regarded as leaders and champions in the ultrarunning world about the importance of stewardship and conservation,” said Stephanie Weber, executive director of the San Juan Mountains Association. “I think so often focus is on just the physical feat of what these guys are doing, but the reality is I think most of them are out there because they have a deep, deep passion for mountains and for the natural world.”
Jornet and Jones, a Durango native and Durango High School graduate, are both ambassadors for Jornet’s new outdoor brand NNormal, which will launch later this year and emphasizes sustainability and environmental awareness and action.
San Juan Mountains Association is partnering with NNormal to put on the two events.
Jornet and Jones are renowned for their running, but they are also deeply engaged in environmental advocacy.
In 2020, Jornet launched the Kilian Jornet Foundation, which aims to protect mountains and their ecosystems through direct action, education and research. The foundation’s first project supported the World Glacier Monitoring Service and its climate change research studying glacial retreat.
Last year, Jones debuted Footprints Running Camp, which combines trail running with environmental leadership in the San Juan Mountains outside Silverton. Participants apply with environmental projects and are partnered with a mentor during the weeklong camp. Mentors help campers develop their projects so they can implement them when they return to their communities.
San Juan Mountains Association has strengthened its own stewardship efforts in recent years, launching its successful Forest Ambassadors program in 2021 to mitigate the impacts of the boom in outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the ultrarunning community’s embrace of conservation and environmental action, San Juan Mountains Association has turned to Southwest Colorado’s famous race for additional support in protecting the San Juan Mountains.
“Hardrock has done a phenomenal job working to instill that (stewardship) ethic, and we’ve been partnering with them increasingly over the past several years,” Weber said.
San Juan Mountains Association and NNormal chose South Mineral Creek for their trail work Wednesday largely because of the impact that growing recreation has had on the area, with research from Mountain Studies Institute finding that recreation is affecting water quality.
The goal is to reduce the number of makeshift campfire rings to reduce the density of campers, Weber said.
“The sheer number of people out there just continues to have a detrimental impact not only to the land, but also water quality,” she said. “That really was the impetus for identifying this as a high-need area, and in working with the athletes we want to make sure that we’re doing something that’s going to see quick results without complicating schedules for other Hardrock events.”
The Hardrock 100 Endurance Run begins Friday morning with runners climbing the more than 30,000 feet in elevation gain throughout the day and into Saturday.
Those interested in attending the trail work or conservation discussion with Jornet and Jones can sign up on San Juan Mountains Association’s events page at https://sjma.org/events. Registration is required for both events and spots are limited.
While partnerships between conservation groups and mountain athletes are not new, they are critical for creating multidimensional coalitions to effectively tackle environmental issues, Weber said.
For San Juan Mountains Association, the renowned profiles of Jornet and Jones also boost the group’s stewardship mission, raising awareness beyond Southwest Colorado.
“The fact that (Jornet) has an international following certainly helps to raise the importance of the type of work San Juan Mountains Association does and other organizations across the globe,” Weber said. “For us, it’s an amazing opportunity.”