San Juan Untracked, formerly San Juan Snowcat Skiing, was recently purchased by Durango native Dennis Martin. The country's second-largest snowcat skiing and snowboarding operation, with 36,000 permitted acres of terrain, gears up with fresh insight and investment to enhance the backcountry experience and safety heading into the 2013-2014 season.
"Skiing has always been one of my biggest passions, and to be a part of it and contribute to it and the Durango area is something I'm truly excited about," Says Martin. "Durango is such an amazing place and has so much potential, but some of it tends to be limited and closed off in ways. I see this as an opportunity to make the hometown a little cooler and create more activity."
Martin, who grew up in the Hermosa valley north of Durango and left to pursue a professional BMX career, remarks on the homecoming and new endeavor. "When you move away, you come back looking through a new window of ideas and experience. There's a lot of hometown pride in this project and I think it's a way to contribute more fun and open up doors for a lot of local and visiting riders."
Martin takes the reins from previous owners Bob and Carrie Rule, who started the operation sixteen years ago and out the operation up for sale for $225,000 during the 2011-12 season. All past guides and snowcat drivers will be joining the new operation, offering crucial knowledge of the terrain and day-to-day operations.
"I'm excited about the fact that Dennis is welcoming me along with all my fellow snowboarders to ride and guide in some of the best terrain in southwest Colorado." Says Jason Lum, a snowboard guide for SJU. "I'm also stoked that Dennis is willing to invest in the company and expand the options for locals and guests. It's a great opportunity to get more people up into the public lands in the winter and shred the backcountry."
"I've been skiing this terrain for the last ten years and guiding it for the last three. There are definitely some lines out there, some sacred fruit, that we've been itching to ride and guide and I think with the new operation, and right conditions obviously, we will be able to access them more frequently and safely." Adds Grady James, a fellow SJU guide. "The ambition that Dennis has brought to the table has been a big motivator for us to step up our guiding, reinforce our safety protocol and utilize more resources as we head into the season."
San Juan Untracked is located in the base village of Durango Mountain Resort and provides guided backcountry skiing and snowboarding day trips from the resort to a triangle of terrain between Rico, Silverton and Telluride. The company offers 24 daily seats on two snowcats. All-day single seat rates are $385 per person through March 14, and $285 March 15 through the end of the season.
"With more people heading out into the backcountry, I think we can help foster some new experiences and take people out there in a safer, controlled way." Martin adds. "With Silverton and Telluride getting as big as they have it gives me hope that we can sustain and grow and we have some exciting ideas and partnerships in the works, too. We're getting things in place and stoked for the snow to start flying."
Photos: San Juan Untracked