Durango Living
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Good Grooming
San Juan Sledders’ foreman volunteers for scenery and thrills

BY RACHEL SEGURA
Assistant Magazine Editor

Roger Pennington, grooming foreman for the San Juan Sledders Snowmobile Club, has been on many peaks surrounding Durango – and almost always with snow. As an avid snowmobiler, Pennington is one of roughly 90 volunteers who spend their free time grooming trails in the backcountry.

“One of the most gratifying things about the ride is when you get to the top of a 13,000-foot peak and shut off the sled,” Pennington said. “The wind never stops blowing, and it sounds like the mountains are sighing.”

Pennington is one of the founding members of the club. Formed in Bayfield in 1992, the club was organized by several community members interested in grooming trails for all forms of winter recreation. Pennington, a Bayfield resident since 1986, is a member of the Colorado Snowmobile Association. He was asked to share his knowledge of the association with the interested parties. His profound love of snowmobiling and previous grooming experience in Salida helped to further educate and drive the group.

The club became a part of the CSA, and today they groom a total of 300 miles from eight trailheads in La Plata and Montezuma counties.

“I groom from Purgatory to Bolam Pass, then I come out by Highway 145 near Rico, then on to Dunton Hot Springs,” Pennington said. “On an easy day, that is 18 hours of grooming.”

Of course, it isn’t always an easy day. He’s been stuck before. There was a time had he not turned the snowcat around, he would have run out of gas. And sometimes that 18-hour day can turn into 23 hours. But Pennington has been a proponent for snowmobiling since 1963, when he first started riding.

“There’s always a risk to this sport, but I’m a Nascar fan. What can I say? I like fast speeds. An average day on a snowmobile could mean 50 miles of terrain. There are places you can go, if the snow conditions are right, where you would need ropes in the summer.”

He also grooms areas of Missionary Ridge, Lemon Reservoir and Vallecito. It’s not just snowmobilers who use the designated trails. Cross-country skiers, dog sledders and snowshoers also make good use of the area.

The club offers more than just grooming services to the community. Pennington is also a state-certified snowmobile safety trainer. He offers a free certification course for children ages 10 to 16 over a two-day period who want to ride unsupervised. The course participants attend a three-and-a-half hour class the first day, and on the second day are required to drive an obstacle course. They are also shown basic snowmobile maintenance, like changing a spark plug. Adults are also welcome to take the course.

The club is also involved in what they call Fun Days, where volunteers take a group of special needs individuals on snowmobile and snowcat rides. They also give rides on dog sleds,

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SAFETY TIP
Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy winter play on groomed trails miles from roads and cities. For emergencies or transport in rural areas near Montrose, call TransCare Ambulance at (970) 240-9544.