Big Agnes donates $30K for improvements on Colorado Divide Trail near Rabbit Ears Pass
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Steamboat Springs-based outdoor gear company announced a $30,000 donation to the Continental Divide Trail Coalition on Tuesday.
Big Agnes, which is named after a peak in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness north of Steamboat, earmarked the funds for improvements of a section of the Colorado Divide Trail near Rabbit Ears Pass that follows the highway and poses dangers to hikers.
The company has partnered in the past with the coalition, a steward group that helps to maintain and protect the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail that extends from Mexico to Canada.
Last year, Big Agnes adopted a 75-mile portion of the trail going from Rabbit Ears Pass to the Wyoming border. It is the longest section of the trail adopted by a business.
Garett Mariano, marketing director for Big Agnes, said the decision to support the coalition stems from the fact that much of the company’s recent business has depended on the Continental Divide Trail.
“We do a tremendous amount of product testing in our backyard,” Mariano said, referring to the outdoors around Steamboat. “The CDT is a big part of that.”
The team at Big Agnes named a 2018 series of five sleeping bags, all designed specifically for life on the trail, 1101. That number denotes the local portion of the Continental Divide Trail that winds north of Steamboat.
Big Agnes pledged to donate $2 for every 1101 sleeping bag sold during 2018, and $25,000 of the $30,000 donation comes from funds the company raised through that effort.
Over the summer, company employees completed a 14-week, relay-style hike of the Colorado section of the Continental Divide Trail. During that excursion, they encountered a potentially treacherous part of the path.
A 14-mile stretch between Walden and Rabbit Ears Pass runs alongside busy highways that do not have a large shoulder to walk on.
“As a through hiker, it’s really dangerous,” Mariano said.
When Big Agnes employees reached that portion of the trail over their summer outing, they rode bikes for the miles that bordered paved roads and wore reflective, highly visible jackets for added safety.
Continental Divide Trail Coalition Executive Director Teresa Martinez said re-routing that part of the trail has been a top priority. Momentum for that project has gained in the last year, in large part from Big Agnes’ fundraising efforts.
“This funding will allow us to put dedicated resources to this issue,” Martinez said.
Martinez hopes the coalition can begin construction of the new trail in the next two to three years. Re-routing the existing path requires some time-consuming initiatives, such as purchasing land from private entities.
Big Agnes employees got a head start on trail improvements during their summer hike. Along with noting which parts of the trail needed to be fixed, they picked up trash, redirected water and attached trail markers to trees.
For Martinez, re-routing this part of the trail has been a goal for some time but a lack of outside support made improvements impossible.
“We finally have the right pieces in place to make this happen,” she said.