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Winter Patrols

The Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness areas are popular wintertime recreation spots for cross-country skiing and snowshoe hiking. 

The IPWA Winter Patrol Program is an exciting opportunity for our Summer Patrol Volunteers who want to enjoy the wilderness and patrol in the winter months. 

In 2015, this IPWA Patrol program was expanded to incorporate the winter season as well. Wilderness volunteers with at least one summer season of experience can join the winter patrol team. Winter patrollers have additional training requirements and field days. 

In preparation for each Winter Patrol season, the IPWA holds a trail clearing day at the popular  Brainard Lake Recreation Area (BLRA) to remove fallen trees and other obstacles.

IPWA Winter Patrol Program Coordinator Andy Gup

Additional Requirements for Winter Patrollers:

  • Must have completed IPWA summer training and at least four summer patrol hikes in order to be eligible for winter patrols.

  • Required to attend MANDATORY Winter Patrol Training held in November. You’ll receive 12 additional hours of training that includes the following:

    • USFS winter rules and regulations

    • Winter travel and safety

    • Use of emergency SOS beacon

    • Backcountry emergency scenarios

    • Emergency radio communication with other IPWA winter patrollers, Nederland Fire, Rocky Mountain Rescue, Gilpin County, and Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol

  • Required to have current Wilderness First Aid and CPR certifications​ on file.

  • Minimum gear requirements include: 

    • Each volunteer is required to carry a “24-hour” pack that includes the ten essentials. This pack is intended to assist a person in surviving for a minimum of 24 hours under winter conditions.

    • Volunteers shall also have winter gear including clothing for warmth and protection, as well as a minimum of one of the following: snowshoes, split board for over-snow travel. Micro-spikes, or their equivalent, as well as hiking/skiing poles are strongly recommended, especially during shoulder seasons when snow cover on the trails may be intermittent.

    • Winter Patrollers are also the only volunteers issued an IPWA approved VHF hand-held radio and eligible to carry these on patrol all year long. Volunteers must pass IPWA-approved training before being issued a radio and beacon or using their own device(s) on patrol.

    • Each volunteer must carry a fully charged personal emergency locator beacon (such as a SPOT, DeLorme InReach or ACR ResQlink).

  • Volunteers shall stay on designated wilderness trails in the following areas. By staying on these trails we can provide the greatest visibility and benefit to the public:

    • East Portal

    • Brainard Lake Recreation Area

    • Hessie Trailhead

    • Camp Dick/Peaceful Valley

    • Rainbow Lakes


Physical Requirements:

The demands of wintertime require a higher level of fitness than is required for a casual hike in the summer. Winter Patrol Volunteers must be familiar with the conditions of a typical Colorado outdoor winter work environment and take no unnecessary personal safety risks. Hiking, skiing and snowshoeing may be strenuous; volunteers must be in good physical condition and able to patrol at altitudes above 10,000 feet in alpine winter conditions.


In winter, special attention must be paid to hypothermia symptoms in volunteers and visitors.

  • Hypothermia is a reduction of body temperature below normal.

  • Fatigue, injuries and cold-water immersion can quickly predispose an individual to hypothermia.

  • Hypothermia usually occurs in different stages. Main symptoms include uncontrolled shivering, muddled thinking, slurred speech, irrational behavior, pale skin, and a feeling of warmth in severe cases.

  • Basic treatment is to wrap in blankets, dry clothing, or sleeping bags. Use warm sugar water when possible. Seek medical attention.


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