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RMBL approved to host groups of 75 in Gothic during winter

Avalanche courses taking place; K-12 and college courses a potential winter activity

By Cayla Vidmar

The Gunnison County Planning Commission approved the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory’s (RMBL) request to host groups of up to 75 students for courses and research at the Gothic townsite during winter months. The approval includes allowing up to one scheduled snowmobile trip per week for supplies.

RMBL approached the Planning Commission in December 2017 with an application to host weddings and conferences at the Gothic townsite during the summer, and to expand winter use to increase education and winter research. Concerns arose about increased winter snowmobile use in the Gothic corridor, which is the only designated “quiet corridor” in the north valley, meaning motorized use is prohibited except for property owners, who are required to get permits for snowmobile use.

The application for expanded winter use was held up by a Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) discussion on snowmobile use in the Gothic corridor, which was not approved until September. It was determined a gate would be added to the Gothic road during the months that snow and mud would be present, and property owners would be required to get a permit for snowmobile use.

The BOCC also approved one snowmobile trip per week for RMBL, and one snowmobile trip per week for the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, which grooms a fat biking and Nordic skiing track to and from the Gothic townsite. Last week, the county Planning Commission approved the RMBL application to host groups during the winter of up to 75 students for educational and research purposes, along with the one snowmobile trip per week, as dictated by the BOCC.

RMBL executive director Ian Billick also noted that RMBL was asked to employ a number of safety measures when taking groups into the Gothic corridor, including limiting travel to and from Gothic during periods of significant avalanche hazard. Additionally, during group travel, RMBL is requiring there be someone traveling in the group that has the following certifications: level 3 avalanche; independent study–700 National Incident Management System introduction; Incident Command System–100 introduction to Incident Command System; and Outdoor Emergency Care.

According to Billick, RMBL has been hosting avalanche courses for some time and they are “exploring bringing out classes, including K-12 classes as well as college courses,” during winter months.

RMBL is also awaiting the decision of the North Village Parcel application into the town of Mt. Crested Butte before moving forward with the potential Snodgrass campus. RMBL solicited community feedback on the project this summer in hopes of building a new community center, which will include a visitors center, employee and scientist housing, lab buildings and administrative offices, and will allow for year-round research. The housing will also include at least 17 affordable housing units.

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