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Glenwood Outdoor Club flying high

Imagine growing up in the Glenwood Springs area and never going mountain biking, backcountry skiing or rafting. It’s not that far-fetched.

The Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valley regions are renowned outdoor sports centers, drawing climbing, skiing and river-running enthusiasts from all over the world. But some local teens might never climb nearby mountains or run local rivers.

Eric Brendlinger is working to change all that. Brendlinger, youth coordinator of the Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Department, instigated the Outdoor Club last year. The year-round club offers resident and nonresident youth aged 12-18 one-day and weekend excursions. Participants can pick and choose from a variety of outdoor experiences as near as the Glenwood Springs Community Center climbing wall – and as far away as Utah.



“We concentrate on a 200-mile radius around Glenwood,” Brendlinger said. “We choose destinations that are never more than a two-hour drive.”

Last week, the Outdoor Club took a one-day caving excursion to Spring Cave near Meeker. A week before, the club traveled to Fruita just outside Grand Junction for a weekend of single-track trail riding. This winter, among other activities, Brendlinger is planning an avalanche beacon training right at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, and a backcountry ski and snowboard day near Sunlight.



“Our programs have really been embraced by participants brave enough to try something new,” said Brendlinger.

Not a substitute

Local schools offer plenty of team sports like football, baseball, soccer and volleyball. Brendlinger is quick to point out that the Outdoor Club isn’t designed to be a substitute for high school team sports. Instead, it’s an alternative.

“One of the visions of this club is to back up the individual athlete,” said Brendlinger. “Team sports can’t satisfy everybody. There’s so much diversity out there in terms of outdoor sports. If a kid has the desire to rock climb or go rafting, we’re here to give him or her an opportunity to do it safe and right.”

Brendlinger said growing up in Aspen and getting involved in outdoor education programs there provided him with the inspiration for the Outdoor Club.

“I had a lot of outdoor education as a kid that’s followed me throughout life,” he said.

In fact, after graduating from Aspen schools, Brendlinger volunteered for over 12 years, working with school programs like 8th-grade outdoor education at Aspen Middle School and experiential education programs at Aspen High School.

He ran outdoor adventure programs in Las Lenas, Argentina, and for the Aspen Youth Center, too, prior to his work with Glenwood Parks and Rec.

Partnerships

The Outdoor Club often partners with outfitters and guides, depending on the nature of the trip.

For example, for the club’s caving explorations near Meeker, Brendlinger worked with Ken Newton, chair of the Timberline Grotto, the local affiliate of the National Speleological Society. For Westwater Canyon river trips on the Colorado River, he subcontracted with Adventure Bound of Grand Junction. For the club’s upcoming winter backcountry ski and snowboard day, the club is partnering with Sunlight Mountain Resort.

“It works out well,” he said. “They’ve got the permits and the equipment, and combined with our staff, we put together very safe and professional trips.”

And to keep safety in check, the Outdoor Club places great importance on proper training.

“One of my pet peeves is programs that give participants a false sense of security,” he said. “We really work with the kids to let them know the right way to do things.”

The club generally limits trips to 14 participants or less.

“Small groups keep us from gang-attacking the wilderness places we visit,” he said.

Although Brendlinger said some parents get “sticker shock” from the club’s fees, he explained costs are far below what other companies would charge.

“We’re less than half of what NOLS or Outward Bound would charge for similar activities,” he said. The club’s fees range anywhere from $30 for a one-day trip to $100 or more for a weekend adventure, depending on equipment needed, travel, food and camping fees. And Brendlinger said the club offers scholarships for those who demonstrate need.

Coming up

Brendlinger is in the midst of planning the Outdoor Club’s winter and spring schedules.

The club is offering its one-day, free avalanche awareness/ beacon training in January at the Glenwood Community Center. That will be followed by an ice climbing class, a snow-cave construction workshop, and the Sunlight backcountry ski and riding trip.

For the spring, the Outdoor Club again will be offering mountain biking in Utah, as well as climbing in the San Luis Valley and other outdoor activities close to home.

For more information on the Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Club, contact Eric Brendlinger at 384-6301, visit http://www.glenwoodrec. com or stop by the Glenwood Springs Recreation Center at 100 Wulfsohn Road, Glenwood Springs.


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