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Meet Chris Winter, Access Fund’s New Executive Director

New face at the head of the organization, but the same great focus on protecting the nation's climbing areas.

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Chris Winter, incoming executive director of Access Fund. Photo: Courtesy of Access Fund.

Access Fund recently announced that Chris Winter will become the new Executive Director of the organization in January 2019. Prior to Winter, Brady Robinson had held the position for nearly 11 years.

We wanted to find out what Winter brings to the table and where he sees Access Fund concentrating its efforts over the next few years. We caught up with him for a quick phone call as he gets ready to make the move to Boulder, Colorado and start in his new role!

Q&A with Chris Winter

So what is your professional background?

So my professional background is as an environmental attorney. I’ve been working on the conservation of public lands for about twenty years.

I started an environmental non-profit law firm in 2001. Since that time I’ve been working with community groups, climbers, recreationalists and environmental groups on conserving public lands and other environmental issues.

I’ve spent plenty of time in federal court litigating, but also worked on wilderness.

I won a sharp end award from Access Fund in 2015. I had worked with some folks here in Oregon on Trout Creek. The Bureau of Land Management had wanted a blanket closure, so I worked with some regional groups on getting a more reasonable seasonal raptor closure. I also helped out with the recent access issues at Madrone Wall.

And your climbing experience?

I’ve been climbing a long time. I live in Oregon, so a lot of my climbing has been trad and alpine in the Pacific Northwest. Lots of mountaineering but also alpine rock.

I do love sport climbing though too.  I consider myself an all-arounder.

I’m from Seattle and I was born into a climbing family in the 1970s. I feel really lucky to have been exposed to slideshows, by climbers who went to the Himalayas and other big mountains, when I was a really little kid. I had that burned into my mind from a really early age.

What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure at the Access Fund?

So I’m still getting my feet on the ground, but I hope to focus on the core mission: Keeping climbing areas open, on both public and private lands.

Both public and private lands are facing unique challenges, and I think my background can help support that really important work.

We have to focus on public lands policy as well. We’re dealing with a lot of different threats right now, and that’s really in my wheelhouse. So helping to keep public lands available to climbers is a big topic.

Anything you’re particularly excited or nervous about?

I’m not nervous about anything. A big part of what’s happening right now is that areas are facing threats in terms of sustainability and  conservation, what with the growth of the sport. So I’m excited about figuring out how we tackle that.

And part of that is getting more climbers engaged, which I’m also excited about. When someone gets engaged—even in little ways, like writing letters or going to Adopt-a-Crag events—they take ownership more.

You’ll be moving to Boulder for the new gig. Sounds like you’ve climbed there a bit before. What’s the best climb you’ve done in the Front Range?

Probably the most memorable climb for me was the Petit Grepon. I bivied under a boulder with my buddy. We were there in 2013 when the historic floods hit. We had been in Estes for two weeks trying to climb the Diamond but the weather was so bad. So we finally bailed and did the Petit.

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