The North Face and Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office have collaborated to help the Colorado Search and Rescue Association acquire face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for its members and those they assist.

Jeff Sparhawk, association president, said in a press release that COVID-19 asymptomatic carriers create a dangerous situation for volunteer responders, and without PPE they are at greater risk.

“Backcountry rescues necessitate close proximity with patients and sustained contact that can last for hours,” Sparhawk said. “The physically demanding nature of rescues means everyone is breathing hard, especially at altitude. The PPE purchases enabled through this grant are vital to protect our responders and ensure SAR teams across Colorado are ready to assist anyone in need.”

The North Face partnership also includes direct financial assistance for food banks in La Plata, Chaffee, Routt and Mesa counties. All four counties are heavily dependent on tourism and outdoor recreation and among the hardest hit economically during the initial impact of COVID-19. In 2019, outdoor recreation and tourism accounted for more than 2,500 jobs in La Plata County, 2,600 in Routt, 1,300 in Chaffee and 3,300 in Mesa County.

Nathan Fey, director of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Office, said while everyone is impacted, not everyone is feeling the effects equally.

“This partnership between the state and The North Face aids our mountain and west-slope communities that have both a high concentration of outdoor recreation businesses and employment as well as a disproportionate loss of outdoor recreation jobs due to COVID-19,” Fey said.

OREC and The North Face are also working with The American Mountain Guides Association, a Colorado-based national organization that supports a “responsible return to work” program for outdoor guides and educators around the country. That program will launch this month.

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