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Ellen Fales

Ellen Fales spent much of her childhood exploring the BTNF. “Not that I knew it as the Bridger-Teton,” she says. “I just knew I was in the forest.” Ellen’s grandparents had Big Rock Ranch on Fall Creek Road, south of the community of Wilson and adjacent to the Bridger-Teton. “We rode right into the forest from our corral,” she says. “A ride we did frequently went from the ranch up Black Canyon to Ski Lake.”

One of the people behind the founding of Jackson Community Recycling (now Teton County Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling) and between 1990 and 2003 its executive director, Ellen has always sought to involve herself in projects and organizations that benefit the environment and quality of life. That’s how she came to be on the Friends of the Bridger-Teton Board. “I’ve been approached over the years by other NGOs about joining their boards, and while I support those nonprofits and believe they’re doing great work, I don’t want to be involved with them on a daily basis,” she says. “When Friends of the Bridger-Teton came up, it was a perfect fit for me. The Bridger-Teton National Forest is something I’m very, very passionate about.”

Although her grandparent’s ranch is no longer in the family, Ellen still lives off Fall Creek Road. “I can backcountry ski into the BTNF from my backdoor,” she says. And in the summer, she hikes a lot in the BTNF. “Grand Teton National Park is so crowded these days I find it off-putting. I’ve probably only done five hikes in the Park in the last three years. And thankfully, there are still many places on the BTNF that most people don’t venture.”

One of Ellen’s focuses is on educating locals and visitors about when they’re on the BTNF and the challenges facing the Forest. “We don’t have official entrances like national parks do,” she says. “Apart from the few kiosks we have around trailheads, it is a word-of-mouth and media campaign.” Ellen is a part time ski instructor at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which is on the BTNF. “Out there it comes up frequently and I take the opportunity to spread awareness that JHMR, and Snow King, are on the BTNF. About 25 percent of my clients already know this; for the rest it’s new information.”

The biggest issue Ellen sees facing the BTNF is its enormous size, yet minimal staff. “The forest service staff are amazing, and they accomplish a lot, but there are only so many of them and there are 3.4 million acres of the BTNF with endless and diverse user groups. The BTNF is ten times the size of Grand Teton National Park,” she says. But Friends of the Bridger-Teton’s Ambassadors for Responsible Recreation Campaign is now making a major and growing impact on this deficit through a huge educational effort that includes outreach, media, and personal contact. The JH Travel and Tourism Board funds the majority of the educational component of this campaign. “Their financial help has been a game changer,” Ellen says.


6 things Ellen always has with her on the BTNF, no matter what she’s doing—from ski touring to hiking, boating, or swimming:

1. Excitement. “I can’t wait to see what the forest might present,” she says. “A flower, a mushroom, an animal, a bird, a beautiful vista, its sounds, an odd formation in the snow, or just great powder and peace and quiet.”

2. My husband or a friend. “I love sharing the delight of being out, and it’s always safer to be with another person, not because of bears, or mountain lions, or of some outside human threat, but because injuries, random health issues, and sudden changes in weather, can, and do, happen. Another person can make the difference between a bad situation and manageable one.”

3. Plenty of water

4. A first aid kit

5. Food

6. Bear spray in the summer; avalanche rescue and survival gear in the winter



We acknowledge with respect that our facilities are situated on the aboriginal land of the Shoshone Bannock. Eastern Shoshone. Northern Arapaho. Crow. Assiniboine. Sioux. Gros Ventre. Nez Perce.

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