PARK CITY, Utah. — Charlie Sturgis, Executive Director of Mountain Trails Foundation (MTF), started his morning by scoping out what snow had slid along the Wasatch Back after yesterday’s historically dangerous avalanche forecast and record-breaking snowfall. Today, Sturgis announced he’ll be leaving his role in June, but as the Park City area’s chief trail steward and spokesperson, his mind will be forever fixated on the surrounding mountains and their conditions for play.
Sturgis came to Salt Lake as a transplant from the windy city of Chicago in 1975 and later moved to Park City in 1986. Since the big move, he has spent his days seeking out the best lines in the powder, dirt, or rock, as a skier, mountain biker, and climber. Sturgis has managed and owned businesses including White Pine Touring, and over the years has dedicated time to building the intricate trail system that pumps life through Park City.
“I think the most important thing is to just remember how blessed we are with everything that we have [in terms of Park City trails] and that it’s everyone’s job to take care of it,” Sturgis said while reflecting on his tenure.
Sturgis landed the executive director role in 2010, and his vision for the area’s trails and his optimistic can-do attitude have helped propel the non-profit’s achievements over the past 10 years, from its successful fundraising during Live PC, Give PC to overseeing the building of both trails and relationships within local and county governments. Most recently, Sturgis guided MTF into securing its first permanent home base for year-round operations and trail work.
“The organization is in an incredibly strong position to go forward and I see its influence and even its work expanding more regionally,” Sturgis said of the foundation’s future. “Being involved in the conversation regionally is really important.”
One of Sturgis’ most memorable moments during his tenure occurred during a trail meeting about construction of the Wasatch Over Wasatch, or “WOW Trail,” a mountain bike route that traverses the southern edge of the Wasatch back ridgeline and runs from Bonanza Flats (accessible via Empire Pass) Southeast down into Midway.
“I was sitting at a trail meeting as a relative newbie, not to the trail world, but I didn’t understand the government side of things,” Sturgis said. “And I thought we were going to build the WOW Trail in six months and everybody in there was like ‘What?!’”
Coming in from the private sector and his store slogan at White Pine Touring being “Can Do,” he felt his goal for building the trail as originally envisioned was possible.
“Ten years later, that trail is not completed, at least not by what our original design was. I was dead wrong,” Sturgis said.
Reminiscing about how popular, even beloved, Park City trails have become over the past 30 years (over 400 miles of continuous trail currently connect the area), Sturgis said he looks forward to achieving his next outdoor objectives throughout his retirement years.
“The idea that I’ve wanted to retire early in life is not new,” Sturgis, 69, said. “In a lot of respects, I want to take a look around for the other things.”
His life goals right now include more rock climbing. He plans to check off a number of climbing routes in the coming years on both sandstone and granite. For most of his outdoor activities Sturgis will pack his favorite trail snack, a Fuji apple, which he says is the most durable and delicious option for days he spends biking or climbing. For longer days out ski-touring and riding, he will indulge in a PB & J.
“I joke that I have a project at every crag,” Sturgis said. “I’ve got something that I’ve failed on everywhere so it’s time to go see if I can change that a little bit.”
Sturgis said he hopes to remain involved with MTF as a board member and consulting on projects.
“I just can’t be thankful enough for the support of the community, my wife, the Park City and Snyderville Basin staff, and all the people I get to work with,” Sturgis said. “It’s been a ton of fun. I think I’ve tried to keep it fun and I hope people try to keep it fun in the future.”
With a lifestyle based on the foundation of getting outside to play and making positive life choices, or “PLCs” as he calls them, Sturgis is likely to be found either at the crag or amid the powder (both brown and white), adventuring through his retirement years.