Chris Winter to Join Access Fund as New Executive Director

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Chris Winter will join Access Fund as executive director in January 2018.

Access Fund, the national non-profit organization that keeps climbing areas open and protected, is thrilled to announce that Chris Winter will join the organization as executive director this January. He replaces Brady Robinson, who stepped down in June after leading the climbing advocacy organization for eleven years.

Access Fund’s board of directors engaged an executive search firm to launch a nationwide search for its next executive director. Over the past four months, the board of directors evaluated numerous candidates in its search for new leadership.

“We’re excited to have Chris on board. Our climbing areas are facing existential threats, and with Chris at the helm, we are well positioned to advance our core mission of protecting climbing on both public and private lands,” says Access Fund board president, Jonah Harrison.

Chris is a passionate climber, conservationist, and environmental attorney with twenty years of experience protecting public lands. He brings extensive leadership experience at both the executive director and board director level from numerous non-profits in the conservation and recreation space.

Chris will join Access Fund in early January after wrapping up his duties as co-executive director at Crag Law Center, a Portland-based environmental law non-profit that he helped found in 2001. During his tenure at Crag Law Center, Chris developed a reputation for winning difficult cases on behalf of outgunned and under-resourced communities facing long odds. He has worked with climbers, other recreationalists, indigenous communities, and environmentalists on numerous regional and national projects.

Chris also has a deep connection to climbing. He was born into a climbing family in Seattle, Washington in the 1970s and has traveled the world in pursuit of his passion. He has climbed on the spires of Patagonia and the walls of El Cap, clipped bolts in Catalonia and Greece, and explored the mountains of North America. Chris was also the recipient of a 2015 Access Fund Sharp End award for his work protecting climbing access at Trout Creek and other areas in his home state of Oregon.

“The opportunity to lead Access Fund is a dream come true, and I feel incredibly honored and excited to be chosen for this position,” says Chris. “Climbing has exposed me to beautiful landscapes all over the world, and it has also connected me to the most amazing community of people. The incredible team at Access Fund is making sure we pass that on to the next generation, and I’ll do everything in my power to support that mission.”

Zachary Lesch-Huie, a seven-year veteran of Access Fund, will continue to lead the organization as interim executive director until Chris joins in January.

Chris will be based at Access Fund headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, working with the organization’s geographically distributed staff of twenty-four to protect climbing access and the integrity of America’s outdoor climbing areas.

“The Access Fund’s future is bright,” says Harrison. “We have the utmost confidence that Chris will continue to lead the organization on national and local policy issues, expand our acquisition and protection efforts, and help ensure the long-term sustainability of our climbing areas as our sport grows. Chris also brings a wealth of experience to keep Access Fund vibrant, relevant, and accessible to an increasingly diverse climbing community.”

About Access Fund

Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, Access Fund supports and represents millions of climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Six core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing policy and advocacy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and education. For more information, visit accessfund.org. 

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