Concern growing about Grand Mesa Nordic Council

Grand Mesa Nordic Council grooms cross country ski trails on the Grand Mesa, to help the public enjoy them. (Photo: GMNC website)

A storm is brewing over the governance of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC), as longtime members set off alarm bells about the way the group has been operating recently.

GMNC is a nonprofit group made up of local cross country skiers. It was founded in 1990 to groom and maintain popular ski trails on the Grand Mesa and work with the National Forest Service to develop new trails. Over its 40+ years of existence, it has been remarkably successful.

Originally, GMNC was made up of volunteers and operated on a shoestring budget of donations from skiers and businesses that support the sport. Their pursuit of their mission was driven by members’ love and passion for the sport. But after growing steadily over the years, donations increased to the point where the GMNC now pulls in about quarter million dollars a year, and for the first time, the group was forced to hire paid staff to manage its affairs.

The result has been worrisome to many.

Christie Aschwanden, current Executive Director of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Now, after watching how these changes have played out, people who’ve been involved with the GMNC for a long time believe that this new version of GMNC is not being a responsible steward of those precious donated funds.

After hearing about these concerns, I contacted Greg Randall, retired Plateau Valley School District superintendent and long time member of the GMNC, who says he has discovered alarming financial discrepancies and dubious reporting practices within GMNC.

Greg said he got involved after a founding member of GMNC asked him to get on the group’s board and look into the finances, because the founding member thought money was being spent on things that were not in the mission of GMNC.

Greg took a close look at the group’s finances and he and other members found that:

  • GMNC’s administrative costs have soared over just the last three years, from 8% in 2020 to a budgeted 45% next year;
  • Administrative costs are currently a staggering $120,000, or 44% of the group’s entire revenue. Normally nonprofits put about 20-25% of their revenue towards administrative costs. People watching GMNC’s changes also say the group’s annual report is deceptive, that it manipulates financial data to present artificially low administrative costs at 1%;
  • Numerous board members noticed that the budget information going out to GMNC members has been incorrect;
  • While the group’s income has increased about 175% in the last 3 years, expenses have increased more than 350% in the same time frame;
  • The percent of the group’s budget that goes towards grooming trails, which is really GMNC’s main mission, dropped from 77% of budget in 2020 to 39% budgeted for next year;
  • The group spent $22,000 on a new website, and then just abandoned it;
  • After years of organizing events together, Colorado Mesa University’s Cross Country ski team pulled out of hosting races jointly with GMNC;
  • GMNC originally advertised for an executive director at a salary of between $50,000-$60,000, but the Board told members at a meeting that the executive director was actually being paid $70,000 plus payroll and taxes of $5,000, making the ED’s gross salary $75,000, or $15,000 over the maximum $60,000 that was originally advertised for the position. Other salary expenses include:
  • An Event Coordinator at a gross salary of $30,108 for 5 months of a part-time position;
  • A part time bookkeeper at a gross salary $12,918;
  • Administrative bonuses of $9,000;
  • All this makes total administrative salaries for next year $127,051, or 42.9% of total spending, meaning every month $10,588 is going to 3 administrators.

You can see the GMNC 2023-2024 budget here.

Greg says,

“Forty-three cents of every dollar donated to GMNC goes to three people’s salaries that have nothing to do with grooming a ski track,”

…adding that,

“GMNC has basically moved from [being] an organization that relies on contributions and grants for grooming and maintenance to one who relies on contributions and grants for administrative employment.” 

GMNC will need to purchase a new Snowcat soon since the old one is wearing out, and new Snowcat can cost $500,000, but cash is leaving the organization at an unprecedented rate, and it is unclear whether the organization has the cash reserves to buy a new one.

After Greg analyzed the budget and expressed his concerns to the Board about what he saw, the Board stopped communicating with him. Others who have protested similar issues have also gotten frozen out by the organization’s governance.

Let’s hope the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, which has long served such a vital purpose for so many skiers in the area, heeds this information, takes it to heart, turns things around, survives and gets back on the right track soon.

Snowcat grooming trails


  11 comments for “Concern growing about Grand Mesa Nordic Council

  1. It looks like GMNC instead of dealing with the problem decided to go after people who brought it up. The organization got even more secretive. And they fired in the beginning of the season their best ever groomer without caring about how it affects the community and the money it wasted in this community funded organization. But it gets murkier! The GMNC Board reelected themselves and changed the bylaws so now only the current board members can pick new ones. So, no outsiders allowed and two outside people who tried to join during the May meeting didn’t make the cut.
    And maybe because they’re low on cash, the new snow groomer have been all over the place with wrong grooming times times, infrequent grooming and poor quality.
    GMNC didn’t exactly welcome the attention it’s getting, and it’s just sticking to its guns with poor governance.

  2. GMNC is by far one of the best XC ski areas in CO. The trails are properly groomed and the expense is minimal. I know many of the staff and feel that we are very fortunate to have these dedicated people. As a frequent XC skier I know many members and they are grateful for the work that staff does-I have not heard anything detrimental. Every comment must be substantiated. Their work is more complicated and detailed than you can imagine. For example, they encouraged the FS to work at a time that would not interfere with our ski season and they were successful. Many thanks to the GMNC!

    • Nobody’s questioning the workload they put in or don’t put in. The real concerns are around their financial management and how they splurge money that’s not theirs. I mean, 43% of total spending goes for the Executive Director and her assistants! Equally troubling is their hiring (or firing) based on personal connections rather than competence. And now there’s this under-the-radar $800K project in the works, pushed by a single donor, for a warming hut at Skyway, which is just going to be a financial burden on future GMNC members. From what I’ve gathered, GMNC seems to be operating without a business plan, which is a level of negligence that’s beyond astounding.

  3. So, based on what I’ve heard about GMNC, it seems like this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some serious issues happening there. The board chooses its own members. They sanitize the meeting minutes, and they even changed the rules so that only current board members can suggest new board members. They wasted tens of thousands of dollars of wasted members money. Incompetent and unprofessional. If they had any decency, they should all resign. Many more worthwhile community projects could benefit from quarter of a million dollars a year.

  4. Unfortunately Anne did not reach out to any representative of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council to verify any information in her article and as a result the article has a large amount of incorrect information in it. The GMNC welcomes having a conversation with Anne to correct the record. We have reached via phone and email and have not heard a reply.

    • I am passing on this response received from Greg Randall:

      The difficult part of this is there are different reports with different numbers. I will go through a few things that may not be exactly correct according to the board latest numbers:
      1. Administrative costs are actually $133,150 in next year’s budget, not $120,000.
      2. The ED salary is actually $69,693 for next year with EMPLOYER taxes $5,332 so the salary is only $69,693, but there is a possibility of up to $9,000 in administrative bonuses so the ED salary is between $69,693 – $78,693 depending on the amount of bonus.
      3. The event coordinator is $27,968 plus bonuses, which again we don’t know. The Payroll taxes are again paid by GMNC but is still an expense.
      4. Same for bookkeeper, salary $12,000. Payroll of $918 paid by GMNC, but still an expense and we don’t know what the bonuses paid are.
      5. The admin salaries amount is probably correct, low if anything, because the GMNC still pays payroll taxes and the bonuses are not added in.
      6. I was told by an individual board member a few days ago the Cat will last until at least 2030, “mark that in (my) calendar.” This is contrary to what the board said at its July meeting.
      Just a thought of the employer taxes of the administration, it’s not included in the salary, but it is a cost to the GMNC. That being said, the ED salary is still $69,693-$78,693, not $75,000 exactly….
      That’s my thoughts by reading your blog a few times and looking at the latest numbers from GMNC and speaking to a board member personally for over 2 hours. Just an FYI, I was told the present board voted themselves in for another term during an executive session, in secret. This executive session was held to discuss other member who wanted on the board.
      Let me know if you need anything. I thought your article was great.

  5. Anne, why didn’t you attempt to contact someone, anyone, from the GMNC? This not an accurate representation of what is happening with this important non-profit organization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *