‘The mountains called and I came’

Ronnie Wagner joined the SCLT in early December as a full-time trail builder. As part of a new partnership, he’ll spend the winter grooming trails for Antelope Butte before coming down the mountain to build Kicking Horse and Slice trails this spring.

Ronnie Wagner joins SCLT as full-time trail builder

“The mountains called and I came.”

It’s a statement many who’ve been beckoned by the Bighorns have made, and it was echoed by Ronnie Wagner on his first day working in Sheridan County.

On December 4, Ronnie Wagner joined the Sheridan Community Land Trust as the organization’s first dedicated trail builder. Born and raised in the upper, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wagner developed passion to get outside and enjoy what Mother Nature as much as possible. While attending Michigan Tech he was often on his mountain bike, routinely riding the extensive trail system adjacent to campus.

“It had everything. From super technical, to super flowy, to jump lines – whatever you can think of,” he recalled.

With a degree in Sport and Fitness Management, he began working as a personal trainer. However, he soon found himself looking out the window wishing he could be outside. “I decided I never wanted to work in an office again,” he said.

So, he transitioned to trail building, where he’s spent nearly four years with Rock Solid Trail Contracting, where he’s helped build more than 50 miles of trail making the seasonal loop between the Great Lakes states in the summer and New Mexico and Arkansas in the winter.

“I started as a hand laborer and when I left, I was lead foreman running a five-person crew,” he explained.

Wagner brings that experience SCLT where he will lead on-the-ground efforts to build the new Slice and Kicking Horse trails to complete the Soldier Ridge Trail System loop and develop the upwards of 22 new miles at Red Grade Trails.

Ronnie on the groomer at Antelope Butte in advance of Opening Day.

However, with winter in full swing, Wagner won’t be building trail immediately. Rather, he’ll be up the mountain, grooming trails and slopes at Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation. It’s a unique partnership that, according to SCLT Executive Director Brad Bauer, helps SCLT and AB accomplish their missions by sharing someone in a full-time position.

“Trail building and trial grooming are seasonal in nature, and both jobs require special skills that are acquired by building trail and grooming trail. As a result, those positions are not the easiest to hire. By combining our organizations’ resources, we can offer a year-round position.”

For Wagner, an avid snowboarder, the opportunity to work on the mountain during the winter sweetened the deal. “I can ski and snowboard? Sign me up!” he relayed.

He’s also excited to answer the mountains’ call and explore the beauty of the Bighorns, whether it’s fishing, hunting, skiing, riding, snowmobiling or ATVing. All of which he plans to do, but after several years living on the road, Wagner said he’s first “gotta reacquire my quiver.”

For now, Wagner’s eager to meet folks on the trail, whether that’s up the mountain this winter or down in the valley this spring.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people in the community and making friends with as many people as I can,” he remarked. “If you see me, don’t be afraid to say hello.”