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Jeff Sparhawk has given over 30 years to the visitors and residents of Colorado who venture into our amazing backcountry.  As an always-on-call professional volunteer responder with Rocky Mountain Rescue Group and a search dog handler with Front Range Rescue Dogs, Jeff has been of service to thousands of recreationists and their families on their worst days;  unfortunately to many on their last day.  Serving as the first executive director of the Colorado Search and Rescue Association is now allowing Jeff to take his lifetime of experience in the backcountry to collaboratively work towards developing a more sustainable backcountry search and rescue system throughout Colorado.  Backcountry search and rescue stands at the intersection of local and statewide emergency response and management, land management and stewardship, and the outdoor recreation industry.  All rely on backcountry search and rescue but few understand it.

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Jim Donovan first became involved in search and rescue with the Southern Arizona Search and Rescue Council (SARCI) in 1991, and has been involved in the first responder and search and rescue community in southwest Colorado since 2007. He has responded to many calls for  alpine rescue, lost person searches, plane crash recovery, high angle rescue, swift water rescue and avalanche rescue. In Silverton, San Juan County, Colorado, he has been a team member, team captain, training officer and director of San Juan County Search and Rescue. Jim is certified in high angle rescue and professional avalanche rescue and instructs professional avalanche rescue. He has been an emergency medical technician (EMT) with the Silverton Ambulance Association since 2009, and an American Avalanche Association (A3) professional member since 2010. In 2016, Jim helped spur the A3 into creating the professional education and certification program for avalanche workers that resulted in the development of a recreational track and a professional track for avalanche education in the United States. Since 2015, he has been the emergency manager for San Juan County, where avalanche danger is the primary natural hazard that affects the county. In 2016, San Juan County SAR joined the International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR) and Jim serves on the Avalanche Commission. He has a lifelong passion for mountaineering, backcountry skiing and mountain rescue and is honored to be on the Colorado Search and Rescue Association board of directors.

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Vice president

Keith Keesling has been the captain of Dolores County Search and Rescue for a decade and a CSAR state search and rescue coordinator for two years. He has also been employed as the emergency manager and IT manager for Dolores County since 2014. He started in search and rescue in Colorado in 1987, and for several years has been focused on a goal to ensure adequate and equitable funding for SAR operations in the state of Colorado for all counties large and small. He is currently the chairman of the Southwest All-Hazards Advisory Council for DHSEM, the president of the Dolores County EMS Council, the secretary of the Southwest Regional Emergency and Trauma Advisory Council, a board member of the Southwest Healthcare Coalition, president of the Dolores County Local Emergency Planning Committee a board member for the Southwest Regional Emergency Planning Committee, and a member of the High Alpine Hazard Mitigation Committee for Region 9.  Keith and his family have managed the Dolores County Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Dove Creek Care and Share Food Pantry for over a decade. He is certified in search management through CSAR, the AFRCC and the National Park Service. He is a whitewater rescue technician and a state certified train-the-trainer for C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team). Keith started the Dolores County Rapid Response Team (with Flight For Life) and ensured that all SAR responders in the county were medically certified for the first time in 35 years. He is also a volunteer for the Dove Creek Ambulance District. Keith comments, “I think I may be the only SAR captain to have been provided 2 F-16s for a SAR mission in the state, but that’s another story.”

John Reller



John Reller has over 30 years of SAR experience and specializes in avalanche and search dog training and operations.  He and his wife Andrea have served as members, team leaders and dog handlers for  Summit County Rescue Group since the 1980s, and in the 2010s John was part of a team that founded Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment, a non-profit focused on the training, preparation, and validation of avalanche deployment teams for successful search and rescue in Colorado. He is also a member of the Summit County Water Rescue Team.

John lives in Silverthorne, Colorado, where he works seasonally for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Arapahoe Basin's ski patrol, and he manages his own residential construction business.  He also serves as a CSAR state coordinator.

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Ryan has been a member of the Western Mountain Rescue Team (WMRT) for 11.5 years. He has held a number of positions throughout that time, including mission coordinator. He has been running missions on WMRT for over 6 years and has 50+ missions under his belt as the operations chief. He also operates as the administrative and operational director of WMRT. Under his leadership, WMRT has begun to adopt more industry standard approaches to technical work, leadership, and team organization. Additionally, Ryan helped lead the team through a difficult time navigating team culture complaints that spiraled into a massive upheaval of process, governance, and training. This experience, mixed with his professional work, helped connect him with members of CSAR leadership to help present at the 2022 SARCON on DE&I. Ryan is excited to work with CSAR to continue to support backcountry search and rescue operations across the state.

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Ron lives in Durango, CO.  He has been engaged with La Plata County SAR since 1985 and currently serves as a mission coordinator and the president.  Ron has had a successful career in commercial banking and insurance.   In his off time he enjoys snowmobiling, riding ATVs and exploring all that Southwest Colorado has to offer.

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As a member of the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group since 2000 and a member of the Colorado Search and Rescue Association since 2010, Ben Wilson has served in multiple leadership roles both operational and administrative. Ben has a strong sense of community, giving back and family and has always sought to combine those ambitions with his love of the outdoors. He has served on CSARs board as a director and treasurer and has served on the American Lung Association’s outdoor programs steering committee. Out of college, Ben spent 10 years in the software-for-finance industry and in 2017 went back to school to earn a master’s degree in education from the University of Colorado. He now runs the corporate education program for a Colorado based investment firm. Ben enjoys outdoor activities like fly fishing, mountain biking, skiing, climbing, backpacking trail running and alpine mountaineering. He currently resides in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Lauren and son Eliot.

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Prior to retirement, Woody spent 28 years as the executive director and a mountain guide for Horizon Adventures, Inc. which provided wilderness programs for young men and women here in Colorado. In 1988, Woody began his career with the Alpine Rescue Team. He has served in almost every position within the team including as operational leader and president numerous times over the past 33 years. In addition to over 400 14’ers climbed, Woody has had many international climbing adventures with fellow members of the Alpine Rescue Team. Woody also serves as one of the CSAR state SAR coordinators.

Woody currently lives in Denver in the home that his grandfather built in 1926.