Telluride Magazine winter/spring 2019-20

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4.95 | priceless in Telluride




7 Beds / Easy Ski Access / Unbeatable Value 119 Lodges Lane - Mountain Village $2,990,000

H OUSE + G U E S T H O U S E 7 Beds / 2.44 Acres / Huge Wilson Views 92 Park Lane - Ski Ranches $1,895,000





4 Beds / 56 Acres / Pond / Alpine Views 192 Top of the World - Specie Mesa $2,741,700

7 Beds / 6.5 Baths / On 14th Green 131 AJ Drive - Mountain Village $4,795,000

4 Beds / Ski Access / Great Sun & Views Aspen Ridge Unit 11 - Mountain Village $1,820,000


3 Beds / 3.5 Baths / Valley Floor Views Owl Meadows Unit 10 - Telluride $1,550,000


Te l l u r i d e A r e a R e a l E s t a t e . c o m

STEVE CIECIUCH [ Chet-chu ] Experience a Higher Level of Market Knowledge and Service.



Oversize Lot / 2 Homes / Private 524 W Galena Ave - Telluride $1,260,000

321 Acres / 13 Beds / 1+ Mile River Frontage Red Rock River Ranch - Dolores River $10,300,000

3 6 0 ° V IEW S


4.29 Acres / Incredible Views / Best Value Lot 73 Josefa Lane - Aldasoro Ranch $675,000

.39 Acres / Ideal Parcel for Stunning Home Lots 11A & 7 Gregory Ave - Telluride $1,550,000


7 Beds / 1.97 Acres / Beautiful Finish 133 Victoria Drive - Mountain Village $6,995,000


4 Beds / Prime Location / High End Finish 121 N Spruce Street - Telluride $4,395,000 | 970.708.2338 237 South Oak Street @ the Telluride Gondola Team [Chet-chu] Steve Cieciuch (Chet-chu) Director Ellen Williamson Broker Associate


Sunny & spacious, custom 4-bed home takes in dramatic views. 517 East Columbia Avenue - Telluride $4,225,000


4 & 5 bedrooms enjoy private ski access, concierge, spa, & more. Auberge Resorts at Element 52 - Telluride $3.175M - $6M


Mountain elegant, 4-bed golf course home set on 1+ knoll-top acres. 128 Adams Ranch Road - Mountain Village $4,400,000


A combination of 8-beds steps from skiing, restaurants & shopping. 403 West Colorado Avenue - Telluride $5,495,000

Leaders In Telluride Area Real Estate For 20+ Years


Rare offering on 25+ acres with exceptional views, 15 min. from Town. 175 Raspberry Patch Road - Raspberry Patch $6,995,000


Enjoy perfect ski access & mountain views from this 5-bed home. 120 Snowfield Drive - Mountain Village $6,800,000


Luxury 3 to 5 beds with views & convenience to everything. Transfer Telluride - Telluride $3,200,000 - $5,950,000


Steps to ski/golf/gondola with 2 masters, game room, sauna & more. 184 Country Club Drive - Mountain Village $5,950,000

TOGETHER, WE DO MORE FOR YOU. Brian O’Neill, Director I 970.708.5367 I Marty Stetina, Broker Associate I 970.708.4504


Diligence Expertise Results

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Huge 360° views & sun with DRB approved plans for a contemporary home design. Lot 613-C1 - Mountain Village $410,000


Enjoy end-of-the-road privacy with stunning views. Off-the-grid living at its best! 680 Elam Ridge Rd. - Hastings Mesa $995,000


Superb lifestyle offering a beautifully finished home with bike trails, frisbee golf and a grow dome on 37+ acres! 1291 Old Elam Ranch Road - Hastings Mesa $975,000


This .9-acre golf course lot is next to open space with huge views & has approved plans. Lot 659R - Mountain Village $699,000


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L egacy H omes

A creative legacy building is artful, technically perfect, responsive, and valuable. Design is the most important factor in any built environment—the materials and spaces only work if the assembly is coherent and proportioned properly. Architecture is more than just designing a building: It is the magical blending of time, place, and social conditions. Our philosophy is to understand the clients’ dreams and bring them to life with glass and steel and wood, so that the building itself becomes a statement.

Mountains are our Muse: /myooz/: a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist

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Whether you’re learning to make your first turns or want a heli-skiing lesson, we can cater a lesson to your needs. Telluride provides one of the most comprehensive natural learning environments offered at any resort— from some of the longest and easiest dedicated learning terrain, to some of the most incredible steeps in North America. Young and old, private or group, our instructors will get you to the level you want to be.

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Photo by: Aaron Leitz





Photo by: JC Buck

Photo by: JC Buck

16 • WINTER/SPRING 2019-2020



20 CALENDAR OF EVENTS The who, what, where, and when in Telluride this season

26 LOCAL FLAVOR Vegan dining

28 MOUNTAIN HEALTH Telluride tackles teen vaping

30 ASK JOCK Athletic advice from our mountain guru



A new kind of canvas


Homesick at the Outer Edge of the World



Avalanche Control in the Digital Age


Essay by Anthony Doerr

Technology transforms snow safety operations By Martinique Davis


“The Prospectors,” by Karen Russell, Poem by Suzanne Cheavens


Researching ayahuasca in the Amazon By Christina Callicott


Meet Citlali Casillas, Tamas Paluska, and Isabel Matamoros

Citizen of the year, housing lottery, Telluride Women’s Network, cannabis cafés

78 INNOVATIONS The Five Percent

A higher calling: Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald

By D. Dion


Electric co-ops lament the cap on self-generation of renewables

The beetles are coming


The Bar Association

The revolving-door fraternity of Telluride’s early saloon keepers By Paul O’Rourke


Once Bitten

Essay by Craig Childs

86 ENVIRONMENT The black trailer in the backyard

88 SAN JUAN SCRIBES Book reviews

92 COLOR BY NUMBERS An index of facts and figures

96 A LAST LOOK Twinkle, twinkle by Mary Kenez


The finest homes for the most discerning guests. Discover a better approach to rental revenue and vacation home care. Learn more at 970.724.4112

18 • WINTER/SPRING 2019-2020



Telluride Magazine is produced by Telluride Publishing LLC, a locally owned and operated company. PUBLISHER TELLURIDE PUBLISHING LLC ~~~




ANTHONY DOERR Anthony Doerr’s most recent book is All the Light We Cannot See, which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Doerr (“Homesick at the Outer Edge of the World,” p. 32) spent some time living and writing in the San Juan Mountains earlier in his career. His short stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Prize Stories, New American Stories, and the Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and sons.




Christina Callicott, Suzanne Cheavens, Craig Childs, Martinique Davis, Anthony Doerr, Elizabeth Guest, Karen James, Paul O’Rourke, Corinne Platt, Karen Russell, Sarah Lavender Smith, Rob Story, Martha Tissot van Patot, Lance Waring, Lorrraine Weissman ~~~


Ryan Bonneau, Gus Gusciora, Mary Kenez, Matt Kroll, Amy Levek, Stephanie Morgan Rogers ~~~

MARY KENEZ The work of Telluride photographer Mary Kenez (Cover, Last Look p. 96) celebrates her two greatest loves: her canine companions and their daily adventures hiking, biking, and skiing in the mountains. Kenez is an animal advocate and supporter of Second Chance Humane Society, and the owner/operator of Kamruz Gallery in downtown Telluride. She is best known for her iconic Gondogola photo—a group of dogs sharing a gondola cabin— but all her whimsical photos capture what she calls “the active, hippie-happy, quirky Telluride lifestyle.”

KAREN RUSSELL Karen Russell (“The Prospectors,” p. 60) won the 2012 and the 2018 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, the “5 under 35” prize from the National Book Foundation, the NYPL Young Lions Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, and is a former fellow of the Cullman Center and the American Academy in Berlin. She currently holds the Endowed Chair at Texas State University’s MFA program, and lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son.

WWW.TELLURIDEMAGAZINE.COM Telluride Publishing produces the San Juan Skyway Visitor Guide and Telluride Magazine. Current and past issues are available on our website.. © 2019 Telluride Publishing For editorial inquiries call 970.708.0060 or email For advertising information call 970.729.0913 or email The annual subscription rate is $14.95. Cover and contents are fully protected and must not be reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher.


Local photographer Mary Kenez took the cover shot a season or two ago, after she hastily scrawled “Telluride” on the windshield of the vintage VW van—those are her telemark skis and poles resting on the side of the vehicle. Kenez titled the photo appropriately as “Gone Skiing,” and in honor of that message, illustrator/designer Kristal Franklin transformed the image with those words. You can see more of Kenez’s work at her Kamruz Gallery in town.



Within h

GONE SKIING Whatever happened to the powder clause?



The opportunity to step away from everything and take a break is something that shouldn’t be squandered.

t used to be, at least in the 90s, that when it snowed six inches or more, it was a given that stores would open a little late, businesses would be on a slight delay, and any non-essential employees would be able to get a few runs in on a powder morning before heading to work. It was jokingly referred to as the “powder clause,” but in reality, if you could, you took a break to ski or board when the conditions on the resort warranted. It is a ski town, after all, and unless you were a lift operator or a doctor at the medical clinic or the breakfast chef or something like that, it was an excused absence. I miss those days. Which is not to say that you might not see a “Gone Skiing” sign this winter on a local business if you happen by at 9 a.m. after it has dumped a foot overnight. At least I hope so. I think we forget to take a break these days, and not just here in Telluride. Whether it’s a couple runs on Lift 9, a quick hike on the Wiebe, or making some time for a yoga class or even just to enjoy a great book, we’re all guilty of that chronic state of being too busy to take care of ourselves, too busy to take a few moments and enjoy life. I mean—if we aren’t enjoying our lives at least some of the time, what is the point of everything else we do?

— Harper Reed

renowned technology hacker/engineer

I invite you to take a break and dig into this issue: We have tons of great content to read. There’s a short story by Pulitzer Prize finalist Karen Russell from her latest book Orange World (“The Prospectors,” pp. 60–68) as well as essays by Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, and Craig Childs, award-winning local author of more than a dozen books including House of Rain and Atlas of a Lost World. Sometimes it seems like life is spinning so fast that it’s hard to step off the carousel. We have several stories in this edition focused on how life is moving ahead, the way the world is transforming. Our ski patrol has turned to technology to help be more efficient with snow safety (“Avalanche Control in the Digital Age,” pp. 36–39). Researcher and local ski instructor Christina Callicott contributed a great piece on the way ayuhuasca ceremonies, ancient Amazonian psychedelic rituals, have

reached the masses (“Jungle Juice,” pp. 40-43). We have a story about the challenges faced by Western energy provider Tri-State as it replaces coal generation with renewables (“The Five Percent,” pp. 44–47). We also take a look at how our forests are re-inventing themselves (“The Beetles Are Coming,” p. 84) and how a local business is composting waste (“The Black Trailer in the Backyard,” p. 86). You’ll also want to take some time to dig into what’s new on the menu at local restaurants (“Vegan Dining,” p. 26) and check out the great art on Wagner’s new ski line (“A New Kind of Canvas,” p. 48). And to meet some of your neighbors, immigrants who came to Telluride and help make this town shine (Telluride Faces, p. 52) and Citizen of the Year, Barb Gross, who makes sure that everyone has enough to eat and that kids are taken care of (Telluride Turns, p. 68). So go ahead, take that ski or snowboard break, or get outside in the fresh mountain air—you deserve it. But when you get home, kick off your boots, put your feet up, and start reading. We hope you enjoy this issue. Happy reading, Deb Dion Kees WINTER/SPRING 2019-2020



Winter • Spring 2019-2020




AH HAA SCHOOL FOR THE ARTS OPEN SESSIONS The Ah Haa School has an Art Happy Hour for adults from 5:30–8 p.m. the first Friday of every month December 2019 through March 2020 featuring an art activity, wine, and light snacks. The school also hosts Kids’ Night Out upon request, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. with art instruction and pizza. Ah Haa offers classes in painting, drawing, writing, jewelry making, batik-dyeing, ceramics, graphic design, theatre, dance, fitness, and more. For a complete schedule of classes and events, visit the school’s website. AVALANCHE AWARENESS FORUMS AND RESCUE CLINICS The Telluride Avalanche School, in partnership with San Juan Outdoor Adventures/ Telluride Adventures and the Telluride Ski Patrol, offers a free series on Monday nights in the winter and educates backcountry travelers about avalanche safety. Free avalanche beacon rescue clinics are offered throughout the season, starting in January. Multi-day avalanche safety courses with field sessions and ice climbing trips are also available. BOOK CLUB Sip libations and discuss what you’re reading with other bibliophiles at “Booze and Books,” held at the West End Bistro at the Hotel Telluride at 5:15 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month. FITNESS PROGRAMS AT THE LIBRARY Get moving for free at the Wilkinson Public Library’s yoga, Zumba, and Pound classes. You can get a workout outside, too, by checking out snowshoes at the library.



The gondola opens for the 2019-20 winter season. The chondola between the Meadows and Mountain Village center starts running Nov. 27.


Telluride Ski Resort opens for the 2019-20 ski season.

29–Dec 1


The Telluride Historical Museum presents its annual Christmas celebration at Schmid Ranch on Wilson Mesa. Bring the kids and find your Christmas tree, make a wreath, take a sleigh ride, enjoy homemade hot cocoa, meet Santa, and more.


Start the holiday season with a performance by classical violinist Tessa Lark and composer/bassist Michael Thurber at the Palm Theatre.

HOLIDAY ARTS BAZAAR Local artisans and artists vend unique handmade goods like jewelry, sewn and knitted clothing and accessories, toys, local foods, housewares, candles, and more at the Telluride Elks Lodge.




Catch Warren Miller’s latest ski film Timeless at the Sheridan Opera House.

Free holiday double feature: Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Carol to screen at the Palm Theatre. Donations benefit Palm Arts programming.




Telluride Historical Museum opens for the winter season. This year’s annual exhibit is entitled “If These Walls Could Talk: Preservation & Change,” celebrating the town’s iconic buildings.


Shop early and partake of the holiday caroling, discounts, and cheer in Telluride’s retail stores.


ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Sheridan Arts Foundation Young People’s Theatre middle school actors perform Once Upon a Mattress at the Sheridan Opera House.


TELLURIDE FIRE FESTIVAL Enjoy the festival’s fire installations, fire juggling, dancing, and other performances, exhibits, workshops, and the Fire Ball.

DJ and electronic dance music producer Ehren River Wright, known as SoDown, performs at the Sheridan Opera House.

Widespread Panic keyboard player JoJo Hermann and Jerry Joseph of Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons perform at the Sheridan Opera House.


Mountain Village hosts this fun holiday event, with train rides, free ice skating, reindeer, movies, crafts, sledding, and a tree lighting.


The Sheridan Arts Foundation and Black Tie Ski Rentals present Teton Gravity Research’s latest ski/snowboard film, Winterland, at the Sheridan Opera House.


The local theatre troupe presents Holiday Cabaret, a musical performance, at the Sheridan Opera House.


Palm Arts Dance presents The Wizard of Oz at the Palm Theatre.

david craige lighting design

Certified Lighting Consultant ALA Associate IALD



The Butcher & The Baker is a locally owned and operated bakery and café specializing in handcrafted, fresh and local cuisine. We feature handmade breads and artisan pastries, fresh salads composed of local greens, fruit and vegetables, locally sourced house-roasted meats, cheeses, handmade sausages, and sustainably harvested fish. Our bar carries Colorado breweries on tap, locally crafted small-batch spirits and an assortment of organic and biodynamic wines.

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Skiers descend into Telluride and Mountain Village, carrying torches and forming a bright string of lights.


Mountainfilm in Telluride hosts its annual “friend-raiser,” an event and screening to benefit the film festival and its programs, at the Sheridan Opera House.


Catch these performances by acoustic pop/folk musician KT Tunstall (Dec. 27), award-winning singer/songwriter/musician Jewel (Dec. 28), soul and R&B artist Mary Wilson of the Supremes (Dec. 29), and the New Year’s Gala with the funky soul music of the Pimps of Joytime (Dec. 31).


Narrators tell their own stories onstage at the Bob (black box at the Palm Theater).


Palm Arts presents Adam Trent: The Next Generation of Magic at the Palm Theatre.


Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a parade of lights down the ski slopes and fireworks in Mountain Village.


Telluride’s countdown takes place on New Year’s Eve, from 11:30 p.m. through 12:30 a.m., on main street in front of the clocktower in the courthouse. Colorado Avenue will be closed to vehicles between Aspen and Fir Street, and no glass or open containers of alcohol are permitted.


Ah Haa hosts its annual New Year’s Eve Gala Fundraiser, featuring artists Meredith Nemirov and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, with fine art, a champagne reception, a four-course dinner, entertainment, and a wine auction.



Whiffenpoofs, the world’s oldest and best known a cappella group, is made up of seniors from Yale University. The group performs at the Sheridan Opera House.


Papadosio, an electronica jam quintet from Asheville, North Carolina, plays two shows at the Sheridan Opera House.


Telluride Theatre pays tribute to a decade of burlesque shows at the Sheridan Opera House.


DJ, producer, and guitarist Cory Wythe—also known as Marvel Years—performs electronic soul/funk at the Sheridan Opera House.


Locals perform hilarious lip sync routines in costume on the Sheridan Opera House stage, in a benefit event for local community radio station KOTO.


Young People’s Theatre high school actors perform the musical Le Misérables at the Sheridan Opera House.


Palm Theatre screens short animated, live action, and documentary films that were nominated for Oscar awards.


The Doo Wop Project is five vocalists and a pianist/arranger performing classic R&B hits and doo wop versions of modern music from Jason Mraz, Maroon 5, and more at the Sheridan Opera House.



SunSquabi, an improvisational funk/electronica trio based in Colorado, performs at the Sheridan Opera House.

Denver-based funk/soul/jazz ensemble The Motet performs at Club Red.


Sample chocolate confections made by local chefs, dress in theme costumes and dance at this annual benefit for the San Miguel Resource Center, held at the Sheridan Opera House. This year’s theme is country and western.



KIDS PROGRAMS AT THE LIBRARY Wilkinson Public Library hosts after-school programs for kids: I Heart Art art projects with Jeannie every Monday. On Tuesdays, there is Cyber Clubhouse for aspiring coders, as well as “Paws” for Reading, where kids can practice reading to a therapy dog. Also on Tuesday is Open Math Tutoring for grades K-10 with Mr. Dan. On Wednesdays, go to the library for Kids’ Cook. Kids learn how to make a healthy snack or small dish with ingredients supplied by the library. Sci Fri Fridays feature science experiments. LEGAL AID Wilkinson Public Library hosts a free legal clinic for parties who don’t have legal representation. Attorneys answer questions and explain processes via a computer link. Call (970) 728-4519 to schedule an appointment. METROPOLITAN OPERA AT THE PALM The Palm Theatre presents opera performances on a large HD screen throughout the winter. This winter’s schedule includes Metropolitan Opera performances of Akhnaten (Nov. 23), Agrippina (Feb. 29), Der Fliegende (March 14), Tosca (April 25). OPEN RECREATION The Telluride Parks and Recreation department offers open hockey and ice skating at the Hanley Ice Rink and Pavilion in Telluride Town Park and drop-in basketball, volleyball, pickleball, and indoor soccer at the high school gym. SPANISH HAPPY HOUR Practice your Spanish at La Cocina at 5 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month with Gloria and Jim from the library and other Spanish speakers in the community. All levels welcome.

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TEEN PROGRAMS AT THE LIBRARY Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. is Teen Cooking; Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. is Wednesday Challenge (various games); Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. is Marvel Movie Madness; Fridays at 4 p.m. is Teen Trivia, where young people compete for prizes. TALKING GOURDS POETRY CLUB Featured poets read from their work, and a gourd is passed so that attendees can share their work or the work of another poet that fits the monthly theme. The club meets once a month at 6 p.m. at the Telluride Arts Gallery.



Don’t miss Telluride Theatre’s annual risqué fundraiser, a vaudeville-style, strip-tease performance at the Sheridan Opera House.



Narrators share their personal stories onstage at the Bob (black box at the Palm Theater). The 21st annual Telluride Comedy Fest features famous comedians from films and shows like The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock performing skits and improv.


Musician and surfer Donavon Frankenreiter takes the stage at the Sheridan Opera House.


TECH HELP Frustrated with your smartphone, computer, or another device? Wilkinson Public Library hosts free tech help from 12–3 p.m. every Saturday.

A multi-day event for HIV/AIDS prevention and education, the benefit includes a signature fashion show, art and clothing auctions and a trunk show.

TEEN PROGRAMS AT THE LIBRARY Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. is the Teen Cooking Club, Wednesday Challenge (various fun games) are held at 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday. Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. are Marvel Movie Madness. Fridays at 4 p.m. is Teen Trivia, where young people compete for prizes.


TELLURIDE ART WALK On the first Thursday of each month, the Telluride Art Walk celebrates art at the local galleries from 5–8 p.m., with a self-guided tour of the exhibits in downtown Telluride. Venues open their doors to showcase new exhibits and artists, and restaurants feature art walk specials. Maps are available from local businesses and Telluride Arts.

Telluride Theatre presents a workshop premiere of a new musical in collaboration with Lee Zlotoff (original creator of MaGyver) and Santa Fe’s Up & Down Theatre at the Bob black box theatre at the Palm.

TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL PRESENTS On the third Thursday of each month at the Nugget Theatre, catch one of the recently released films selected by the festival directors of the Telluride Film Festival. TUESDAYS AT THE PALM Telluride Film Festival and Telluride’s R-1 School District present free, family-friendly films once a month on Tuesday afternoons at the Palm Theatre.



MARCH Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, which provides services to athletes with disabilities, holds its annual fundraiser with music, food, drinks, and an auction at the Telluride Conference Center. Guests can dress in blue, the iconic blue of the jackets that TASP volunteers wear when on duty.



This is a fun annual event where locals get auctioned off along with a specific activity for a date. The auction is a fundraiser for Telluride’s One to One mentoring organization.


KOTO hosts the annual block party in front of the county courthouse to celebrate the end of the ski season. Prizes are awarded for the best pink flamingo costumes/attire. (Snow date is April 4.)


Telluride Ski Resort closes for the 2019-20 ski season.


Gondola closes after the 2019-20 ski season.


Mountainfilm in Telluride is a film festival that screens documentaries, and hosts symposiums, breakfast talks, and other events about mountain culture, the environment, and our global community.

10 MOE.

The progressive rock quintet moe. performs at the Sheridan Opera House.


Groove to the classic funk/jazz music of Galactic at the Sheridan Opera House.


Telluride Historical Museum hosts this annual fundraiser, which is also a benefit for the American Cancer Society.


Kids ages 5–14 are invited to craft a sled out of cardboard, tape, glue, and wax and race on the NASTAR course on the ski area in this fun fundraiser for Telluride’s One to One mentoring organization.


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VEGAN DINING In search of plant-based food options By Elizabeth Guest

like cashew cream cheese and almond milk. “We try to have many plant-based things, from carrot coconut milk soup to beet hummus toast, and all of our smoothies are vegan.” From cozy cafés to high-end gastronomy, local eateries source fresh produce for modern vegan food. A far cry from the mining days of meat and potatoes, Telluride chefs are rearranging menus and plating up plant-enhanced meals. Basham, who owns the downtown clothing store The Telluride Toggery, often hits main street for lunch break. A huge fan of Ghost Town, the number

Chefs Erich Owen and Ross Martin of The National

4 toast is a favorite topped with basil cashew pesto, heirloom tomato, and avocado. Basham also enjoys the roasted butternut squash curry soup at Floradora Saloon and the Vegan Plate at La Cocina de Luz with Anasazi beans from nearby Dove Creek, roasted veggies, posole, salad, guacamole, and tortillas. La Cocina’s vegan tamales are also satisfying, made with masa supplemented by Earth Balance vegan butter spread and filled with zucchini, corn, and green chili. For an after-school snack, Basham often sends her hungry kiddos to High Pie for a slice of dairy-free cheese pizza or treats them to a rich, crumbly brownie at Ghost Town, the source of various vegan baked goods crafted with coconut oil, banana, and avocado and solid recipes like the egg- and butter-free depression-era brownie. “I cook food that is really quite simple: stuffed peppers, veggie wraps, tofu paninis,” explains Basham, who relies on the 10-ingredient recipes from the Minimalist Baker cookbook. “Veggies, fruits, seeds, grains, and nuts are the main food groups making up our meals.” The ingredients may be straightforward, but vegan dishes at Telluride’s finest eateries are complex, creative, and well worth the experience. At The National, owner-chefs Erich Owen and Ross Martin enhance



et’s go out to dinner and see a movie. Seems like a simple idea, but not for a vegan. Subsisting on plant-based food free of animal products, including dairy and eggs, vegan eaters are often on the defensive, vulnerable to underlying ingredients like fish sauce in ramen or chicken stock in risottos. Wendy Basham, a longtime local, is vegan. She and her husband Matt cook vegan meals—including school lunches—for their children, ages 10 and 12. “When I leave my kitchen, I go into survival mode. It’s often really hard when we go out to dinner.” Perhaps vegans should skip right to the movie. Finding a plant-based meal for a family of four is challenging, but you can’t survive on a bucket of bright yellow movie popcorn— even if it’s technically vegan. Luckily, local restaurants are rapidly adapting to the whole food and plant-based nutritional movement. Nowadays, vegan diets focus on healthy things you can eat— pearl barley, swiss chard, almond milk, flax seed, tempeh, and nutritional yeast—not what you can’t. “It’s an exciting trend and it’s happening in real time,” says Ghost Town owner Elena Levin, who responds to the daily demand for vegan with house-made alternatives

“WHEN I LEAVE MY KITCHEN, I GO INTO SURVIVAL MODE. IT’S OFTEN REALLY HARD WHEN WE GO OUT TO DINNER.” each category of their ever-changing menu with vegan dishes. The grilled garden vegetable lasagna entrée is a favorite for both filet-fed carnivores and devout vegans. It’s a labor-intensive recipe, fine-tuned by Chef Owen. Down in The National’s tidy, new kitchen on a blustery morning, production chef Pete Goldberg explains the many layers of the dish. “It’s a 12-step process just to put together,” says Goldberg. He starts by charring zucchini, eggplant, onion, red pepper, and portobello mushroom. Then, vegan ricotta is made from non-dairy yogurt, parsley, basil, and fried Marcona almonds for texture. Homemade vegan pasta consists of extra firm tofu instead of eggs. Finally, a puttanesca sauce of capers, carrots, olives, tomato, basil, and garlic confit deepens the flavor of the dish. The National also has a vegan Southwest-style corn soup from Chef Ross. The soup starts with a corncob stock and incorporates raw corn, red pepper, chipotle, adobo, potato, onion, and cashew cream. Pureed with love, the soup is super creamy with a rich vermilion hue and a bright cilantro pesto garnish. Fellow fine-dining restaurant 221 South Oak has an entire vegetarian menu with appetizers and entrées. Some dishes are vegan, others are easily transformed. Just let Chef Eliza Gavin know of dietary restrictions and she’ll eliminate the shaved Manchego cheese from the baby squash with garganelli pasta to make it vegan. Chef Gavin gives you vegan dishes you’ll never make at home —baby squash with pepita crumble, watercress coulis, cornbread, and sweet potato. A contestant on season ten of Bravo’s Top Chef, she says her crispy tofu with chermoula—a spicy cilantro sauce—celery root slaw, cashew crema, and sweet potato is the most popular vegan dish. “It’s just as filling to do all veggies,” says Gavin, whose dedication to vegetarian cuisine is divulged in her third book, Hold the Meat, coming out this February. Look for it on the shelves at Between the Covers on Colorado Avenue.

From recipes to menus, foodies are seeking out more vegetables and whole foods. Once a week at Ghost Town, Vicki’s Fresh Food Movement hosts a pop-up market with fresh food from nearby farms, ranches, and orchards. While winter sees a stark change in vegetal availability, you can stock your pantry with seasonal specials like local quinoa, beets, squash, greens, and more. If you’re cooking for fun, join the monthly vegan potluck organized by longtime local and retail importer Lisa Horlick. The event puts like-minded people together and introduces them to new cuisine. Horlick strives to promote plant-based whole food, passing on her most recent restaurant recommendation: Altezza at the Peaks in Mountain Village. Altezza’s menu is forward-thinking and packed with produce: GF marks gluten free, and PB denotes the restaurant’s plant-based dishes. The grain bowl wows vegans with black lentil ragout, red and white quinoa pilaf, crispy sprouts, asparagus, and butternut hash. At Tomboy Tavern, at the base of Lift 4, a veggie burger makes a good vegan ski-day meal. Their burrito window is another vegan-friendly spot where you can customize your order with tofu, veggies, jalapenos, beans, guacamole, salsa, and rice. Now that we’ve got dinner covered, how about that movie? It turns out there are plenty of titles related to veganism and healthy eating. Available at Wilkinson Public Library, Basham recommends What the Health by part-time local Shushana Castle. Forks Over Knives is another favorite film, and The Game Changers, which screened at Mountanfilm 2018, focuses on elite athletes worldwide thriving on plant-based diets. While the vegan movement may not move mountains, it is motivating mountain folk to explore healthier food choices and plant-based diets. And now that the movement has caught on, there are a whole lot more options available. \

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(970) 708.7041 • WINTER/SPRING 2019-2020



TELLURIDE TACKLES TEEN VAPING Health providers and school counselors working to slow nicotine use By Karen Toepfer James


hat slim, gunmetal-gray stick glimpsed in a teen’s backpack or back pocket may seem innocuous enough, but these days it warrants a closer look. The device might not be the flash drive or pen to which it bears an uncanny resemblance. Instead, it may be an electronic or e-cigarette, the noncombustible tobacco item teens across the country are using in high numbers. Vaping has become so popular that last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed its growing use an “epidemic.” Commonly known as vapes, vape pens, or simply by the brand name Juul, the most popular brand of electronic nicotine delivery system in the United States, these handheld, battery-powered devices convert a liquid (called e-juice or e-liquid) contained inside a small cartridge into an inhaled vapor. E-liquids usually contain nicotine, but other varieties abound. Some contain THC (the psycho-

active compound in marijuana) and others contain CBD (derived from hemp or marijuana). They come in flavors like cotton candy and s’mores, and one can even vape essential oils like frankincense and ylang ylang for an aromatherapeutic hit. The noncombustible tobacco industry introduced its products to the U.S. in 2007 as an alternative that could help people quit smoking. But this fall, reports started to surface about severe respiratory illness related to vaping, which in some cases was fatal. According to the CDC, there were 33 deaths and nearly 1,500 lung injuries related to vaping across the country as of October 2019. Because the products were marketed as safer than traditional cigarettes, vaping has caught on—particularly among youth. “This is a major problem that we were ill-informed about,” says Telluride High School (THS) Counselor Alex Jones. “We didn’t fully understand it until two years ago

when we realized that we had issues with seniors doing it, and we had to start monitoring the bathrooms.” According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), vaping among U.S. high school students increased from 11.7 percent in 2017 to 20.8 percent in 2018, while use of other tobacco products remained unchanged. But even before this, use in Colorado outpaced the nation. According to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado report produced by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), 27 percent of middle and high school students surveyed across the state reported having vaped within the previous thirty days. Here in Colorado’s Region 10, which includes San Miguel County, that percentage was 38. The high school saw even higher use during the same period. Last year the Telluride Daily Planet reported that more than 40 percent of students said they had vaped nicotine-only products within the previous thirty days. “The message that cigarettes are bad for you got through, so [kids] won’t think about picking up a cigarette,” says the Telluride Medical Center’s (TMC) Diana Koelliker, MD, who penned its September Medical Moment newsletter on the topic. “Initially vaping was billed as the healthy option, so I think kids didn’t get the message that nicotine is dangerous.” The numbers at our local high school are no anomaly, however. Similarly high rates of youth vaping are also found in Eagle, Summit, and Pitkin Counties, according to the Healthy Kids report. Ironically, the higher usage may be because teens in our resort communities are comparatively more concerned about health and fitness. “More health-conscious young people may be more likely to vape because they perceive vaping as relatively safe,” says CDPHE spokesperson Alison Reidmohr. “Many of the young people we spoke with said that they’d never smoke because they know it’s bad for them, but vaping is ‘just harmless flavored water vapor.’” Fortunately, our teen usage statistics have spurred action here at home. Koelliker reports that the TMC’s primary care and emergency departments ask all patients—including teenagers—about vaping, and those who would like to quit can receive support. At Telluride High School, Jones has rolled out phase one of an anti-vaping campaign that began by inviting a substance abuse prevention group to educate school staff and the public in September 2018. The following month he, along with a member of the San Miguel County Juvenile Diversion staff, attended an American Lung Association training in order to locally implement the organization’s voluntary teen smoking cessation program. A motivational speaker visited the school last winter, and this past spring Jones offered smoking cessation services to ten kids who asked for help, he says. Along with these efforts, he has: papered the school with anti-vaping posters; facilitated conversations between younger and older students; and personally had many group and one-on-one conversations with kids. “Students are talking because of seeing what’s happening in the news,” he says. “They are realizing how dangerous it is, and that death is a possible outcome.” \



MEDICAL MOMENT with Diana Koelliker, MD

THE VAPING CRISIS IS A LOCAL CRISIS Q : Is there really an epidemic of teens using vape products? A : YES! This is a huge problem across the country and especially in our region. 20 percent of kids nationwide were vaping in 2018. In Colorado, our average was 27 percent. In the Telluride region, almost 50 percent of kids vape according to our most recent survey (2017 Healthy Kids Colorado). We have to do better! Visit for more info on vaping and resources for talking to your kids.





Athletic Advice from Our Local Mountain Guru Vision Quest

Dear Jock, My goggles are scratched up and in dire need of replacement. But when I went shopping for new goggles, I saw some cool helmets with a built-in visor that look like they’re made for fighter pilots. Are visor helmets a flash in the pan or the wave of the future? —Seeking Clarity Dear Seeking, Before you consider new eyewear, you must decide if you want to keep your current helmet. If the answer is “yes,” then bring it with you when you go goggle shopping to ensure you achieve a good fit between helmet, goggle frame, and your face. If your helmet is in need of replacement, that opens up the possibility of a visor helmet, which is purported to offer increased peripheral vision and more airflow to reduce fogging. And they make you look like a Jedi warrior. You’ll have to decide if that’s cool or not. Start by trying on a variety of visor helmets to learn which one fits best. Then try on some traditional helmets, add in the cost of a good pair of goggles, and run the arithmetic. If the numbers are close, let helmet comfort be your guide because I suspect the actual difference in visual acuity will be negligible. Whatever your helmet decision, purchase two, if not three, lenses for your new eyewear. Having spare lenses will save you from having to contact the manufacturer when you damage a lens—which will inevitably happen because goggle lenses are one of the most fragile things on the planet. See you on the slopes, — Jock



Packing for Palmyra

Dear Jock, My goal this season is to hike and descend Palmyra Peak. I’ve been checking out the skiers walking up the ridge and noticed some carry their skis on their shoulders while others attach them to their packs. I’m guessing skis on a pack is the more comfortable way to go. So here’s my question: Some of the skis on the packs are shaped like the letter “A” with the tips attached and the tails dangling down on either side of the pack. Other skis are clipped together at a diagonal across the back of the pack. Which one is best?


—Curious Palmyra Packer Dear Curious, You are correct in your initial assumption: If you are walking more than ten minutes, it’s much easier to carry your skis on your back rather than perched on your shoulder, especially if the terrain is steep and rocky. And your second observation is also correct: Skis can be carried in your pack either “A-frame” or “side-sling” style. Most of the time, the design of your pack will dictate which method you use to tote your boards, but some packs offer both options. Given the choice, I prefer the classic A-frame because it feels more evenly balanced. But to be comfortable when walking, the tails of the skis must sit high enough on the pack not to nip your ankles at every step. And you’ll need some kind of strap to hold the tips together. The side-sling method, on the other hand, is less prone to ankle biting, can be quicker to rig and de-rig, and often allows easier access to the contents of your pack. Snowboards can also be attached in this manner. No matter how you decide, test your carrying system with dry run before you embark on your hike up the Palmyra ridge. Climb high, ski safe, — Jock



Go With the Flow

Dear Jock, I know hydration is important, so I like to ski and snowshoe with a hydration pack. But on cold days, I have problems with ice clogging the bite valve or the hose. Do you have any tricks to keep my drinking water from crystallizing while I’m out playing? —Frozen Hose Dear Hose, Yes, there are a few tricks to keep your hydration pack working in cold temps. First, every time you finish drinking, blow gently back into the bite valve to flush stray water molecules out of the valve, back through the hose, and down into the water bag. Some folks fill their hydration bags with warm or even hot water, but I don’t think this does much to prevent icing in the hose, and I don’t like to drink hot fluids from plastic containers. If you are using the same hydration pack you use in the summer, there are also some technical gear solutions to address your problem. You can purchase a winter-specific hydration bag with an insulated hose and a thick rubber cap over the bite valve. For even more insurance, there are winter packs where the hydration hose zips into an insulated shoulder strap and rests against your (hopefully) warm body for maximum antifreeze insurance. Hope you maintain the flow this winter, — Jock



32 • ESSAY


By Anthony Doerr


or a period of my childhood, somewhere between years eight and nine, and immediately after I read The Call of the Wild, I decided I needed to become a mail carrier in the Yukon. I would brave blizzards, pan for gold, never clean my room, and communicate telepathically with my sled dogs. For a week that January I slept with my bedroom window open, to “prepare my body for the cold,” until Dad figured out why the house was freezing and put an end to that. I soon moved on to other dreams—NFL punt returner, myrmecologist, restaurant reviewer who only reviews turkey sandwiches—but the pull of the North never left. Perhaps it was because I grew up in Cleveland, where trekking north on a dogsled would only get me as far as Willoughby, birthplace of Tim Conway, but Alaska loomed mythic in my imagination. It was a place where the sun never set, where auroras sent green curtains as big as cities flapping through the sky, a place as far from the familiar as you could get.


Adolescence compounded things. Nowadays I appreciate Cleveland’s leafy, bygone beauty, but as a teenager all I saw were dark Februaries, dead steel mills, and freeways leading elsewhere. I became so enamored with leaving home that I papered my bedroom walls with maps of distant islands and asked my parents questions like, “You mean you were alive at the same time as Jimi Hendrix and you never even tried to see him once?” In the spring of my fourteenth year, I announced that, as soon as summer vacation arrived, I would buy a van with my lawn-mowing earnings and drive to the Arctic Circle. My mother—half-amused, half-horrified—pointed out that I couldn’t obtain a driver’s license for two more years. Then she stuck a catalogue for a summer outdoor leadership school beside my breakfast. They offered three trips in Alaska. I jabbed my finger at the least scary-looking: a month-long sea kayaking expedition. Mom said, “You have to be sixteen for that one.” “Oh,” I said, and rustled the newspaper classifieds. “Look, here’s a minivan for sale. Five hundred bucks.”

“Fine,” she said, “we’ll tell them you’re sixteen. But no vans.” Two months later I was standing in the rain wearing two pairs of polypropylene underwear and a life preserver. Ahead of me loomed the bright green fjords of the Tongass National Forest, seventeen million acres, the largest national forest in the United States. Fifteen of us departed in eleven kayaks and we didn’t set foot indoors for a month. Those first days, younger than everybody else, collecting drinking water from creeks and bogs and using rocks and moss as toilet paper, I worried I might have traveled a bit too far from the familiar. In Cleveland we had beds. We had hot water! We had a vacuum cleaner! What I missed most was food. On our first day, we were divided into three-person tent groups, and each threesome had to pack, protect, and cook its own meals. My tent group was particularly unskilled at food preparation. With our little backpacking stove, we managed to burn every supper: brown rice, lentils, spaghetti, even instant potatoes. Every meal we tried to cook tasted like some variation of burnt noodles. The chocolate we

IT IS NO EXAGGERATION TO SUGGEST THAT WHEN I PUT THAT FIRST FINGERFUL OF RAW BROWNIE BATTER INTO MY MOUTH, THE CHEMISTRY OF MY ENTIRE BODY CHANGED. Sugar: what humans won’t do for it. I think of hearing the big waves pound the rocks, and not eating potato chips, and the tendrils of homesickness prehistoric men climbing trees to raid beehives; I think of the “white gold” that drove the transwrapped themselves around my heart. As dark times go, of course, this was fairly light: atlantic slave trade. I think of childhood, and our instructors carried a satellite phone in case what it meant to walk in from a hard day’s play things got truly dicey; I had two functioning parents to a kitchen full of color and calories, and find my who would meet me at the airport when I got home. mother making something sweet. I’ve heard that a parent’s greatest joy in life is And among my memories from that month are glories: a humpback whale passing directly beneath my watching one’s teenagers grow up to have teenagers. boat, its huge shadow sliding along for what might My own twin sons are fourteen now and they listen to have been ten full seconds, a galaxy of bubbles ris- mumble rap and think Jimi Hendrix was roughly coning past the hull. I paddled up a stream so thick with temporaneous with Mozart, and every day they give salmon that the blades of my paddle knocked into me some inkling of what I put my mother through. When my boys were little, we used to make them. Bald eagles nested above our tent; glaciers gleamed between the high peaks like faraway king- brownies from a box every couple of weeks. We’d sit doms. But when you’re fourteen—and shivering, and on the floor of the kitchen, take out a bowl and spoon, your sleeping bag is soggy, and your drinking water tear open a box of brownie mix, and start stirring. Tonight they sit upstairs playis brown—relatively non-dire ing a video game called Fortthings can feel dire. nite. Dinner is over; the dishes Homesickness is an ailare done. In a month Henry will ment of the stomach as much leave on a wilderness trip of his as of the mind. In the 4th cenown, to Yellowstone, and we tury B.C.E., with Athenian sociwon’t see him for two weeks. ety in crisis, the ancient Greeks I preheat the oven. From started a new genre of writing, the pantry I take a box of where they imagined fabulous Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge places (often islands) at the Family Style Brownie mix and outer edges of the world where stir it up. Then I walk to the everyone was happy. Almost all stairs and call up: “I’m makof their utopias featured food. ing brownies!” Here’s the poet Telecleides, Fortnite sounds drift down of whose work only a very few 1 box of Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge the stairs. Gunfire, smack-talk. fragments remain: Family Style Brownie mix “Anybody want to lick the Every torrent flowed with water bowl?” wine, barley-cakes strove “Um, that’s okay, Dad,” with wheat-loaves for men’s Sit on floor. comes the call back down. lips, beseeching that they be Cut open bag of brownie mix. “More for me,” I say, swallowed if men loved the Add water. though of course the heart whitest. Fishes would come Stir. fractures a little. The evoto the house and bake themEat with fingers. lutionary reason for adolesselves, then serve themselves Repeat when necessary. cence, apparently, is to build on the tables. A river of broth, a functional, independent whirling hot slices of meat, adult. It’s healthy for teenwould flow by the couches; conduits full of piquant sauces for the meat were agers to try to separate from their parents, to criclose at hand for the asking, so that there was tique their clothes, their dance moves, their city. And so we watch them inch out along the plenty for moistening a mouthful and swallowing it tender. On dishes there would be honey-cakes all tightrope, doing their damnedest to rebel and consprinkled with spices, and roast thrushes served form at the same time. I sit on the bottom stair and swipe a finger up with milk-cakes were flying into the gullet. That afternoon at Port Malmesbury, sensing through the brownie batter. As soon as it touches I was sinking, one of my tentmates pulled on her my tongue, time and space collapse. Trees drip, raingear and crawled into her sea kayak and dug out waves crash; I taste that adolescent longing to be our last bag of brownie mix. The wood was too wet elsewhere, pinioned against a craving for the comto make a fire, and we were too worn out to light the forts of home. \ “Homesick at the Outer Edge of the World” by stove, so we sat in our tent, upended the whole bag into our cookpot, poured in a bit of water, and stirred. Anthony Doerr originally appeared in EAT JOY: It is no exaggeration to suggest that when I put Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers that first fingerful of raw brownie batter into my edited by Natalie Eve Garrett, published by Black Balloon Publishing. mouth, the chemistry of my entire body changed.


were supposed to ration was gone after the first two nights; we left a two-pound bag of pancake mix uncovered during a rainstorm. I started eating Ramen noodles raw, just so they wouldn’t take on the burned taste of our pot. My notebook filled with lists: Doritos. Pizza. Cheesesteaks. I had hallucinations about my mother’s toffee bars. By week two, all my tent group had left that remotely resembled dessert were two twelveounce bags of just-add-water brownie mix. We “cooked” our first batch by mixing up the batter in our frying pan, putting on the lid, and burying the whole thing in hot embers. After twenty minutes, the top and bottom were carbonized and the center was raw. Still: ambrosia. We jammed our second bag of brownie mix into the stern of a kayak where it would be safe from bears and rain, and we pledged not to touch it for another week. Then the weather turned. Stranded in an isolated inlet called Port Malmesbury, on Kuiu Island (population 10), we had rain, and more rain, and high seas. I caught a fever, and couldn’t get warm. I was tired of being wet all the time, and



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CONTROL By Martinique Davis



t’s hours before daybreak, but Telluride Ski Resort Snow Safety Director Jon Tukman is already at work. Though the storm rages outside, the scene inside Patrol Headquarters atop the Apex Lift is eerily calm. Tukman sits hunched in the dim halo emanating from a computer screen in the avalanche dispatch office, a handheld radio sitting at the ready beside his cup of coffee going cold in the still-cool air. Huddled amid cluttered shelves and walls papered with lists and graphs, he toggles between screens: One displays graphics of the last hours’ critical weather data, another draws up the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s local avalanche forecast, and one more shows an aerial map of the Telluride Ski Area overlaid with multi-colored polygons. These polygons represent the exact locations of each controlled avalanche from the previous day’s avalanche control operations, offering Tukman a comprehensive look at the area’s avalanche history as he prepares for the coming day’s offensive. It is, after all, up to Tukman and the other members of Telluride’s snow safety department to come up with a plan to mitigate avalanche hazard across the complex matrix of ski runs crisscrossing avalanche paths on the Telluride Ski Area. On “snow mornings,” PHQ (patrol headquarters) is inundated with red-coated patrollers and all their tackle, and Tukman and his team will be tasked with sending them back out the door with the appropriate tools and know-how to safely mitigate avalanche hazard in every corner of the ski area. It’s a practice in multi-tasking, keeping the old wood-burning fireplace stoked and the coffee brewing all while orchestrating the elaborate dance that is avalanche mitigation at the Telluride Ski Area. “Our challenge, every day, is to get as much of the avalanche terrain open as is safely possible,” Tukman says, pointing to the map. Virtually every black diamond-rated run is considered avalanche terrain. “And if we are to open it, we have to open it in a way that anyone can go out without a partner, without rescue gear, and jump on any pillow they want and not get caught in a slide. That’s the objective.” The task is daunting, requiring the distribution of ski patrol teams across the entirety of the resort, armed with explosive charges they use to artificially initiate controlled avalanches before that terrain can be opened to the public. Historically the planning and execution of this control work was structured around patrollers’ institutional knowledge, gleaned from years of observing and recording weather and avalanche history on the resort’s terrain. The snow safety team would draw upon that familiarity to make educated guesses about how best to choreograph any particular day’s avalanche control missions, including where to send patrollers and with what directives. But these days, Telluride’s snow safety team has the benefit of technology to help inform their decision-making about where, how, and when to mitigate avalanche hazard.



38 • FEATURE Dealing With Data

bilities can help with operational By law, ski area operators who use efficiency as well. explosives or artillery for avalanche Other ski areas using the promitigation are required to keep gram include Taos Ski Valley and detailed records of all missions and Jackson Hole. Like Telluride, these their outcomes. Avalanche foreresorts are only scratching the surcasters also document pertinent face of how this technology can optiweather information, like temperamize operations and help improve ture, wind speed, wind direction, safety. But Tukman is wary about snow accumulation, and snow-waleaning too hard on technology to ter equivalent (or SWE, a measureperform the duties of a well-trained ment of snow density), all of which avalanche forecasting team. can inform where and what types of avalanches they could expect after a A Winter to Remember certain weather event. For decades Last winter was the first season that data was saved on paper, and the Telluride Ski Patrol extenlike most records kept before the sively utilized the SmartMountain advent of computer databases, online data platform, and there would be stored on clipboards and was indeed plenty of data to docin file cabinets where they were apt ument and organize: It was, by all to collect dust in Telluride’s avaaccounts, an extraordinary year on lanche dispatch office. the avalanche side of things. Analyzing that data to recreate The winter of 2018-19 was one the long-term weather and related of the biggest years on record for avalanche history of a certain avasnowfall across the state, with lanche path would be tedious and local snowfall totals for the Novemtime-consuming. But nowadays ber-April ski season topping 320” organizations like the Telluride Ski and landing the winter in the top Patrol have tools to make that data three seasons on record. Not coinanalysis faster and more accurate, cidentally, the San Juan mountains’ in the form of computer-based predictably unstable snowpack technology created specifically for delivered remarkable avalanche complex, time-critical operations activity throughout the winter. A such as ski area avalanche mitigaparticularly active avalanche cycle tion programs. in March, which followed a series Over the past few years, Tukof storms that dropped nearly ten man has worked closely with Earth feet on Telluride’s slopes, resulted Analytic, a Geographic Informain one of the biggest recorded tion System (GIS) application avalanches on the ski resort and a vendor, to design a web-based flurry of others that put Telluride’s program that uses mapping techavalanche professionals to the test. The task is daunting, requiring the distribution nology and data analysis to put Tukman admits it was a chalall those decades of statistics in a lenging year for avalanche control of ski patrol teams across the entirety of the resort, more usable form and more readily operations in Telluride, due to armed with explosive charges they use to artificially at the Ski Patrol’s fingertips. the high number of back-to-back initiate controlled avalanches before that As Tukman explains, the Telstorms and subsequent high avaluride Ski Area’s weather and lanche hazard. Moreover, two skiers terrain can be opened to the public. avalanche data had never before had died in an in-bounds, post-conbeen aggregated into one easy-totrolled avalanche at Taos Ski Valley use map. Earth Analytic’s SmartMountain soft- occurred (or didn’t) is entered into the database in January, which served as a grave reminder to after every control mission. That information can ski area operators across the industry that avaware does exactly that, and a whole lot more. Tukman has taken most of the hard copies be reproduced onto 3D maps and pulled up onto lanche danger can be mitigated, but never comof weather stats and avalanche incidents and a screen and shared with all of Ski Patrol during a pletely eradicated. uploaded them into the cloud. The data process- morning meeting. While programs like SmartMountain can Additionally, a user can enter current weather enhance avalanche mitigation programs, it ing capabilities of the SmartMountain application can now access and organize all that information, variables (such as new snow accumulation, snow will never supplant the institutional knowledge allowing the snow safety department to easily and density, and wind speed and direction) and the organizations like the Telluride Ski Patrol have quickly evaluate snow, weather, and avalanche program will pull up what avalanche activity historically depended upon, nor the need to data going back to the early 1990s. “The idea is occurred under similar weather conditions over tread cautiously when working in avalanche that we’ve got all this information, and it can be the last week, month, or many decades. To hone terrain, says Tukman. more than just a repository for historical data— in on areas of concern, users can enter terrain “No matter what technology you’re using, it variables, such as slope aspect and angle, to get ultimately comes down to the methodical grunt we can actually use it for the future,” he says. By compiling historical information spanning an even more detailed look at what avalanche work of going into every little nook and cranny— days or decades, the program can help the snow activity has occurred on a single slope, or across because that’s what the public does,” he says. safety department assess what has happened in an entire avalanche-prone area. “It can give us an “You’ll never be able to build a model that will say, the past and thus inform them about what to con- idea of when we had similar weather conditions, ‘This slope is safe.’ But hopefully it can create some sider when formulating any given morning’s ava- what avalanche activity we had, and it lets you operational efficiencies, and it will certainly help in lanche control plan. Data about where explosives see visually some areas you may not have thought terms of keeping up with the paperwork—getting were used, and what resulting avalanche activity about,” Tukman says. These data-processing capa- workers out of the office and into the field.” \



Researching ayahuasca in the Amazon By Christina Callicott


AN MARTIN, Peruvian Amazon, August 2016—As the familiar urges began, I fumbled for my headlamp and stepped quietly out of the room, leaving the garbled chants of the shaman behind. Outside, a full moon cast shadows about of plantain leaves and palms, painting the star-speckled landscape as an idyll of its daytime self. Searching for the outhouse, I found a collared peccary—a wire-haired, brutish, pig-like beast—curled around the base of the toilet, asleep. He’d come in from the forest some years ago, probably orphaned, and made himself at home among the sundry denizens of the farm. “Es abusivo,” they’d warned me; “he’s mean.” The glands on his back had left brown smudges around the rim of the commode where he’d used the seat for a backscratcher. I nudged him out of the way with my toe and proceeded to do what I’d come there for.


Of all the substances enjoying the limelight of what has come to be known as the “psychedelic renaissance,” none has captured the world’s imagination quite like ayahuasca.



use has spread around the world, fueled by the rise of a pair of Brazilian religious movements that use ayahuasca as a sacrament, as well as by the growing interest in alternative medicine. Ayahuasca’s use has been spreading in the Amazon as well, where the version of ayahuasca now considered standard—the combination of the vine Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca) with the leaf Psychotria viridis (chacruna)—has in some cases replaced other shamanic substances that were either less effective (other ayahuasca combinations) or more dangerous (for example, toé, a potentially fatal plant related to Datura). A booming tourist industry has sprung up in the Amazon, concentrated in the old Rubber-Boom city of Iquitos, Peru, where retreat centers cater to European and American tourists in search of psychological or physical healing, or plain old psychedelic adventure. Conversely, mestizo and indigenous practitioners—shamans, curanderos, medicos, their titles vary—travel the globe, leading ceremonies, usually quite expensive ones, for often very large groups of people. So why are people flocking to the Amazon, or spending hundreds of dollars a night per ceremony stateside? Why are so many young graduate students swelling the ranks of ayahuasca researchers, when both unpleasantries and dangers abound? Simple answer: The stuff works. There is abundant ethnographic and anecdotal evidence that ayahuasca is useful for a variety of ailments, both biological and psychological. Among the indigenous communities where I work, it has long been used for treating alcoholism, depression, and anemia, as well as various culturally specific syndromes such as susto (fright) and other vague psycho-spiritual ailments (its use to treat anemia is likely secondary to its powerful anti-parasitic effects—both anemia and parasitic infections


As I resettled myself cross-legged on the floor in front of the shaman, faint glimmers of another landscape appeared before my closed eyes—a breathing and bejeweled forest, or perhaps the pillars and vaulted ceiling of a Byzantine mosque— before fading to the insistent presence of my consciousness. The damp cold of the cement floor chilled my leg bones, and I drew a scarf around my head. I checked my recording device to make sure it was still running. Then suddenly it was time to go outside again. I bent over the bushes at the base of the palm just outside the door and emptied my stomach, then again, and again. As I stood up, spitting and wiping my face, I became aware of the sound of water falling behind me. I turned to find the shaman standing on the doorstep, pants open, urinating on the ground in front of him. It was splashing onto my ankles and legs. “Has vomitado?” he asked me, laughing, oblivious in his intoxication. I stepped back, disgusted. “Don A., you’re peeing on my feet!” In my own disorientation, I’d castigated him in English. He turned, laughing, pants still unzipped, and went back inside to resume the ceremony. After a moment, I followed him, shaking my head. Such is a day in the life of an ayahuasca researcher. Of all the substances enjoying the limelight of what has come to be known as the “psychedelic renaissance,” none has captured the world’s imagination quite like ayahuasca. Its colorful ritual embellishments, its unique musical genre, its reputed therapeutic qualities, and, of course, its visionary effects, combine to fire the imaginations of everyone from credulous New-Age seekers to world-weary skeptics. The bitter brew originated in the Amazon, where it has long been used for both shamanic and religious purposes, but in the past few decades, its




I stepped back, disgusted. “Don A., you’re peeing on my feet!” In my own disorientation, I’d castigated him in English. are endemic throughout lowland South America). Ayahuasca is also the lynchpin in a system of medicine that makes use of numerous plants, as well as dietary and behavioral restrictions, to treat a wide range of illnesses and social maladies, as well as to “prepare the body” for shamanic work and for quasi-shamanic activities such as hunting. From a Western point of view, ayahuasca, wrapped in the flowery jargon of New-Age spirituality and pseudo-indigenous culture, is often touted as a panacea for ailments physical, emotional, and spiritual. The reality is that, despite growing interest and ongoing research, clinical evidence for ayahuasca’s efficacy is still lacking. There is limited reliable evidence for its successful use in treating addiction, anxiety, and depression. However, unlike clinical research into less complicated substances such as psilocybin and cannabis, clinical research with ayahuasca is still in the exploratory stages. At the same time, anecdotal evidence abounds of the dangers of ayahuasca—bad trips, long-lasting depression and dissociation, newly triggered psychoses. Although few case studies to this effect are found in the scientific literature, experts nevertheless warn that latent psychoses can be triggered by the use of ayahuasca and other psychedelics, and that practitioners should screen their participants for a personal or family history of mental illness. Therein lies the rub: Given its reputation as a treatment for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, many if not most of the people seeking an experience with ayahuasca, whether stateside or in the Amazon, appear to be doing so for purposes of psychological and emotional therapy. Many are aware of studies that have proven, or claimed to prove, the safety and efficacy of ayahuasca. However, these studies have all been performed in very controlled settings, usually in the context of one of the well-established religious groups whose members

are long-term users. These studies fail to take into account those people who dropped out of the church, or who came once, had a terrifying experience, and never came back. Such studies show that ayahuasca CAN be used safely, or that it CAN be associated with certain behaviors and personality traits, in the context of a supportive setting. Contrary to popular belief, they do not prove that ayahuasca is always safe, or that it is always, or even usually, efficacious for a given problem.

The controlled settings that are the hallmark of good medical and psychological research, whether observational studies of an established religious group or clinical studies of patients in a hospital setting, are a far cry from the Wild-West reality of the Amazon, and even from the unregulated freefor-all that constitutes neo-shamanic use in the global north. Yet, in the public mind, scientific findings should translate from one setting to the next. They don’t. “Set” and “setting”—the individual’s

mindset and the social and physical environment of the experience—have long been recognized as integral components of a good psychedelic experience—or a bad one. When your shaman is peeing on your feet, groaning out barely intelligible melodies, and begging you the next morning to have sex with him, chances are you may not have a very good time. Even worse, in the wrong situation, the powerful effects of the medicine can backfire. In the case of the Amazon, historical context should also be taken into account, as an aspect of “setting”: It’s likely that few ayahuasca pilgrims today are aware of the reign, as late as the 1990s, of Maoist revolutionaries in Peru, who terrorized the very people and regions that today produce much of our chocolate, coffee, and ayahuasca. Even less are they aware of the slightly older history of the Rubber Boom and its atrocities, nor of the genocidal encounter between indigenous people and missionaries. And yet it is from these social settings and cultural encounters that much of modern ayahuasca culture emanated. In the search for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing, ayahuasca and its rituals have a place. Given the right set and setting, including a carefully constructed ritual space and a skilled and trained practitioner or facilitator, an ayahuasca ceremony can indeed be a transcendent experience. However, seekers, patients, and other would-be participants should carefully weigh their options, do their homework, and proceed slowly down the path, eyes open and ready for self-defense, whether on the spiritual or material plane. After all, it really is a jungle out there. For a good overview of the scientific research into ayahuasca, its legality, and other important information, see the 2017 Technical Report prepared by ICEERS, the Institute for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service. The report can be downloaded at \

Christina Callicott is a cultural anthropologist and ethnobotanist who works with indigenous and mestizo healers in the Peruvian Amazon. She is currently writing a dissertation on the interaction between plants and music in the shamanic practices of the Lamista Kechwa, a group known for their role in the development and dissemination of that form of ayahuasca shamanism that is practiced on the global stage today. She also teaches skiing in Telluride, runs rivers, and takes lots of pictures of wildflowers. She blames Wade Davis and his wife Gayle for talking her into going to grad school.


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Highley was presented with a gift basket: Colorado craft beer, a Rockies baseball cap, a New Mexico green chile, sunscreen and sunglasses for the state’s 300+ days of sunshine per year. It also contained a not-so-subtle message—an analysis by Rocky Mountain Institute showing $600 million in savings if TriState switched from coal to clean energy, and a letter signed by thousands of Tri-State co-op members and advocacy organizations asking Highley to prioritize a transition to sustainable, clean energy. Was the message received? Would Highley preside over a new era for Tri-State, which has been heavily invested in coal since the 1980s?


Back in 1936, the Rural Electrification Act (REA) provided federal loans to install electrical distribution in rural areas, and small cooperative electric companies like San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) were formed. For a time, these co-ops purchased power from the Bureau of Reclamation and elsewhere in the wholesale market. Then, in 1952, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association—itself a cooperative company, with members from each of the small distribution co-ops—was founded. Tri-State didn’t generate any of its own power until the 1970s. For decades, the company purchased power from Western Area Power Administration for distribution to the co-ops. When Tri-State began building its portfolio of energy in the 1980s they invested heavily in coal, which at the time, made the most economic sense and made rates affordable for its members. A federal law passed in 1978 had limited natural gas for power generation, and


solar and wind generation were not yet at utility scale. Coal was king. In 2007, Tri-State offered its forty-three member co-ops across New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska a ten-year extension of their already very long contract of 40 years— longer than most home mortgages even—to provide 95 percent of their power needs, with a 5 percent “carve-out” allowing co-ops to generate that amount of their own power. All but two agreed. “Back when the contracts were formed, the industry was in a different position and we were searching for reliability and rate stability. The carve-out allows co-ops to generate 5 percent locally, most of which happens to be renewable,” said Alex Shelley of SMPA. The energy industry today looks much different than it did in the past. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind have become dramatically less expensive, and people in the industry sometimes refer to coal and nuclear plant investments as “stranded assets.” Like the flicking of a switch, the complicated calculus of the energy equation shifted in a way that almost no one could have anticipated. The co-ops that had so eagerly agreed to the 5 percent cap on self-generation suddenly found that they could save money and harness green power by building solar, wind, or hydropower projects on their own.


Kit Carson, a rural co-op that serves the Taos, New Mexico area, was the first to leave Tri-State. Kit Carson put out a request for proposals for a new wholesale energy provider; essentially they were shopping around for better rates and more

renewable energy. But they were still bound by their contract with Tri-State. Enter Guzman Energy. Guzman is a new type of player in the energy industry; it is not an investor-owned utility, nor is it a generation and transmission cooperative. It is a wholesale power provider funded by investors that trades in energy markets across the country, purchasing excess generation with a goal of increasing utility-scale wind and solar projects to help serve customers. “Our company is one of the first to bring private capital to the table,” said Kathleen Staks, Director of External Affairs at Guzman. Guzman worked with Kit Carson to provide the co-op with power and to help finance their exit fee, the buyout from their contract with Tri-State. “Part of the contention was the 5 percent cap,” said Staks. “They wanted a cleaner mix of generation and lower, more stable rates. We allow for more self-generation and will serve them a highly renewable portfolio.” Next up was Telluride’s neighboring co-op, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA). In 2018, DMEA asked Tri-State for a buyout number, and launched a formal complaint with Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) asking for a fair and equitable exit charge. Tri-State asked that the complaint be dismissed, claiming that the state’s PUC did not have jurisdiction on the issue. After a few months of tussling, Tri-State and DMEA reached a settlement. The details of the exit, however, were not to be disclosed. In the meantime, other co-ops are watching these two exits closely. La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), our neighbor in the Durango area, asked for a buyout number in July and commissioned a study to analyze alternative power options. LPEA’s CEO Jessica Matlock said that they still haven’t received that number. “We are locked into a long-term contract without any flexibility to meet members needs, which goes against co-op principles. Durango just passed a carbon goal, and currently we can’t meet that goal. That’s kind of the main reason we are asking for some flexibility.” United Power, Tri-State’s largest co-op serving 92,000 customers in the Front Range of Colorado, has also railed against the 5 percent cap and TriState’s reticence at providing the buyout numbers to its member co-ops. Both United and LPEA filed with the PUC in early November, asking the commission to determine a fair exit charge for withdrawing from Tri-State. San Miguel Power Association, our local co-op, also voted in August 2019 to initiate a power supply study. Two important things have happened since DMEA’s exit: —Tri-State put a moratorium on giving its co-ops a buyout number. —And Tri-State filed with FERC to have federal regulation of its rates rather than oversight from state entities in their four-state service area. That application was rejected, but in September, TriState added a new member (MEICO, a natural gas provider) that it says makes it automatically subject to FERC regulation; the application was protested by the PUC and other members.





Tri-State’s moratorium—which has frustrated United Power and LPEA—will give the cooperative time to contemplate how it can provide more flexibility in these contracts, and how other co-ops would absorb exits or contract changes. Tri-State has a contract committee that Tri-State CEO Duane Highley said has made “significant progress,” and he expects that contract work to be done in April 2020. Highley said that board members on the committee are evaluating new requirements that would allow for more self-generation, maybe another 2 percent. “There has been discussion around placing community solar projects outside the 5 percent provision. We’ve also been talking to potential solar power providers about a subsidiary for energy services including community solar. It could operate under the co-op business model that members own, and would keep the money in the co-op family.” It was at Highley’s first annual board meeting that members voted for a by-law change that could allow co-op members to do more self-generation. “It’s up to the members of the contract committee to help define the rules about partial exits and the cost shares of exits. What’s really important to me is to serve our members.” Tri-State’s request for FERC jurisdiction was troubling for some co-op members. States like Colorado and New Mexico have very ambitious carbon reduction goals, and some feared that TriState might be trying to get around environmental regulations. Highley said that is not the intent, and that it is only a move to insure uniform rates across its service territory. “We have no intention to circumvent the PUC’s authority for resource planning, and New Mexico would also continue to have that authority. We are just asking for one referee calling the shots for wholesale rates instead of four. It’s not novel or untested—every other generation and transmission company that serves multiple states is regulated by FERC, as is Xcel Energy [which operates in Colorado’s more populated areas] and we just want the same regulatory environment as Xcel.”

Highley also said that Tri-State is committed to adding more renewables to its portfolio and that the cooperative will announce new projects by the end of the year that will not just meet but “exceed Colorado and New Mexico’s carbon reduction or renewable goals.” Having FERC oversight raises another issue for local co-op members. It might leave contract negotiations or exits in a jurisdictional limbo. LPEA’s CEO Jessica Matlock said that it goes against the co-op principles of local control. “Tri-State is hold-

According to Highley, Tri-State appreciated the offer but believes the company can do better on its own to retire those stranded assets and debt. Guzman’s investors, the so-called “Boulder billionaires,” have good motives but would have expected a return on their investment, while the co-op model’s returns would benefit members with lower rates. Still, he said he wasn’t opposed to working with third parties if it lowers costs. “It was a very creative approach to the retirement of coal. We decided we could do the same thing at a lower cost—we’re an A-rated utility that can issue debt at below 3 or 4 percent without putting coal assets on a Guzman credit card. We think we have better options.” The other part of the coal picture, said Highley, is how retiring those plants will affect the communities whose economies depend on them. Highley’s board is made up not just of co-op representatives living in places demanding clean energy who might drive to a meeting in a Prius, but also of cowboy hat-wearing representatives from regions where coal still provides crucial jobs. Highley said that Tri-State’s plan is to partner with the state to help mitigate the effects of closing the plants and transitioning to renewables. “There are enormous challenges not just with the debt and stranded assets, but also with those communities reliant on coal and coal plants. We’re concerned about our employees and helping communities evolve.” Highley said that the lower cost of renewable energy will help Tri-State move away from coal. “Five years ago, we would not have been able to say to our members we could bring in the renewables at a lower cost. But those savings are going to help us accelerate the retirement of debt related to those assets.” When will this transition happen? Highley said some big changes are on the horizon. Tri-State put out a request for proposals in June and the company is currently evaluating a hundred responses that will create a “large addition” to the renewables in its energy portfolio, to be announced this winter. “In the end, I work for our members. I’ve got a mission to support my members, and they want a cleaner grid. They’re ready for an energy transition.” \



ing us hostage by not being flexible and going to federal regulation. We’d have to go to FERC to protest, go to Washington DC to meet with with staff who don’t even know where Durango is and don’t understand our needs and dynamics and issues.”


When I asked Highley about the gift basket, he assured me that he is listening to what co-op members have to say and that he understands what they want. That doesn’t mean that transitioning to renewable energy doesn’t pose challenges. Coal is one of those challenges. More than 200 coal plants—including the nearby Nucla plant— have closed since 2010, and coal generation for electricity declined by 35 percent between 2010 and 2016. Tri-State has $3.4 billion in debt, much of which comes from its investment in coal generation. Guzman approached Tri-State last May with an unusual offer: They would pay Tri-State $500 million, retire the company’s three coal plants by 2025, and serve the replacement energy with renewables. “Long story short,” said Staks. “They said they were not interested, and negotiations essentially ended.”


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A New Kind of Canvas Colorado artists displayed on Wagner’s 2020 ski line By Elizabeth Guest

“Do you have these in black?” asks a Bogner-clad skier in a sea green suit. “No luck,” replies the rental guy. Since skis are made for performance, not appearance, she settles for a clashing pair of cherry red Salomon sticks.


There is, however, one place to find skis that look good and perform: they’re made locally at Wagner Custom Skis. Whether you carve perfect turns, plow down slowly, or rip San Joaquin Couloir, Wagner personalizes your skis with cutting edge technology and uniquely designed top sheets. As a custom ski manufacturer, Wagner has always paid attention to design, but now the company crafts skis that are special enough to grace the walls of art galleries. Wagner’s 2020 artist line features sixteen new skis designed by four Colorado artists, including local painter Danielle DeRoberts. “The skis embrace both ski life and art life,” says Heather Baltzley, Wagner’s graphic design guru. “Pete [Wagner, a University of San Diego computer science major who started the company in 2006] really likes working with artists, and it’s cool that all four of the artists are skiers and snowboarders.” Wagner’s 2020 artist series will be on display downtown at Gallery 81435, for two months starting in December, preceded by a show in Boulder in November. DeRoberts, who specializes in portrait painting and large-scale murals, is helping to curate the shows which will also incorporate original art works and interviews about the collection. “You’ll get a more personal portrayal about why and how the art is there, and on the skis,” says Baltzley. “It’s definitely not something you get when you buy a pair of K2s off the rack.” No offense K2, or any of you other—Rossignol, Volkl, Blizzard— great, yet regular and unpredictably colored, skis. An artsy pair of Wagners is like a prime dry-aged porterhouse at the Sheridan Chophouse versus a ground beef taco at my family’s Tuesday night dinner. It’s also more difficult to create—ski art requires care and craftsmanship. “Transferring fine art to skis is a big challenge,” explains Baltzley. “You’re basically taking a graphic and trying to put it on a popsicle stick.” For instance, “Kiss the Dirt,” DeRoberts’ portrait series inspired by her 18-day raft trip on the Grand Canyon, is reinvented on its new ski canvas. The new version is no longer a portrait, but still decisively DeRoberts, showcasing her delicate lines and ethereal style. “I feel super honored to be a part of the series,” DeRoberts says. “Even though my skis are not the exact portraits I intended, you know that they’re definitely ‘me.’” Putting art onto skis is an evolutionary process. Ideas and images shift as the art takes shape. DeRoberts’ four skis are different in look and meaning, but cohesive and representative of the artist’s work. The same can be said of the series’ three other artists, all members of the Boulder Creative Collective, a nonprofit

group supporting artistic endeavors statewide. Reed Weily designs skulls out of vintage stickers. His pieces are complex layers of retro stickers from all over the world—think the incredible hulk, a can of Fanta, or Vaurnet sunglasses. Using a collage format, his playful and visually rich style comes to life on his skis. Sarah Kinn is an abstract painter who revels in colorwork. Her acrylic paintings celebrate vibrant palettes as do her skis. Finally, Lindee Zimmer, a muralist from Denver, delivers whimsical skis that show off strong patterns, angles and lines, among contrasting colors. “I’ve gotten to know them all really well on screen,” explains Baltzley of the new line. “It’s a really intimate experience to get to see it all come to life.” In addition to Wagner’s 2020 art line, Gallery 81435 will also show graphics from Wagner’s stock skis. Baltzley, specifically, will show “Solace,” based off her watercolor painting from eight years ago of pink alpenglow in Telluride’s evening sky. She says the piece percolated her passion for ski art, including this year’s newest stock graphics that focus on being in the woods. “Skis are my gallery…I’ve never shown anything in my entire life,” says Baltzley, who’s worked at Wagner since 2007. “That’s why I do graphic design—I’m terrified of putting my work out there.” Baltzley also oversaw Wagner’s 2019 artist ski series TRAFFIC. That line consists of twenty skis by four international artists from Traffic creative agency in New York City. They are currently featured in Wagner’s showroom at the company headquarters and factory in Mountain Village. Wagner also offers the opportunity to design for yourself. Fill out an online questionnaire, then make a phone call to figure out ski logistics, and finally have some fun with the design. Popular personal favorites are flags, dogs, family photos, topographic maps, and Grateful Dead logos. “There’s always incentive to build your own ski,” says Baltzley. “A ski off the rack is a ski off the rack, but we do custom skis, so when it comes to your ski design, aside from copyright laws and resolution issues, you can pretty much do anything.” Whether you spring for the new 2020 art series or design your own skis or snowboard, Wagner offers everything you want in boards from structural make-up to physical appearance. And you can feel good about your purchase because it also benefits the artists and the community. “For every ski design that sells, the artist gets paid,” Baltzley says. “So you are supporting not just the ski company, but the artist as well.” \

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the turquoise door gallery Original fine art oil paintings, photographs, jewelry and knives

DOLORES SUNRISE ~ Jill Carver 18 x 18 oil

WILD GRAZERS ~ Jim Wodark 10 x 12 oil


COLLECTIVE UNCONCIOUS ~ Gregory Packard 40 x 27 oil

ICE FALL ~ Susie Hyer 24 x 18 oil

FIRST SNOW ~ Tim Deibler 24 x 30 oil

TROUT SWIM ~ Christine Lashley 10 x 20 oil

THE LAST DOLLAR RANCH ~Dave Santillanes 24 x 48 oil


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WILSON FALL ~ Shaun Horne 34 x 44 oil

TELLURIDE THEATRICS ~ Nicholas Reti 24 x 24 oil

WILSON WINTER LIGHT ~ Don Sahli 36 x 48 oil

CROSSING REDFISH CREEK ~ Ralph Oberg 23 x 33 oil

TROUT LAKE ROAD ~ Mark Pettit 30 x 30 oil

DALLAS ASPENS AND CABIN ~ Gordon Reichard 30 x 60 photograph

75 MULE PACK TRAIN ON MAIN STREET IN TELLURIDE c 1905 ~ Valerie Levy Franzese 23 x 31 Historical photo printed on canvas and hand painted in oils




Telluride welcomes visitors from all over the world, but even the town’s residents hail from some faraway places. The three people we profile in this issue immigrated to the United States from Mexico, El Salvador, and Hungary, and they have enriched our community with their culture, their talents, and their personalities.




itlali Casillas didn’t speak English and had no relatives nearby when she moved to Telluride in 2003 as a teenager. Her mother and three younger brothers lived in Mexico, and her father was employed as a migrant farmworker in California’s Central Valley. A cousin in Pagosa Springs told her about Colorado and encouraged her to move there to find work as a nanny when she was only 17. “It was really challenging, and I missed my family a lot. I had to mature in an instant. I wasn’t like other kids who had time to mess around; I had a goal, and I came here for a reason.” She was determined to work and to find success, she says. From that humble beginning, Casillas graduated from Telluride High in 2006 and rose to leadership positions in town. Now 34, she was promoted to director of Telluride District Preschool, overseeing a staff of five and managing the preschool’s dual language program. The district hired her as a teacher six years ago when implementing an immersive bilingual program with one Englishand one Spanish-speaking educator co-teaching in the classrooms. Casillas continues to co-teach in the pre-kindergarten classroom as well as direct the whole preschool. Additionally, Casillas serves on the Wilkinson Public Library’s board of trustees, which she describes as “a way for me to give back. The library has provided so much support for the Latino community. They’re very welcoming, they’ve got bilingual storytime and bilingual workshops—our library is amazing, and I wanted to be a part of that.” She also finds time to participate in Somos Uno Telluride, a leadership and advocacy program for the Latino population organized by the Tri-County Health Network. Casillas is soft-spoken, with a friendly voice that no doubt makes the children she works with feel comfortable, but her gentle demeanor belies a ruggedness she leverages while hiking. Photos from her social media show her on numerous hikes above treeline on tough terrain around Telluride. “I love to hike—and to cook and sew. I love doing things with my hands, and I wish I had more time,” she says.

Building a Bridge Meet Citlali Casillas, Mexican immigrant By Sarah Lavender Smith

Casillas’s success story might have turned out differently if not for the generosity and support of Telluride locals who mentored her when she was a young woman. When Casillas arrived in Pagosa Springs—with a green card enabling her to work, thanks to her father gaining legal status under the amnesty program enacted under the senior President Bush—a couple who needed childcare and wanted to raise their young son bilingual hired her to live with them. This couple, Jay Harrington and his wife Jennifer Babiak, then moved with Casillas to Telluride so that Har-

rington could work as town manager from 2003 to 2006. Babiak encouraged Casillas to enter Telluride High at age 18 in January of 2004. Because of her limited English and gaps in her education, Casillas was placed with younger peers in the sophomore class. She worked hard to complete her studies in two and a half years, and graduated with several college scholarships. While in high school, Casillas took a cooking class taught by Salli Russell, who owns Telluride Kitchen Creative Catering. A friendship sparked between the two after Casillas stuck around to help clean up after class.

Russell then offered Casillas parttime work in her catering business, recalling, “She was kind, thoughtful and had a presence about her that made her seem much older than her years.” After graduation, Casillas attempted to enroll in college, but her plans stalled because she had to pay higher out-of-state tuition due to her father’s California residency. She moved back to Pagosa Springs and worked tirelessly while juggling numerous service-oriented jobs, from cleaning houses to clerking in a café. In 2011, Russell encouraged Casillas to move back to Telluride to work for her. Back in Telluride, while catering and also nannying, Casillas found time to pursue classes in early childhood education through the Technical College of the Rockies in Delta. She also met Victor “César” Perez, who was deejaying a Spanish show on KOTO radio, and the two married in 2013. Casillas found both success and happiness when she became a Telluride preschool teacher and helped develop the district’s dual language program. Although she has no children of her own, she loves working with children and forming connections with their parents. Sometimes, she finds herself offering support to families who’ve been affected by immigration raids and who fear law enforcement. “Last year we had a child [in the preschool] whose dad was taken by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. Usually he was a happy child, but he became very quiet. I would say to him, ‘You will see him again, he loves you very much, and you have your mom and she loves you.’” The dual language program that Casillas helped create is doing more than just teaching children to speak another language. It’s also helping to build a bridge between the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities. For some Spanish-speaking parents, it might be the first time they’ve been able to go to a conference with their child’s teacher and speak in their native tongue. The program is helping to create a more inclusive environment that extends beyond the school. “It makes them feel respected and welcome, and gives them a sense of belonging.” \

At Your Service Meet Tamas Paluska, Hungarian immigrant



amas Paluska loves the snow, and he came to Telluride in October of 2000 for the same reason that most of us made our way here—to ski. But Paluska, who was born and raised in Hungary, had an additional motive; he also wanted to improve his English language skills. He had just finished college that spring, and he and three other Hungarians received J-1 visas to come to the United States. The J-1 program is a cultural/educational exchange for students, and employers here take advantage of the program to attract workers. Then, like today, the workforce was in short supply. “The program was popular. There was an agency doing the hiring for the boom here when they couldn’t find employees,” says Paluska. Paluska studied linguistics in school—Eastern European languages and English. He had a friend from home that was living here, and because he could speak some English, he got hired as a ski concierge at the Peaks hotel. The ski concierge used to be a part of the car valet service at the Peaks, but most of the valets preferred parking and retrieving cars to lugging around skis and snowboards. Paluska didn’t mind it at all, even during the busy holiday season. “Customer service has always been my forte. And the more challenging, the better—I don’t like it when it’s too slow.” Two decades later, and Paluska is now in charge of the ski valet service at the Peaks. He also runs a property management company, and operated an additional ski and boot valet service open to the general public in a yurt on the plaza in Mountain Village for six years. “It was a very popular business,” he said. “It was a nice yurt, insulated and warm.” Paluska’s linguistics background makes him an excellent communicator and he loves to engage with people. He says his mom always used to joke that “all he likes to do is talk,” and that he should find a job where he could talk all day. “Ski valet is like that. So is my profession, property management. I don’t even want to call it a ‘job,’ because I love doing it.” Paluska came from Szeged, Hungary, a college town of about

200,000 people. He says it’s similar to Telluride—it’s the festival capital of the country, with festivals every weekend and friendly, welcoming people—except that it’s “completely flat,” with no mountains. When he lived there, he’d travel to Slovakia to ski. He had always wanted to live in a ski town and Telluride was a great fit. After all this time, Telluride is more than just the place he works and skis; it is his home. He speaks English fluently, and looks like a mountain local—fit, with striking green eyes and hair starting to turn silver. Paluska still gets homesick, but not as much as when he first moved here, he says. When he arrived, the elevation was a challenge. He was always overdressing for the weather and overheating, and says it took him years to feel comfortable playing soccer and skiing at altitude. It also took him some time to get used to the food; French toast here, with whipped cream and syrup, is nothing like the savory Hungarian version. And while he still socializes with the Hungarian crew who were his first friends here, he has a wider social network now, and two children— Beni, 12, and Zsofia, 14. He travels all over the U.S. with them and has been to almost every state in the country, exposing them to the urban places that are so different than Telluride. “I like the West more than the East, but I find this whole country so beautiful and fascinating.” Paluska’s time in town is coming full circle after twenty years of ski concierge work. He is still friendly with the regular Peaks guests he first met long ago, and has watched their kids grow up as he began raising his own family. And now he’s in charge of his own crew of international students from the J-1 program, mostly from South America. He watches them fumble through their first few years here just as he did. He laughs, telling me about one young worker who was asked to “break” a hundred-dollar bill and responded dutifully by tearing it in half. “We had to adapt,” he says. “I came for the winter, but I stayed for the people, how friendly and supportive everyone here is. I really feel like I grew up here, and Telluride grew with me.” \






sabel Matamoros came to the United States as a refugee from El Salvador in the early 1990s, during the Salvadoran Civil War, which lasted for twelve years and resulted in the deaths of more than 75,000 people. Matamoros was still in high school when the guerrillas came to recruit students, killing residents in her village and kidnapping people to try to get them to join the militia. “I was scared,” she said. “I had to escape and I came by myself.” She gathered what money she could to pay the coyote, a person who smuggles immigrants across the U.S. border, to bring her into the country. She was supposed to be with a group, she says, but the man took her alone. Matamoros made it from Guatemala to Mexico before he tried to sexually assault her—she managed to escape, but he had taken her money and her papers. She had to return home and borrow money from a relative in California to flee again, and ultimately made it to the U.S. alone and penniless. She got in touch with a close family friend she had grown up with, Oscar Perla, who was living in Telluride. “I had to pay back $2,000. He told me they needed housekeepers here and that it paid well, so I came to Telluride. I was 19 years old.” That was nearly three decades ago. So many years have passed since


Generations of Gratitude

Meet Isabel Matamoros, Salvadoran immigrant then and she has told the story so many times that she is able to tell it again without stopping, without shame or pain. She is still pretty, always smiling and laughing, and it is easy to see the innocent young woman who came here so many years ago hoping for salvation. And Telluride, she says, has been good to her. “I live in paradise. Every day I wake up and thank god for the beautiful place I live and the community here. I wouldn’t trade anything for this town.” It wasn’t easy at first, she admits. At the time, Telluride’s Spanish-speaking community consisted of just a couple families, and Matamoros struggled with the language, the food, and the cold. She cried the first time it snowed, although she got used to the weather eventually, and she made her own tortillas at home. She lived in a tiny apartment in town and hitchhiked every day to her job as a maid at the Doral hotel (which is now the Peaks).

She was barely an adult herself when she became pregnant with her daughter Genevieve, who is now 26 years old and a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. In El Salvador, Matamoros had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but as a single mom with limited language skills, she was unable to go back to school. Instead she focused on her daughter’s education, working as a nanny and a housekeeper to give Genevieve the opportunities she didn’t have. “It was hard for me because there were so many rich people here and my daughter had nothing. My goal was to save money for her to go to college; I wanted to see her become something and help people. I feel sad because I worked all the time and couldn’t spend enough time with her, but I’m so proud of her and I feel so blessed for what she has become.” She may have come here alone, but she wasn’t alone for long. Matamoros said she had a lot of help raising

her daughter, and not just from her own mother—she said she couldn’t have done it without the support of Genevieve’s mentor Susie Meade, Ronnie Palamar, Charlie and Florie Kane, Thomas Kyster, the school, and the community at large. Matamoros has a wide network of friends now, and is one of those people that seems to know everyone in town, greeting and waving to acquaintances every few steps as she walks down the street. Although she never became a lawyer, she did get to find out what she wasn’t missing with an extensive and expensive legal battle for permanent citizenship. She spent more than $50,000 in legal fees fighting to remain here with her daughter. Still, she is more than content. Even though she works as a housekeeper, ironing sheets and scrubbing the bathrooms of luxury mansions in Mountain Village and Telluride, she prefers her Wilkin Court low-income housing and happily adorns it with a bag of holiday decorations she found in the Free Box, along with an expensive cashmere scarf she relishes in wearing. “It’s not a million-dollar house, but to me it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I work hard and am grateful for the people who trust me and give me jobs. My dream came true in this country, especially in Telluride.” \


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Bar Association

The Revolving-Door Fraternity of Telluride’s Early Saloon Keepers By Paul O’Rourke


us Brickson and Max Hippler had a small problem. Well, make it two small problems. The two Telluride businessmen, majority owners of the stately two-story red brick Sheridan “Block” building on the northeast corner of Oak Street and Colorado Avenue, were contemplating what to do with the vacant space on the property’s first floor and at the same time—as summer wound its way down in 1897—how to negotiate their way into taking ownership of the two lots just to the east.

Hippler and Brickson had only recently, in early August 1897, sold their wholesale beer business on the northeast corner of Pine Street and Columbia Avenue to W.R. McNeil & Co. and the Telluride Bottling Works. The two had also purchased the old schoolhouse on the corner of Spruce and Columbia, which had become vacant as a consequence of the recently completed three-story red brick school building on the northeast corner of Townsend and Columbia. The first small problem found an easy and, as it turned out, lucrative solution. On August 27, 1897 the Telluride Daily Journal announced the next day’s grand opening of the “Hub Saloon” in that once vacant space in the Sheridan Block building, gushing that “it will be the most magnificent opening that has ever taken place in Telluride.”


Richard “Dick” Hannon, who’d sold his interest in the Cosmopolitan Saloon to his partner, George Shoemaker, in late May of 1896, and then, as a consequence of poor health, moved back to his former home in Massachusetts to convalesce. Apparently it was a complete recovery. Hannon returned to Telluride in mid-July 1897 and two weeks later entered into a five-year lease with Brickson and Hippler to manage the Hub. The team of Brickson and Hannon—Hippler sold his two-thirds interest in the Sheridan Block to Andy and George Mahr in June 1898—would last for another five years, Hannon purchasing his good friend and partner’s interest in the Hub Saloon in late April 1902. The resolution to Hippler and Brickson’s second minor dilemma required a little more ingenuity and, of all things, a community vote. Just

two days following the grand opening of their Hub Saloon on August 28, Max and Gus were relieved to learn that a special election held in Town had gone their way: the voters overwhelmingly approved the “swap” of the old schoolhouse for the fire department’s “hose house” property—which the town considered in poor repair and in need of replacement—next door to the Sheridan Block building. One week later the two entrepreneurs closed on the purchase of the Dray barbershop property— one lot to the east of the hose house—from the First National Bank for $2,800. The two transactions gave Brickson and Hippler just what they desired: a fifty-foot Main Street-fronting property next door to their Sheridan Block, on which they hoped to construct what the Daily Journal predicted would be “one of the handsomest hotels in

this section of the state.” For its part, the Town of Telluride got a new town hall and a new firehouse. On Saturday evening, January 15, 1898, the then two-story New Sheridan Hotel was opened for business with typical Telluride fanfare, a sixpiece “orchestra” that more than likely included the hotel’s proud owners, Gus Brickson and Max Hippler, providing the musical entertainment. Among the several hundred in attendance that night were Brickson’s wife, Augusta—the two had married on May 26, 1894—and her brother and Brickson’s close friend, John P. Olson. John Olson, much like his brother-in-law, had involved himself in Telluride’s early saloon busi- (or seem to) do, the Daily Journal announced on ness. He’d worked with Charles Kayser at the Dia- January 23, 1897, “the firm of Jarvis and Hosking, mond Saloon in the early 1890s and then took over proprietors of the Metropole Saloon, has been disownership of the Mint Saloon until 1899 when solved, Mr. Hosking retiring.” For Jimmy Hosking, retirement was just another Olson purchased the Sheridan Saloon, located on The National Club would continue its run the northeast corner of Spruce Street and Colo- term for “between opportunities.” In November 1897 rado Avenue. The Daily Journal, on April 17 of the Journal hinted that Hosking had “accepted a under the management of Selby and Hosking until that year, stated, “Mr. Olson has now one of the fin- lucrative position with George Shoemaker at the December 1904, when the former bought out the est places in the city,” his Sheridan Saloon three Cosmopolitan Saloon.” And while it’s unclear if latter. Hosking, always on the lookout for greener blocks east of his brother-in-law and Dick Han- Jimmy ever went to work for George, it is apparent pastures, decided to investigate the “excitement” Jimmy wanted back in the saloon business. A few in the Nevada gold fields. Billy Selby left the non’s Hub Saloon in the Sheridan Block building. Richard Hannon had a relatively long asso- months later, Hosking and Jarvis were reunited, National Club in 1907, the Daily Journal reportciation with Telluride’s saloon scene. Beginning the Journal commenting, “these boys make a good ing that he had taken up ranching on the lower around 1890, he and his brother operated the team.” The Cosmopolitan and the Metropole were San Miguel River near Naturita, and he “looks better than when in business in Telluride.” Cosmopolitan, three doors west from the corner not quite through with one another, however. Following the break up of the Selby–ShoeAfter Billy Selby took his leave from the Cosof Pine and Colorado, on the north side of the street. In 1893 Dick’s brother sold his interest mopolitan just before the turn of the century, he maker partnership at the Cosmopolitan in late in the “Cosmo” to the above-mentioned George and Hosking brewed up plans for a new venture, 1899, George Shoemaker, complaining of poor Shoemaker, who after buying Dick Hannon’s inter- touted by the Daily Journal as “the finest saloon health, moved back to Chicago. Not long after est in the business in May 1896 sold that one-half and restaurant in the San Juan.” The National Dick Hannon took full proprietorship of the Hub interest to W.R. (Billy) Selby. The partnership of Club, located on the southeast corner of Pine Saloon from Gus Brickson in April 1902, he, too, Selby and Shoemaker ran the Cosmopolitan until Street and Colorado Avenue—where the Last succumbed to his own health issues, the Journal stating that Hannon “was cripjust before the turn of the cenpled from a paralytic stroke sustury when, according to the Daily Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, tained several years ago.” In late Journal on December 23, 1899, May 1903—in what seemed like a make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. “Selby sold his one-half interest to pre-arranged transaction—Hanhis then partner, Joseph Piquard, —Homer non sold his interest in the Hub who about ten days ago [had] purto his long time friend, associate, chased a one-half interest in the and recent arrival back to Tellubusiness from George Shoemaker.” ride, George Shoemaker. Richard Across the street from the Hannon moved—one more time— always busy Cosmopolitan, the back to New England in order to Metropole Saloon—run by the partregain his health. nership of James (Jim) Jarvis and The New Sheridan Hotel had James (Jimmy) Hosking—had also added its third floor by 1899 and captured its share of the mining remained under the proprietorcamp’s saloon business since openship of Gus Brickson until June ing its doors in 1892. While compe1903 when then chief clerk, J.A. tition was keen—newspaper ads Segerberg, and head chef, John stretched the readers’ capacity to Pommateau, took over the propdifferentiate which saloon actually erty’s management. It’s unlikely stocked the “best” cigars or the “finBrickson would have done anyest” liquors—there also existed an thing to compromise the business unspoken gentleman’s agreement at the Hub next door, but with new among the town’s saloonkeepmanagement and a vacancy in the ers: a sort of “all is fair in love space recently occupied by the and war” understanding. H.H. Walrod Grocery on the first Dollar Saloon and The National restauJimmy Hosking and rant now reside—opened its doors for floor, by late summer 1905 the New Sheridan Hotel Jim Jarvis had enjoyed a business in April 1900. Jimmy Hosking had, at long last, its own saloon. fairly lengthy association Perhaps to differentiate itself from John once again sold back his one-half intercompared to how manageest in the Metropole to his longtime Olson’s Sheridan Saloon down the street or to ment came and went across (and overly understanding) friend and align itself with the Hub Buffet next door (George the street at the CosmopoliShoemaker may have had something to do with partner Jim Jarvis on May 1, 1900. tan. But as all good things must WINTER/SPRING 2019-2020


58 • HISTORY the Hub’s new name), the New Sheridan Buffet was not the least bit reticent to go after the Hub’s clientele. While George Shoemaker remained at the helm at the Hub, proprietors Segerberg and Pommateau brought in one of Telluride’s old pros to “mix it up” at their new saloon. Richard Hannon, having recuperated— more like miraculously recovered—once again, returned to Telluride for the opening of the New Sheridan Buffet, reacquainting with his old friend, George Shoemaker, as the two managed their respective saloons, in their respective buildings, both named “Sheridan.” The next-door rivalry, if you could call it that, didn’t last through the year. In the early morning hours of December 26, 1905 a disastrous fire completely destroyed the Sheridan Block Building. George Shoemaker’s Hub Buffet was a total loss, the physical not to mention the psychological damage compounded by the fact he hadn’t carried insurance on the contents of his business. If there was one piece of good news it came the morning after the fire when the Daily Journal reported, “the Hub stock carried in the old vault of the Sheridan Block was practically uninjured, Mr. Shoemaker’s loss being largely on furniture and fixtures.” It would have been too easy for George Shoemaker to sell what inventory he’d recovered from the fire and find another line of work, or,


perhaps opt for an even more logical alternative: retire altogether. What Shoemaker did instead was acquire the Royal Oak Saloon, mid-block on the south side of Main Street between Pine and Spruce, in late March 1906. The New Hub Saloon opened its doors for business in early April to rave reviews. The Daily Journal proclaimed it, “one of the most tasty and pleasantly arranged resorts in town, stocked with the same high-grade superior class of goods for which Mr. Shoemaker’s old place in the burned Sheridan block was famous.” Apart from its quality stock of liquors and cigars the New Hub emerged (from the ashes, so to speak) as a trendsetter, the unintended consequence of its two “clean and well lit” downstairs bowling alleys. The Journal reported, “considerable interest in bowling is developing in Telluride since the opening of the New Hub by George Shoemaker.” If we know anything about Telluride’s early-era saloonkeepers it’s that longevity of employment was not one of their more defining characteristics. Less than a year following his third remarkable return to Telluride to manage the New Sheridan Hotel’s first bar, Dick Hannon, according to the Daily Journal, departed “Sunday morning (June 17, 1906) for his old home down in Massachusetts and it is extremely probable that his host of old time friends throughout the San Juan will never see him again.” George Shoemaker’s “rebound” at the New Hub Saloon was also short-lived. Six months after its opening, the business was sold to John Peterson & Co. It’s unclear what prompted his leaving the popular establishment, but we know Shoemaker remained in Telluride for at least another six months before heading back to Chicago to be with his wife.

On April 27, 1907 John P. Olson sold his interest in the Sheridan Saloon to Antone (Tony) Rella, though Olson retained ownership of the building and the bar fixtures. While the sale of the Sheridan could be seen as the “unofficial” end to the early era of Telluride’s saloons and saloonkeepers, the association of Olson, his brother-in-law Gus Brickson, and Gus’s partner, Max Hippler, carried on. Content to devote their “retirement” days to either how their various mining ventures were faring or—and with perhaps greater devotion—how the fish were biting up at Trout Lake or at “Camp Telluride” over on the Gunnison River, the three remained close for the rest of their lives. Brothersin-law Olson and Brickson died within months of each other in 1912. Hippler lived over twenty years longer than his two great friends. The three were laid to rest in Telluride’s Lone Tree Cemetery. LAST CALL James Jarvis, long time owner and proprietor of the Metropole Saloon was, justifiably perhaps, weary of the fleeting alliances associated with Telluride’s bar business. He closed his saloon in early April 1908. Subsequently he expanded into the property one door to the west and opened a combination roller-skating rink and movie house, the latter, at least for another three years, the only such attraction in Telluride. Jarvis’ switch in business models proved to be a provident one. At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1916 each and every one of Telluride’s saloons, gambling houses, and dance halls performed an unimaginable act: they halted liquor sales. For seventeen years, saloons (or “soft drink parlors” as they were called) in Telluride and the rest of Colorado would conduct their business under the inauspicious burden of Prohibition. \

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The Prospectors “The Prospectors” appears in a collection of short stories by Karen Russell, Orange World, Penguin Random House, 2019. Illustrations by Stephanie Morgan Rogers


HE ENTIRE RIDE WOULD TAKE ELEVEN MINUTES. THAT WAS WHAT THE BOY HAD PROMISED US, THE BOY WHO NEVER SHOWED. TO BE HONEST, I HADN’T EXPECTED TO FIND THE CHAIRLIFT. NOT THROUGH THE MAZE OF OLDGROWTH FIRS AND NOT IN THE DWINDLING LIGHT. NOT WITHOUT OUR ESCORT. A MINUTE EARLIER, I’D BEEN ON THE BRINK OF SUGGESTING THAT WE GIVE UP AND HIKE BACK TO THE LOGGING ROAD. BUT AT THE PEAK OF OUR DESPONDENCY WE SAW IT: THE LIFT, RISING LIKE A MIRAGE OUT OF THE TIMBER WOODS, ITS FOUR DARK CABLES STRIPING THE RED SUNSET. CHAIRS WERE FLOATING UP THE MOUNTAINSIDE, FORTY FEET ABOVE OUR HEADS. EMPTY CHAIRS, UPHOLSTERED IN ICE, SWAYING LIGHTLY IN THE WIND. SAILING BESIDE THEM, JUST AS SWIFTLY AND SERENELY, A HUNDRED CHAIRS CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. AS IF A MIRROR WERE MALFUNCTIONING, EACH CHAIR SEPARATING FROM A BUCKLE-BRIGHT DOUBLE. NOBODY WAS MANNING THE LOADING STATION; IF WE WANTED TO TAKE THE LIFT WE’D HAVE TO DO IT ALONE. I SQUEEZED CLARA’S HAND. A party awaited us at the peak. Or so we’d been told by Mr. No-Show, Mr. Nowhere, a French boy named Eugene de La Rochefoucauld. “I bet his real name is Burt,” Clara said angrily. We had never been stood up before. “I bet he’s actually from Tennessee.” Well, he had certainly seemed European, when we met him coming down the mountain road on horseback, one week ago this night. He’d had that hat! Such a convincingly stupid goatee! He’d pronounced his name as if he were coughing up a jewel. Eugene de La Rochefoucauld had proffered a nasally invitation: Would we be his guests next Saturday night, at the gala opening of the Evergreen Lodge? We’d ride the new chairlift with him to the top of the mountain and be among the first visitors to the marvelous new ski resort. The president himself might be in attendance. Clara, unintimidated, had flirted back. “Two dates—is that not being a little greedy, Eugene?” “No less would be acceptable,” he’d said, smiling, “for a man of my stature.” (Eugene was five foot four; we’d assumed he meant education, wealth.) The party was to be held seven thousand feet above Lucerne, Oregon, the mountain town where we had marooned ourselves, at nineteen and twenty- two; still pretty (Clara was beautiful), still young enough to attract notice, but penniless, living week to week in a “historic” boardinghouse. “Historic” had turned out to be the landlady’s synonym for “haunted.” “Turn-of-the-century sash windows,” we’d discovered, meant “pneumonia holes.” We’d waited for Eugene for close to an hour, while Time went slinking around the


forest, slyly rearranging its shadows; now a red glow clung to the huge branches of the Douglas firs. When I finally spoke, the bony snap in my voice startled us both. “We don’t need him, Clara.” “We don’t?” “No. We can get there on our own.” Clara turned to me with blue lips and flakes daggering her lashes. I felt a pang: I could see both that she was afraid of my proposal and that she could be persuaded. This is a terrible knowledge to possess about a friend. Nervously, I counted my silver and gold bracelets, meting out reasons for making the journey. If we did not make the trip, I would have to pawn them. I argued that it was riskier not to take this risk. (For me, at least; Clara had her wealthy parents waiting back in Florida. As much as we dared together, we never risked our friendship by bringing up that gulf.) I touched the fake red flower pinned to my black bun. What had we gone to all this effort for? We owed our landlady twelve dollars for January’s rent. Did Clara prefer to wait in the drifts for our prince, that fake frog, Eugene, to arrive? For months, all anybody in Lucerne had been able to talk about was this lodge, the centerpiece of a new ski resort on Mount Joy. Another New Deal miracle. In his Fireside Chats, Roosevelt had promised us that these construction projects would lift us out of the Depression. Sometimes I caught myself squinting hungrily at the peak, as if the government money might be visible, falling from the actual clouds. Out-of-work artisans had flocked to northern Oregon: carpenters, masons, weavers, engineers. The Evergreen Lodge, we’d

heard, had original stonework, carved from five thousand pounds of native granite. Its doors were cathedral huge, made of hand-cut ponderosa pine. Murals had been commissioned from local artists: scenes of mountain wildflowers, rearing bears. Quilts covered the beds, hand crocheted by the New Deal men. I loved to picture their calloused black thumbs on the bridally white muslin. Architecturally, what was said to stun every visitor was the main hall: a huge hexagonal chamber, with a band platform and “acres for dancing, at the top of the world!” WPA workers cut trails into the side of Mount Joy, assisted by the Civilian Conservation Corps boys from Camp Thistle and Camp Bountiful. I’d seen these young men around town, on leave from the woods, in their mudcaked boots and khaki shirts with the government logo. Their greasy faces clumped together like olives in a jar. They were the young mechanics who had wrenched the lift out of a snowy void and into skeletal, functioning existence. To raise bodies from the base of the mountain to the summit in eleven minutes! It sounded like one of Jules Verne’s visions. “See that platform?” I said to Clara. “Stand there, and fall back into the next chair. I’ll be right behind you.” At first, the climb was beautiful. An evergreen army held its position in the whipping winds. Soon, the woods were replaced by fields of white. Icy outcroppings rose like fangs out of a pink-rimmed sky. We rose, too, our voices swallowed by the cables’ groaning. Clara was singing something that I strained to hear, and failed to comprehend.


lara and I called ourselves the Prospectors. Our fathers, two very different kinds of gambler, had been obsessed with the gold rush, and we grew up hearing stories about Yukon fever and the Klondike stampeders. We knew the legend of the farmer who had panned out a hundred and thirty thousand dollars, the clerk who dug up eighty-five thousand, the blacksmith who discovered a haul of the magic metal on Rabbit Creek and made himself a hundred grand richer in a single hour. This period of American history held a special appeal for Clara’s father, Mr. Finisterre, a bony-faced Portuguese immigrant to southwestern Florida who had wrung his modest fortune out of the sea-damp wallets of tourists. My own father had killed himself outside the dog track in the spring of 1931, and I’d been fortunate to find a job as a maid at the Hotel Finisterre. Clara Finisterre was the only other maid on staff—a summer job. Her parents were strict and oblivious people. Their thousand rules went unenforced. They were very busy with their guests. A sea serpent, it was rumored, haunted the coast- line beside the hotel, and ninety percent of our tourism was serpent driven. Amateur teratologists in panama hats read the newspaper on the veranda, drinking orange juice and idly scanning the horizon for fins. “Thank you,” Mr. Finisterre whispered to me once, too sozzled to remember my name, “for keeping the secret that there is no secret.” The black Atlantic rippled emptily in his eyeglasses. Every night, Mrs. Finisterre hosted a cocktail hour: cubing green and orange melon, cranking songs out of the ivory gramophone, pouring bright malice into the fruit punch in the form of a mentally deranging Portuguese rum. She’d apprenticed her three beautiful daughters in the Light Arts, the Party Arts. Clara was her eldest. Together, the Finisterre women smoothed arguments and linens. They concocted banter, gab, palaver, patter—every sugary variety of small talk that dissolves into the night. I hated the cocktail hour, and, whenever I could, I escaped to beat rugs and sweep leaves on the hotel roof. One Monday, however, I heard footsteps ringing on the ladder. It was Clara. She saw me and froze. Bruises were thickening all over her arms. They were that brilliant pansy blue, the beautiful color that belies its origins. Automatically, I crossed the roof to her. We clacked skeletons— to call it an embrace would misrepresent the violence of our first collision. To soothe her, I heard myself making stupid jokes, babbling inanities about the weather, asking in my vague and meandering way what could be done to help her; I could not bring myself to say, plainly, Who did this to you? Choking on my only real question, I offered her my cardigan—the way you’d hand a sick person a tissue. She put it on. She buttoned all the buttons. You couldn’t tell that anything was wrong now. This amazed me, that a covering so thin could erase her bruises. I’d half expected them to bore holes through the wool. “Don’t worry, okay?” she said. “I promise, it’s nothing.” “I won’t tell,” I blurted out—although of course I had nothing to tell beyond what I’d

glimpsed. Night fell, and I was shivering now, so Clara held me. Something subtle and real shifted inside our embrace—nothing detectable to an observer, but a change I registered in my bones. For the duration of our friendship, we’d trade off roles like this: anchor and boat, beholder and beheld. We must have looked like some Janus-faced statue, our chins pointing east and west. An unembarrassed silence seemed to be on loan to us from the distant future, where we were already friends. Then I heard her say, staring over my shoulder at the darkening sea: “What would you be, Aubby, if you lived somewhere else?” “I’d be a prospector,” I told her, without batting an eye. “I’d be a prospector of the prospectors. I’d wait for luck to strike them, and then I’d take their gold.” Clara laughed and I joined in, amazed— until this moment, I hadn’t considered that my days at the hotel might be eclipsing other sorts of lives. Clara Finisterre was someone whom I thought of as having a fate to escape, but I would never have dignified my own prospects that way, by calling them “a fate.” Things simply happened to me, and I didn’t matter enough to anyone or any scheme for them to build into a destiny. When I thought about the future, it felt almost claustrophobically near at hand, as if my nose were bumping up against a dirty window. Next Monday. Next Wednesday.

But that night I saw Clara’s laughing face, and I realized with a shock that together we could lift the glass, and fly off. Clara took me to a debutante ball at a tacky mansion that looked rabid to me, frothy with white marble balconies. She introduced me as “my best friend, Aubergine.” Thus began our secret life. We sifted through the closets and the jewelry boxes of our hosts. Clara tutored me in the social graces, and I taught Clara what to take, and how to get away with it. One night, Clara came to find me on the roof. She was blinking muddily out of two black eyes. Who was doing this—Mr. Finisterre? Someone from the hotel? She refused to say. I made a deal with Clara: she never had to tell me who, but we had to leave Florida. The next day, we found ourselves at the train station, with all our clothes and savings. Those first weeks alone were an education. The West was very poor at that moment, owing to the Depression. But it was still home to many aspiring and expiring millionaires, and we made it our job to make their acquaintance. One aging oil speculator paid for our meals and our transit and required only that we absorb his memories; Clara nicknamed him the “allegedly legendary wit.” He had three genres of tale: business victories; sporting adventures that ended in the death of mammals; and eulogies for his former virility.



62 • FICTION We met mining captains and fishing captains, whose whiskers quivered like those of orphaned seals. The freckled heirs to timber fortunes. Glazy baronial types, with portentous and misguided names—Romulus and Creon—who were pleased to invite us to gala dinners, and to use us as their gloating mirrors. In exchange for this service, Clara and I helped ourselves to many fine items from their houses. Clara had a magic satchel that seemed to expand with our greed, and we stole everything it could swallow: dessert spoons, candlesticks, a poodle’s jeweled collar. We strode out of parties wearing our hostess’s two-toned heels, woozy with adrenaline. Crutched along by Clara’s sturdy charm, I was swung through doors that led to marmoreal courtyards and curtained salons and, in many cases, master bedrooms, where my skin glowed under the warm reefs of artificial lighting. But winter hit, and our mining prospects dimmed considerably. The Oregon coastline was laced with ghost towns; two paper mills had closed, and whole counties had gone bankrupt. Men were flocking inland to the mountains, where the rumor was that the WPA had work for construction teams. I told Clara that we needed to follow them. So we thumbed a ride with a group of work-starved Astoria teenagers who had heard about the Evergreen Lodge. Gold dust had drawn the first prospectors to these mountains; those boys were after the weekly three-dollar salary. But if government money was snowing onto Mount Joy, it had yet to reach the town below. I’d made a bad miscalculation, suggesting Lucerne. Our first night in town, Clara and I stared at our faces superimposed over the dark storefront windows. In the boardinghouse, we lay awake in the dark, pretending to believe in each other’s theatrical sleep; only our bellies were honest, growling at each other. Why did you bring us here? Clara never dreamed of asking me. With her generous amnesia, she seemed already to have forgotten that leaving home had been my idea. Day after day, I told Clara not to worry: “We just need one good night.” We kept lying to each other, pretending that our hunger was part of the game. Social graces get you meager results in a shuttered town. We started haunting the bars around the CCC camps. The gaunt men there had next to nothing, and I felt a pang lifting anything from them. Back in the boardinghouse, our fingers spidering through wallets, we barely spoke to each other. Clara and I began to disappear into adjacent rooms with strangers. She was better off before, my mind whispered. For the first time since we’d left Florida, it occurred to me that our expedition might fail.


he chairlift ascended seven thousand two hundred and fifty feet—I remembered this figure from the newspapers. It had meant very little to me in the abstract. But now I felt our height in the soles of my feet. For whole minutes, we lost sight of the mountain in an onrush of mist. Finally, hands were waiting to catch us. They shot out of the darkness, gripping me under the arms, swinging me free of the lift. Our empty chairs were whipped


around by the huge bull wheel before starting the long flight downhill. Hands, wonderfully warm hands, were supporting my back. “Eugene?” I called, my lips numb. “Who’s You-Jean?” a strange voice chuckled. The man who was not Eugene turned out to be an ursine mountaineer. With his lantern held high, he peered into our faces. I recognized the drab green CCC uniform. He looked about our age to me, although his face kept blurring in the snow. The lantern, battery powered, turned us all jaundiced shades of gold. He had no clue, he said, about any Eugene. But he’d been stationed here to escort guests to the lodge. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw tears freezing onto Clara’s cheeks. Already she was fluffing her hair, asking this government employee how he’d gotten the enviable job of escorting beautiful women across the snows. How quickly she was able to snap back into character! I could barely move my frozen tongue, and I trudged along behind them. “How old are you girls?” the CCC man asked, and “Where are you from?” and every lie that we told him made me feel safer in his company. The lodge was a true palace. Its shadow alone seemed to cover fifty acres of snow. Electricity raised a yellowish aura around it, so that the resort loomed like a bubble pitched against the mountain sky. Its A-frame reared

out of the woods with the insensate authority of any redwood tree. Lights blazed in every window. As we drew closer, we saw faces peering down at us from several of these. The terror was still with us. The speed of the ascent. My blood felt carbonated. Six feet ahead of us, Not-Eugene, whose name we’d failed to catch, swung the battery-powered lamp above his head and guided us through a whale-gray tunnel made of ice. “Quite the runway to a party, eh?” Two enormous polished doors blew inward, and we found ourselves in a rustic ballroom, with fireplaces in each corner shooting heat at us. Amethyst chandeliers sent lakes of light rippling across the dance floor; the stone chimneys looked like indoor caves. Over the bar, a mounted boar grinned tuskily down at us. Men mobbed us, handing us fizzing drinks, taking our coats. Deluged by introductions, we started giggling, handing our hands around: “Nilson,” “Pauley,” “Villanueva,” “Obadiah,” “Acker . . .” Proudly, each identified himself to us as one of the CCC “tree soldiers” who had built this fantasy resort: masons and blacksmiths and painters and foresters. They were boys, I couldn’t help but think, boys our age. More faces rose out of the shadows, beaming hard. I guessed that, like us, they’d been waiting for this night to come for some time. Someone lit two cigarettes, passed them our way. I shivered now with expectation. Clara threaded her hand through mine and squeezed

A suspicion was coming into focus, a “Everyone. Everyone but us.” down hard—time to dive into the sea. We’d Clara turned from me, her jaw tensing. At a plunged into stranger waters, socially. How many dreadful theory; I tried to talk it away, but the nights had we spent together, listening to tourists harder I looked, the keener it became. A quick nearby table, five green-clad boys were watching speak in tongues, relieved of their senses by Mrs. scan of the room confirmed what I must have our conversation play out with detached interest, Finisterre’s rum punch? Most of the boys were registered and ignored when I first walked as if it were a sport they rarely followed. Clara already drunk—I could smell that. Some rocked through those doors. Were all of the boys’ eyes wet her lips and smiled down at them, drumming this same hue? Trying to stay calm, I gripped her red nails on their table’s glossy surface. on their heels, desperate to start dancing. “This is so beautiful!” she cooed. They led us toward the bar. Feeling came Clara’s hand and spun her around like a All five of the dead boys blushed. flooding back into my skin, and I kept laughing weather vane: gold, gold, gold, gold. “Oh my God, Clara.” “Excuse us,” she fluttered. “Is there a powat everything these young men were saying, “Aubby? What’s wrong with you?” der room? My friend here is just a mess!” elated to be indoors with them. Clara had to “Clara,” I murmured, “I think we may have pinch me through the puffed sleeve of my dress: taken the wrong lift.” “Aubby? Are we the only girls here?” HE LADIES ROOM read a bronzed sign Clara was right: Where were the socialites posted on an otherwise undistinguished we’d expected to see? The Oregon state forester, door. At other parties, this room had wo lodges existed on Mount Joy. There with his sullen red-lipped wife? The governor, always been our sanctuary. Once the door was the Evergreen Lodge, which would the bank presidents? The ski experts from the be unveiled tonight, in a ceremony of was shut, we stared at each other in the mirror, Swiss Alps? Fifty-two paying guests, selected by extraordinary opulence, attended by transferring knowledge across the glass. lottery, had rooms waiting for them—we’d seen the state forester and the president. Where Her eyes were still brown, I noted with the list of names in Sunday’s Oregon Gazette. Eugene was likely standing, on the balcony relief, and mine were blue. I worried that I I turned to a man with wise amber eyes. He level, raising a flute for the champagne toast. might start screaming, but I bit back my panic, had unlined skin and a wispy blond mustache, There had once been, however, on the south- and I watched Clara do the same for me. “Your but he smiled at us with the mellow despair of eastern side of this same mountain, a second nose,” I finally murmured. Blood poured in two an old goat. structure. This place lived on in local memory bright bars down her upper lip. “Excuse me, sir. When does the celebration as a demolished hope, an unconsummated “I guess we must be really high up,” she start?” blueprint. It was the failed original, crushed by said, and started to cry. Clara flanked him on the left, smiling just an avalanche two years earlier, the graveyard “Shh, shh, shh . . .” as politely. “Are we the first guests to arrive?” I wiped at the blood with a tissue. of twenty-six workers from Company 609 of the But now the goat’s eyes flamed: “Whadda Oregon Civilian Conservation Corps. “See?” I showed it to her. “At least we are, you talkin’ about? This party is under way, lady. “Unwittingly,” our landlady, who loved a ah, at least we can still . . .” You got twenty-six dancing partners to choose bloody and unjust story, had told us over a panClara sneezed violently, and we stared at from in here—that ain’t enough?” the reddish globules on the glass, The strength of his fury surwhich stood out with terrifying prised us; backing up, I bumped lucidity against the flat, unreal A SUSPICION WAS COMING INTO FOCUS, A DREADFUL my hip against a banister. My hand world of the mirror. THEORY; I TRIED TO TALK IT AWAY, BUT THE HARDER I closed on what turned out to be “What are we going to do, a tiny beaver, a carved ornament. Aubby?” LOOKED, THE KEENER IT BECAME. A QUICK SCAN OF THE Each cedar newel post had one. I shook my head; a horror “The woodwork is beautiful.” flooded through me until I could ROOM CONFIRMED WHAT I MUST HAVE REGISTERED AND He grinned and relaxed, barely breathe. IGNORED WHEN I FIRST WALKED THROUGH THOSE DOORS. soothed by the compliment. “My Ordinarily, I would have hansupervisor is none other than O. dled the logistics of our escape— WERE ALL OF THE BOYS’ EYES THIS SAME HUE? TRYING B. Dawson.” picked locks, counterfeited TO STAY CALM, I GRIPPED CLARA’S HAND AND SPUN HER “And your name?” tickets. Clara would have corThe thought appeared unbidrected my lipstick and my posture, AROUND LIKE A WEATHER VANE: GOLD, GOLD, GOLD, GOLD. den: Later, you’ll want to know encouraging me to look more like what to scream. a willowy seductress and less like “Mickey Loatch. Got a wife, girls, I’m cha- cake breakfast, “those workers were building a baseball umpire. But tonight it was Clara who grined to say. Got three kids already, back in their own casket.” With tobogganing runs and a formulated the plan. We had to tiptoe around the Osprey. I’m here so they can eat.” Casually, he movie theater, and more windows than Versailles, Emerald Lodge. We had to dim our own lights. explained to us the intensity of his loneliness, the it was to have been even more impressive than And, most critical to our survival here, according loneliness of the entire corps. They’d been driven the Evergreen Lodge. But the unfinished lodge to Clara: we had to persuade our dead hosts that by truck, eight miles each day, from Camp Thistle had been completely covered in the collapse. we believed they were alive. to the deep woods. For months at a time, they At first, I objected; I thought these workers Mickey Loatch was still steering us around, lived away from their families. Drinking water showing off the stonework. deserved to know the truth about themselves. came from Lister bags; the latrines were saddle “Oh?” Clara said. “How principled of you.” “Have you gals been to the Cloud Cap trenches. Everyone was glad, glad, glad, he said, to Inn? That’s hitched to the mountain with wire And what did I think was going to happen, have the work. “There wasn’t anything for us, until cables. See, what we done is—” she asked, if we told the men what we knew? the Emerald Lodge project came along.” “I don’t know. They’ll let us go?” “Mr. Loatch?” Swilling a drink, I steadied Mr. Loatch, I’d been noticing, had the strang- my voice. “How late does the chairlift run?” Clara shook her head. est eyes I’d ever seen. They were a brilliant dark “Think about it, Aubby—what’s keeping “Oh dear.” He pursed his lips. “You girls yellow, the color of that magic metal, gold. gotta be somewhere? I’m afraid you’re stuck this place together?” Swallowing, I asked the man, “Excuse me, with us, at least until morning. You’re the last We had to be very cautious, very amenable, but I’m a bit confused. Isn’t this the Evergreen we let up. They shut that lift down until dawn.” she argued. We couldn’t challenge our hosts on Lodge?” Next to me, I heard Clara in my ear: “Are you any of their convictions. The Emerald Lodge “The Evergreen Lodge?” the man said, crazy? We just got here, and you’re talking about was a real place, and they were breathing safely exposing a mouthful of chewed pink sausage. leaving? Do you know how rude you sound?” inside it. We had to admire their handiwork, she “Where’s dat, gurrls?” He laughed at his own said. Continue to exclaim over the lintel arches “They’re dead.” cartoony voice. “What are you talking about? Who’s dead?” and the wrought-iron grates, the beams and





64 • FICTION posts. As if they were real, as if they were solid. Clara begged me to do this. Who knew what might happen if we roused them from their dreaming? The CCC workers’ ghosts had built this place, Clara said; we were at their mercy. If the men discovered they were dead, we’d die with them. We needed to believe in their rooms until dawn—just long enough to escape them. “Same plan as ever,” Clara said. “How many hundreds of nights have we staked a claim at a party like this?” Zero, I told her. On no occasion had we been the only living people. “We’ll charm them. We’ll drink a little, dance a little. And then, come dawn, we’ll escape down the mountain.” Somebody started pounding on the door: “Hey! What’s the holdup, huh? Somebody fall in? You girls wanna dance or what?” “Almost ready!” Clara shouted brightly. On the dance floor, the amber-eyed ghosts were as awkward and as touching, as unconvincingly brash, as any boys in history on the threshold of a party. Innocent hopefuls with their hats pressed to their chests. “I feel sorry for them, Clara! They have no idea.” “Yes. It’s terribly sad.” Her face hardened into a stony expression I’d seen on her only a handful of times in our career as prospectors. “When we get back down the mountain, we can feel sad,” she said. “Right now, we are going to laugh at all their jokes. We are going to celebrate this stupendous American landmark, the Emerald Lodge.”

your life? Be careful, I mouthed, motioning her into the shadows. Boys in green beanies kept sidling up to her, vying for her attention. It hurt my heart to see them trying. Of course, news of their own death had not reached them—how could that news get up the mountain, to where the workers were buried under snow? Perched on the barstool, I plaited my hair. I tried to think up some good jokes. “Hullo. Care if I join you?” This dead boy introduced himself as Lee Covey. Black bangs flopped onto his brow. He had the small, recessed, comically despondent face of a pug dog. I liked him immediately. And he was so funny that I did not have to theatricalize my laughter. Lee’s voluble eyes made conversation feel almost unnecessary; his conviction that he was alive was contagious. “I’m not much of a dancer,” Lee apologized abruptly. As if to prove his point, he sent a glass crashing off the bar. “Oh, that’s okay. I’m not, either. See my friend out there?” I asked. “In the green dress? She’s the graceful one.” But Lee kept his golden eyes fixed on me, and soon it became difficult to say who was the mesmerist and who was succumbing to hypnosis. His Camp Thistle stories made me laugh so hard that I worried about falling off the barstool. Lee had a rippling laugh, like summer thunder; by this point I was very drunk. Lee started in on his family’s sorry history: “Daddy the Dwindler, he spent it all, he lost everything we had, he turned me out of the house. It fell to me to support the family . . .” I nodded, recognizing his story’s contours. How had the other workers washed up here? I wondered. Did they remember their childhoods, their lives before the avalanche? Or had those memories been buried inside them? It was the loneliest feeling, to watch the group of dead boys dancing. Coupled off, they held on to each other’s shoulders. “For practice,” Lee explained. They steered each other

brothers. With the naïve joy of all these ghosts, they tootled their glittery instruments at us. A hand grabbed my shoulder. “May I cut in?” Clara dragged me off the floor.


ack in the powder room, Clara’s eyes looked shiny, raccoon-beady. She was exhausted, I realized. Some grins are only reflexes, but others are courageous acts—Clara’s was the latter. The clock had just chimed ten-thirty. The party showed no signs of slowing. At least the clock is moving, I pointed out. We tried to conjure a picture of the risen sun, piercing the thousand windows of the Emerald Lodge. “You doing okay?” “I have certainly been better.” “We’re going to make it down the mountain.” “Of course we are.”


ear the western staircase, Lee waited with a drink in hand. Shadows pooled unnaturally around his feet; they reminded me of peeling paint. If you stared too long, they seemed to curl slightly up from the floorboards. “Jean! There you are!” At the sound of my real name, I felt electrified—hadn’t I introduced myself by a pseudonym? Clara and I had a telephone book of false names. It was how we dressed for parties. We chose alter egos for each other, like jewelry. “It’s Candy, actually.” I smiled politely. “Short for Candace.” “Whatever you say, Jean,” Lee said, playing lightly with my bracelet. “Who told you that? Did my friend tell you that?” “You did.” lara’s mother owned an etiquette book I blinked slowly at Lee, watching his grinfor women, the first chapter of which ning face come in and out of focus. advises, Make Your Date Feel Like He Is I’d had plenty more to drink, and I realized the Life of the Party! People often misthat I didn’t remember half the things we’d talked take laughing girls for foolish creatures. They about. What else, I wondered, had I let slip? mistake our merriment for nerves or weakness, “How did you get that name, huh? It’s a or the hysterical looning of desire. Sometimes, really pretty name, Jeannie.” it is that. But not tonight. We I was unused to being asked could hold our wardens hostage, personal questions. Lee put too, in this careful way. EveryORDINARILY, I WOULD HAVE HANDLED THE LOGISTICS OF his arms around me, and then, body needs an audience. unbelievably, I heard my voice in At other parties, our hosts OUR ESCAPE—PICKED LOCKS, COUNTERFEITED TICKETS. the darkness, telling the ghost a had always been very willing CLARA WOULD HAVE CORRECTED MY LIPSTICK AND MY true story. to believe us when we feigned Jean, I told him, is what I interest in their endless rehearsPOSTURE, ENCOURAGING ME TO LOOK MORE LIKE A prefer to go by. In Florida, most als of the past. They used our everybody called me Aubby. black pupils to polish up their WILLOWY SEDUCTRESS AND LESS LIKE A BASEBALL UMPIRE. My parents named me Auberantique triumphs. Even an ogreBUT TONIGHT IT WAS CLARA WHO FORMULATED THE PLAN. gine. They wanted me to have a ish salmon-boat captain, a bachglamorous name. It was a luxury elor again at eighty-seven, was they could afford to give me, a convinced that we were both in love with him. Nobody ever invited Clara and uncertainly around the hexagonal floor, sway- spell of protection. “Aubergine” was a word ing on currents of song. that my father had learned during his wartime me to a gala to hear our honest opinions. “Say, how about it?” Lee said suddenly. service, the French word for “dawn,” he said. A At the bar, a calliope of tiny glasses was name like that, they felt, would envelop me in waiting for me: honey and cherry and lemon. “Let’s give it a whirl—you only live once.” Seconds later, we were on the floor, fox- an aura of mystery, from swaddling to shroud. Flavored liquors, imported from Italy, the barOne night, on a rare trip to a restaurant, we tender smiled shyly. “Delicious!” I exclaimed, trotting in the center of the hall. “Oh, oh, oh,” he crooned. learned the truth from a fellow diner, a bald, touching each to my lips. Clara, meanwhile, had When Lee and I kissed, it felt no different genteel eavesdropper. been swept onto the dance floor. With her mauve “Aubergine,” he said thoughtfully. “What lipstick in place and her glossy hair smoothed, from kissing a living mouth. We sank into the she was shooting colors all around the room. rhythms of horns and strings and harmonicas, an interesting name.” We beamed at him eagerly, my whole family. Could you scare a dead boy with the vibrancy of performed by a live band of five dead mountain



“It is, of course, the French word for ‘eggplant.’” “Oh, darn!” my mother said, unable to contain her sorrow. “Of course!” roared old dad. But we were a family long accustomed to reversals of fortune; in fact, my father had gone bankrupt misapprehending various facts about the dog track and his own competencies. “It suits you,” the bald diner said, smiling and turning the pages of his newspaper. “You are a little fat, yes? Like an eggplant!” “We call her Jean for short,” my mother had smoothly replied. Clara was always teasing me. “Don’t fall in love with anybody,” she’d say, and then we’d laugh for longer than the joke really warranted, because this scenario struck us both as so unlikely. But as I leaned against this ghost, I felt my life falling into place. It was the spotlight of his eyes, those radiant beams, that gently drew motes from the past out of me—and I loved this. He had gotten me talking, and now I didn’t want to shut up. His eyes grew wider and wider, golden nets woven with golden fibers. I told him about my father’s suicide, my mother’s death. At the last second, I bit my tongue, but I’d been on the verge of telling him about Clara’s bruises, those mute blue coordinates. Not to solicit Lee’s

help—what could this phantom do? No, merely to keep him looking at me. Hush, Aubby, I heard in Clara’s tiny, moth-fluttery voice, which was immediately incinerated by the hot pleasure of Lee’s gaze. We kissed a second time. I felt our teeth click together; two warm hands cupped my cheeks. But when he lifted his face, his anguish leapt out at me. His wild eyes were like bees trapped on the wrong side of a window, bouncing along the glass. “You . . . ,” he began. He stroked at my cheek. “You feel . . .” Very delicately, he tried kissing me again. “You taste . . .” Some bewildered comment trailed off into silence.


ne hand smoothed over my dress, while the other rose to claw at his pale throat. “How’s that?” he whispered hoarsely in my ear. “Does that feel all right?” Lee was so much in the dark. I had no idea how to help him. I wondered how honest I would have wanted Lee to be with me, if he were in my shoes. Put him out of his misery, country people say of sick dogs. But Lee looked very happy. Excited, even, about the future. “Should we go upstairs, Jean?” “But where did Clara go?” I kept murmuring. It took great effort to remember her name.

“Did she disappear on you?” Lee said, and winked. “Do you think she’s found her way upstairs, too?” Crossing the room, we spotted her. Her hands were clasped around the hog stubble of a large boy’s neck, and they were swaying in the center of the hexagon. I waved at her, trying to get her attention, and she stared right through me. A smile played on her face, while the chandeliers plucked up the red in her hair, strumming even the subtlest colors out of her. Grinning, Lee lifted a hand to his black eyebrow in a mock salute. His bloodless hand looked thin as paper. I had a sharp memory of standing at a bay window, in Florida, and feeling the night sky change direction on me—no longer lapping at the horizon but rolling inland. Something was pouring toward me now, a nothingness exhaled through the floury membrane of the boy. If Lee could see the difference in the transparency of our splayed hands, he wasn’t letting on. Now Clara was kissing her boy’s plush lips. Her fingers were still knitted around his tawny neck. Clara, Clara, we have abandoned our posts. We shouldn’t have kissed them; we shouldn’t have taken that black water onboard. Lee may not have known that he was dead, but my body did; it seemed to be having some kind of stupefied reaction to the kiss. I felt myself sinking fast, sinking far below thought. The two boys swept us toward the stairs with a courtly synchronicity, their uniformed bodies tugging us into the shadows, where our hair and our skin and our purple and emerald party dresses turned suddenly blue, like two candles blown out. And now I watched as Clara flowed up the stairs after her stocky dancing partner, laughing with genuine abandon, her head flung back and her throat exposed. I followed right behind her, but I could not close the gap. I watched her ascent, just as I had on the lift. Groggily, I saw them moving down a posy-wallpapered corridor. Even squinting, I could not make out the watery digits on the doors. All these doors were, of course, identical. One swung open, then shut, swallowing Clara. I doubted we would find each other again. By now, however, I felt very calm. I let Lee lead me by the wrist, like a child, only my bracelets shaking.


oom 409 had natural wood walls, glowing with a piney shine in the low light. Lee sat down on a chair and tugged off his work boots, flushed with the yellow avarice of 4 a.m. Darkness flooded steadily out of him, and I absorbed it. “Jean,” he kept saying, a word that sounded so familiar, although its meaning now escaped me. I covered his mouth with my mouth. I sat on the ghost boy’s lap, kissing his neck, pretending to feel a pulse. Eventually, grumbling an apology, Lee stood and disappeared into the bathroom. I heard a faucet turn on; Lord knows what came pouring out of it. The room had a queen bed, and I pulled back a corner of the soft cotton quilt. It was so beautiful, edelweiss white. I slid in with my dress still pinned to me. I could not stop yawning; seconds from now, I’d drop off. I never wanted to go back out there, I decided. Why lie about this? There was no longer any



66 • FICTION chairlift waiting to carry us home, was there? No mountain, no fool’s-gold moon. The Earth we’d left felt like a photograph. And was it such a terrible thing, to live at the lodge? Something was descending slowly, like a heavy theater curtain, inside my body; I felt my will to know the truth ebbing into a happy, warm insanity. We could all be dead—why not? We could be in love, me and a dead boy. We could be sisters here, Clara and me, equally poor and equally beautiful. Lee had come back and was stroking my hair onto the pillow. “Want to take a little nap?” he asked. I had never wanted anything more. But then I looked down at my red fingernails and noticed a tiny chip in the polish, exposing the translucent surface below. Clara had painted them for me yesterday morning, before the party—eons ago. Clara, I remembered. What is happening to Clara? I dug out of the heavy coverlet, struggling up. At precisely that moment, the door began to rattle in its frame; outside, a man was calling for Lee. “He’s here! He’s here! He’s here!” a baritone voice growled happily. “Goddammit, Lee, button up and get downstairs!” Lee rubbed his golden eyes and palmed his curls. I stared at him uncomprehendingly. “I regret the interruption, my dear. But this we cannot miss.” He grinned at me, exposing a mouthful of holes. “You wanna have your picture taken, doncha?”


lara and I found each other on the staircase. What had happened to her, in her room? That’s a lock I can’t pick. Even on ordinary nights, we often split up, and afterward in the boardinghouse we never discussed those unreal intervals. On our prospecting expeditions, whatever doors we closed stayed shut. Clara had her arm around her date, who looked doughier than I recalled, his round face almost featureless, his eyebrows vanished; even the point of his green toothpick seemed blurred. Lee ran up to greet him, and we hung back while the two men continued downstairs, racing each other to reach the photographer. This time we did not try to disguise our relief. “I was falling asleep!” Clara said. “And I wanted to sleep so badly, Aubby, but then I remembered you were here somewhere, too.” “I was falling asleep,” I said, “but then I remembered your face.” Clara redid my bun, and I straightened her hem. We were fine, we promised each other. “I didn’t get anything,” Clara said. “But I’m not leaving empty-handed.” I gaped at her. Was she still talking about prospecting? “You can’t steal from this place.” Clara had turned to inspect a sculpted flower blooming from an iron railing; she tugged at it experimentally, as if she thought she might free it from the banister. “Clara, wake up. That’s not—” “No? That’s not why you brought me here?” She flicked her eyes up at me, her gaze limpid and accusatory. And I felt I’d become fluent in the language of eyes; now I saw what she’d known all along. What she’d been swallowing back on our prospecting trips, what she’d


never once screamed at me, in the freezing boardinghouse: You use me. Every party, you bait the hook, and I dangle. I let them, I am eaten, and what do I get? Some scrap metal? “I’m sorry, Clara . . .” My apology opened outward, a blossoming horror. I’d used her bruises to justify leaving Florida. I’d used her face to open doors. Greed had convinced me I could take care of her up here, and then I’d disappeared on her. How long had Clara known what I was doing? I’d barely known myself. But Clara, still holding my hand, pointed at the clock. It was 5 a.m. “Dawn is coming.” She gave me a wide, genuine smile. “We are going to get home.” Downstairs, the CCC boys were shuffling around the dance floor, positioning themselves in a triangular arrangement. The tallest men knelt down, and the shorter men filed behind them. When they saw us watching from the staircase, they waved. “Where you girls been? The photographer is here.” The fires were still burning, the huge logs unconsumed. Even the walls, it seemed, were trembling in anticipation. This place wanted to go on shining in our living eyes, was that it? The dead boys feasted on our attention, but so did the entire structure. Several of the dead boys grabbed us and hustled us toward the posed and grinning rows of uniformed workers. We spotted a tripod in the corner of the lodge, a man doubled over, his head swallowed by the black cover. He was wearing a flamboyant costume: a ragged black cape, made from the same smocky material as the camera cover, and bright-red satin trousers.

“Picture time!” his voice boomed. Now the true light of the Emerald Lodge began to erupt in rhythmic bursts. We winced at the metallic flash, the sun above his neck. The workers stiffened, their lean faces plumped by grins. It was an inversion of the standard firing squad: two dozen men hunched before the photographer and his mounted cannon. “Cheese!” the CCC boys cried. We squinted against the radiant detonations. These blasts were much brighter and louder than any shutter click on the Earth. With each flash, the men grew more definite: their chins sharpening, cheeks ripening around their smiles. Dim brows darkened to black arcs; the gold of their eyes deepened, as if each face were receiving a generous pour of whiskey. Was it life that these ghosts were drawing from the camera’s light? No, these flashes— they imbued the ghosts with something else. “Do not let him shoot you,” I hissed, grabbing Clara by the elbow. We ran for cover. Every time the flashbulb illuminated the room, I flinched. “Did he get you? Did he get me?” With an animal terror, we knew to avoid that light. We could not let the photographer fix us in the frame, we could not let him capture us on whatever film still held them here, dancing jerkily on the hexagonal floor. If that happens, we are done for, I thought. We are here forever. With his unlidded eye, the photographer spotted us where we had crouched behind the piano. Bent at the waist, his head cloaked by the wrinkling purple-black cover, he rotated the camera. Then he waggled his fingers at us, motioning us into the frame.

“Smile, ladies,” Mickey Loatch ordered as we darted around the cedar tables. We never saw his face, but he was hunting us. This devil— excuse me, let us continue to call him “the party photographer,” as I do not want to frighten anyone unduly—spun the tripod on its rolling wheels, his hairy hands gripping its sides, the cover flapping onto his shoulders like a strange pleated wig. His single blue lens kept fixing on our bodies. Clara dove low behind the wicker chairs and pulled me after her. The CCC boys who were assembled on the dance floor, meanwhile, stayed glacially frozen. Smiles floated muzzily around their faces. A droning rose from the room, a sound like dragonflies in summer, and I realized that we were hearing the men’s groaning effort to stay in focus: to flood their faces with ersatz blood, to hold still, hold still, and smile. Then the chair tipped; one of our pursuers had lifted Clara up, kicking and screaming, and began to carry her back to the dance floor, where men were shifting to make a place for her. “Front and center, ladies,” the company captain called urgently. “Fix your dress, dear. The straps have gotten all twisted.” I had a terrible vision of Clara caught inside the shot with them, her eyes turning from brown to umber to the deathlessly sparkling gold. “Stop!” I yelled. “Let her go! She—” She’s alive, I did not risk telling them. “She does not photograph well!” With aqueous indifference, the camera lifted its eye. “Listen, forgive us, but we cannot be in your photograph!” “Let go!” Clara said, cinched inside an octopus of the men’s restraining arms, every one of them pretending that this was still a game. We used to pledge, with great passion, always to defend each other. We meant it, too. These were easy promises to make, when we were safely at the boardinghouse; but on this mountain even breathing felt dangerous. But Clara pushed back. Clara saved us. She directed her voice at every object in the lodge, screaming at the very rafters. Gloriously, her speech gurgling with saliva and blood and everything wet, everything living, she began to howl at them, the dead ones. She foamed red, my best friend, forming the words we had been stifling all night, the spell-bursting ones: “It’s done, gentlemen. It’s over. Your song ended. You are news font; you are characters. I could read you each your own obituary. None of this—” “Shut her up,” a man growled. “Shut up, shut up!” several others screamed. She was chanting, one hand at her throbbing temple: “None of this, none of this, none of this is!” Some men were thumbing their ears shut. Some had braced themselves in the doorframes, as they teach the children of the West to do during

earthquakes. I resisted the urge to cover my own ears as she bansheed back at the shocked ghosts: “Two years ago, there was an avalanche at your construction site. It was terrible, a tragedy. We were all so sorry . . .” She took a breath. “You are dead.” Her voice grew gentle, almost maternal— it was like watching the wind drop out of the world, flattening a full sail. Her shoulders fell, her palms turned out. “You were all buried with this lodge.” Their eyes turned to us, incredulous. Hard and yellow, dozens of spiny armadillos. After a second, the CCC company burst out laughing. Some men cried tears, they were howling so hard at Clara. Lee was among them, and he

~Poetry ~

Powdered milk Out of milk. Himself shakes up a jar of powdered milk, Which, to me, Tastes of the poverty I once knew, When I married to be saved And instead was set adrift. The current tossed me On this shore With its rocky peaks Riots of wildflowers And a loving tribe. Soon, I could afford milk — real milk And I married again, for no other reason Than love. But still, I just can’t bear the taste of powdered milk With its hints of heartbreak Bottom notes of dread And the aroma of a house without heat. Today, I’ll drink my coffee black So I don’t have to go back. —Suzanne Cheavens

looked much changed, his face as smooth and flexibly white as an eel’s belly. These men—they didn’t believe her! And why should we ever have expected them to believe us, two female nobodies, two intruders? For these were the master carpenters, the master stonemasons and weavers, the master self-deceivers, the ghosts. “Dead,” one sad man said, as if testing the word out. “Dead. Dead. Dead,” his friends repeated, quizzically. But the sound was a shallow production, as if each man were scratching at topsoil with the point of a shovel. Aware, perhaps, that if he dug with a little more dedication, he would find his body lying breathless under this world’s surface. “Dead.” “Dead.” “Dead.” “Dead.” “Dead.” “Dead.”

They croaked like pond frogs, all across the ballroom. “Dead” was a foreign word, which the boys could pronounce perfectly, soberly, and matter-of-factly, without comprehending its meaning. One or two of them, however, exchanged a glance; I saw a burly blacksmith cut eyes at the ruby-cheeked trumpet player. It was a guileful look, a what-can-be-done look. So they knew; or they almost knew; or they’d buried the knowledge of their deaths, and we had exhumed it. Who can say what the dead do or do not know? Perhaps the knowledge of one’s death, ceaselessly swallowed, is the very food you need to become a ghost. They burned that knowledge up like whale fat and continued to shine on. But then a quaking began to ripple across the ballroom floor. A chandelier, in its handsome zigzag frame, burst into a spray of glass above us. One of the pillars, three feet wide, cracked in two. Outside, from all corners, we heard a rumbling, as if the world were gathering its breath. “Oh, God,” I heard one of them groan. “It’s happening again.” My eyes met Clara’s, as they always do at parties. She did not have to tell me: Run. On our race through the lodge, in all that chaos and din, Clara somehow heard another sound. A bright chirping. A sound like gold coins being tossed up, caught, and fisted. It stopped her cold. The entire building was shaking on its foundations, but through the tremors she spotted a domed cage, hanging in the foyer. On a tiny stirrup, a yellow bird was swinging. The cage was a wrought-iron skeleton, the handiwork of phantoms, but the bird, we both knew instantly, was real. It was agitating its wings in the polar air, as alive as we were. Its shadow was denser than anything in that ice palace. Its song split our eardrums. Its feathers burned into our retinas, rich with solar color, and its small body was stuffed with life. At the Evergreen Lodge, on the opposite side of the mountain, two twelve-foot doors, designed and built by the CCC, stand sentry against the outside air—seven hundred pounds of hand-cut ponderosa pine, from Oregon’s primeval woods. Inside the Emerald Lodge, we found their phantom twins, the dream originals. Those doors still worked, thank God. We pushed them open. Bright light, real daylight, shot onto our faces. The sun was rising. The chairlift, visible across a pillowcase of fresh snow, was running. We sprinted for it. Golden sunlight painted the steel cables. We raced across the platform, jumping for the chairs, and I will never know how fast or how far we flew to get back to the Earth. In all our years of prospecting in the West, this was our greatest heist. Clara opened her satchel and lifted the yellow bird onto her lap, and I heard it shrieking the whole way down the mountain. \



68 • TELLURIDE TURNS Headlines & Highlights from the Local News


FEED THE PEOPLE Barb Gross named Citizen of the Year By Rob Story


Lots of locals would be surprised to learn that Telluride actually maintains a food bank. But it does, in an ancient wooden cabin situated inconspicuously between an unpaved alley and the thrift store.

t’s not as if Telluride’s altruists volunteer their time in order to compete for Citizen of the Year. Heck, the Telluride Foundation only established the award in 2003—and all its winners have served the community for years, if not decades, before then. In fact, 2019’s Citizen of the Year Barb Gross has labored since the 1980s to make Telluride more livable for its less advantaged people, the 99 percenters, if you will. According to Telluride Foundation, the award recognizes “someone who has unselfishly contributed to the Telluride regional community’s quality of life through volunteerism, community service, or philanthropy.” Shortly after moving here in 1984, Gross joined the San Miguel County Day Care and Preschool Association. She was instrumental in moving preschoolers out of beaten down, substandard buildings and constructing the Rainbow preschool in town and Rascals in Lawson Hill. A tireless advocate for child care, she also served on the board of directors at Rainbow. Gross has volunteered forever for Angel Baskets, the charity that describes itself as the “direct link between those who want to help and those who need help the most.” Angel Baskets is best known for its late autumn efforts to brighten the holidays for families who would otherwise not celebrate, donating funds, gifts, toys, and clothing


throughout San Miguel County and the West End. Lesser known is Angel Baskets’ initiative to alleviate food insecurity: Indeed, lots of locals would be surprised to learn that Telluride actually maintains a food bank. But it does, in an ancient wooden cabin situated inconspicuously between an unpaved alley and the thrift store. In 2011, when Gross was named director of Angel Baskets’ food program, she inherited a musty mess of a headquarters, with stained carpeting and a dated linoleum floor. The building made the practice of asking for food feel humbling. Gross and her husband Gary scrapped the dingy furnishings, painted walls, laid down gleaming tile, and created an atmosphere where recipients feel dignified. A place where volunteers would be glad to work. Lifting people up, she says, brings her joy. “Helping anyone who is struggling to make it here, especially during off-season when their job goes away and they are trying to make it till the next job starts,

fulfills a vital community need. No one is immune to this—single parents, families, and individuals are impacted by the shifting cycles of our economy. And even when folks are working, sometimes their income is just not enough to pay rent, utilities, and buy decent food. And then there are those who are simply unemployable because of physical or mental health issues.” These days, Gross oversees regional food banks in not just Telluride, but also Norwood and Dove Creek. The sites feed more than 500 people each month. Gross typically works 20 hours a week to keep Western Slope bellies fed. She manages about 25 volunteers, who she helps with the menial chores of rotating food, cleaning refrigerators, ordering food, and eventually composting the rotten stuff. In its Citizen of the Year announcement, Telluride Foundation called Gross “the kind face and generous heart of the Telluride Food Bank.” Telluride Foundation has since granted $5,000 to Angel Baskets in Gross’ name and gifted her a commemorative plaque. Nice benefits to be sure, but not the reasons she’s been volunteering in Telluride for 35 years. Says Gross: “I believe that we are put on this earth to love and help one another. In every instance, we should leave things better than we found them. Volunteering not only gives me an opportunity to help those in need but adds richness to my life and helps me fulfill my purpose on this earth.” \

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70 • TELLURIDE TURNS Headlines & Highlights from the Local News


Housing lottery gives locals the opportunity to buy in By Rob Story


Given the stakes involved—a genuine, realistic opportunity at long-term residence in one of America’s prettiest towns—the drawing is tremendously exciting.

ver the years, Telluride’s affordable housing “issue” progressed into an affordable housing “problem” before recently morphing into a “crisis.” The housing market has risen so dramatically that it has priced out a majority of the town’s work force. These days, landing a home—whether rented or owned—in Telluride takes either a huge wad of money or a ton of luck. As for the second option, the Town of Telluride has operated housing lotteries for its citizens for more than two decades. Why? Because this place is among the narrowest box canyons to hold a Colorado county seat: Local geography has always been defined by its small footprint of developable land. Plus, the permanent protection of the Telluride Valley Floor as open space means permanent removal of potential housing acreage on the town’s western frontage. How do housing lotteries work? Well, in 2003 for instance, a federal affordable housing contract governing town-owned properties in east Telluride expired. The Town of Telluride renovated the small, free-standing homes (located near Lone Tree Cemetery), and in ’04 sold them according to a lottery for “qualified employees” under Telluride Family Housing Guidelines. To enter the lottery, prospective buyers had to meet income, employment, residency,


and property ownership requirements, in addition to qualifying for a conventional home mortgage. Given the stakes involved—a genuine, realistic opportunity at long-term residence in one of America’s prettiest towns—the drawing is tremendously exciting. The San Miguel Regional Housing Authority holds a gathering at the Town of Telluride’s Rebekah Hall. Entrants’ numbers are scribbled upon ping-pong balls. Per town tradition, a winner of a previous housing lottery snags a ball and names the new champ. A couple years ago, when a one-bedroom unit at Mendota Condominiums became available, Spruce House lottery winner Jeff Haldeman picked David Mortner, a Telluride Brewing Company employee, as the lucky winner. The year 2017 marked the first time inhabitants of a town rental project were decided through a lottery. That was for the Virginia Placer

project on the west side of town, whose completion provided rental opportunities at an apartment complex, a boardinghouse, and three tiny homes. Virginia Placer’s initial prices were—for Telluride—an extremely affordable $850 for a studio apartment and $1,430 for a two-bedroom unit. Telluride’s latest housing lottery was held to determine occupants for affordable housing projects Longwill 16 and Silver Jack, with in-floor heating, in-unit washer/dryers, covered parking, and even a few garages as the spoils. SMRHA received 100 applications for twenty-six units. “I feel incredibly lucky to have won the housing lottery,” said one winner, Lindsey Mills. “Never in a million years did I think I would be able to officially call Telluride my home.” Maggie Stevens, another person who benefited from the luck of the draw, called the result “amazing and kind of surreal,” adding, “I just feel incredibly lucky and grateful.” She summed up the entire affordable housing lottery concept by emphasizing that applying for the “lottery process was difficult, but rightfully so. The process ensures that folks who are truly contributing, and interested in continuing to contribute to the town, its business and its growth, are the folks that qualify.” \

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72 • TELLURIDE TURNS Headlines & Highlights from the Local News

THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES Telluride Women’s Network celebrates 33 years By Rob Story


When I moved to Telluride five years ago, I didn’t know anyone.... The women I met that evening were fun, welcoming, and enjoyed a good glass of wine—I knew I had found my people.

t would be shallow to say that the motto of Telluride Women’s Network (TWN) should be “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” But it’s important to note that TWN is called a “network” and not a “foundation” for a reason. After all, the group began in 1986 when Shari Flatt and Susie Connor decided they needed to meet and befriend more Telluride women, so they put out a newspaper ad welcoming any local women to a cocktail party, and were overjoyed when seventy-five ladies showed up. TWN has thrived ever since. TWN’s new president is Lynn Cranford. She maintains that the network has lasted more than 30 years because it’s “a great way to make friends and find wider connections to the community. When I moved to Telluride five years ago, I didn’t know anyone. A friend of mine in Montana told me about a women’s group in her community. A quick online search led me to The Telluride Women’s Network. The first event I attended was a game night at a longtime member’s home. The women I met that evening were fun, welcoming, and enjoyed a good glass of wine—I knew I had found my people.” Cranford is one of more than ninety members these days. The women enjoy a full calendar of activities ranging from meet-up-and-ski days, to hikes, to happy hours, game nights, parties, and book clubs. “We have several creative women on our events committee who each take responsibility for overseeing and


ning activities based on their interests,” said Cranford. “Over the past few years we have grown the number of events from a few per year to several a month.” TWN considers itself “primarily a social organization,” said Cranford, noting that most members are already engaged with the community service, whether with the Telluride Adaptive Ski Program, Telluride Historical Museum, San Miguel Resource Network, or Second Chance Humane Society. As such, the most revelatory part of TWN’s website ( is its Events Calendar, which is studded with fun sounding events such as “Wiesbaden Hot Spring, Vapor Cave and Lunch” and “Ugly Sweater Happy Hour.” Cranford is especially fond of the annual snowshoe hike, where the women gather at a friend’s house for a warm, cozy dinner and snowshoeing to see the full moon rise. The scope of socializing seems to reflect the women’s immense creativity and passion for Telluride-style fun. Said Cranford, “Each person on the committee brings unique tal-

ents. We have women who love to ski and organize on-slope get-togethers. Our hikers plan our summer walks. We have a super mushroom sleuth who organizes our foraging hikes. One of our committee members is an outstanding baker and has organized high-altitude baking classes. I love reading and have taken up arranging the book club. A new member is going to organize pickleball games. And another member will be adding cooking classes with local chefs. We are always open to new events and welcome suggestions from members who would like to help organize an event.” TWN hosts multiple happy hours and parties where significant others are welcome, yet most activities are for female members who pay $50 in annual dues, which covers the network’s administrative costs and helps subsidize events. Cranford’s term as president lasts two years. “I was honored to be asked to serve as president by the board,” she said. “The position is primarily an organizing force for the talents of the very active board. So many on our board have carried the load for a very long time, so when asked, how could I say no?” Cranford, in fact, could not say no, and why would she? As she puts it, “I’ve met some of my best friends in Telluride through TWN, and they’ll be my friends for life. They’ve encouraged and supported me to try new things such as skiing, biking, golfing, and steep mountain trails. Ski biking is next this winter.” \

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LIGHTING UP LEGALLY Locals debate “marijuana cafés” after state OKs them By Rob Story


Under the bill, marijuana dispensaries would be able to apply for a tasting room license similar to the one used for breweries in Colorado.

elluride sure does love its cannabis. Our chairlifts and trails have long been redolent with combustible green, leafy substances. San Miguel County famously approved legal recreational marijuana by a greater margin (79 to 21 percent) than any other Colorado county in 2012. And now, thanks to the Colorado Legislature passing House Bill 1230, the region could soon unveil its first cannabis café, or a salon where customers can legally light up indoors. Under the bill, marijuana dispensaries would be able to apply for a tasting room license similar to the one used for breweries in Colorado. Meanwhile, businesses such as hotels, restaurants, music venues, art galleries, and yoga studios could apply for private consumption licenses and limited pot sales—but could not hold a liquor license for the same premises. In addition, mobile pot lounges such as tour buses and limousines could also be licensed but could not sell marijuana. Don’t expect Telluride to suddenly resemble Amsterdam, with cannabis cafés lining every block, when the bill becomes law Jan. 1, 2020. The decision to allow public consumption areas


requires “opt in” from every local government, and Telluride Town Council has yet to say “Okey-dokey.” Just as the city of Montrose has declined to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries, Telluride could (conceivably, possibly) give social smoking spaces a thumbs-down. As such, Telluride Town Council discussed consumption areas twice in the last few months. Council member Geneva Shaunette cheered, “This is a really interesting and unique industry. Let’s continue to be on the forefront and make history.” But council member Tom Watkinson said, “This is not a need, it’s a desire. Let’s ease into it.” He was echoed by Mayor Sean Murphy, who queried: “What’s the rush?” As one might expect from a liberal town with five thriving dispensaries, public comment was generally supportive of public consumption. Michael Grady, of

Alpine Wellness retail marijuana store, said his budtenders are constantly asked where they can fire up, seeking to enjoy “a social experience that’s not centered around alcohol.” Dahlia Mertens, owner of Mary Jane’s Medicinals, expressed optimism in the tourism and employment opportunities cannabis cafes might provide. Added Mertens, “I see this as a progressive community. This will give people dedicated places to consume and get people out of the alleys. It really makes sense.” So far, local pushback has come from those who echo Helen Lovejoy on “The Simpsons” — lamenting, in so many words, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” Paul Reich of TriCounty Health Network did not attend the Town Council meetings, but wrote a letter to the Telluride Daily Planet insisting that “allowing indoor smoking or vaping is an assault on the clean air rules that Telluride has long embraced and is another example of sending the wrong message to our youth about their health and well-being.” In short, the public consumption question is expected to linger a while, much like chronic smoke in Jeff Spiccoli’s van. Stay tuned. \


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his past October, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to scientists who discovered the molecular pathway by which cells respond to changes in oxygen. The research has led to promising new therapies for cancer, anemia, heart attacks, and strokes. These scientists owe a great debt to an unlikely figure in history: Their discovery would not have been possible if it were not for the groundbreaking work of Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald in Telluride more than 100 years ago. In August of 1911, a tiny, vivacious English woman of royal lineage arrived in Telluride to study its residents and prove to the world how altitude affects people. Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald had spent the previous few weeks tucking her male research colleagues into comfy digs atop Pikes Peak where they would study the acute effects of ascending to high altitude. Mabel, the lone woman on the research team, happily set out by train, wagon, horseback, and on foot to remote mining communities to study people who had lived at high altitudes for a year or longer.


A HIGHER CALLING How a noblewoman from England changed the face of high-altitude medicine By Martha Tissot van Patot

Prior to departing for Colorado, Mabel had pored over maps and train schedules in her New York City apartment and decided that San Miguel County would provide the best access to towns and mining camps at a wide range of altitudes. Although she did some work near Colorado Springs, the majority of her investigations took place in and around Telluride. Mabel and her colleagues were investigating whether low carbon dioxide or low oxygen is responsible for the effects of high altitude. Team leader John Scott Haldane had discovered a few years earlier that carbon dioxide controls breathing at sea level. This is why we breathe harder when we exercise—in the process of producing more energy for exercise, our cells also produce more waste in the form of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide stimulates us to breathe harder so it can be eliminated when we exhale. It was also understood that there is less oxygen available at high altitudes. Air contains 21 percent oxygen at any altitude, but atmospheric



pressure decreases as altitude increases. Atmospheric pressure, more commonly called barometric pressure because it’s measured by a barometer, drives oxygen into the lungs. Therefore, at high altitude there is less pressure pushing oxygen into the lungs, resulting in hypoxia or oxygen deficiency. Carbon dioxide and oxygen are carried around the body by red blood cells and hemoglobin. Red blood cells are like taxis, and hemoglobin, the four seats. Taxis pick up oxygen molecules in the lungs and drive them to the tissues. In the tissues, oxygen hops out and carbon dioxide hops in (in reality it’s more of a carjacking). Carbon dioxide is then driven to the lungs, where it hops out and escapes in exhaled air, and the whole cycle (hopefully) begins again. Mabel measured carbon dioxide and hemoglobin, and calculated oxygen concentrations from this information to discover how people acclimatize to life in the mountains. Of course, the equipment she needed to do this was incredibly fragile and the transportation methods not very forgiving. The glass gas analyzer was encased in a wooden box with tubes and vials attached to the interior base. Mabel would hand her unwitting subject a hose, place a clip on their nose and ask them to breathe normally while she ran around adjusting mysterious things. Needless to say, this made some people quite nervous and they found it difficult to breathe normally. She would then pull out a needle to collect blood and suddenly find her subject less than cooperative. Unsurprisingly, she was able to get more carbon dioxide measurements than hemoglobin.

Arriving in Ouray (7,780 feet), Mabel was entranced by the dramatic scenery and loved the effect of being “walled in by rugged mountain ranges.” She was soon to discover that the residents in this resplendent and isolated area were as colorful as the scenery. She checked into the Beaumont Hotel and before she had time to catch her breath, Mayor Doc Rowan whisked her away to the town hall and offered use of the board room in which to perform her experiments. She was grateful for the offer and a bit awed by this practicing physician-mayor who told stories of evicting drunkards from bars by painting honey on them and bringing in his pet bear to lick it off. She was fascinated by her other subjects, as well. Edward Weatherly had attended medical school at the University of Oxford, as had Mabel—with the distinction of being the first woman to do so. Neither could boast degrees because Edward dropped out and Mabel, being a woman, could not be awarded a degree. Jess, Edward’s wife, wrote many of the lyrics and provided the tune for the beloved ballad Danny Boy, but was robbed of credit by Edward’s brother, Frederick. From Ouray, Mabel was able to reach Camp Bird Mill (9,500 feet) by boarding the stagecoach for a terrifying four and a half-mile journey along a precipitous and pitted wagon road carelessly tacked to the side of the mountains. On arrival, she was greeted by the earsplitting noise of forty water-powered stamps; large steel blocks that stomped on mined rock and crushed it to dust. It provided a startling contrast to the serene beauty of the encircling high mountain peaks. Unsurprisingly, she discovered that her subjects were mostly deaf.



78 • INNOVATIONS mill. The wives of the miners eagerly participated in Mabel’s studies, seemingly made of sterner stuff than the wives of the mill workers. She then headed for Telluride (8,870 feet) and the highest locations in her study. Never one to be idle, during a five-hour train stop in Ridgway (6,990 feet) Mabel recruited Dr. Barney Slick and four other local residents into her study. In Telluride, Dr. Taylor offered her the use of his consulting room and happily coerced a bunch of friends to cooperate. Among them was Judge Woy, who was later immortalized for stating in protest of prohibition that “There is only a very small percentage of the people here who wish to have this city [Telluride] cleaned up.” Getting to the Tomboy Mine (11,500 feet) almost proved her undoing. She hired a two-horse rig and was told that there was a “good” wagon road covering the three miles to the mine. Mabel was taking in the beautiful views of majestic peaks and nervously watching the wheels skirt the extreme drops off the edge of the road when she realized that the driver had fallen asleep. On being unceremoniously poked awake, he acted very put Imagine this proper English woman, quite literally raised as the daughter of the manor, whose family dinner table was often attended by poet Robert Browning and claimant to the French throne, Prince Phillip Comte de Paris, happily chatting with the rough and simple miners, convincing them to give her their blood and breathe into odd looking hoses. These interactions must have left quite memorable impressions on both parties. She found the miners of western Colorado “not as easily led by those in authority” as those in the east and admired them for it. The English company that owned Camp Bird refused to allow a saloon in town and tried to restrict activities that would interfere with the men’s ability to work. Mabel felt that the attempt to impose such restrictions had an effect on residents. She reported to her sisters that the women developed a pronounced “craving for excitement, holding card parties, dinner parties and social events of all kinds and dress!” Frustratingly, despite their exuberance for socializing, the women were reluctant to participate in Mabel’s studies. After two days at the mill, Mabel carefully tied her fragile equipment to an aerial tram that carried it high overhead in unpredictable winds to the Camp Bird Mine (11,300 feet), one-third of a mile straight up. She followed on horseback along a narrow trail, inches from the sheer



mountainsides, which she said, “made the journey most hazardous for the glass gas analyzer, to say nothing of human hearts.” A practical woman, Mabel delighted in riding astride rather than sidesaddle and happily purchased her first and only pair of blue jeans to do so. The miners were much sturdier than the men who worked at the

out and said he had “merely closed his eyes to think of his mother.” She kept her parasol handy for poking during the remainder of the journey. A violent thunderstorm broke out on her arrival, compromising what was already a rather tight schedule. She just had time to cajole four rather nervous women into participating before she had to leave.

She was absolutely exhausted by the entire experience and noted it as one of the most difficult days of her travels. It was well worth her efforts. Information gained from those brave women proved invaluable and these types of experiments were not to be repeated for many decades. The following day Mabel donned her blue jeans, carefully strapped the equipment to her saddle and set off on a three-hour ride up to the Lewis Mine (12,500 feet). Immediately upon her arrival the mine’s enthusiastic owner, Colonel Livermore, set up Mabel at the boarding house and recruited workers so efficiently that in a few short hours she had studied six men. This was the literal and figurative pinnacle of her travels. By early September Mabel was back in New York City tallying her results. What did she discover? That the body senses that it is not getting enough oxygen at high altitude; the first thing it does is increase breathing to bring more oxygen into the lungs. Next, the body produces more hemoglobin and red blood cells. This increases the efficiency with which oxygen is carried from the lungs to the oxygen-starved cells. These actions improve the amount of oxygen in the body, allowing people to successfully live at high altitudes. Breathing harder also lowers carbon dioxide. The lower carbon dioxide Mabel found in residents at high altitude showed her that they were breathing harder. In her notes Mabel wrote, “the main point is the very small difference in oxygen pressure in the arterial blood has a large effect on breathing and the percent of hemoglobin.” Essentially, she had discovered that oxygen and not carbon dioxide is the key physiologic regulator. The researchers who were recently awarded the Nobel Prize began their work by investigating the exact mechanism by which hypoxia increases hemoglobin. By that time, it was known that the hypoxia-induced increase in hemoglobin is driven by the hormone erythropoietin (EPO). EPO has made headlines in the last two decades as a blood doping agent used by athletes to improve their performance. Discovering how hypoxia mediates EPO and thus hemoglobin and red blood cell production brought to light the exquisite and complex hypoxia-sensing pathway essential for life. What we know today—whether it’s how altitude affects a mountaineer or how the body’s oxygen-sensing system relates to disease, we owe to the intrepid woman physician from England whose curiosity brought her to the mountains around Telluride more than a century ago. \

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80 • ESSAY


Trekking home alone to the tipi in a blizzard By Craig Childs


n the early 90s, I used to head for Telluride to get out of the lonely ice palace of Ouray in the winter. A place to dance with music and beer and other human beings was like a slap across the face, just what I needed come the 10th or 20th of January, or the creaking doldrums of February. My favorite part was not the dancing and ski girls in glitter and boys trying to look like gods, but coming home on the lonely, icy curves of Dallas Divide leading me into Ridgway asleep and Ouray drifting in hibernation. I lived on Main Street across from the Silver Nugget. I remember coming back


to street lights glowing like the last stars in the universe, bluish and alone in a wash of falling snow, my tracks the first in highway powder. I liked the way it felt, golem returning to his cave, truck parked sideways in a snowdrift on 8th Avenue to be buried by a snowplow come morning. I appreciated Telluride with its bar doors ejecting the last stumbling revelers, but Ouray in snow at 2 in the morning, not a soul in sight, was a dream. You aren’t here to be in the middle of it all, but to be on a far-flung edge, the farthest arm of a spiral galaxy. You come to stand on the main street of

any of these towns late at night, Rico to Norwood to Ouray, and hear nothing but the hush of falling snow. Or don’t stand, but lie on your back, make a snow angel in the middle of the street, an imprint you will be glad to watch fill with snow, erasing your presence. You are here to be smaller than everything else, mountains roaring around you. Even Ouray was too busy for me. I could have done without street lights. I moved to a ponderosa grove above the ranching hamlet of Ridgway, setting up a tipi where I lived for a few years. Winters settled like the bottom of a frozen lake, so still that


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fish won’t move. A woodstove helped, but by morning even my toothpaste was frozen. No one came to visit. Isolation felt like a tincture. It burned a little and I could feel it sinking into me. I tracked elk and ermine. Hawk wing prints were beaten into snow where rabbits had been snatched and carried into the sky. I needed the circus-brightness of Telluride more than ever. Full moon night in a mid-winter blizzard, I drove like a comet over the divide and deposited myself on the dance floor of the old Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. Heads, hats, bare shoulders, boot-stomping. I felt as if I were dropped into a teeming ant colony, bodies against bodies, everything moving, hard to tell one from the next. Leaping around like a muppet, I was barefoot for all I recall. The bass player in the band wore plastic sunflowers over her bare breasts. That much I remember. Even in that moment, I could feel how good the return would feel that night, the cone of headlights, the swish of skis, and muffled moonlight of a storm sending me back to my tipi. The more lively and human the night, the more rapt the homecoming. In the press of people, shoulder on shoulder, I felt a woman’s hair brush me, and then her bite on my earlobe. She looked at me with a mischievous smile and backed into the crowd, not breaking eye contact. At first, I thought it was an accident; she’d been shoved into me. But the tingle of her teeth marks and the intensity of her stare said otherwise. We’d been looking at each other earlier. Maybe we’d said a word or two. I thought of following her,

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82 • ESSAY

but where would that go, or what if she didn’t like tipis, and did I want another person, another voice, in the solace of the night to come? I asked too many questions and she was gone. I went back to silence, only vehicle on the highway. Parked on Ouray Country Road 1, back when it was dirt beginning to end, or soft-packed snow as was the case that night, I settled into my tasks: gear on my back with groceries, skis clicked in, starting to swish into a world of fresh powder and moonlight steeped in whiteout. The meadow felt like a sea. Waves rose and fell. I skied through limbo, following a direction I thought I knew, distracted by the memory of her bite on my ear. Did I know her name, or anything about her? The look in her eye and fermented rank of pheromones was still with me. All distraction. Focus on aloneness. Not loneliness, but the ecstasy of no one else. I could perish out here and nobody would know for days, maybe weeks, maybe not till spring. A few would weep, my parents mostly. A few would shrug. Most wouldn’t care. Could there be anything more liberating? The forest was laden, boughs heavy with booming pillows of snow sliding free. Must have been an inch falling every half hour, every fifteen minutes, every moment. The world was sinking and I became smaller beneath it. Wait, I thought, where am I? I stopped skiing and looked behind me. Tracks were filling in. A headlamp was just confusing.


The trees were wrong. I turned back to where I thought I’d been, but those tracks were gone. I turned back again and again, but I’d lost control of my spaceship and the stars all looked the same. Ponderosa pines, usually standing like darkened and robed figures, were pillowed, each branch slumped into the one below, overburden on overburden. A moment like this, you could sink into despair, but this felt like what I was after. Being alone, absolutely. You could curl up in snow on a night like this and never wake. That wasn’t the right thing to be thinking. Her bite on my ear. Remember that. I thought of the steam of her and everyone else around us. I could feel their press. It wasn’t wrong that I felt alone and enjoyed it. It’s not my own company that I particularly relish, but no company at all. If I could be gone from that equation, how sweet would that be? The crowd refreshed me, but space, for the most part, is empty. There’s a different kind of love when there aren’t so many of us. Intimacy must be what I was after. It’s why I didn’t follow her across the dance floor. In the dim bath of moon and snow, a great horned owl called from the woods. It called, live, live; find your way home. I was glad to hear its voice. I skied until the call was behind me, and turned around to bring it closer. I used it like a compass, a reference in the heart of space. The owl, the girl, the music. Find your way home. The owl stayed with me. The bird, majestic and puffed with feathers, didn’t move. I could depend

on its location. I imagined it holed up in a hollow between branches, its call coming out of curled drifts, a secret place, a reason to live. The tipi eventually showed up, appearing like a mothership from the vague backdrop of emptiness. I pulled an avalanche shovel from my gear and dug out the entry flap, making space to tumble inside. Stomping off, I sealed the flap behind me, closing myself in. On canvas, snow sounded like an ocean. A match touched an oil lamp wick. Lodgepoles lit up. Newspaper caught slowly, then kindling, then split wood. I settled into my creaky rocking chair and thought of her again, glad I’d come home alone. Kind of glad. Where was she now? Not here. Did she remember me? If I had died in the snow that night, would she have known? If she’s reading this now, and she remembers that night in Telluride, thanks for the story. It has fallen on many ears; a chapter in a book about animals where I wrote about the owl who helped me, and venues where I got up to spin yarns, recalling my seasons in a tipi. She is how I remember those nights of return and snows that fall in veils. She is my mnemonic. Her bite on my ear, bumping into me like an accident, is a statue in my memory palace, an ivory figure polished and curved, arm outstretched, her finger pointing to drifted main streets and mountains carving up the stars. Or is her finger pointing at me? \





Last season’s avalanches could spark spruce beetle outbreak


By Corinne Platt


Beetle outbreaks are natural, ecological disturbances, but with today’s warming temperatures and drought conditions it’s like they’re on steroids; recent spruce beetle outbreaks have killed up to 90 percent of the spruce trees in a stand.

hile Telluriders whooped and reveled in last year’s snowy cyclone, thousands of spruce and aspen trees were getting ready to hit the ground. In an historic avalanche cycle unlike any we’ve seen in the San Juan Mountains in years, hundred-year-old trees went down in a torrent of snow and wind. Now, as they lie across our valleys, you can almost hear the beetles munching away. In the last twenty years, three large spruce beetle outbreaks have decimated spruce forests in Colorado. The Zirkels, the Sangre de Cristos, and the eastern San Juans all had the same recipe for a beetle outbreak that Telluride has now: warm, drought conditions followed by a triggering event such as a large avalanche or blowdown. Beetle outbreaks are natural, ecological disturbances, but with today’s warming temperatures and drought conditions it’s like they’re on steroids; recent spruce beetle outbreaks have killed up to 90 percent of the spruce trees in a stand. Telluride and the surrounding region are host to plenty of bark beetles and budworms, but so far, the spruce tree’s strong defense mechanisms have kept most of them at bay. Spruce are able to engage in a kind of chemical warfare, but to put up that line of defense, the trees need to be in the ground. When they aren’t rooted, they’re like a bug buffet.


Adapt: a five-letter word our planet is asking, not just of humans, but of every part of the landscape that we hold dear, especially the trees. In his 2019 presentation Forest in Flux, Jason S. Sibold, Assistant Professor of Geography at Colorado State University, said that beetle outbreaks are the forests’ mechanism to pave the way for other species to move in and move up in elevation, allowing for systems to make necessary changes. For the forest to adapt to a new climate, it needs to reset. “There needs to be an abrupt change, the kind of change we’re seeing on the landscape now,” says Sibold. “It’s not pleasant and it’s unsightly, but this is a process we have to go through and our forests have to go through if we want our forests to be able to adapt.” Thanks in part to funding from the San Miguel County and the town of Telluride, Sibold and his

team of researchers have installed twenty permanent plots in Bear Creek where they monitor every tree species and every seedling. They are documenting size and status, as well as evidence of bark beetles, defoliation, and species migration. With his data come the questions: Do we want to actively manage our landscape? Do we want to push toward our new climate reality by planting seedlings or doing prescribed burns? Three years ago Sibold managed a prescribed fire just three miles from the city of Aspen. By burning the dead and dying trees, they promoted a huge regeneration of fresh growth, enhanced deer and elk habitat, and reduced the buildup of dry fuel on the land. “I spend a lot of time in dead forests and they aren’t that bad,” Sibold says. “We start to see the understory—flowers, bushes and shrubs—come to life. There are a lot of hummingbirds, and a lot of birds that are cavity nesters that need those dead standing trees as habitat. So it’s not the end of the world, but it’s certainly a change from what we’re accustomed to.” What Sibold is saying is that it’s time for us to reimagine what our forests can and should look like. What we need to decide is if we’re up for the task. \

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The Black Trailer in the Backyard Local business takes the initiative on composting By Lorraine Weissman


egan Ossola points to a long smudge of dirt on the large metal composting trailer behind her restaurant. “Bear paws,” she says. “The first night we had it out here the whole thing was covered. They crawled all over it trying to get in.” The steel doors, luckily, withstood their attempts. Bears are attracted to compost piles, which is one reason that many people in Telluride don’t compost at home; but it’s more than the bears— some residents complain that it’s just inconvenient. A quick informal survey of folks on Main Street confirms my suspicion—most people in town identify as “environmentalists” hoping to reduce their carbon footprint. Everyone understands composting is a useful tool to reduce waste, but I found just one person who actually does it at home. Unless recycling and composting programs are easy, participation is sparse. Even in Denver, where curbside compost pickup is available for Alfonso Cuarón at Telluride Film Festival.

a relatively nominal fee, only about 10 percent of households opt in. Composting, it seems, just hasn’t caught on in large scale. So composting within the town of Telluride, without community sponsored pick-up or drop-off locations, requires a particularly dedicated citizen. Enter Megan Ossola, local resident and owner of The Butcher & Baker Cafe, where the big black trailer in the back represents one businesswoman’s attempt to get composting in Telluride off the ground (pun intended) in genuine measure. A 2019 study by personal finance website WalletHub ranked Colorado the 21st “greenest” state, behind seemingly less eco-friendly places like Nevada (15) or auto-manufacturing Michigan (17). Though Vail and Aspen rank 4th and 5th respectively among the eco-friendly ski resorts, Telluride doesn’t even make the top 10. Despite a seemingly woke community, clearly we’re not

prioritizing environmental practices, including composting. According to the EPA, Americans throw away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps each day. Close to 25 percent of individual waste is organic (i.e. compostable) material. For restaurants, that number jumps to 60-80 percent. Most waste ends up in landfills, producing methane gas during decomposition. This worsens air quality and hastens global warming. Composting seems like a relatively easy way to offset some of this waste, but without community solutions, individuals are left to make a personal sacrifice to do the right thing. Waiting near the back staircase of The Butcher & Baker to interview Ossola, I noticed a quote by Howard Zinn in a gilded frame: “We don’t have to engage in grand heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” A few minutes later I was led downstairs and through the bustling kitchen to Ossola’s small office. She explained that The Butcher & Baker has composted for the past year, but the process was onerous. Each week, the kitchen filled around thirty 5-gallon buckets with food scraps, hauling them by box-trailer to a compost pile on Ossola’s farm outside Montrose. The buckets required cumbersome hand-dumping and sterilization. Ossola’s effort was certainly no “small act.” Ossola envisioned a bear-proof alternative with a hydraulic lift dumping system, but for her small business in a competitive market, this solution was cost prohibitive. A friend at EcoAction Partners (a local environmental organization) suggested she apply for a Telluride Green Grant to improve her system, and Ossola seized the opportunity. Green

Grants are funded by the Telluride Energy Mitigation Program (TEMP), a component of the Green Building Code. Modeled after Aspen’s renewable energy mitigation program, TEMP funds come from building permit surcharges on heated outdoor spaces like sidewalks, driveways, hot tubs, and pools. Grants range from $500-$40,000 to town residents (businesses and individuals alike) to promote green living, including weatherization (think new windows or doors), solar energy, or in Ossola’s case, composting. This year, the committee received 14 applications totaling over $220,000 in requested funds, greatly exceeding the $50,000 annual cap. Of those, 12 grants were fully or partially funded, including $12,300 to Ossola for her steeldoored, bear-proof, hydraulic-lift compost trailer. For The Butcher & The Baker, composting has the added benefit of saving money by reducing trash collection by an entire dumpster load each week. The additional space in the trailer also allows Ossola to open her system up for community use. As long the rules posted on the bin are followed, everyone is encouraged to compost. Several restaurants have already expressed interest, including Ghost Town, Pescado, La Cocina de Luz, and the Floradora, and Ossola hopes more community members will follow suit. She opens the bin. “Wheatgrass!” she exclaims. “We don’t use wheatgrass. Must be La Cocina.” Telluride Green Grants— the program that made Ossola’s vision of larger-scale composting in Telluride a reality—is managed by Karen Guglielmone of the Town of Telluride and administered by EcoAction Partners. In addition to Ossola’s trailer, recipients include an individual homeowner looking to install more efficient windows and homeowners’ associations with weatherization projects. When asked what advice she would give would-be grantees, EcoAction’s Executive Director Heather Knox says: “Think of something that you do already or something that you really want to do but you can’t because it’s cost prohibitive, and then apply for the grant.” The 2020 applications will be accepted starting next spring, with allocations expected mid-summer. This is your opportunity for your one small act to help change the world. \

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Americans throw away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps each day. Close to 25 percent of individual waste is organic (i.e. compostable) material. For restaurants, that number jumps to 60-80 percent.

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bout a fifteen-minute drive south of Telluride, the tiny town of Ophir, Colo., with around 200 permanent residents in 75 homes, sponsors community composting as part of its waste management program. With some help from EcoAction Partners, Ophir secured a Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity grant from the State of Colorado to purchase two Earth Cube compost bins. To date, Ophir has diverted over 10,000 pounds of food waste away from landfills. \

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CHURCH OF THE GRAVEYARD SAINTS BY C. JOSEPH GREAVES Torrey House Press $17.95 978-1-94881-413-3 Saddle up, because novelist Chuck Greaves’ latest work Church of the Graveyard Saints is a wild ride, both figuratively and literally. The curtains rise on Addie Decker as she returns to her home on a ranch outside of Cortez, Colorado—and a life she has all but forsaken—for her grandmother’s funeral. Accompanied by her professor/boyfriend, who is also an environmental activist, Decker soon finds her worlds colliding. The novel’s tension is derived not just from the awkwardness between her high school ex and her new, older beau from Los Angeles, but also from a broader conflict between Old West and New West, the oil and gas development industry insiders versus the outsiders trying to replace extraction with alternative energy. The Decker ranch is at the center of this debate, and the narrative itself is full of action (horse chases instead of car chases, apropos of the novel’s setting) but don’t expect formulaic heroes and villains and endings in this story. Greaves gives the subject every bit of nuance it deserves, because clearly, as a McElmo Canyon resident, he has a keen perspective on not just the economic struggles in the rural West but also of the people who inhabit this region and their uniquely Western character. Church of the Graveyard Saints is recommended reading, but if you stall in finishing the book, take heart: this title seems ready-made for a movie, so it could just as easily wind up in your Netflix queue as on your bedside bookshelf.


DROWNING IN ADDICTION: SINK OR SWIM A Personal Guide for Choosing Your Legit Path to Recovery

COYOTE JUSTICE KERI MILLS PAGE PUBLISHING $13.95 978-1-68456-744-7 Local Keri Mills’ debut novel Coyote Justice starts with a dead body washed up in a flooded creek on a ranch in the fictional (yet familiar) town of Echo, Colorado. The young Latina woman was brutally beaten, and implanted in her body was a stash of heroin and a GPS tracking device. Local medical examiner Jess Doogan—the strong, smart female protagonist—is confronted with a mystery, and the biggest case she has ever had to solve in her sleepy Western community.

MICHAEL ARNOLD, SCOTT LEEPER, ANDREA CARR GATEKEEPER PRESS $19.95 978-1-64237-461-2 Maybe the hardest part of being or loving an addict is the shame. Drowning in Addiction does the one thing that can help alcohol and drug addicts find their way out of the fog and into recovery: It acknowledges those feelings of guilt.

FBI field agent Harlan Meeks comes to town to help Doogan, and the two slowly unravel an expansive drug smuggling operation. Thanks to the GPS tracking device, Meeks and Doogan are not just hunting the killers, they are also being hunted by them, finding themselves literally in the crosshairs of the smugglers as they work the case.

All three authors share their stories with raw and unflinching honesty, from flatlining in an ambulance during withdrawal to driving home blacked-out drunk, alienating friends and family, and disappointing people who trusted them. Reading this book feels a little like being at an AA meeting, listening to people recount their worst moments, the most painful experiences that led them to seek help. The book also invites readers to learn what worked for the authors, and gives them the tools for getting sober—from rehab to recovery coaches, counseling and community support to meditation, and everything in between. Recovery looks different for every individual, but the book is meant to offer guidance in how to personalize the road to sobriety.

This book is a classic thriller—mystery, action, romance, a bit of CSI science, a unique setting, and an intriguing cast of characters. It has all the elements of a good story that will keep readers turning the pages (or tuning in through a commercial break) to get to the conclusion. Mills is already working on a sequel, which is a good thing, because the end of this novel leaves the audience wanting more.

Whether you struggle with drugs and alcohol or you love someone who does, Drowning in Addiction is a helpful resource. No matter what your story is, the message here is: You are not alone. The authors write: “We get you, we see you. We know you. We have been you. … Your addiction is not shameful. Your addiction is the chapter of struggle in your book of life before your story turns into a success.”

Keeping your

Winter Green

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90 • BOOK REVIEWS DANCING ON EDGE The McRedeye Poems ART GOODTIMES LITHIC PRESS $17.00 978-1-946583-14-7 Our beloved former San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, a member of the Green Party who served five terms, an environmental warrior who co-founded Sheep Mountain Alliance, renowned poet laureate, and self-described Paleohippie who keeps the counter-culture movement alive on the Western Slope, has published a new book of poetry—and it is transcendent. Goodtimes’ poetry is always masterful, but this particular collection features a second voice—the poet’s alter-ego, an erudite coyote named McRedeye. The verses are separated topically into chapters: ars Biografica, ars Relazioni, ars Politica, ars Poetica, ars Philosophiae, ars Alleati e Simbionti, and ars Topografie, featuring the author’s ruminations on topics ranging from his own life, to politics, philosophy, human nature, and the natural world. Each of the poems illustrates an idea with vivid language, and then offers commentary by McRedeye. The coyote has objectivity afforded by his peripheral view from the outskirts of the scene, like a wise older soul. His words are preceded by the refrain “McRedeye sez,” and offer sharp, incisive and insightful counterpoint. One example is “Make Peace,” in which the author ponders moving from “outlaw to in-law,” trading uncompromising activism for the political process, making friends and allies to effect change: Or perhaps, McRedeye sez / it’s that grand hardscrabble mistake of learning love last. All the verses in the book feature the coyote’s voice; McRedeye’s words are at times revelatory, at times chiding, and at other times the gentle words of the companion that we become to ourselves as we grow old—the hindsight through which we see how our own lives have played out.

Roy Dantzman, owner of the Colorado Lodge Design Center, after completing all furnishings for the Capella Telluride (now Hotel Madeline) grand opening celebration, closed the CLDC portion of his company and now has reopened in his same location in historical downtown Montrose. Come visit or view We keep the lights on for late viewing.

VIRGA & BONE Essays from Dry Places BY CRAIG CHILDS $14.95 978-1-948814-18-8 Novelist and Norwood local Craig Childs is best known for his anthropological works including House of Rain and Atlas of a Lost World, in which he retraces and reimagines the migration of ancient people and animals as the landscape transforms. His latest book, Virga & Bone, is altogether different. This work is a collection of essays about the land itself, the unquenched topography of the desert Southwest. Rather than following the movement of humans or fauna, Childs instead focuses on the way water traverses the terrain. He flies in a Cessna through the unmet promise of virga, rain that sheets down from a cloud but doesn’t fall to the ground, proclaiming it diaphanous and “as velveteen as it looks.” He marvels at springs, places where water seeps through a perforation in the earth, and the perplexing way rocks balance against each other and arches span the sandstone like a picture frame after water has carved and eroded the land. There is no hiding in the desert, writes Childs, in places like Death Valley or Black Rock City, where anyone can see you approach without trees or vegetation to conceal your progress. The final essay in the collection is devoted to bone, which marks the actual end, the last of a living thing that remains; it is the stark opposite of rain, which is “the start, the earliest tincture of any living thing.” Taken as a whole, the collection reads like a love letter, an ardent desert rat’s homage to a place. Smitten as he is, he doesn’t fail to paint the whole portrait—military jets burning fuel as they buzz the sandy expanse, salty tamarisk surrounding an oasis where people can buy ice cream, bullet-holed detritus of abandoned cans or cars, and the way development has slowly crept into the barrenness. But it is a love letter nonetheless, and a beautifully written one that will resonate with readers who are also passionate about the Southwest.

238 E A S T MA I N S T R E E T • M O N T RO S E, CO LO R A D O • 970.249.3332

92 • INDEX






In 2017, 28% of 12th grade students

U.S. immigrants reached a record 44.4 million in 2017. Of those, 10.5 million are unauthorized. The majority of immigrants in the U.S. are from Mexico, but in 2017 India was the top country of origin for new immigrants with 126,000, compared to Mexico with 124,000.

Renewables surpassed coal in U.S. monthly electricity generation for the first time in April 2019. Renewables generated 23% while coal provided 20%. Wind generation hit its peak that month with 30.2 million MWh.

Both The Economist and Forbes declared 2019 the “year of the vegan.” 25% of Americans age 25–34 identify as vegan or vegetarian, and U.S. sales of vegan foods rose 10 times faster in Q1 2018 than food sales as a whole.

reported vaping nicotine. In 2018, the number jumped to 37%. More than 44,000 students took part in the survey. More than 10% reported vaping THC.







Ayahuasca’s effects typically begin within 30 minutes to 1 hour, peak between 1 and 2 hours, and last for a total of 4 to 6 hours. Acid’s (LSD) effects begin within 20 to 90 minutes and the average trip lasts anywhere from 6 to 15 hours—it can take up to 24 hours for your body to return to its typical state.

Over the last 10 winters an average of 27 people died in avalanches each winter in the U.S. In 2018 in Colorado, there were 2,196 avalanches recorded, in which 45 people were caught and 3 of those people were killed.

In September 2019, women aged 16+ accounted for 57.6% of the labor force. In 2017, the median yearly earnings for women were $41,977, and for men, $52,146. The median annual earning for men has been more than $10,000 higher than for women since 1960.

A 2018 survey found that more than 1/3 of renters could not afford to buy a home. American Millennials spend 45% of their income on rent; when Baby Boomers were aged 22–30, they only spent 36% of their income on rent.

Sources: National Institute of Health, Pew Research, U.S. Energy Information Administration, The Economist, Mercy for Animals, Healthline, Addiction Center, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Department of Labor, Statista WINTER/SPRING 2019-2020


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Twinkle, Twinkle

Keen-eyed local photographer Mary Kenez snapped this image, titled “imaginative,” of the stars above frozen Bridal Veil Falls, the tallest waterfall in the state, at twilight. The image is enhanced with a paint filter to capture the moment artistically. PHOTO BY MARY KENEZ— BRIDAL VEIL FALLS, TELLURIDE


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Telluride’s Social Epicenter. The Historic New Sheridan.


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The Telluride Regional Airport (TEX), just 10 minutes from downtown and the slopes, is now offering daily jet service on Denver Air Connection. To book, go to or

The Telluride destination is served by two airports, Telluride (TEX) and Montrose (MTJ). TEX now offers daily service on Denver Air from Denver (DEN), bookable through United, and MTJ offers nonstop flights from 11 national hubs on four major carriers.