Crested Butte Magazine - Summer 2022

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LaggisDesign&Construction The premier design/build contractor of Crested Butte

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Summer 2022

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Shorties 10

Nix the car; roll in style by Tyler Hansen Jeff Scott’s CB Bike Taxi: Let a long-time local pedal you to dinner.


Young voices on the airwaves by Mamie Rijks KBUTeens and the KBUT Kids Club put young people behind the microphone at the public radio station.


Stitch ‘em, don’t ditch ‘em by Stephanie Maltarich Through sewing nights and classes, Emily Kulpa hopes to help people repair, restyle and hang on to their favorite togs.


Covering some literary ground by Beth Buehler Tales & Trails Book Club connects people, thoughts and mellow hikes throughout the valley.


Where art meets the mountains by Dawne Belloise Five decades of the Crested Butte Arts Festival: from free-form fair to an arts-economy generator.


Subject to Change by Annie Flora Crested Butte’s improv troupe invites you to toss the script and come play.


When ‘Hell no’ changed everything by Sandy Fails Paul Andersen’s new book describes how 1970s Crested Butte woke up to fight a mining giant.

First person singular 103 The secret laughter of

Kay the donkey by Polly Oberosler Kay had other ideas for her young wanna-be wrangler.

107 Sniped!

by Leath Tonino The ghostly Wilson’s snipe – and reveries from an aural explorer.

113 Ode to the era of Donita’s

by Hedda Peterson A former waitress waxes nostalgic for prom-dress nights, quirky camaraderie and five-dollar enchiladas.

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Photo break Summer events Dining section Kids’ corner Photo finish

Features Moose: our wild new neighbors


High adventure, deep roots by Katherine Nettles Chris and David Baxter have flown, paddled and sailed the world, children in tow, but their Cement Creek Ranch keeps their lives happily grounded.


Friends with endorphins by Beth Buehler Crested Butte women build strong bonds – and strong bods – in the outdoors.


True fish tales by Karen Janssen How do fish get into those high, remote lakes? Lots of them fly.


The aerial adventures of Peter Smith


The indefatigable Howard F. Smith by Brian Levine The charismatic dynamo who founded Crested Butte and stoked its future.


Healing humanity through food by Morgan Tilton Matthew Ozyp produces good food to feed his neighbors – and to fix the country’s broken relationship with agriculture.


by Stephanie Maltarich As ever more moose move into our valleys, enjoy watching these big, peculiar beasts – from a safe distance.

by Morgan Tilton Raised in the Gunnison Valley, this pilot and athlete pioneers lofty explorations in the Elk Mountains by helicopter, plane and speed wing.


Homegrown by Sandra Cortner Multi-skilled Genevieve Bachman has cultivated a rich life in this mountain soil.


Staying play-ful by Janet Weil Funny, touching, brilliant, mischievous…the Mountain Theatre has given Crested Butte half a century of sparkling moments, both on the stage and off.




VOL. XXXXIV, NO. 1 Published semi-annually by Crested Butte Publishing & Creative PUBLISHERS Steve Mabry & Chris Hanna EDITOR Sandy Fails ADVERTISING Steve Mabry & Chris Hanna DESIGN & PRODUCTION Chris Hanna Keitha Kostyk WRITERS Katherine Nettles Dawne Belloise Polly Oberosler Beth Buehler Hedda Peterson Sandra Cortner Mamie Rijks Sandy Fails Morgan Tilton Annie Flora Leath Tonino Tyler Hansen MJ Vosburg Karen Janssen Janet Weil Brian Levine Stephanie Maltarich PHOTOGRAPHERS & ARTISTS Nathan Bilow Nolan Blunck Trevor Bona Bob Brazell Sophia Chudacoff Sandra Cortner Dusty Demerson Petar Dopchev Xavier Fané Sandra Mabry

Constance Mahoney Rebecca Ofstedahl Eric Phillips Tim Romano Connor Scalbom Mary Schmidt Jacob Spetzler Greta Starritt Lydia Stern


970-596-1039 6

ADVERTISING 970-349-7511 Copyright 2022, Crested Butte Publishing. No reproduction of contents without authorization by Crested Butte Publishing & Creative.


Well, that was fun

Since our kids were young, MJ Vosburg and I have worked on the Crested Butte Magazine together. I shepherded the editorial; she directed ad sales. We loved it so much we forgot we didn’t own it. Now our children are grown, and MJ has felt the urge to turn her attention in new directions. It’s been a joy to work with this funny, sharp and big-hearted friend. Steve Mabry and Chris Hanna, of Crested Butte Publishing and Creative, actually DO own the Crested Butte Magazine. With MJ stepping away, they took on advertising sales – and immediately enjoyed connecting with the people who make the magazine possible. Steve commented, “Becoming more integrated into and visible to the broader community has reinvigorated us to carefully grow the Crested Butte Magazine in ways that will solidify its place in our community moving forward.” With the advertising shift, graphics whiz Keitha Kostyk, a team member for years, took on the design and layout of this issue. Though the office is quieter without MJ’s feisty companionship, we still have a team of sincere and talented people. MJ and I will continue to ski, hike and hang out together, but now we’ll talk less about the magazine and more about life and grand-dogs. I generally let myself ponder life in the opening page of each magazine issue, but after more than a quarter century as ad director, MJ has earned her turn to fill that page. Thanks, my friend. — Sandy Fails, editor

MJ Vosburg shows the first Crested Butte Magazine she worked on (1996) and her finale (2022).

Farewell to a job, not to a home


I’ve loved working on the Crested Butte Magazine these last 26 years. It’s a bit of a stretch to call it work. In 1996, Sandy Cortner decided to leave her ad sales job at the magazine. My friend Sandy Fails, the magazine’s editor, asked if I’d be interested in stepping in. It seemed like a trick question. Did I want to work with my dear friend on a project I deeply respected? Would I like to get out and talk with community members in a place I love? Would I appreciate a job that allowed me the flexibility to be with my children as they grew up? And I would get paid? Sign me up. Now it’s time for me to go some new directions – with gratitude for what this job

has given me. I’ve been honored to be part of the magazine for many reasons. It’s an authentic and subtle representation of this place I call home. We’ve pondered at times how to define the Crested Butte Magazine and what it represents. A lifestyle piece? A journal for our community? However you describe it, it is good. It’s worthy of the highest accolades for its writing, photography and design. With words and images, it offers a real glimpse into this special place. And it does this from a positive perspective. This is so refreshing. The Crested Butte Magazine is such a perfect mirror through which to see and appreciate the beauty of our community. 7

Not in a hard-hitting journalistic way; but in a gentle, reflective way. When I took this job, I had no idea it would connect me to so many wonderful people and experiences. Selling ads doesn’t usually mean forging relationships and opening one’s heart and mind. It often means quotas and pressure. Well, not in this case. I’ve met so many people and had thousands of conversations. Sometimes we talked about advertising, but often we talked about community, family, trends and even politics. Not every interaction was easy, but they all contributed to the shaping and growth of the magazine. I’d like to thank all of you who invited me


into your business and chose to advertise with us. You make it possible to have this beautiful publication for our community and its guests. I believe it matters, and it would never exist without you. I had the privilege of working with many people at Crested Butte Printing and Publishing. Jeff, Martha, Kathy, Erin, Jesse, Vinny, David, Rob, Chris and many more. We had some good times. Most of my tenure at the magazine has been with a core group of people I’ve come to cherish. Of course Sandy is one of my most valued friends, an aunt to my children and the best writer I know. But Chris Hanna, Steve Mabry and Keitha Kostyk have become treasured friends. We’re all quite different, and that is the beauty of our bond. It’s much like the magazine and all it represents. We’ve supported and encouraged each other in life’s journeys, all while producing a beautiful publication. We’ve been pretty lucky. While I’ll miss working with them, I plan to continue the friendships we’ve made. Thank you for making “work” so much fun. I also want to thank our readers. Nothing is better than hearing from all the people who read and appreciate the Crested Butte Magazine. And there are thousands of you. Many of you have been loyal fans for the entire 44 years of the magazine.

That’s a lot of words and pictures. Every time a new issue would hit the streets, we would hear from our most loyal fans with comments and opinions. Many readers are longtime locals. Some have been visitors for decades. Others are first-time readers who find inspiration and discovery in its pages. We appreciate you all and welcome your feedback. Another core group has supported me in my role at the magazine – and pretty much every other role I’ve ever taken on. That is my family. I’m so grateful for my husband, Joel, who has stood by me in everything. He’s been one of the best advertisers in the magazine – even before I worked there. He’s also one of its biggest fans. Thanks, Honey. And thanks to Zach and Emma for putting up with my piles of papers and endless phone calls with advertisers. Your encouragement has meant the world to me. I’m so fortunate to have my tribe always cheering me on. While I’ve stepped away from selling ads, I’ll never step away from this heartwarming community. I hope to see you on a bench downtown or on a trail soon. In the meantime, please accept my sincere gratitude for making my job meaningful and fun. — MJ Vosburg

Crested Butte 970.349.6691 Gunnison 970.641.6691

together again bringing dreams home 9



Nolan Blunck


In this bike-loving town, Jeff Scott assists a passenger from his new pedicab. 10

Bikes are baked into the DNA of Crested Butte. Even in blizzards I’ve seen kids cycling to school and parents towing their children to daycare via townie. It’s glorious. But on Elk Avenue in July, cars far outnumber bikes. You can watch “Schindler’s List” in the time it takes to make a left turn. Finding a parking spot is as pleasant as a Tabasco colonic. That’s where Jeff Scott saw an opportunity. “I’ve seen so many people hop in their car to make a five-block drive to get to dinner or whatever. I felt like I had to come up with an alternative to help folks get around that didn’t add to our congestion,” says Scott, a serial entrepreneur with flyaway hair and boundless frenetic energy. “My brain just can’t stop processing fixes and alternatives to the things we hold, do and come in contact with.” Scott set his creativity to getting locals and visitors to leave their cars at home and make their way around town

in style. His solution? A pedicab made specifically for the mean streets of Crested Butte. CB Bike Taxi was born. Perhaps not a groundbreaking concept – pedicabs have been around through the ages, even briefly in Crested Butte – but one that carries plenty of the Crested Butte special sauce that makes this place so unique. “These machines are made in Colorado by the legend of pedicabs, Steve Meyers. They are burly, fat and functional. There’s plenty of storage, plenty of style, and more than enough funkiness to make them right at home,” says Scott. He’s not lying. These pedicabs look like a cross between a traditional rickshaw and a pimp’s car from a Blaxploitation film. With glittery purple paint, a powerful sound system, and lighting akin to an electronic dance music concert, these pedicabs are hard to miss cruising down the street. There’s no better way to make an entrance in our mountain hamlet (short of riding in

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on horseback wearing nothing but buttless chaps… something that probably happened at some point, most likely involving Tuck. But that could get you arrested. Scott’s pedicabs are a much safer bet). The design is just the beginning of the experience. Here in Crested Butte, we value connection. This isn’t a place to consume, get your fill and leave. This is a place to slow down, soak in, adopt as your own, and let it change you rather than the other way around. “At this moment we have a dozen or more long-time locals for drivers,” Scott says. “This is with intention. I’m hoping we can generate some conversation about what’s important to our community. The driver can become a connection to the town for those who are visiting and can reconnect to locals who want a safe ride back from the bars.” From quick-response rides hailed from the sidewalk to reserved tours of the town’s historic alleyways, Scott sees a bountiful array of options for riders. “At this time, we have a dozen ideas for tours around town streets, alleys and paths. Ideally, we would pick up a couple at their location and give them a 15- to 30-minute ride to their dinner reservation. They can soak in a sunset or alpenglow, listen to music of their choice, have a drink, and we’ll deliver them to their destination on time. Drivers can share knowledge of the mountains and local history and people. I just want to get people out of their cars and connecting in person.” I’ve worked alongside Jeff Scott for years. He’s a singular character in a town chock full of singular characters. When you visit his creative space, appropriately named Idea Lab, there’s detritus spread throughout the room that speaks to his creative passions: products he’s brought to market, prototypes of camping gear, custom-designed chandeliers and scribbles on the walls of the next idea swimming inside his head. It’s certain that every time I step inside his lab, he and I are going to talk about a lot more than I bargained for. That’s what makes Jeff so fun. That’s why he’s the perfect man for the job. “We need to relieve the vehicular stress on the core of downtown. If our service can move 60-90 people to and from their destinations in a three-hour window on a busy night, can we assume that 15-30 cars will NOT be on Elk Avenue? All we can do is try,” he says. With that, he invites my feedback on whether the antique skis he’s put in the back of the pedicab fit the vibe of the company. His cluttered mind is working hard and fast to make sure our streets are once again taken over by bikes – the way Crested Butte is supposed to be. To find out more, visit


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M I C H A E LW E I L @ M A C . C O M 13


Nathan Bilow


With Kelley Dole, KBUT’s program director, Oliver Van Tiel and other KBUTeens take over the airwaves. 14

When I was a teen in the 1990s, co-hosting a radio show on KBUT with my friend Pierre was incredible. We read notecards with ads for Angelo’s Pizza, ride-shares and the local lost-and-founds in between playing our favorite songs. It was thrilling to sit in that small, quiet room in front of the microphone, knowing that every word I said could be heard by anyone in the valley listening to the public radio station. A lot has changed since Pierre and I hosted our show – from the number of people KBUT is able to reach, to the equipment used to broadcast music. Change is good, though, especially for young people who are interested in radio broadcasting. KBUTeens and KBUT Kids Club are the passion projects of Kelley Dole, the station’s program director, DJ coordinator and host of the “Bohemian Daybreak” radio show. “I’ve always been interested in alternative forms of education for youths,” Kelley said. When the opportunity arose, Kelley coordinated with the Crested Butte Community School Enrichment Program to create the two programs for local young people to learn about community radio. The KBUT Kids Club is a six-week session that takes place twice a year for third through fifth graders. It offers children

the opportunity to see behind the scenes of a radio station. Kelley said, “The goal is for these kids to learn the connection between speaking into a microphone and the community.” KBUTeens is more involved and takes a much greater commitment on the part of the young people. “The teens participate in the program year round and learn about diction, public speaking, marketing, radio copywriting and what community radio really is,” said Kelley. As they learn these skills, they also gain self-confidence and build camaraderie with their peers. This camaraderie was important during the pandemic. “KBUTeens started in 2019 but soon had to pull back on its activities due to Covid. The isolation of the pandemic was hard on people, especially children and teenagers,” Kelley said. “KBUTeens gave the teens a time and place to reunite safely outside of a school environment.” As soon as it was safe to do so, the program returned full force to give the teens a much-needed outlet for their skills and creativity. At first, the KBUTeens focused on producing weather segments and community service announcements. From there, they worked their way up to creating

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their own show, which airs on Saturdays at noon. The KBUTeens advanced to the point where they were allowed to host live shows during the Winter 2022 Membership Drive, and their friends and family got to see them in action. They even broke the record for the total money raised on a weekend membership drive show. As part of this fundraiser, the KBUTeens also designed a T-shirt, which sold well. It is available on the KBUT website with a donation of $50. It is also offered along with other KBUT swag for a larger donation. Their time at KBUT will open doors for these teens in the future, Kelley noted. This unique experience and the skills they’ve learned will be an interesting addition to their college and job applications. “I want the KBUT Kids Club and the KBUTeens to become institutions at the station,” said Kelley. Now the programs are open to residents of Crested Butte, but she “would love to see them continue to grow to include all of the Gunnison Valley.” The value of the programs is easy to see. The teens have grown close, sharing laughs and surprising themselves with their own talents as they learn new skills. They’ve gained an enhanced sense of


commitment to KBUTeens through their relationships with each other and the community. I remember that connection to our community from my own short days at KBUT. Pierre and I would take calls from strangers and bring them joy by playing their favorite songs, celebrate people’s special occasions by congratulating them on air, and help find lost pets by announcing their details to the public. Connecting with our valley is

something magical for these teens, especially when so many people have become isolated by the pandemic. Their show is an opportunity to share a little piece of themselves with all of Crested Butte and to bring joy to their friends, family and other listeners. To enjoy the talents of our local teens, tune into KBUT on Saturdays at noon or listen to previous recordings on the station’s website. To support these programs for young people, contact





Peter Dopchev


Emily Kulpa hosts a Community Sewing Night at her shop, Resilient Threads. 18

Emily Kulpa has loved thrifting for used clothing since she was in high school. A couple of decades later, she’s in the business of getting the used textiles back on the clothing market through her shop, Resilient Threads. Now she wants to teach people how to repair their own favorite togs. “Sometimes when I pick a piece from a store, there’s one button missing, or the tiniest hole,” explained Emily. “And I’m thinking someone gave that away because they don’t have the know-how or the tools to fix it.” Emily moved to Crested Butte from Summit County four years ago. For most of her adult life, she used her culinary degree to work in restaurants. But a brief encounter with a guy wearing a vintage Calvin & Hobbes t-shirt at a music festival in Gunnison changed her career trajectory. That guy was Crested Butte local Zach Vaughter. Soon after they met, the pair

brainstormed all things vintage and then opened Resilient Threads. What started as a 200-square-foot pop-up shop is now an Elk Avenue storefront that sells vintage, eclectic and funky used clothing. Emily is passionate about getting imperfect clothes fixed and back into people’s closets, and she is creating community classes and sewing nights around repairing clothes. Last summer, Emily’s mom, an expert seamstress, visited Crested Butte for a month. She spent much of her vacation with her sewing machine in the back of the shop, fixing clothing items Emily didn’t know how to repair. Before long, Emily noticed friends coming by, sitting on the couches for hours working on their own sewing projects. “That’s actually where this whole thing came from,” she said. She envisioned a Community Sewing Club, a weekly gathering for people to learn

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9 Hunter Hill Rd, Unit 208 | Black Bear Lodge 3 Bed | 3 Bath | 1,607 SqFt Walk to the WestWall Lift | $1,595,000

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356 Forest Lane | Skyland Represented the Seller Sold for $2,534,040

15 Cinnamon Mountain Rd | Mt. Crested Butte Represented the Seller Sold for $1,750,000

In 2021, the Crested Butte Collection was the number one team for number of transactions (82) and number two for sales volume ($65,933,150). This represents over 6% of the entire Gunnison County real estate market.

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how to create, mend or sew. Her flyer says it best: “We don’t need to throw our clothes away if they rip or don’t fit. Let’s figure out how to put some life back into them!” She invites all skill levels and encourages participants to bring “a machine, a project, a question, a good attitude, a desire to learn and collaborate.” On a cold January evening, Emily prepares for a Community Sewing Night. She rearranges items around the store and sets up card tables for sewing machines, and then pulls out a box of fabric she gathered from local estate sales. She also sets up snacks, tea and pizza for whoever shows up. The first person through the door is Brie Yost, a first-year ski patroller. Brie is also an expert seamstress who helped Emily create the Community Sewing Nights. The two met last fall when Brie moved to town. While Brie was unpacking, her roommate noticed her large, industrial-style sewing machine and suggested that she connect with Emily. On their first meeting, the pair talked for hours about sewing, repairing and recycling clothes. They share a passion for secondhand clothing, mending, and creating a community around those ideas. “Having her skill set and energy level has helped me accomplish the things I’ve wanted to do,” said Emily. Brie is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design. She studied textiles and sewing, and has experience in everything from designing patterns to repairing gear. She also learned about the history of the clothing industry and fast fashion. One class inspired her to change course; instead of designing new clothes, she decided to focus on upcycling and designing items from scraps. After graduating, Brie worked at Boulder Mountain Repair, a small shop that fixes clothing and gear for wellknown outdoor companies like Dynafit and Montbell. Brie became an expert in replacing and fixing zippers, patching down jackets and hemming pants. Now, as a ski patroller, she uses her expertise for creative after-work projects and to help those around her. Word of Brie’s skills spread quickly around the ski patrol locker room. “I let the cat out of the bag that I know how to fix zippers,” Brie said with a laugh. Half a dozen people show up for the Community Sewing Night, each with a different project. Some people have their own machines; others ask Brie for help and advice. They chat, sew and eat pizza. Throughout the evening, Brie assists others with less experience. One participant asks her help in adjusting the waistline on a pair of jeans. Brie provides a brief

history about “darts” – folding the fabric on the inside and creating a flat seam on the outside. Brie digs through what looks like a tackle box full of threads, needles, rulers and pens. Recycled glass jars hold buttons of varying colors and sizes. She pulls out a ruler and white pencil and marks up the waistline of the jeans, then folds and pins the fabric into place. Within 15 minutes, the pants are done, and they fit like a glove. Then she moves on to fixing her roommate’s jeans, which are littered with holes. Brie wants the sewing nights to provide both a place to gather and a space to learn. “The biggest thing we feel excited about is just bringing people together who are either experienced or curious,” she said. “People bring a wide array of different experiences, and when you put them in a room together, it’s really fun to bounce ideas off of each other.” Brie and Emily hope to host weekly Community Sewing Nights. They eventually plan to offer classes, too, such as beginning sewing skills, tie-die and hand embroidery. In addition to building community and teaching skills, they hope the events help people keep clothing in their closets longer. With the right tools, people can repair or even re-fashion their wardrobes, Emily said, “to update the style and keep it going.”


Stop by our two Visitor Centers 601 ELK AVENUE at the 4-way stop Open 9 am to 5 pm Year Round


th a






mt. crested butte Open 9 am to 5 pm June 11 to October 15







visitor information & maps / backcountry education / things to see & do designated camping information / transportation information 21


Gunnison County Public Libraries


A Tales & Trails Book Club hike out Mill Creek. 22

Chatting about good reads sounds great – but who wants to sit inside on a gorgeous day? This summer, book lovers can trek while they talk, through the Tales & Trails Hiking Book Club. A few years ago, Gunnison County Libraries put a twist on traditional book club formats with Books-N-Bars – sipping at Crested Butte watering holes while discussing the month’s book selection. Tales & Trails is newer, entering its second year. The goal is getting people out on Gunnison-Crested Butte hiking trails and discussing nonfiction works that primarily focus on nature. From June into September this year, Tales & Trails will meet on the second Thursday afternoon of the month, with copies of the selected books available to check out at the Crested Butte and Gunnison libraries. Hikes are on the easier side and cover two to three miles round trip. Last year’s routes included the Van Tuyl Trail in Gunnison, Lower Loop in Crested Butte, the recreation path between Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, and Mill Creek and Beaver Ponds between the two communities. There’s no boulder scrambling or must-pay-attention ridge

hiking while sharing your take on the month’s literature selection. GREAT READS, SWEET HIKES In June 2019, Gunnison County Libraries hosted Jennifer Pharr Davis, a long-distance hiker and author. “It was really popular because attendees got to hike with her and have more direct interaction. That’s where the idea for Tales & Trails was born,” recalled Taylor Worsham, marketing and programming coordinator for Gunnison County Libraries. With the Covid-19 pandemic still creating uncertainty, the library staff also wanted to offer programming that allowed for social distancing, getting outside and connecting with other people. For Tales & Trails, Worsham selects nature-oriented books based on recommendations, books that are crossing the libraries’ circulation desks and titles requested from other libraries. Last year’s list included, among others, The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds, Nomadland and The Secret Wisdom of Nature. For this second year, Worsham will incorporate participants’ input about trails, hike lengths and books.

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Word about Tales & Trails has spread, prompting Christine Reed, Front Range author of Alone in Wonderland, to inquire about taking part as an author in 2022. Typically, six to ten people of various ages join the hikes each month. The book club, like most, is also about community building, with participants talking about life and getting to know each other. Susan Searles was thrilled to find an opportunity to lace up her hiking boots and discuss literature. “I’m retired, in my mid seventies, and I don’t want a really long hike, so it sounded just right to me. And I love to read. I can be outdoors, read a book and meet new people.” A bonus was going out for ice cream, tea or a smoothie with the group after hikes and walking around Crested Butte to see the gardens, she noted. She also appreciated the convenience of having the books ready to check out from the library and the option of taking the Gunnison Valley RTA bus between Gunnison and Crested Butte for many of the hikes. While it’s sometimes difficult to discuss a book when hikers get too far apart, the group pauses to share thoughts and cover questions provided by Worsham. From last year’s reads, Searles particularly remembers Pure Land, which she described as “a really serious and gripping journalistic investigation into a murder that happened in the Grand Canyon,” and Braiding Sweetgrass, a collection of articles by Native American author and professor Robin Wall Kimmerer. “She writes scientifically and spiritually at the same time – from wildflowers to maple syrup – and has a farm in New England. It’s a miraculous interaction of nature, a beautiful book,” Searles said. Gunnison’s new library, which will open in October at Spencer Avenue and 11th Street, near the Van Tuyl trail system, could bring expanded opportunities for Tales & Trails. Worsham is contemplating expanding the book club into winter with Nordic skiing. She also is starting an environmental book club that will meet quarterly and feature a webcast or in-person discussion with authors who write about the outdoors and environment. “We did this with Heather Hansman, author of Powder Days, in December 2021 with good success,” Worsham said. On the schedule for 2022 is Lake Tahoe-based author and journalist Jeremy Evans, who has written three books: In Search of Powder, The Battle for Paradise and most recently See You Tomorrow, about French snowboarder Marco Siffredi, who mysteriously went missing on Mount Everest in 2002. To find out more, visit






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“I just left a place where nobody was running a race or rushing to find the finish line to some kind of end. Nobody was sad, no, everybody was so glad to be alive and in the company of lovers and friends. Crested Butte, honey, you sure can shoot. You took the gold and the loot. You got your feet on the ground. Crested Butte, honey, you sure are cute, and just like a worn-out boot, you’ve got me laying around...” – from the 1972 song “Crested Butte” by Brewer & Shipley

Crested Butte Arts Festival 1972. 26

It was a wilder West when the Crested Butte Arts Festival cranked up unpretentiously in the summer of 1971. Back then, the festival was a pleasant, sunny, dusty-day blur. Long-haired, smiling people strung beads into a lacy matrix of necklaces or hammered silver and copper wire into dangling earrings in a cloud of music, incense and other entrancing smoke. At those unstructured fairs on an unpaved Elk Avenue, the somewhat newly relocated hippie artists and musicians tuned in and turned on, sold their crafts and plied their music. Crested Butte’s coal mines had shut down by the 1950s, and the ski area that opened in 1962 began attracting a far different demographic from those who’d come to work below ground. First came the ski bums, then the artists – the musicians, actors, painters, dancers and dreamers. These free spirits saw both the beauty and the potential to live nonconforming lives in a tiny town in the back of beyond. (Crested Butte is still a haven for creatives, and their influence shows in everything from handpainted buses to crazy-good community dance shows.) The first Crested Butte Arts Festival was loosely manifested by three young men –

Michael Berry, Jim Cazer and George Sibley. “Michael had just purchased a semi load of railroad ties at an auction,” Sibley recalled. “He thought that an interesting thing to do would be to build a covered pavilion where we could have an arts festival to show off the art in the community. He wanted to do something that the community could get into.” So Berry set out to find Sibley, who was the editor and writer for the Crested Butte Chronicle newspaper, to promote the idea. It took about a week to build the pavilion – “this rambling, shaded but really nice, cool, lovely place that smelled of creosote but was a work of art itself,” Sibley said. The pavilion went up approximately where the Post Office parking lot is now. Susan Anderton, one of the original festival artists, remembered that free form was the norm. “It wasn’t like you had a formal committee that got together and decided to do something. It just happened; people just got together.” Anderton fondly sifted through her recollections of the era. “People were so supportive and enthusiastic. I had some of the best times. I remember thinking, I can’t believe I’m hearing all this great music in Crested Butte. We were young then, and so enthusiastic.


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It was magical.” Music had long been a dominant part of the Crested Butte culture, and the embryonic festival drew some of the local and regional best. Berry had strong musical connections and produced many of the shows, bringing in nationally known talent like Brewer & Shipley, who played on a rudimentary stage on Elk Avenue next to Frank and Gal’s saloon (until the saloon eventually burned down). Berry also brought in Michael Martin Murphey before anyone knew who he was. The late Townes Van Zandt, infamous country-folk singersongwriter and poet, spent his summers in Crested Butte during the 1970s and graced the festival’s stage. That stage also showcased the abundance of local talent – Les Choy, Ramon Burrell, Lightnin’ Lydell, Robert J, Jimmy Lozar, Jim Michael, Fahrlander, Flash, Tracey Wickland and her band Whiterock…. The list is as long as the Forest Queen communal breakfast table they all graced after the noon whistle rolled them out of bed. Doc Watson was introduced to the area by long-time local singer-songwriter and amazing guitarist Tracey Wickland. “Doc and Merle (Doc’s son) and I became friends in 1972 at Tulagi’s in Boulder,” Wickland said. “I had become a huge fan of his from early recordings that my brother played for me in the late ‘60s. I learned his tunes note for note and fell in love with flat picking.” With the spunk of a Crested Buttian, Tracey walked right through Doc’s backstage dressing room door at the Boulder club to meet her hero. “The door was open,” she said with a laugh, “and I sat on the floor talking to him. We talked a lot about music, then he handed me his guitar. ‘Try this one,’ he said. I started picking out some fiddle tunes... then he picked up another guitar and said, ‘Honey, let’s pick.’ They drove me back to Crested Butte and continued coming for several years, camping and staying with me and my friends.” During the third Arts Festival, the Totem Pole Park was created along Coal Creek. Several artists with chainsaws took four or five days to carve the totem pole itself. Denny McNeill spearheaded the project, along with Jim Cazer, Billy Folger, Phil McKay and Barbara Sibley. The crew planted the tall totem pole with help from a backhoe. In 2006, crews lovingly repaired the falling-apart sculpture, and it still lives in the tiny park. The Crested Butte Arts Festival, held the first weekend in August, has grown far from its original “let it flow” attitudes, dusty venues and Woodstock-like musical eruptions. But it continues to showcase exceptional talent, in a spectacular marriage of art and mountains.



The Arts Festival, nearing age 50. Nolan Blunck

What began as a laid-back local crafts festival has become a renowned, juried fine art event that draws artists and fans from around the country. For 2022, the festival venue, on the Crested Butte Community School grounds, will feature approximately 120 booths (selected from more than 600 artist applicants), live music, familyfriendly activities in the Art Alley, and a “beefed-up” array of other experiences. For the 50th Arts Festival, August 5-7, “We want to bring the WOW,” said Chelsea Dalporto-McDowell, the festival’s executive director. “Our goal is a more robust experience for our patrons as well as an inviting festival layout.” Crested Butte’s largest summer event, attracting 12,000 people, has also become a “mission-based nonprofit… for the betterment of the arts community in Crested Butte,” Dalporto-McDowell said. Money generated from the festival has channeled “hundreds of thousands of dollars into art outreach in the community.” Local artists and organizations can apply for grants from the Arts Festival – for offerings like the online art enrichment classes taught by local artists, or individual projects like Molly Murfee’s “Writing through the Changes” classes, or art-related programs at the Crested Butte Community School, just to name a few.

Of the Arts Festival’s $5 admission fee (added last year), Dalporto-McDowell said, “I’d like people to see that as a donation to the arts here, as a significant portion goes directly into arts outreach in our community.” Another source of funds, the festival’s art auction, is now hybrid, with items at the event and bidding online. “We also want to beautify the event by focusing on the layout and design of the venue,” Dalporto-McDowell said. That will include food vendors serving healthy, unique cuisine, a covered eating area, and seating near the entertainment stage. The festival will rely on 80-100 volunteers and collaborations with the Trailhead Children’s Museum, Wheels of Intention and the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum. This year, instead of picking up printed programs, patrons can download a festival app. Vendors will serve food in compostable containers, as the festival board strives toward a “zero waste” event. “The Arts Festival helped establish an arts economy in Crested Butte,” DalportoMcDowell said. “Things have changed so much since it started as a little crafts festival. The tax dollars that come in are huge, both at the event and around town. But it’s still community based. There’s something for everyone at the festival.”






Jacob Spetzler


David Flora conducts improv games on the Mallardi Cabaret stage. 30

Yes and… Those two simple words are the foundation for an entire art form – improv. Improv essentially is performing a play that is unscripted. To some, that sounds terrifying; to others, it’s liberating and fun. A Crested Butte improv group this summer will let people explore the art form – as players or audience members. It’s hard to say exactly when improv started; you can certainly trace some of its history to Renaissance Italy and commedia dell’arte. But the art form as we know it began mid-20th century. Viola Spolin is often considered the mother of improvisational theater. She was the literal mother of Paul Sills, who in 1955 was a founding member of the Compass Players, which would lead to the opening of The Second City in Chicago in 1959. Although improv could have been performed earlier in Crested Butte, we know that the history of improv in our town goes back at least 50 years. This year the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre (CBMT) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. One of its founders, Eric Ross, was a performer on

The Second City Mainstage in Chicago. He brought his love of the art form here and taught improv to students at the Crested Butte Academy. In 2017, Kathleen Mary, a former artistic director of the CBMT, brought improv back in a big way. She formed the troupe Unplanned Calamity and used improv as a tool to help actors grow. The group continued under Harmony Dawson and changed its name to Subject to Change in 2018. The current troupe is full of kind and incredibly talented people who want to play with you! If you’ve ever considered doing improv, this is the perfect chance to take a workshop. The group is now coached by The Second City Conservatory graduate Annie (Rijks) Flora and includes Tricia Seeberg, Kirsten Hausman, Eliot Paulsen, Gregory Haley, Jimmy Utley, Gregg Helvey and Jodine Pahl. Email improv@cbmountaintheatre. org to find out about workshops and shows. We would love to add you to our improv family!




With Mt. Emmons rising in the background, Paul Andersen holds his book about the community’s fight to preserve it.

Nathan Bilow

Crested Butte’s 1970s battle to prevent a massive molybdenum mine on neighboring Mt. Emmons catalyzed the sleepy town into a hive of activism. The David vs. Goliath storyline caught the attention of national media. And in the town’s dirt streets, the campaign transformed locals like Paul Andersen, an awakening environmentalist who was deeply moved by the power of a community united. Paul tells the story in his new book, The Town that Said, ‘Hell No’: Crested Butte Fights a Mine to Save its Soul. A child of suburban Chicago and a tepid student, Paul enrolled at Western State College (now Western Colorado University) in 1969 to avoid the Vietnam War. School didn’t stick (he left in 1970), but nearby Crested Butte did. The weathered wooden buildings, the smell of coal smoke… “It was like stepping into a museum diorama,” he said. While his long hair drew harassment in 1969 Gunnison, Crested Butte welcomed him; decades 32

earlier, its immigrant miners had adapted to ethnic and lifestyle diversity. Paul paid $30/ month in rent. “My bedroom wasn’t heated, but I emulated the stoicism of the miners and ranchers.” Riding cobbled-together klunker bikes, telemark skiing, doffing clothes for a soak at Sunshine’s Bathhouse…life was roughedged and mellow. Then the AMAX mining company announced plans to mine the large molybdenum deposit in Mt. Emmons (a.k.a. the Red Lady), which overlooks town. “When the mine company came in, it shifted everything,” Paul said. “There’s a word – solastalgia – the fear of loss of a beloved place. That first public meeting, on folding chairs in the school gym, galvanized something in Crested Butte that I hadn’t seen.” By then Paul had returned to school and earned an English degree, and the Gunnison Country Times hired him to cover the AMAX fight. “At the time I didn’t even know how to spell molybdenum,” he said.

“But following this all the way through, I came to realize the true cost of extracted resources – not the market price, but the environmental and aesthetic costs to the landscape and our future.” Through his own immersion in nature and time with ideologues and scholars like Rod Nash, “I began to see wild spaces as restorative places of the human spirit, where we can get a sense of the divine, outside of walls.” Paul eventually became the editor of the Crested Butte Chronicle – and an increasingly involved activist. He and Tracey Wickland performed at anti-mine events, including the annual Red Lady Salvation Ball. They sang spoofs of old classics, like “I want a mine just like the mine that buried dear old dad…” or “Over hill, over dale, AMAX lays another rail…” “One of the things that saved the fight was humor,” Paul said. “It was a romp – with dire consequences if it failed.” As a journalist, Paul watched AMAX try

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to convince the community of the benefits of a large mine. “They were trying to sell an American dream that the young people had moved here to escape.” An AMAX- hosted tour of mining towns only cemented the county’s resolve to resist; intended to show off what tax moneys had brought those communities, the tour instead revealed the rending of their land and their social fabric. “It was a PR Armageddon,” Paul said. On many fronts – with legal, logistical and procedural challenges; through national media campaigns; with governmental tools – Crested Butte stymied AMAX’s progress. W Mitchell, Myles Rademan, Wes Light, Sue Navy… so many people rose to the challenge. Finally the metals market crashed, and AMAX withdrew its mining application – to the town’s jubilation. “We went up the mountain – hiking, or the mountain bikers rode up – to beat our chests. It was very emotional,” Paul recalled. (He also noted the irony that he and the other cyclists were pedaling bikes made out of molybdenum. “We were still part of the industrial food chain.”) In the aftermath of that seeming victory, Paul said, “I was so deeply moved by the experience, I started to write a book about it. I needed to write it for myself, at least.” But over the years, a series of


subsequent suitors surfaced, wanting to mine Mt. Emmons. “So I sat on the book for 25 years waiting for a resolution.” When current owner Freeport-McMoRan began meeting with other entities to discuss agreements that could permanently withdraw mineral rights on Mt. Emmons, that resolution seemed near (though it has hit some recent snags). So Paul finished the book and published it in March through Roaring Fork Press, a small publishing company he had formed with Curt Carpenter. After the AMAX battle ended, many of the people who had fought so hard moved away. “We’d been at the front lines; it was hard to get back to filling potholes and arguing about dog leash laws. We looked for other places to exercise our moral umbrage.” In 1984, Paul moved to Aspen. “Crested Butte denigrated Aspen as Glitter Gulch,” Paul said. But he got to know the underlying spirit and community as a reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Aspen Times, and eventually wrote 16 place-based books. “How many millions of keystrokes? My wife would wake up and see my fingers drumming in my sleep.” Still, Paul said, “Crested Butte is my real soul connection.” In recent years, Paul has watched this town, which wrestled so valiantly against

an external threat, face the impact of internal threats. In Hell No, he writes about the “thrall of tourism,” the influx of affluent fans who inadvertently reshape the place in their own image, the shortage of housing and fragmentation of the community. “Those who feel the town’s soul know that Crested Butte must do everything it can to retain its heartfelt integrity despite the threats of mining, commercial development and homogenization, despite its everchanging character.” What did Paul carry forward from Crested Butte’s face-off with AMAX? “The value of community. There was no greater lesson than being in one that came alive when faced with a threat…. If a community has bought into common values, a synergy rises. There’s a great instinct to save that place.” What does he hope readers get out of Hell No? “Hope in the future,” he said, especially for those striving to protect their places. “A community that comes together can make a difference. Even if there are conflicts between people, there can be a unified commitment to common values. If Crested Butte did it, they can, too.” The Town that Said “Hell No” is available at Townie Books and the museum – or through Amazon for those unable to buy locally.


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MOOSE our wild new neighbors

As ever more moose move into our valleys, enjoy watching these big, peculiar beasts – from a safe distance. By Stephanie Maltarich


Constance Mahoney

A typical moose, weighing 800 pounds, can eat 70 pounds of herbivorous food per day.


Dave Kozlowski

Constance Mahoney

Male moose shed their antlers after fall mating season, then regrow them in the spring.

A herd of moose turned the tight corner, rounding Third Street onto Elk Avenue. The first moose paused and waited for the entire herd to catch up. Once all 22 moose were ready and comfortable, they skied for the finish line. Wait. Moose seldom travel in herds – and almost never on skis. Okay, the moose weren’t actually moose. On a cold February morning, a group of Crested Butte locals adorned with laboriously crafted cardboard moose heads skied the groomed alleys and trails of the Alley Loop, an annual Nordic ski race famous for fast skiers and goofy costumes. Berit Mellgren-Deer, one of the skiing moose, explained, “Someone came up with the idea because we had the problem with the moose on Mike’s Mile [a Nordic ski trail where a lingering moose had a standoff with a persistent dog]. It was a fun idea. Most of us raced other longer races and then came together to ski the 5K in our moose costumes.” Moose have been a hot topic of conversation this season in the Gunnison Valley – for good reason. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife website confirms the state’s moose population is growing. And anyone who has lived very long in the valley could probably tell you they’ve seen more moose over the past few years than ever before. David Inouye is a principal investigator 40

at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). He spends his summers conducting research at the world-famous research station in Gothic. And while he hasn’t done any research specifically related to moose, he’s kept notes and documentation about moose sightings in the valley since 2006. That year a moose was spotted in Mt. Crested Butte in the fall, David said. “Around then, people started seeing them more. I had seen them up around Cottonwood Pass before then, but it wasn’t until 2006 that they started showing up in the Crested Butte area.” David explained that Colorado’s habitat and ecosystems help maintain healthy moose populations. “They eat a lot of willows. In winter it’s warmer at higher elevations, where they find enough willows and water, and they might be attracted to spending winter in the upper East River valley for this reason.” According to David’s records, moose sightings became more common in 2009. That year, people saw them in the East River valley near Gothic and in the Slate River valley. The trend continues each year. This past winter, David heard Billy Barr, RMBL’s famous winter caretaker, had documented five different moose, which is certainly different from years past. While no RMBL scientists specifically study moose, many scientists see them while conducting fieldwork. A few scientists

have been charged by moose in the summer. One incident occurred in Schofield Park and another near Gothic. Phillip Gurule, the district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), said moose are Colorado’s wildest animals, and their presence should be taken seriously. “Moose can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, they’re six feet tall at the shoulder, and they can run up to 35 miles an hour,” he said. “They are unafraid of people, and each year more people are attacked by moose than any other wildlife.” Decades of conservation programs led by CPW have helped create one of the healthiest moose populations in the lower 48. According to the website, 12 moose from Utah were transplanted in northern Colorado, near the Wyoming border, in 1978. In 1979, another dozen moose from Wyoming were released in the same region. Philip thinks the moose in the Gunnison Valley migrated from Creede or Grand Mesa. Around 106 moose were introduced near Creede in 1987, and more were released on Grand Mesa in 2009-2010. Moose numbers have grown to around 3,000 throughout the state. The animals have migrated beyond the remote areas where they were introduced, reaching rural mountain locations like the Gunnison Valley. Since the population is considered healthy and thriving, CPW has increased

Harmels on the taylor is under new ownership! Join us for the 2022 summer season to enjoy: Updated Cabins Gold Medal Fly-Fishing Horseback Riding Restaurant + Bar Whitewater Rafting the allotted number of hunting tags. There are limited hunting tags available each season, about 500 in the entire state, and they are extremely difficult to acquire. Some people might wait 20 years to pull a cow tag for a moose. To stay safe in moose country, the CPW’s top rule is to maintain distance. Never approach a moose for a photo opp! Given proper space, moose are fairly predictable and only attack if they feel threatened. “Usually if you stay out of personal space, they will not act aggressively,” Phillip said. A notable incident last winter on the Nordic trails outside of Crested Butte inspired the skiing moose costumes and ignited a lot of conversation around appropriate behavior when encountering moose in the wild. In January, a moose was spotted along the Mike’s Mile ski trail along the Slate River. An off-leash dog approached the moose, barking and refusing to respond to its owners. Luckily, the moose maintained its composure and didn’t charge. But the incident brought to light a new reality of living with moose in the Gunnison Valley: how do recreationists stay safe in moose country while respecting moose and their space in the wild? Brittany Perkins, the programs director at the Crested Butte Nordic Center, said, “This is the first time I know of that we’ve had to close Mike’s Mile to dogs due to

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wildlife. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) recommended that we close that trail to dogs to protect the moose and also people and their pets.” While the dog and moose incident remained a hot topic over the winter, most moose sightings in the valley take place without incident. Emma Lohr has lived in Crested Butte for about 15 years. She grew up in Alaska and is no stranger to moose. “One of my very first memories growing up is sitting on my dad’s shoulders seeing a moose,” remembered Emma. “She turned toward us, and behind her was a calf, and her ears went back and the hair on her neck stood up. And I remember bouncing on my dad’s shoulders when we ran away.” Despite a childhood familiarity with moose, Emma doesn’t recall seeing many moose in the Gunnison Valley – until recently. This winter she had a surprise encounter while skiing to Gothic with her 11-month-old dog Lenny. She had noticed some big tracks on the side of the roadway. But they were filled with snow, so she didn’t think they were fresh. “All of a sudden, I followed the tracks down toward the trees and there were two moose bedded down 150 yards off the road,” said Emma. “Thankfully the moose didn’t notice the dogs. I decided to turn around; I didn’t want to take the chance going past them twice.” About two years ago Emma spotted a moose on the Snodgrass road, above where she skied on Gothic Road. That was the first time she’d seen a moose in the valley. Philip Gurule noted that as the moose population continues to expand, so should conversations about how people can recreate safely in all seasons. Despite some pushback, he sees the growing numbers as positive. “Moose bring a lot to the state of Colorado -- opportunities where people can view the animals and take photos.”

Mothers bond with calves; otherwise, moose tend to be solitary.

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Moose breed in September and October. During this time, males call with heavy grunting sounds, while females respond with wail-like calls. After eight months’ gestation, the female will bear one calf, or twins if food is plentiful. Moose generally live 15-25 years. Male moose have antlers like other members of the deer family, and females typically select mates based on antler size. Moose with antlers have more acute hearing than those without antlers.

Taken from the Animalia website.



shing Trips

Moose lack upper front teeth but have eight sharp incisors on the lower jaw. The sensitive upper lip is prehensile, for grasping food. To reach high branches, a moose may bend saplings downward, using its mouth or body. A moose may also walk upright on its hind legs, reaching branches up to 14 feet above the ground!


Fi Fly

Moose have two layers of fur – long guard hairs and a soft wooly undercoat. The hollow guard hairs are filled with air for insulation, which also helps moose stay afloat when swimming.

Established 1983



After the mating season males drop their antlers to conserve energy for the winter. New antlers will grow in the spring. Antlers take three to five months to fully develop, making them one of the fastestgrowing animal organs. Birds, carnivores and rodents eat dropped antlers, as they are full of protein.

scenic views wildlife recreation ranching

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You can tell if a moose might attack when the long hairs on the hump are raised and the ears are laid back. But moose can also charge with no warning.

ien Exper ced & P

A moose can run 35 miles per hour and easily swim 10 miles. These herbivorous mammals rely on their good sense of smell, as they have poor eyesight.

photo: marilyn rodman


er 30 yea



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d s n ie Crested Butte women build strong bonds – and strong bods – in the outdoors. By Beth Buehler


n i rph




When I moved to Crested Butte in March 2004, my kids, Noah and Sydney, were just turning five. We moved here for a job and the lifestyle, after spending a few years in my hometown of Greeley, Colorado, and more than a decade in the Midwest. I faced the gamble so many people take when pulling up roots: would I find my people in this new place?

The author and long-time adventure buddies biking along Hadrian’s Wall in England.

In Crested Butte, early invitations by potential friends might be something like, “Hey, do you want to hike to Aspen?” This happened my first summer when Laura Meredith, whom I met through Union Congregational Church, needed to drive a client’s car over to Aspen and hike back, in what I quickly learned was called a “car swap.” Barb Hammond joined us, with both my fit companions taking the risk of inviting a newbie on an 11-miler that crosses a 12,500-foot pass. Luckily, I’d hiked a decent amount and was in good shape. That summer I also made valuable friendships through a local tennis team, traveling and playing around the state with Heli Mae Peterson, Lis Collins, M-J Farnan and others. I quickly realized how many Crested Butte friendships are rooted in being active outdoors.

LEARNING THE ROPES I figured I’d have to step it up to keep up on hikes, ski slopes and Nordic trails. A Crested Butte Mountain Resort ad for reasonably priced weekly women’s ski clinics for locals saved my 36-year-old pride. Immediately I noticed that it was primarily “older” women (at least older than me) in the double-black-diamond level. Huh? Lo and behold, that was my first exposure to the Butte Beauties (more on them later). In tandem with Crested Butte Community School’s PE ski program, moms also hit the slopes (after suiting up our kids) one afternoon a week for six weeks, which turned into additional ski dates with each other. Fortunately, I graduated from blue to double-black slopes after a couple of seasons, though it wasn’t always pretty! My first hut trip on skis was to Elkton 45

This valley has long been known for its strong, resilient, fun-loving women.

Clockwise from top left: The Alley Loop skiing sixties prom queens: Debbie O’Hagan, Abby Kunes, Sandy Fails, Connie Helland, MJ Vosburg and Jackie Velardi. The Oh Be Joyful Church women’s hiking group. Butte Beauties NOT acting their age. These zip-lining friends saved for years to fund a 2004 Costa Rica trip: Jackie, Sandy, Connie, MJ and Abby.

with friends, and I thought I’d die flying down hard-packed trails early in the morning with Nel Curtiss so we could get back to work, while the others enjoyed leisurely cups of coffee. Now I have the good sense to own two sets of Nordic skis: one for the backcountry and the other for groomed trails. That’s the kind of intel you learn along the way from gal pals who show you both the ropes and their patience. FINDING A TRIBE I count myself fortunate now to be part of various friend groups, often overlapping, that play together outdoors. These women have become tightly interwoven into my support system – for celebrating life’s pinnacles and surviving its valleys. We have danced at Soul Train, dressed in themed costumes to ski the Alley Loop, and traveled for outdoor adventure and significant birthdays, even hiking the Lake District and biking along Hadrian’s Wall in England. 46

Closer to home, we’ve shared overnight ski treks to Gothic, where we’ve stayed at the Maroon Cabin, played cards, cooked meals, skied by moonlight and headlamp late at night, and laughed until it hurt. During the height of Covid, we held monthly full-moon gatherings that involved skiing, snowshoeing, paddle boarding and lawn games, often ending around fire pits. Longtime resident MJ Vosburg has built friendships in much the same fashion. This year, she joined Sandy Fails, Jackie Velardi, Abby Kunes, Connie Helland and Debbie O’Hagan in skiing the Alley Loop 5K dressed in sixties gowns and wigs for “prom queen” Connie’s 73rd birthday. The average age of the group was 69, MJ noted, and assembling their prom outfits prompted lots of laughter and “back in the day” storytelling. MJ, Sandy, Jackie and Connie have known each other and enjoyed the outdoors together for more than three decades, since their kids were young. After Connie and

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Jackie began splitting time between two communities, they started a tradition of celebrating birthdays together. There have been trips to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, Estes Park, Denver, Sedona and the Grand Canyon, as well as staycation slumber parties at each other’s homes. “We have shared a lot,” MJ said. “It is friendship that started around being mothers. That is the tie that binds, but over the years, as kids grew up and left our houses, the bonds have grown even tighter.” Other good friends join in on hikes, celebrations and events like the Alley Loop. “Sometimes in the summer, we’ll have a hike with eight people. It’s not a very defined thing and we don’t have a name, but we share a lot and like to be active,” MJ said. “The importance of these female relationships is that we have history, trust and loyalty that add so much to our lives. We are all long-term married, which

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‘trail sisters’

Three ways to jump into active friendships

Beth Buehler and friends on Laura Martineau’s birthday: What’s a Nordic ski up Cement Creek without a picnic feast?

is cool. Our husbands just call us ‘the girlfriends.’” A frequent topic of discussion is the incredible benefit of nature, calm, beauty and physical activity. “We all think of our mothers as being 69, not ourselves. Some of our mothers weren’t even still alive at this age – or they wouldn’t have been able to ski or hike like we are,” she said. “Using our minds and bodies and encouraging each other to stay healthy in this phase of life is a huge part of what we talk about and value.” LAYING THE GROUNDWORK Crested Butte women have long known that endorphin-fueled friendships are precious. In 1986, Phila Weatherly, owner of the Cut Above hair salon, and Susie Prout, owner of the Bacchanale Restaurant, ran an ad in the Crested Butte Pilot for women to meet at the resort’s Gothic Building to ski on Tuesday mornings. Soon hiking was added. “At that time, they said you must be 40 or older to join, but that changed to 50 because one gal didn’t want her daughter to join when she turned 40,” laughed Martha Walton, who became part of the Butte Beauties in 1987. Reading from a long-ago Butte Beauties cookbook, Martha described the group as “made up of women from all walks of life and diverse as the wildflowers.” From the beginning, the goal was to have “fun, fun and more fun” and there were no rules, dues, bylaws or officers, just an opportunity for women who liked the outdoors to get together. “There were a lot of ladies with husbands working and kids in school, and they weren’t comfortable venturing out on their own. You can do more with a group than by yourself,” Martha said. “When 48

you hike together and get in situations, you really get to know each other.” The group kept growing, at one point reaching 100 participants and fielding its own softball team. The Butte Beauties also continue to connect off the slopes and trails with annual Mardi Gras parties, July 3 potlucks and birthday bashes for members turning 60. Participants with similar interests have formed smaller groups to play bridge and poker, crosscountry ski, go on overnight ski trips to Gothic and on multi-day bike tours, and take trips to far-flung places like China. Today, the Butte Beauties range in age from 50 to 90 and divide into two groups to satisfy those who like to hike and ski harder and women who are looking for something slower paced. “This is my basis for friends here. It’s just been great to have people to do things with,” noted Martha, now an energetic age 85. Michelle Patton met Martha 30 years ago through mutual friend Phila Weatherly. Michelle now lives in Washington but returns to Crested Butte in the summer and enjoys outings with the Butte Beauties. “I have made longtime friends through the group; it’s a way to go to places you wouldn’t go by yourself,” she said. Butte Beauties are notorious for not slowing down as they age. Michelle, now 80 years young, purchased a Winnebago Travato last year, embarked on a yearlong journey and drove 12,000 miles by herself. She stopped in Crested Butte for six weeks. This valley has long been known for its strong, resilient, fun-loving women. It’s no wonder that those women have nurtured and been nurtured by active friendships, spanning so many ages and abilities.


In hopes of paying forward all the kindness of Crested Butte women, I started the Oh Be Joyful Church women’s hiking group four years ago to explore trails together and connect full- and part-time residents. From five to a dozen women gather on Saturdays once a month from June through September, with ages ranging from thirties to seventies. Some prefer shorter hikes so turn around sooner, while others stay on the trail longer. Watch for details at under Ministries and Women’s Ministry. While there is no set person to contact for Butte Beauties, Martha Walton advised asking around; someone will get you connected in proper small-town fashion. They welcome new participants age 50 and older. The newest outdoor women’s group, Trail Sisters Crested Butte Chapter, was launched in November 2021 by Conni Mahoney. Gina Lucrezi, an ultra-runner who lives in Buena Vista, founded Trail Sisters in 2016. The organization has generated interest across the country with its mission to increase women’s participation and opportunity in trail running and hiking through inspiration, education and empowerment. Conni Mahoney, who moved here from Montana, immediately noticed the prominent role outdoor activities play in the local lifestyle and found it hard to connect with people to run, hike and enjoy winter sports. “There are so many pro, semi-pro and competitive women here, it can be intimidating. I like what Trail Sisters is promoting, encouraging women of all ability levels in a community to get outside on trails,” Conni said. After starting the Crested Butte chapter, she quickly connected with Sarah French, who moved to the valley last summer and was a Trail Sisters leader in Pueblo. Conni, Sarah and Martha Waterhouse are creating summer, winter and mud-season schedules for the group. So far there have been lunchtime runs and Nordic skis; longer excursions like a winter walk to Gothic; and participation in outdoor events like the Alley Loop. Anywhere from four to ten women attend each outing, ranging in age from twenties to sixties. To find out more, ask to join the “Trail Sisters Crested Butte, CO” private Facebook group, download the Trail Sisters app, or go to and click on Community and Local Groups.



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Peter Smith explores, tours and transports with his hefty helicopter and two planes. “The people we fly…are ecstatic.”

Flapping in the wind thousands of feet above the Carquinez Strait, the Velcro securing the cushion of the helicopter’s empty passenger seat started to fail. Pilot Peter Smith suddenly remembered his instructor’s warning that if the cushion ripped out, it could whisk back into the tail rotor. But Smith’s hands and feet were fully occupied, flying the aircraft above the narrow tidal estuary in northern California. Smith was wrapping up solo hours in a balloon-shaped Schweizer 300CBi trainer, and students typically removed the doors for better aeration on hot days. As the instructor’s warning flashed in Smith’s mind and he tried to stay focused and calm, an airplane buzzed past, within ten feet of his machine. Smith’s heartbeat spiked. “Every pilot will be put in a scary situation where they need to pull it together,” he said. “But I was like, ‘Holy shit – do I really want to do this?’” The answer was yes. And, fortunately, automatic dependent surveillancebroadcast technology now exists. “You can see exactly where every aircraft is and at what elevation,” explained Smith. The Gunnison Valley local ultimately decided to secure his pilot’s license 12 years ago. In December 2020, he launched West Elk Air, the highest elevation-based helicopter tour 52

company in the United States. Aerial pioneers have a history in the Gunnison Valley. In the late 1970s, Colorado First Tracks, a heli-ski operation, launched out of Crested Butte with former ski patroller Craig Hall as a lead guide. The high-altitude Llama helicopter lifted skiers up Mount Emmons, Whetstone, Cement Mountain and as far as Whitehouse Mountain, where the company relocated near Marble, until shuttering in 1984. Around that time, Don Cook, cofounder of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, built an ultralight plane to survey game trails and terrain for singletrack bicycling. He’d fly 30 feet above the ground for 45 to 60 minutes with a notepad and sharpie, scribbling the details. Now Smith is setting a new benchmark for aerial navigation. After visiting the Gunnison area throughout their college days in the 1960s, Smith’s parents moved here when he was a year old, after his dad retired as a scientist at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. Alongside his sister, Smith went to school in Gunnison, where his dad lived, and ski raced in Crested Butte, where his mom moved after their divorce. Smith competed in downhill ski races, moguls, freestyle and, later as an adult, big

mountain events all over the world, from South America to Alaska. When Smith was a 22-year-old sophomore at Montana State University in Bozeman, his mom suddenly passed away from an aneurysm. By then, his dad spent the majority of each year in the Philippines. As Smith fell into partying more than studying, his uncle – a former Vietnam helicopter pilot who had flown everywhere from South America to Alaska – invited him on a cross-country charter flight from Oregon to New Mexico. That trip was totally incredible, said Smith, and the experience catalyzed a new trajectory. In 2008, he transferred to Bristow Academy, a commercial helicopter training school in Concord, California. In a twoyear period, Smith earned private and commercial certificates plus an instrument rating, which is paramount for navigating mountainous landscapes. “If you’re flying in clouds and can’t use vision flight rules – when you can see where you’re going and the ground – you need to know instrument flight rules. Otherwise, your helicopter will immediately roll over,” he explained, noting that a person’s perceived orientation is unreliable without visual references. He also became certified to steer fixed-wing planes and soon discovered new non-

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motorized flight methods. During helicopter school, Smith traveled to Chamonix to compete in a big mountain event. There he saw a small group of backcountry skiers descend a peak with trimmed paragliding wings: “speed wings,” which allow gliders to fly close to a slope. The apparatus and concept were brand new at the time. Smith had grown up backcountry skiing and snowmobiling with local kids, and he was spellbound by the combination of exploration on skis and human-operated flight. Back stateside, Smith immediately bought a speed wing manufactured in France, which was the size of a compact three-pound sleeping pad with a built-in harness. The setup easily fit in his backcountry ski pack. At the time, he said, “No one in Colorado was speed flying. No school or lessons were available. Over a year, I taught myself how to fly, lapping Vail Pass.” The high-performance wing is maneuverable and smaller than a parachute or paraglider. “I love resort skiing to practice and improve, but I’m drawn to the backcountry’s limitlessness for skiing, and speed flying opens up another door to what you can ski – where no one else is,” said Smith. “You can fly with skis on, in the summer, and in any country in the world

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with a hill, coast or mountains.” Snowpack changes quickly, as do wind direction and speed. Smith starts assessing these days ahead of an objective, looking for high-pressure systems, especially in the winter when Colorado is gustier than in summer months. Smith applies the same safety guidelines to flying a helicopter and to speed flying, and he examines the environmental variables, from wind speed to slope steepness, and the landing zone in order to assess risk. Regardless of the mechanism, Smith loves “the responsibility,” he said. “You have your personal limitations, aircraft limitations and weather limitations. You need to stay within all of those to safely operate.” On the motorized side, a Cessna 185 Skywagon was Smith’s first airplane, purchased six years ago, followed by a Cessna 180 Skywagon sans paint, eliminating nearly 40 pounds of weight. Lighter is better for backcountry travel, decreasing the takeoff and landing time as well as ascents. For a while, Smith used the fixed-wing planes to travel to and from Durango, where he could complete highelevation helicopter training and lease a chopper via Colorado Highland Helicopters. In fact, all of his flight time since finishing school in California has been in dynamic, uplifted terrain. “Flying in these mountains is real. Most pilots without mountain flying experience completely avoid this area.” That also means air traffic is relatively low in the neighborhood, said Smith, who conversely has few flights logged over ocean or flatland. Soon after acquiring his planes, Smith started getting calls from locals requesting flights to scout elk, do photography shoots or scope out backcountry ski lines. One rancher needed help finding a lost llama herd, which they spotted up Gold Basin. Smith thought if he could buy a used helicopter, aerial tours would be popular. By 2020, the pandemic surged, and flight demands plummeted. But the tragedy also opened doors. “A bunch of helicopters came up for sale with dropped prices. I purchased an Airbus AS350 B3, the most powerful medium-sized helicopter for very high elevations. Designed by the French, they’re made for heavy-duty work in the mountains – the Alps, Himalaya, Andes and Rockies,” said Smith. A rare private hangar came up for sale, too, and it now houses Smith’s hefty helicopter and two small planes in Gunnison, nearly 20 miles south of where he lives up Ohio Creek. Business took off. Catering to locals, without a marketing plan, Smith was totally booked by fall 2021. “I’ve had everyone on flights from groups of young kids to elderly ladies to hunters, skiers, mountain bikers and realtors. Seeing the Elk Mountains is

difficult, especially if you don’t spend all your time here. You could also live here for years and not see it all. Flying quickly gives you a grasp of what’s out there,” said Smith, who also enjoys observation flights with the Crested Butte Avalanche Center forecasters. He exchanges two sessions per season for advertising. From the sky, Smith patrols for backcountry ski or speed flying lines, too. In January, while air-touring with a ski buddy and his family, they noticed that Maroon Peak’s Coin Drop (a.k.a. Nickel Drop) line had preserved snow; this extreme, no-fall route is typically only snow-covered and stable enough to approach in the spring, if at all. After a snow dusting, Smith climbed and skied the route with Rob Dickinson and Matt Clark, in what is believed to be a first descent in mid-winter. “I was a bit scared. It’s a straight, steep, 2,500-foot chute that doesn’t let off,” said Smith. Some days bring almost around-theclock risk management. The 36-year-old might wake at 4 a.m. to speed fly, then shuttle three rounds of clients from the hangar, followed by a snowmobile ride home. Not surprisingly, alcohol doesn’t fit into that equation. Smith doesn’t drink much any more. “If I’m flying, I need to be 100 percent. I’m in bed at 8 or 9 p.m. Any day I’m not out there, I wish that I could’ve practiced a skill or technique, researched, or pushed myself to be better and more well-versed in these sports,” said Smith. When not in the field, the aircraft needs loads of maintenance. “The helicopter regime is very strict. Every detail is recorded in a logbook: every flight hour, landing, and time using the hook for longlining – which holds up to 4,000 pounds – to carry loads hanging below. (This helicopter can pick up both of the Cessna planes at once.) The helicopter needs to be chartered to get fixed and cleaned – it doesn’t just sit and look pretty,” said Smith. Up next, Smith is securing a federal flight permit to allow point-to-point transport for passengers. Imagine lift service for mountain bikers or a bump for vacationers from Crested Butte to Aspen. The growth and change that Smith has witnessed in the valley seem inevitable. But he remains optimistic – as long as the community also protects the wilderness, through progressive management that curbs human impact, and supports access for all, including disabled, non-motorized and motorized recreationists. From flying with clients so far, Smith has witnessed the power of exploring this grand valley by air. “So many people want to come here and see the mountains, and I love taking people out. All of the people we fly come back and are ecstatic.”

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1983 “glamour shot” when Genevieve Bachman was an adolescent.



Raise your eyes to the upper west end of Elk Avenue and you’ll spot the historic white house that Genevieve Bachman’s parents, Adele and Don, bought in 1969 and that Genevieve has called home since her birth in 1970. Adele and Don had arrived here as newlyweds in 1967 and shortly afterwards purchased Tony’s Tavern from local rancher Tony Kapushion. By the time they sold it in 1971, Adele and I had become friends and I was watching Genevieve grow up in this tiny town. We didn’t know then that over the next five decades, Genevieve would serve our community as a midwife, paramedic, actress, motorcyclist, radio DJ, bus driver and caring friend.

“We were lucky back then that we still had the old-timers, who were a big influence on us,” Genevieve told me recently. “They were our elders. Growing up, my friend and I would argue over who would play different community members. Both of us wanted to be you.” (If she only knew how hard it was running the small-town newspaper I owned then.) Those old-timers included the grandparents and mother of Genevieve’s best friend and birthday buddy, Laura Smith. They instilled their work ethic in both young women. “Laura was the strong one. I followed her,” Genevieve recalled. “We started our own business when we were 15, cleaning the office and bathrooms of a heavy equipment operator. I even got my Social Security card.” In those days many newcomers — usually hippies — went to the clothingoptional Sunshine’s Bathhouse. “One day as we were parked at First Street and Elk Avenue (near the bathhouse), my mom announced, ‘You cannot go in there any more. People are getting crabs.’ I loved crabs, so I didn’t understand.” Genevieve had other interests to keep her busy. “We housed a Nubian goat named Gracie. One spring she had three kids — Faith, Hope and Charity. I have this memory watching them be born and later, my cat having kittens on my bed. I was fascinated. I think that contributed to why I wanted to be a midwife. And my mom, who was studying to become an EMT (emergency medical technician)


Genevieve (left) dances with Mindy Dunne in a 1981 school talent show. Genevieve and her mom Adele at home in 1980.

when the fire district was formed, took me to her classes, including one on childbirth.” Almost all the children in Crested Butte skied. Genevieve was no exception. “While my friends were on the alpine race teams, I chose Nordic.” A couple of skiing experts in town taught Genevieve and her friends how to telemark and build snow caves. Shirley Straubhaar, who had a small dance studio, was another big influence on Genevieve. Even though she wouldn’t accept any students younger than six or seven, she let Genevieve sit in the corner and watch. From age six to 13, as she was growing to her willowy height thanks to her tall mother and 6’ 5” father, she danced under Shirley’s tutelage. “I was convinced I would be a famous dancer, and Shirley let me live out that fantasy for a while.” Since Crested Butte didn’t yet have a high school in 1984, many Crested Butte children, whose parents wanted to spare them the long bus ride to Gunnison and the bullying that some experienced, attended high school elsewhere. For Genevieve it was in the small town of Wiley in eastern Colorado, where her 60

mother was born and raised. She lived with her Aunt Mae and Uncle George and three cousins, who considered her a sister. Genevieve laughed as she recalled her cousins telling people, “We gave her to our Aunt Adele because she doesn’t have kids.” “I think I would have been eaten alive in Gunnison,” the soft-spoken, modest Genevieve reflected. “In Wiley I was a cheerleader and homecoming queen and got good grades. I was in art class and also Future Homemakers of America, where I learned to cook, sew and balance a checkbook. I wanted to be in 4H but we didn’t have any animals in Wiley.” One summer during high school, she worked in the kitchen of a boys’ camp in New Hampshire. When her job ended, she took a trip to New York City, where my brother showed her around. “I had the feeling that the entire city was alive,” she recalled. Evidently having her pocket picked while visiting the Empire State Building didn’t dampen her enthusiasm. About this time Genevieve discovered the allure of motorcycles. “An older Crested Butte boy gave us motorcycle rides. I loved the sensation. My college roommate later taught me how to ride. Then Chris Ladoulis loaned me his 650cc to go to Texas and then Minnesota, and he never got it back.” Genevieve paid for insurance and other costs and eventually sold her Subaru to purchase that motorcycle. “There is this feeling of freedom and the smell and the ‘in it’.” She admits riding motorcycles is not for everyone. “If you don’t feel it, don’t do it.” Adele and Genevieve have a special bond of trust from taking care of each other since Adele’s divorce from Don when Genevieve was three. Yet, waiting for her to arrive home from solo cross-country motorcycle jaunts was tough even on Adele. Her protective arms enfold her young daughter in the photographs I took for the newspaper in the 1970s and ‘80s. Yet Adele was supportive of everything Genevieve did. Capping her sporadic years at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Genevieve graduated with an English degree. Returning to Crested Butte, she volunteered as a DJ at KBUT Radio and was named Miss Motown in 1994. “I’ve worked at so many jobs! Skyland, Bacchanale, Butte Bagels, the Center for the Arts. I could go on and on.” Yet midwifery spoke to her. As she was studying for her midwife license, a friend suggested becoming an EMT. “I thought it would be a good complement.” Then she earned her paramedic certification. From 1998 to 2021, when I visited at their house, I generally saw Genevieve dressed in her navy blue uniform pants with the scissors hanging from a side loop, ready to jump on her bicycle parked at the bottom of their

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long, steep driveway and pedal furiously to the fire station. Anyone unfortunate enough to need an ambulance would be fortunate if they found the compassionate caregiver by their side. Genevieve spent ten years attending home births and delivered 60 babies. “I loved midwifery,” she said. “But I took a year off to go work in Antarctica in 2006 and that was it. I fell in love even before I got off the plane.” During her first years she was a dispatcher for the Antarctic Fire Department at the McMurdo Station on Ross Island, a U.S. research station. “We had a 60-hour work week with 12-hour shifts. All you had to do was wake up and go to work. Someone else cooked and cleaned and shoveled.” For her last seven years in Antarctica, she was the communication coordinator. She felt fortunate to be able to visit explorer Sir Earnest Shackleton’s hut built on Cape Royds in 1907 during his exploration of the region. “I got to go inside and feel the ghosts. When Shackleton’s rescue boat came, they jumped in it and left everything.” The hut has been conserved and all remains as it was, even socks hanging on a makeshift clothesline. During her Antarctic tenure, Genevieve was featured on a DVD called “On the Ice” that came out a few years ago detailing life at the station. It’s still available for streaming on Netflix. “After 12 winters on the ice,” she said, “I could feel I was stagnating. It was time for me to move on. At the same time my mom was headed for a life in Portugal. I now had our house and a cat to deal with. My big question was ‘where will I work now?’ Reentering the work force as a middle-aged woman in this valley wasn’t going to be easy. I had intended to get stronger in my paramedic skills. The fun part of being an EMT and paramedic is the problem solving and constant challenge and learning. But my last summers volunteering on the ambulance service, I felt I couldn’t contribute because of my lack of experience. It’s hard to be a volunteer. It has to be a priority, a job. I questioned all of the choices I’d made, including having no retirement fund.” In November of 2019 she started driving a Mountain Express bus, but the pandemic soon closed everything down. “I was fortunate Colleen Hegeman gave me a part-time job at H&H CPAs and Advisors. I’m now working two jobs, 60 hours a week just like on the ice, but getting paid a lot less for it,” she said with a rueful smile. Adele played a part in the first Crested Butte Mountain Theatre production in 1972, and Genevieve

carries on the tradition. She has acted in “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Rabbit Hole,” “The Tempest,” “As You Like It” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” among others. As a theater board member, her current challenge is seeking large monetary grants for the organization. Gardening, baking and sewing — utilizing those Future Homemaker of America skills, along with being a talented artist — fill Genevieve’s scarce spare time. She is crocheting a colorful blanket for an Antarctic friend and knitting a scarf. She nurtures her own and her mother’s friends, including me. When Adele returns from Portugal for the summers, I join mother and daughter for Sunday morning coffee on their porch. Last fall Genevieve arrived at my house to pick up a load of aspen wood in her dad’s 1970 Dodge Power Wagon truck, which he’d had transported from his Montana home, prompting her mother’s observation, “She’s a nostalgic soul.” The truck still sports its weathered “Tony’s Tavern, Crested Butte, Colorado” inscription painted on the driver’s side door. As a child who rarely saw her dad, Genevieve has fond memories of them driving around in the truck when he did avalanche work in Silverton. “I’m going to ask Susan Anderton to paint the other door, too,” she told me. She gifted my husband and me the most delicious loaf of cranberry banana bread before slowly driving home and then proudly reporting that the old truck had arrived safely, albeit at a leisurely pace, and that she hadn’t lost a stick of wood.


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play-ful Funny, touching, brilliant, mischievous… the Mountain Theatre has given Crested Butte half a century of sparkling moments, both on the stage and off. By Janet Weil

“Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to do a play?” In 1972, two barstool buddies – George Sibley, editor of the Crested Butte Chronicle, and Tom Towler, who was decompressing from the Vietnam War – were doing what they did most afternoons, hanging out in the local tavern philosophizing. The germ of an idea came up – producing a play. After all, Tom had experience in theater and had trained and worked with The Second City in Chicago before being drafted. Since that beer-infused conversation, more than 300 plays have been performed on the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre stage. “‘Hiss at him. Writhe around him. Pretend you’re snakes!’ Tom had us crawling around the floor, undulating sinuously,” recalled Sandra Cortner. The hillbilly tragedy “Dark of the Moon” was the first production, performed in the field behind the old school, with Crested Butte Mountain and a rising moon as the backdrop. George volunteered to be the producer, though he had no experience producing plays. He wrangled wood from job sites for the stage, scrounged lights and microphones from Western State College (now Western Colorado University) and “borrowed” electricity from Gunnison County Electric Association. “We buried the cable only two inches below the surface. Luckily, no one got shocked sitting on the ground!” he recalled. “We improvised, writing more parts for all the beautiful women in town who wanted to sing and dance in the play,” George continued. “Tom was charismatic, a talented director who could get people to do things. He transformed a large group of untrained locals to perform together harmoniously, out in the open field.” “Dark of the Moon” became the first play in a 50-year run of the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre (CBMT), the oldest continuously running community theater in Colorado. 66

“Bleacher Bums” starred Mountain Theatre regulars Jim Schmidt, Cindy Petito and Jim Brophy.

“Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to do a play?” Tales from the Mountain Theatre archives: The young Andrew Lypps was Hamlet, and he was loving every minute of it. One night, as the town slept and after the buses had stopped for the night, Andrew proceeded to build snowmen of the Hamlet cast in the middle of the street. He portrayed the final scene, the death of Hamlet, right in front of the theater! A few years later, Tom Towler left town to pursue professional theater and film work. He left behind a group of dedicated and competent “theater people” who continued to produce quality community theater. George Sibley produced most of the early plays, and Diane Kahn did the set designs.


Summer Shakespeare entertained enthusiastic crowds with scenes like this one: Tuck, Jim Schmidt, Elizabeth Barton and Bill Tintera in “Taming of the Shrew.” Bottom: 1980s repeat co-stars Raye Lynn Jacobs and Bill Husted in “Same Time Next Year.”


“You don’t know where there’s a place to live, do you?” asked a dark-haired stranger. Cindy Petito was pulling her kids in a sled downtown when the man stopped her. She asked him, “Can you act?” The stranger thought a moment, then replied, “I acted in high school. Been a while, but yeah, I guess I can act.” “Come by the theater tonight. The director, Hollywood actor Sam Robards, is looking for an actor for his play, and I know he has extra room in his house.” The stranger turned out to be David Russell, who tried out for the part. Sam told David if he wanted the role, it was his, and he could live at Sam’s house for as long as he needed. David accepted, and he and Sam became good friends. When the Old Town Hall was condemned in the winter of 1975, the Mountain Theatre was left homeless. The actors used any space they could find, performing in living rooms, the Depot and in the Gothic Building on the mountain. During “A Thousand Clowns,” an actor was cued to open a closet door. When he did, he was startled to find a mischievous female actor standing there, completely naked! He continued in character, never missing a beat. The Old Town Hall was partially remodeled for the 1976-77 winter season. Theater goers no longer had to wear their heavy winter coats during the productions. The CBMT marked its return to the space with a memorable production of “The Lion in Winter.” That production starred CBMT great Tom Mallardi. “Tom

was so good and made everyone around him so much better,” veteran thespian Malia Jones remembered. Tom died unexpectedly in May 2002. Tom got a kick out of doing the Shakespeare plays; he loved acting in them and was so great on stage. Tom really wanted a part in “Taming of the Shrew.” The director told Tom he had to lose 40 pounds in six weeks if he wanted to get the part. He surprised everyone and shed the 40 pounds with time to spare! In recognition of Tom’s many contributions to the theater, the Town renamed the performance space in the Old Town Hall the Thomas A. Mallardi Cabaret Theatre. “I was out in the fields working the horses, and this chubby, 21-year-old kid comes out there. ‘Is your name Tuck? I’m directing a play. I’d like you to be in it.’ ‘I don’t do that. I can’t remember nothing. Now get outta here,’ I told him. He came back the next day. ‘I really need you. Please,’ he begged. ‘Are there a lot of lines in it?’ I asked. ‘No. We just want you to play the orderly.’ So I agreed. I ended up being Chief Bromden in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ This kid conned me into it. It was an awesome role.” In 1982, the Mountain Theatre initiated the Golden Marmot Awards, named after the “whistle pigs” that ran wild in the hills around Crested Butte. The Golden Marmots were loosely patterned after the Tony Awards, honoring the plays, actors, directors, set designers, sound and lighting designers, costume and prop designers and other valuable volunteers from the previous season. The wildly popular and greatly anticipated awards ceremony continues to this day. By the third year, the winners took home a heavy gold statuette ordered from a trophy company. Real official looking, it had a faux marble base. No more plasterof-Paris whistle pigs. We had gone bigtime. The Best Director award winner gave a short acceptance speech ending with, “Isn’t it wonderful how the Marmot statuettes have improved over the years?” He raised it over his head in victory – and the base fell off! Fifty years of producing plays, usually six per season, is a difficult challenge. At times, donations were down, particularly during one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. At other times the Mountain Theatre had no home base, and actors performed in living rooms, tents, bars, alleyways and backyards. As rents became more expensive, volunteers became scarcer, since people often had to work several jobs in order to live here. One opening night, a blizzard raged outside. No one came to the show. Just as the cast was getting ready to go home, billy barr, the mountain man who was the caretaker of

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Clockwise: Kathleen Mary and Tom Mallardi in “Night of the Iguana”; Michael Danna and the Kit Kat Girls in “Cabaret”; Cindy Petito, Tom Mallardi and Sam Robards in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Some anecdotes are excerpted from Crested Butte Stories...Through My Lens, with permission from Sandra Cortner.

the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, skied to the theater. The cast agreed the show must go on and performed for an audience of one. An ambitious summer Shakespeare program started in the eighties. The first production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” was a huge success. Held outside at the Depot, it inspired five more summer Shakespeare plays. The final four were put on in a large yellow and red striped circus tent donated by the Chamber of Commerce. During a Shakespeare performance at the Depot, it was stormy with a hard rain falling. The cast continued while the audience put up their umbrellas. Eric Ross was the King of Fairies. He had to walk through a curtain of beads, and just as he pushed the beads aside, bolts of lightning streaked across the sky with deafening thunderclaps resounding. He proudly stood there, as if he was the one who made this happen because he was the ruler of the fairies and the natural world. He stood there with his hands on his hips, slowly turning around, and bellowed, “Look at me and the power I wield!” The timing was perfect. The theater was basically shut down for two years during the Covid pandemic, generating little income from ticket sales. During that time, talented local authors wrote ten-minute plays which were creatively staged, with performances in the alleyways and outdoor spaces downtown, helping to keep the theater afloat. The costume storage was full of items that people had gotten rid of from their closets and donated to the theater. It was chock full of old bridesmaid dresses and fur coats! So, that was one of our rules: that the ten-minute plays had to use at least one bridesmaid dress and one fur coat. We named the evening “Bridesmaids in Fur.” During a performance of the fast-paced comedy, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare,” a man sitting in the first row jumped on the stage while actor Andrew Hadley was in mid-sentence and asked, “Where’s the bathroom?” Such unexpected moments keep the players on their toes, said Andrew, vice president of the CBMT board of directors. “Oh God, what are we going to do now? Something goes wrong and you have to figure it out. That’s the adrenaline rush,” he said. The Mountain Theatre will celebrate its half-century mark with an August 4 anniversary gala. Hats Off! will honor “50 years of theatrical mountain magic” – the laughter, tears, ovations and joyful bonding as a small mountain town creates theater together.



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Chris and David Baxter have steered clear of convention most of their lives, or at least given it a twist of panache. A career in finance? Might as well conduct business from a sailboat. Need to commute? Get a pilot’s license. Children? Show them the world — and bring along a cat. Having been part of an early wave of ski bums, Chris and David found each other and built lives in the whirl of Aspen before cashing out and leaving behind the resort’s growing glitz 30 years ago. After buying the tranquil Cement Creek Ranch south of Crested Butte, they settled into a more grounded life, though still spiced with high adventures, and they’ve built a legacy of land conservation, community culture preservation and family bonds. Now septuagenarians, Chris and David are making a few concessions to simplicity. A decade ago, they traded their raucous Grand Canyon trips for easygoing float trips with grandkids. It’s been a few years since David alerted Chris that he was home from work by “buzzing” the cabin in his single-engine plane en route to the airport at Buckhorn. The mile-long Nordic ski to get home from the winter trailhead where they park their car half the year has become a snow-packed walk instead. Even buying the Cement Creek Ranch in 1990 was settling down a little – after the couple’s propensity to spend time on rivers, mountain passes, oceans and in the air.




David and Chris Baxter, daughters Talley and Lara and their children at the ranch’s main cabin. Son Brian and his family live in Denver. 80

Having hailed from urban life at opposite ends of the country – Chris from Berkeley and David from New York – they met in the middle: Aspen. David had been in Colorado since the sixties, when he left New York to enroll sight unseen at Colorado College (before that, he’d never travelled west of the Hudson River). David describes his youthful experience as being “apparently enrolled in college,” but mostly skiing, exploring the mountains and riding over an unpaved Independence Pass by motorcycle in the spring. He visited Crested Butte in 1964, staying at the Nordic Inn to ski with fraternity brothers. He visited a second time in the summer of 1970 in a short-wheelbased Land Rover. After coming through Marble, up past the Devil’s Punchbowl and down through Gothic, David and his first wife and their infant daughter and

golden retriever ended up camping out Brush Creek. Caught off-guard by the low overnight temperatures, they left their daughter Talley in the car, thinking she would be warmer than in their tent. Talley, who now teaches at the Crested Butte Community School, marvels that she probably barely survived that night, and ironically she now lives in that same drainage with her own family. David had married right after college, moved to Aspen, and then spent a trial year in Seattle. “I had a lot of pressure from the family to get a responsible job,” he said. “They knew what you did in Aspen, which was real ski bumming back in those days.” David’s second child, Brian, was born soon after they moved back to Aspen. At that point David had set the course for a career in banking and real estate, and he went to work for Mason Morse. “We

bought a little condominium one block from the ski lift at Little Nell,” he said, “for $20,000.” When one of the company founders lamented one day that he had a single-engine Cessna Turbo 210 but no pilot, “It didn’t take me ten minutes before I started taking lessons.” That launched one of David’s lifelong passions. “There are two or three great loves, and everybody has them,” he said. “My first love was flying.” His delight in being airborne took him all over the U.S. and to Mexico, Canada and Central America. When he started his own mortgage company, First Western Mortgage, David obtained his own plane and used it for business travel. Soon enough, that brought him to Crested Butte again. “We were interested in getting loans wherever we could, so we decided, well, why don’t we shoot over to Crested Butte? Crested Butte real estate back in the mid 1970s was sort of up and down, to say the least, so you had to be careful,” David said. As he explored the western U.S. and Mexico by plane, David sometimes flew to La Paz, and eventually he bought one fifth of a sailboat. Sailing is another of his great loves, as is river running. “We went down the Grand Canyon for the first time in 1973,” he said, “and we started going back every year,” transferring unclaimed user days from an acquaintance who ran a commercial operation. The children often stayed behind with grandparents, an aunt or a babysitter. But the milder trips, such as the Green River and pre-dam Dolores River, included the youngsters. David recalls rafting the Dolores at what he believes was its all-time highest water level, complete with dead cows floating by and people scrambling for shore to avoid waves comparable to those of the Grand Canyon. When David and his first wife split up, they remained friends, he said. His ex-wife actually helped introduce him to Chris. Chris had grown up in Berkeley, living in the city but camping every summer in places like Yosemite and Lassen Volcanic National Park. She graduated from UC Berkeley, immersed in “all the good sixties music, Winterland [music venue] in San Francisco… it was a different kind of education,” she said. “I learned a lot about the world.” Chris was also a political activist, protesting the Vietnam War. She too got married after college, and travelled around Europe by van with her first husband. ”We went backpacking in the Sierras for two weeks at a time and hardly ever saw a soul. I loved the mountains and nature.” Chris went to school to become a labor and delivery nurse, and after her divorce she travelled some more before settling back into nursing. 81


Traveling still lures David and Chris Baxter, but they’re always grateful to return home to their Cement Creek Ranch.

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Chris met David in the winter of 1980 while visiting a friend in Snowmass. At his ex-wife’s suggestion, David took Chris and her friends out on the town and then flying the next day. Chris got airsick and decided to stay back while everyone else went skiing, befriending David’s daughter Talley, a ten-year-old by that time. “She took care of me,” said Chris. David was “thunderstruck,” going to great lengths to get Chris’ attention. He believes he finally won her over while flying her over a huge migration of gray whales near Cabo San Lucas several weeks into their courtship. “I knew by then to take some Dramamine,” Chris recalled. “It was one of the more incredible experiences I’ve had with David, and I’ve had a bunch of them.” By spring, Chris had packed up her Volvo and moved to Aspen. The two married and added a third child, Lara, to the family in 1982. Even while David worked long hours as president of a mortgage company, the two followed their insatiable appetite for travel. They often went camping, fly fishing and jeeping over Pearl Pass. “Every time we had a chance, we would get in the plane and fly somewhere for a weekend,” said David. “I would work until eight at night, jamming it all together. And then on Friday afternoon we’d get in the plane and head for Hermosillo or something.” Sometimes they would stay on the boat in La Paz, or in what was then the little fishing village of Cabo San Lucas. Sailing the Sea of Cortez eventually led to sailing around the world. In 1987, David and Chris decided to take a three-year sabbatical and live on a sailboat. They rented out their house in Aspen, bought a boat in France and, with teenagers Talley and Brian and four-year-old Lara, set out to sail around the Mediterranean. “We took that boat and went all the way down to about Granada, came across the Atlantic, worked our way up through the Caribbean and ended up in Fort Lauderdale,” recounted David. He had to go back to work for a few months, so they headed for home via the Panama Canal. Their trip coincided with the last days of Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, whose denial of visas for Americans delayed Talley’s plans to join the family. After she finally met them in Costa Rica, the family headed out on the Pacific to a mostly uninhabited Cocoa Island in the Maldives. The Baxters have lived through dozens of amazing stories – one being that a woman had disappeared from Cocoa Island just before they arrived, and when the teenagers got lost in the jungle for several hours one afternoon, things got temporarily

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spooky. The sailboat eventually took them to Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. Illness and bad weather turned a sail from the Galapagos Islands into a harrowing misadventure – “the worst part of all my cruising,” David said. “Two days in, I spiked a fever [most likely malaria or dengue fever]. The wind was pushing east and we couldn’t turn around.” The kids and Chris had to sail the boat, while David was down below, too weak to do anything but blow his foghorn on occasion and call out to trim the sails. Finally the family arrived in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, where David saw a doctor and slowly recovered. Other stories involve teenager shenanigans, add-on friends, rough seas, the catching of fish for dinner, a Persian cat sailing companion named Apu, negotiations with paratroopers, and the inadvertent stumbling upon the grave of artist Paul Gauguin. “We had a great time,” they agreed. After three years sailing the high seas, Chris and David returned home to find themselves disillusioned with Aspen, as the two older kids embarked on their college and adult lives. David had once met Jack Nicholson in a dentist’s office and turned Olivia Newton John away from a real estate office. “But when we came back, Aspen was just overwhelming. The growth, the people… we said, you know there’s just got to be something better.” Then David heard about the Cement Creek Ranch, a former dude ranch near Crested Butte. “I said I would kill to live there.”

David had flown over Cement Creek Ranch numerous times on his visits to Crested Butte. After flying in on the dirt runway at the Crested Butte airport on one particular trip with his business partner, David borrowed a car from his friend Jim Gebhart, walked around the ranch and did a little fishing. He expected his partner to buy the property, but the partner wasn’t interested. “I decided I was the guy that really liked it.” He went home and talked to Chris. “In 1990 we were able to sell what I would call a nice tract home in Aspen…for as much money as this ranch on 120 acres,” he marveled. The couple moved into the ranch’s modest main cabin in 1991, enrolled Lara in the Crested Butte Community School and began life in Crested Butte. David still regularly commuted back to Aspen for work, leaving his ten-speed bicycle at the Aspen airport. And yes, he buzzed the cabin to alert Chris when he was returning home. 84

The couple got deeply involved in Crested Butte over the years. Chris discovered a love of horses while maintaining the ranch’s tradition of boarding horses for locals in the summer; they also continued allowing some cattle to graze. The Baxters began holding Land Trust benefits and other events on the property; all three children (and many others) were married there. David joined the Crested Butte Land Trust and helped start the 1% For Open Space initiative, a small optional sales tax used to help preserve the viewsheds for which Crested Butte is so well known. He was also part of developing the beloved Lower Loop trail. A few years ago, after David had retired and the children had married and had kids of their own, David and Chris experimented with spending winters in Carbondale. But it just didn’t stick. “We missed the community,” they said. They’re now on the cusp of a new experiment. Many local retirees have migrated to lower elevations. The Baxters will, too, but their seasonal move will take them a scant five miles and maybe 250 feet down in elevation (from 9,000-plus). “We’re building an assisted living facility,” David joked. The aforementioned facility is actually a cozy cabin being constructed on their youngest daughter’s property in Crested Butte South. In Baxter fashion, the property overlooks bucolic ranchland and the Slate River, with Paradise Divide beckoning from the north. Both Baxter daughters and families live nearby, and Brian lives in Denver with his wife and children. Moving from the snowbound Cement Creek Ranch to their Crested Butte South home during the winter, Chris and David will no longer have to haul their groceries by snowmobile. Each summer, though, they still plan to be outnumbered by cattle and horses at the ranch. They have maintained the meadows, trails and warm spring pools with very little change to the land over the years. A simple swimming pool fed by the springs entertains their grandkids in summer, a caretaker cabin provides yearround housing for a hearty local soul or two, and an additional one-bedroom cabin often hosts friends or family in summer. In recent years, wildlife biologists have taken a keen interest in a rare lichen that grows alongside the warm pools, adding scientific studies to the summer activity. “We hope we can keep the ranch,” said David. He and Chris share a vision that their children will take over the ranch operations at some point. But for now, they seem content. Their new cabin will be ready for them when the snow flies. In the meantime, as this magazine heads to press, they will set sail for yet another international adventure, grandkids included.

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TRUE FISH TALES How do fish get into those high, remote lakes? Lots of them fly. By Karen Janssen

Fish. To some people the word connotes bliss – peaceful hours, gracefully casting a perfectly fly-tied line into a perfect hole of river water. Others’ mouths may water as they recall barbecued salmon or seared ahi. The word might conjure smelly memories or joyful visions of tropical reef. Last year I read Lulu Miller’s wonderful memoir, “Why Fish Don’t Exist,” which gave me a deeper way to think about fish (!) and threw the whole study of ichthyology into an intriguing light. I’ll admit I’m woefully ignorant as to the ways of fish. I’ve lived decades in the Gunnison Valley, knowing there’s a whole subculture of fishing, but I’ve never partaken. Waders, rods, creels, fly tying… umm. Basically, I just enjoy watching fish jump or swim silently through the clear waters of the high alpine lakes I love. And that’s what got me wondering. How do they get there? How do they survive the brutal mountain winters? I set out to learn. My first stop was a conversation with Kevin Wright, a local resident and retired employee of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). He has spent time with Colorado 86

Tim Romano

creatures of all shapes and sizes. “These days fish-stocking of high lakes is mostly by plane. Historically, some arrived by backpack, horse or mule, though that’s definitely resource-intensive,” he said. “I’ve packed in clear plastic tubes of fish to some pretty remote lakes!” Before the tiny fish were released, the bags would be set in the water to acclimate the travelers to new temperatures, and then eventually opened to let them swim toward their new fate. I can’t help but think about this from the fish’s point of view. Removed from the nursery, placed in strange water in darkness, sloshing for hours until coming out into the light, yet still unable to escape the plastic walls, then suddenly…. But I digress.

Intrepid pilots fly low among the peaks to drop water filled with hundreds of fingerling fish into remote lakes.

These days the fingerlings (roughly one inch long) have an even more exciting trip. They are raised in hatcheries, ideally local, and eventually loaded into trucks that meet the planes at airstrips. The hatchery crew maintains the temperature, pH and oxygen levels of the water on site, until the small fish are moved into the plane that will bring them on a wild ride to their final destination. They are transferred into numerous compartments in one of the four modified Cessna 185s that travel through the Colorado mountains in the late summer. Navigating the dangerously complex terrain and air currents of the high Rocky Mountains, the pilots drop hundreds to thousands of fish on each run, releasing specific tubes over specific lakes. Some get 87

Tim Romano

Sandra Mabry

In lakes as high as 12,000 feet, the transplanted fingerlings can survive ten or more years, and the longest-lived legends can reach 18 inches long.

Check out this cool aerial video if you’re interested in seeing how it’s done!


only get 150 fish, while others can get up to 5,000. The norm is somewhere between 500 and 800 fingerlings. Amazingly, Department of Wildlife studies show that more than 85 percent of the tiny fish survive the fall. Theirs is a dive to rival any Olympian. Given that their heads are heavier than their tails, they all elongate vertically and float down with the water. Their small size helps: with less mass falling from the sky, the chances for survival go up dramatically. The wee size also allows the pilots to load many fish per run into their planes. Aquatic biologists such as Dan Brauch, Gunnison’s Colorado Parks and Wildlife representative, work with their district’s wildlife managers to help determine which lakes are stocked when, what kind of fish they get, and how many. Though many waters were stocked prior, a large baseline study conducted in the late sixties and early seventies helped dictate which lakes have suitable habitat to make them candidates for fish populations. “Roughly, we stock

100 fish per acre, though it depends on the lake’s productivity,” explained Brauch. “Some lakes don’t have suitable spawning habitat, so it’s impossible for the fish population to be self-sustaining. We continue to monitor the numbers as we try to maintain opportunities for recreationists.” In the southern part of Colorado, 248 waters were stocked with nearly 275,000 fish in 2021, with 32 of those being in the Upper Gunnison Basin. Next year CPW will concentrate on the alpine lakes in the northern half of the state. “We find that some are ‘winterkill’ lakes, so locations can vary. This means that sufficient oxygen wasn’t maintained over the winter, whether that’s due to lack of spring flow or enough light penetrating the ice,” continued Brauch. Sometimes lakes have unsustainable levels of heavy metals, left over from mining days. Many high alpine lakes are quite shallow, and freezing is an issue.

Provided the conditions are adequate, the fish basically hang out in the winter, with little need to feed, in the deepest part of their lakes. As there is little growth during these sluggish times, biologists are able to age fish by measuring either the growth of their scales or otoliths, small bones in their skulls. Though the life of a fish in one of these alpine lakes (most are between 10,000 and 12,000 feet high) seems mighty cold and lonely, Brauch said that a rare few survive 10-15 years and reach up to 18 inches in length; the average, of course, is younger and smaller. Even I, the completely fish-ignorant, have heard tales of these swimming legends! The cutthroat is the only trout species native to Colorado. Most other species were imported in the late 1800s. Brook trout came from the east, rainbow from the west, brown from Europe. There has been a movement to return the native fish to the high lakes, as brook trout can take over, and rainbows can hybridize with cutthroat. In some cases, this has led to the use of the substance rotenone to kill off the existing population and restock the lake with cutthroat. That seemed scary, so I looked it up: rotenone is “a toxic crystalline substance obtained from the roots of derris and related plants, widely used as an insecticide and to kill fish. It does so by inhibiting cellular respiration in mitochondria, which leads to reduced cellular uptake of oxygen.” When the cutthroat are reintroduced, they are broken up by sub-species depending on what drainages the lakes flow into. If you were relaxing at a high, remote lake after an arduous trek, seeing a fish drop might be the last thing you’d expect. In the rare event that you witnessed one from the ground, you probably wouldn’t even see many fish, given their tiny size. “It just looks like a spray of water coming from the belly of the plane,” said Kevin Wright. “And then there is a ripple effect when they hit the water. I have immense respect for the pilots, as it’s all very impressive and pretty darn dangerous.” Brauch concluded, “Aerial stocking is definitely an efficient and successful way to continue to manage the fish population. It takes a lot for recreationists to get to one of these high alpine lakes. But the experience there is so enjoyable and unique, it’s satisfying to know that the legacy of native fish in untouched wilderness continues.” You might arrive with a rod and line, hoping to catch and release some of the slippery residents. Perhaps you’re satisfied to picnic while watching the trout’s watery dance. Either way, if they could communicate, some of those fish could probably tell a pretty good tale!

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By Brian Levine, writing from the perspective of Sanford C. Robinson

What a dynamic time it was. The founding of a town. Securing investment capital. Creating new businesses. Inducing railroads to our door. Developing a cornucopia of mining properties. But none of it would’ve happened had it not been for Howard F. Smith. packed in enough machinery to construct It was 1877, and we were in Leadville. above where the road forks east to Rock Smith managed the Gage-Hagaman two sawmills. As these were being built, Creek and west to Augusta and Poverty smelter, a small operation of no serious we went out surveying mineral resources. Gulch. I’d finished the log foundation and consequence, and I was an assayer for the Within several weeks, Smith had purchased walls when Smith informed me he was Dunkin Mine. While carbonate ores filled the large coal claims of John and Dan returning to Leadville. Winter was coming reduction mills, heavy ore stamps rang Jennings – 1250 acres -- at the foot of Gibson and it was best we raise more capital. throughout the hillsides and smoke choked Ridge, beside Coal Creek. The Jennings With Smith, it was all whitewater rush the atmosphere, businessmen like H.A.W. discovered these coal measures back in 1875 perpetually falling over cliffs to the Pelton Coal Minesin wheels far below. Tabor and D.H. Moffat were becoming but now wanted to fundThe a silver prospect In theC. spring of ’78, we were back unimaginably rich. Not me, though: not Copper Creek, near the town Gothic. 1. of The Jokerville (bituminous, F. & I.) Smith and I then headed up to the (bituminous, in the C. north Valley, riding Sanford C. Robinson. I was just another 2. Big Mine F. &Gunnison I.) Ruby-Irwin Mining District. There, we horseback to a point about four miles ant in the hill. Worse, the Leadville District Pueblo (bituminous, Pueblo Co.) located three silver lodes – 3. theThe Arab, northeast from the confluence of the Slate was already staked out. It was no longer a 4.–The Robinson Robinson Chloride Deposit and Sunset at the base (bituminous, River and Coal Creek,Bros.) almost opposite prospector’s camp. By the greatest of fortunes, I met of Ruby Peak. Assays for those properties O-Be-JoyfulBulkley Gulch. Mining) There, dark rivulets of 5. Bulkley Mine (bituminous, Howard F. Smith, a man afire with energy, revealed up to 500 silver ounces to the Mine (anthracite, black metallic-looking detritus spread out 6. Pershing Elk Mtn. Mining) Improved Road (moreoforlife. less) constantly whirring at the speed ton. We hired men to dig two tunnels and among the trees. “It’s coal,” Smith assured Mine (anthracite, Horace Coal Co., Rosslook Coalthe Co.) He’d just returned from Colorado’s Elk two shafts – and then went7.onPeanut to locate me. I wasn’t convinced: it didn’t Unimproved Road 8. Smith Hill Mine same (anthracite, Hill Anthracite Co.) Mountain Region and was brimming with the Howard, Howard Extension, Ruby as that Smith on Gibson Ridge. We managed exotic details and fantastic ideas. Smith Chief, Gem, Peggie and Old Sheik lodes, to hike up a good way even as the steep and 9. Floresta Mine (anthracite, C. F. & I.) Hiking Trail spoke enthusiastically about the Gunnison contiguous to the highlyThe productive Forest Precious Metal crumbling Mines ground slid beneath our boots. Valley’s thick forests, abundant Queen Mine. Assays for the Howard, et al, After reaching one of the closest rivulets, Old R.R. Grade (priorwildlife, to 1952) Ruby MinesSmith (silver) rugged peaks, crystalline rivers, pine-fresh averaged 150 ounces to the 10. ton.The You’d think picked up a chunk of mineral and 11. Forest Queen Mine air and azure enticinglist) any prospector would’ve been satisfied. But said,(silver) “It’s the stuff that powers smelters Coalskies. MineAnd (seemost numbered of all, its crude mining camps – sparsely not Howard F. Smith. alright.lead, Drives trains and heats homes, too!” 12. Keystone Mine (silver, zinc) In our next mineral survey, we traveled populated tent settlements dotting basins He tossed the mineral to me. “Anthracite.” Precious Metal Mine (see numbered list) 13. Daisy Mine (silver, lead, zinc) to the Slate River to inspect Hawkeye and “Can’t be,” I said. “Rock formation’s with astonishing geologic potential. After 14. Sylvanite Townsite not right.” slopes, Mine (silver) listeningOld to Smith, I was itching for this new Cinnamon mountains. On those Painter and gold) “It’s not the Smith disagreed. we found gold and silver in15. rich crystalBoy Mine (silver frontier. I joined Smith later in ’77 on his return matrices and staked out seven lode claims. formation, Sant, or geologic period. Rather, trip to the Elk Mountains. This time he the pressure and heat on organic matter.” It was there I decided to build a cabin, 90

Few photographs exist of Howard Smith. This collection shows a note he wrote in 1884 on an Anthracite Coal Company card; an 1893 stock certificate for the Colorado Coal & Iron Development Company; a Thomas Hine photo of Lone Mountain (Crested Butte Mountain) from the Slate River in 1877, and the home of Howard and Rachel Smith on The Heights in 1883.

He acquired this property, too, and soon the whole mountain was known as Smith Hill. That summer we did a lot of climbing, surveying a good number of the mining camps throughout the Elk Mountains. We also rode back and forth to Leadville, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, on horseback and by train – to Colorado business centers then awash in silver, gold and greenbacks. We exhibited ore samples, for publicity, and one potential investor, James B. Grant of Leadville’s Grant Smelter, took particular interest in our Cinnamon Mountain specimens. He was the nephew of a wealthy and influential Iowan, Judge James Grant. Both Grants believed firmly in the future of Colorado’s mineral wealth. Thus, with their backing, we formed The Iowa Mining and Smelting Company and established the first reduction mill in the north Gunnison Valley. We also garnered attention from

the Law brothers, Robert and Henry, of Leadville. They invested in our Hawkeye claims and incorporated The Hawkeye Mining and Milling Company to work them. They paid me to be the onsite managing partner, enabling me to finish my cabin near the new townsite of Pittsburgh. The whirlwind changes were incredible! In just two years, I – Sanford C. Robinson – had gone from a mere assayer to a man about to make a lasting fortune. I was ready to settle down. But not Howard F. Smith. “Enterprise” should’ve been his middle name. In 1879, we did another survey of the north Gunnison Valley. This time, Smith had me working with Abe Croop and William Curtis to build coking pits along the Pioneer Toll Road to Irwin. Smith was also engaged in a plan for a new railroad, the Leadville and Elk Mountain, in connection with more

investors. These projects, and others still under consideration, inspired even more industry in Smith. His next concept was to plat a mining supply center – a town – for this burgeoning region. Smith envisioned a location reasonably accessible from all the mining camps in the Ruby-Irwin and Elk Mountain districts. We climbed the surrounding mountains – Lone, Gothic, Emmons and Wheatstone – to look over possibilities. It so happened that one of the best locations for this town was just northwest of the junction of Coal Creek and Slate River, near and encompassing some of our coal properties below Gibson Ridge. But grand ideas require grand financing, and we soon realized establishing a town of the size and amenities Smith imagined would require significant capital, more than we possessed. Thus, we partnered with other industrious souls exploring the area, 91

Map courtesy of A Crested Butte Primer, by George Sibley

The Coal Mines

1. The Jokerville (bituminous, C. F. & I.) 2.C. BigF.Mine ville (bituminous, & I.) (bituminous, C. F. & I.) Co.) (bituminous, C.3.F.The & I.)Pueblo (bituminous, Pueblo The Coal Mines 1. The Jokerville (bituminous, C. F. & I.) lo (bituminous, 4. Pueblo The Co.) Robinson (bituminous, Robinson Bros.) 2. Big Mine (bituminous, C. F. & I.) 3. The Pueblo (bituminous, Pueblo Co.) nson (bituminous, Bros.)(bituminous, Bulkley 5. Robinson Bulkley Mine Mining) 4. The Robinson (bituminous, Robinson Bros.) MAP KEY 5. Bulkley Mine (bituminous, Bulkley Mining) Mine (bituminous, Mining) 6.Bulkley Pershing Mine (anthracite, Elk Mtn. Mining) 6. Pershing Mine (anthracite, Elk Mtn. Mining) ImprovedRoad Road(more (moreor orless) less) Improved Mine (anthracite, Mtn.Mine Mining) 7. Peanut Mine (anthracite, Horace Coal Co., Ross Coal Co.) 7. Elk Peanut (anthracite, Horace Coal Co., Ross Coal Co.) Unimproved Road Unimproved Road 8. Smith Hill Mine (anthracite, Smith Hill Anthracite Co.) ine (anthracite,Hiking Horace Coal Co., Ross Coal Co.) 9. Floresta Mine (anthracite, C. F. & I.) Hiking Trail Trail 8. Smith Hill Mine (anthracite, Smith Hill Anthracite Co.) The Precious Metal Mines l Mine (anthracite, Smith Hill Anthracite Co.) OldR.R. Grade(prior (priorto to1952) 1952) Old Grade Ruby Mines (silver) 9. R.R. Floresta Mine (anthracite, C.10. F.The& I.) 11. Forest Queen Mine (silver)


Mine (anthracite, F.(see&numbered I.) list) CoalC. Mine Coal Mine

The Precious Metal Mines Precious MetalMine Mine (see Precious Metal numbered list) Metal Mines 13. Daisy Mine (silver, lead, zinc) Sylvanite Mine (silver) Old Townsite Townsite 10. The Ruby Mines (silver) 14. y Mines (silver)Old 15. Painter Boy Mine (silver and gold) 11. Forest Queen Mine (silver) ueen Mine (silver) 12. Keystone Mine (silver, lead, zinc) e Mine (silver, lead, zinc) ne (silver, lead, 13. zinc) Daisy Mine (silver, lead, zinc) e Mine (silver) 14. Sylvanite Mine (silver) Boy Mine (silver15. andPainter gold) Boy Mine (silver and gold)

Jokerville Mine, 1883 (before the explosion that killed 59 miners)


12. Keystone Mine (silver, lead, zinc)

Town of Anthracite after a large snowslide.

people like George H. and William H. Holt, J. H. Bowman, Ed I. Field, C.K. Smith, J. R. Stearns, F. T. Jeans and R. M. Grieg. In 1880, we incorporated The Crested Butte Town Company, and the first town board saw George Holt as mayor; Clayton K. Smith as recorder; and Howard Smith, D.K. Scott, C.K. Smith and J.H. Bowman as the board of trustees. Smith and the Holts also started a water company to supply our new town. We called the place “Crested Buttes” or the “Buttes,” since the town was surrounded by so many awe-inspiring peaks. By then we had enterprise upon enterprise in the works and yet Smith was still unsettled. He expanded his circle of investors to include William J. Palmer and Dr. William A. Bell – the founders of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and the town of Colorado Springs – not only to finance our Crested Butte (as it became known) coal properties, but also to purchase the most productive silver mine in the Ruby-Irwin District – the Forest Queen. Palmer formed the Colorado Coal and Iron Company, and Bell acquired a managing percentage of the Anthracite Mesa Coal Mining Company, the concern working the Smith Hill Mine. That same year, V. F. Axtel and George Holt opened a large general store on Elk Avenue. J. R. Stearns supervised the stringing of a line for the Crested Butte and Grand River Telegraph. The Groendyke Brothers had the first store in town with an actual telephone connection. Twelve saloons sprang up to sell grog. And Howard F. Smith became the town’s first postmaster. Smith abandoned the Leadville and Elk Mountain Railroad after learning Palmer and Bell had purchased the Poncha, Marshall and Gunnison Toll Road from Otto Mears. Their acquisition, along with Crested Butte’s growing coal productivity, all but guaranteed the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad was on its way to the north Gunnison Valley.

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You might think that now – finally now -- Smith could sit back on an Elk Mountain House portico and revel in the results of his labors. But no.

Anthracite breaker and Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, circa 1895; the luxurious Elk Mountain House at Fourth & Elk in Crested Butte in 1895.


Boundry lines are approximate.

Smith’s concept of making Crested Butte the supply center for Irwin, Ruby, Gothic, Pittsburgh, Elkton, Elcho, Schofield, Ashcroft and other mining camps was rapidly coming to fruition. So, for one minute, at least, one might’ve expected Howard F. Smith to put his foot up on a brass rail – perhaps at the Forest Queen House -- rest an elbow on its mahogany bar, sip a Hill and Hill whisky, and smile at all his works. But no, that wasn’t him. Smith launched the grading of the Crested Butte and Gothic Toll Road. He also became the Buttes’ second mayor. And – and – Smith contracted to have his and his wife’s house erected up on The Heights, in the same neighborhood where Bowman, Stearns and other early town investors had built their homes. Yes, things were booming. But still Smith had no time for rest. Crested Butte would not have developed the way it did -- or so quickly -had it not been for his foresight and energy. He arrived as a mere Edison generator and soon evolved into a Westinghouse dynamo. In 1881, Smith served as chairman of the Gunnison County committee for the National Mining and Industry Exposition, to be held in Denver the following year. That meant a portion of Smith’s time was consumed with designing and organizing exhibits from all of Gunnison County’s mining camps. No small task given that Gunnison County encompassed nearly 3,000 square miles of mineral lands. Then, on November 21, 1881, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad entered Crested Butte for the first time. A year later, a D&RG extension would reach the anthracite mine at Smith Hill, where hundreds of tons of anthracite – mostly 90% fixed carbon -- had been piled up by the Anthracite Mesa Coal Mining Company, waiting to be freighted out. That railroad extension was a boon to the new town of Anthracite atop Smith Hill, as well as the town of Pittsburgh up Slate River. Now, might Howard F. Smith take a break? Nope. Like an engine in constant motion, Smith began his next project: the Elk Mountain House. Although Bowman’s Forest Queen House was already considered the best hotel and saloon in the Buttes, Smith believed he could do better. In December 1881, Smith celebrated the opening of his Elk Mountain House in a most grandiose event. Everyone was invited to view the three-story structure, a 3,400-square-foot symbol of success on the southwest corner of Elk Avenue and Fourth Street. An ornate portico extended around the north and east facades, welcoming guests into its wainscoted- and deepBrussels-carpeted rooms, each accented with European and East Coast furniture and


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fixtures. Two large and brilliant chandeliers lit up the registry counters, and solid walnut banisters lined stairs and halls. Weighty cardinal lambrequins draped either side of the large plate glass windows facing Lone Mountain. Lathed plaster and handfinished wood in Eastlake Style decorated the House throughout. Fancy glass, engraved silverware, pressed-tin ceilings, steam heaters and copper boilers made most of us feel as if there was no greater luxury. What’s more, Mrs. Rachel Smith – certainly Crested Butte’s most talented vocalist – welcomed all with her wondrous singing. Lively activity continued at the Elk Mountain House, including extravagant weddings drawing all the local luminaries. You might think that now – finally now -- Smith could sit back on an Elk Mountain House portico and revel in the results of his labors. But no. Smith retained a hand in most of the enterprises he’d started. In 1882, however, he did sell the Howard, Howard Extension, Ruby Chief, et al mining property near Irwin to an English syndicate for $250,000. Still, you would not catch the man resting. That is, until – and with little warning – in August 1886, Howard and Rachel Smith made a surprise announcement: they were leaving the Buttes and returning to Elkhart, Indiana -- from whence they came -- to manage the Smith family’s paper mills. That shocked us all. Smith’s father, who’d established and operated the mills for decades, had unexpectedly passed away, and the family business needed a strong and energetic personality to resume control. The Smiths boarded a Denver & Rio Grande train east, and as with an electromagnetic coil slowly losing its spin, the lights in the Buttes dimmed. Smith retained some interests in Crested Butte -- property, mines, a few business enterprises -- but the loss of his presence and drive was soon evident. Coal mining went on. Precious metals were still extracted. But the place no longer seemed as energetic and innovative as it had been. Soon, Crested Butte would become a “company town” for the large mines. On rare occasions, Howard F. Smith returned. But he never stayed long. And I – Sanford C. Robinson, his old friend and business associate -- was there to greet him. But it was nothing like the old days. Smith didn’t have the same enthusiasm for the place. He appeared tired and worn – more like Coleridge’s Ozymandias than a Westinghouse power plant. He’d become more a stone sculpture looking down from Lone Mountain upon all his past works -- the embers of his eyes partially buried in snow and coal dust -- than the charismatic dynamo I once knew.



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Iola Valley Farms, part of the Gunnison Valley’s local food movement.

I scooped the rich soil in one hand and tunneled down with the other, making room for the next emerald baby brassica to be nestled into the earth. Kneeling next to farmer Matthew Ozyp on his 240-acre Iola Valley Farms, a few miles south of Blue Mesa’s Iola boat ramp, I pulled the next plant out of the sheet pot and asked what brought him to farming. “My parents both passed away from health issues, and I became even more inspired to heal and nourish people through food,” Ozyp, 30, told me. Born and raised on a seven-acre homestead with a small garden up Ohio Creek, Ozyp was gifted two goats when he was eight, and he thought those creatures were the greatest present on the planet. His dad, Jim, owned a tile company and taught him how to build everything from shops to barns. Beth, his mom, worked for the Forest Service. He and his sister, Kelly, who competed at Cattlemen’s Days, rode horses together. “As a kid in Gunnison, I spent my life outside,” he said. He saw his mom pass away from lung cancer five years ago. His father had died

a decade prior from prostate cancer, at age 54. “Those health issues aren’t necessarily caused by lack of nutrition or limited access to healthy food, but health had always been on my mind. When I was 16 years old, I became conscious that we should eat healthier and got really into organic food. Our country’s agriculture system is poisoning us, and I became obsessed with solutions,” explained Ozyp. He earned a business degree in college, and all of his research revolved around the brokenness of the U.S. food and health care systems, from the industrialization of organic food production to the gigantic carbon footprint. Fifteen years ago, when his passion sparked to know the source of his food and to eat seasonally appropriate foods, there were no organic farmers in the Gunnison Valley. The Parianuches and Uncompahgre, two bands of the Ute people, were huntergatherers throughout the region near the Gunnison River, supplementing their diet with wild plants, from onions to amaranth, rice grass and Indian potato flower. In the 1880s, white settlers successfully grew potatoes and hay and raised cattle. 99

Matthew Ozyp: "inspired to heal and nourish people through food."

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Ranching continued to burgeon, but farming was challenged by the altitude and weather. “In the last decade, local food has hit our valley in a big way,” said Ozyp. He started farming in 2016, cultivating a 5,000-square-foot urban garden that provided 12,000 pounds of produce for the Gunnison Country Food Pantry (and another 1,200 pounds unintentionally fed the area’s persistent deer). Seeing the value and demand, Ozyp sold his home and urban garden in Gunnison and in 2017 bought this farmland, where I was volunteering as an inaugural member of his first-ever Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. I strolled past the musical clucking coop full of 150 chickens to hold a newborn ewe. Its herd fluctuates up to 120 sheep, whose manure helps replenish the nutrients in the soil for hay. Iola is also home to two horses, 11 farm cats and three dogs, including a huge alabaster Great Pyrenees and an Akbash. In the back, 16 eco-friendly greenhouses – that Ozyp is “obsessed” with building – are lined up next to rows of potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, arugula and lettuce. Tomatillos, tomatoes and peppers are grown in the greenhouses all summer. In the winter, the greenhouses help the sheep and chickens stay warm, while lowering the operation’s overall carbon footprint. Now in his sixth season, Ozyp cultivates 10,000 pounds of food each year. “We’ve extended our 90-day grow season to a 200-day grow season on 1,200 square feet – without any fossil fuel at all.” Mountain Roots Food Project, another local operation, delivers 15,000 pounds – a yield that could potentially quadruple thanks to the introduction of four hydroponic year-round freight-container farms. Ozyp recently helped construct the propane, electric,

water and drain lines in the recycled shipping containers, which produce an acre of food each. Calder Farm, Parker Pastures and Sue Wyman of Gunnison Gardens also continue to pioneer the local food movement alongside newcomer Gunni Gal, Alex Van Zandt, who recently launched a year-round aquaponics greenhouse up Ohio Creek. “She’ll be able to produce 900 heads of lettuce per week, which is four times what I can produce in a week,” noted Ozyp. New this season, Ozyp’s partner, Alexis Taylor, is growing cut flowers, including edible varieties, in six of the Iola greenhouses. Ozyp continues to directly serve the community via three back-to-back CSA programs that stretch 30 weeks in the spring, summer and fall. Wyman, an ultimate go-getter, pitched the idea of working together to extend the grow season, which initially intimidated Ozyp. But this is the third year of the collaboration between the farmers of the Gunnison Valley Producers’ Guild, and they’ve seen major breakthroughs. Last year, they expanded from growing solely root crops into cultivating greens, which also extended nearly the entire duration of the eight-week fall CSA. “We always open up those CSAs to any of the farmers. It takes the pressure off individual farms, especially in the shoulder seasons when things can go south quickly,” said Ozyp. He modified his greenhouses to withstand cold temperatures with in-floor heating, pressure exchange that blocks cold air from seeping in, and thermal mass – barrels filled with water – plus tucking the plants under frost cloths at night. Ozyp said, “We were so proud last year that our fall CSA wasn’t just potatoes. We were all figuring it out. Sue was also able to offer Swiss chard and spinach. The solution wasn’t as difficult as we thought; plants are amazingly resilient.”



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Growing up, my siblings and I had a donkey named Kay. I’m not sure quite how we came by her, maybe as company for the last horse my dad had. Kay lived with our old horse, Fly, on the Gandy Ranch up Taylor Canyon in the summers and wintered at my Uncle John’s near Gunnison. Donkeys are their own selves, owing nothing to anyone and wanting even less from humans, but they like horses and relish in their friendship. Horses seem to protect the small donkeys, surrounding them often with their comparatively huge bodies. Most donkeys I’ve encountered revel in the attention the horses give them. We humans are maybe good for a scratch of their long ears or the base of their tails, but for most the coddling stops there. Donkeys run on their own time and moods. Hanging out under a shady tree

suits them fine. Petting them on a cold morning draws scowls, for you have broken the air lock created by their layers of hair. They are happy to walk away from you at any given moment, just to show you they are in charge. Kay, as far as I dreamed, was my ride into the sunset. When I was a little kid, she was just my size, standing maybe three feet at her withers. Her coat was coarse and her markings typical; she did not particularly stand out in a herd. What did stand out, as I endeavored to ride her, was her sheer will and large sense of humor at my expense. Donkeys do laugh inside, I think. My dad would catch her for my little brother and me, and we would proudly lead her into the yard. I was probably about five years old, making my brother three, so we couldn’t reach her head to put the bridle on. 103

So my dad would bridle her for us and hand me the reins, and we were on our own. First things first, we had to find something to stand on in order to get on her. The porch of the nearby Almont store was good for that, so I would start to lead her to it. She would give me maybe one or two steps and stop. I would pull and pull on her – nope, she wasn’t moving. Knowing she wouldn’t hurt anyone, I had my little brother push her from behind, and we would go a couple of steps before she threw out the anchor. In this fashion we covered maybe 30 yards, arriving triumphantly at the elevated porch a half hour later. I led Kay up to where she was parallel with the wooden porch and climbed up on it. I grabbed some mane, such as it was, and stretched my right leg over her back. It was obviously not her first rodeo with little kids, and she turned her butt until she was perpendicular to the porch, cancelling my ability to mount. My brother and I would then push her butt over, I would climb back on the porch and stretch my leg over her, and she would repeat her move away from me. After evaluating the situation for a minute, I directed my subservient brother to stand by her far side while I yet again climbed up on the porch. He put his tiny

hands on her side, deterring her from moving away from me. It worked! I was aboard, and with struggle I hauled my brother up behind me. Once we were settled and my short little legs were wrapped tight against her fat belly, I gave her a kick. She didn’t move. In fact, she ignored me. She was a statue. My brother, being the go-to guy he was, bailed off under my instruction and picked up a stick… and she moved then. I suggested he put it in his back pocket lest she get scared and take off with me, and once again he clamored aboard. With the threat of the stick, Kay began to move, albeit reluctantly. Donkeys are energy conservationists, and moving much at all is against their birthrights as donkeys. Donkeys are also strong; with their low centers of gravity and short backs, they’re ideal for packing cargo in the mountains and defying little kids. I know a guy who trained his 4-H calves to lead by tethering them to a donkey; where the donkey went, a large calf was obligated to follow. It didn’t take long, and the calves led easily. My brother and I, on any given day, would repeat this scenario. Learning to use a short stick as only a threat was key to our ability to get her to move. Even at that, we would travel only a few feet before she stopped, and we would show her the stick

to restart her. During those days of trial, I learned a lot about ingenuity, perseverance and invention and killed a lot of time. If she wasn’t in the mood for us little kids, I learned to convince her she was. I was so lucky to be able to go to the Gandy Ranch as a kid. Some days the cleaning gals were there, and they had kids my age, so we played together. Kay, of course, figured into that. My childhood friend Wilma Bifano and I spent time together up there in the summers and dragged Kay out one day to “go for a ride.” We both climbed on from a fence there, and of course Kay stood solid no matter how much I kicked her with my short legs. Wilma hadn’t spent any time around equines so didn’t realize they panicked. She slid off to get a stick, and the last thing I said to her was to hide that stick. She came running back, stick held high in the air, and Kay was off down the lane at a full jarring trot – with me astride, clinging to her mane. The fence was coming up straight ahead, and I knew I would be dumped over it. I bailed. That was all Kay wanted, and she stopped, her feet beside mine. I learned my lessons on perseverance and prudence, and my ride into the sunset on Kay the donkey was one 15-second run down the lane.



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It’s an uptwirling whistle. No, it’s a fluting double helix. Sorry, try again. According to one naturalist, it’s a “whoop, whoop, whoop” reminiscent of Curly’s famous riff in the Three Stooges. Or is it a low pulsing, a fluttering buzz, a “bewildering, wavering sound that drifts from everywhere and yet nowhere”? Technically, it’s winnowing, a term that designates both the Wilson’s snipe’s flight display (high circles, shallow dives, so damn sexy to a prospective mate, so damn intimidating to a territorial intruder) and the sonic something produced by that behavior. Hmm, but that doesn’t convey the power, the wonder. Some say “ghostly, a haunting hu-hu-hu.” I say there’s nothing remotely spooky going on here; in fact, rarely am I as calmly, quietly, gladly at home as when I’ve tuned myself to the snipe. Let’s rewind and describe the experience of this spring serenade. Third week of April, 6:30 p.m. I ditch my bike by

the Gronk, wander the willows, plop down beside Peanut Lake, crack a beer, take a pull, and for once in my blathering life shut up and actually listen. Canada geese honk and splash. Red-winged blackbirds sing their classic conk-la-ree. Boreal chorus frogs chorus (run your finger against the teeth of a plastic comb to simulate). Mr. and Mrs. Mallard get into their usual nasal dispute. Maybe, for a split second, I discern a passing beaver’s silky wake. Spacing out. Outer space, inner space, inner... Boomshakalaka! Winnowing! Vladimir Nabokov, who was a serious lepidopterist on top of being a genius author, instructs us vertebrates to “worship the spine and its tingle.” For a moment, my spine feels like it’s a mile long and blazing hot. The Wilson’s snipe (Gallinago delicata, roughly “henlike dainty”) is a short-winged, thin-legged, lance-billed sandpiper that winters from the southern United States 107

through Central America to Venezuela and, Texan-fashion, migrates to Crested Butte for a summer of partying, feasting, making babies, etc. My Sibley guidebook reports that the birds are “uncommon and inconspicuous along grassy edges of freshwater ponds or among muddy stubble in flooded fields,” which is true – sort of, kind of, depending. If we’re talking eyes, yes, these camouflaged ground-nesters are elusive; even when they’re winnowing, looping infinity signs above the marsh, you’re unlikely to catch a glimpse because, well, they’re cruising at 30-40 m.p.h. and the sky’s a mighty big place. But if we’re talking ears – that hollow whirlygigging, that ascending whir-tune, that sonic something – the snipe are impossible to miss. (Please, sir, remove the Bluetooth. I said REMOVE THE BLUETOOTH, YOU TECH-ADDLED CYBORG SONOFA....) By the time I’ve finished my beer beside Peanut Lake, the alpenglow has faded and the whole valley is popping off – five, 10, 15 individuals competitively soloing, adding flourishes to the avantgarde symphony of aves, amphibia and trucks on distant Gothic Road. Five, 10, 15 individuals…47…63? I’m yanking numbers from my bum. How many winnowers are winnowing right – now!? Er, right – now!? The question is unanswerable, superfluous. Sit back and relax. As untold generations have done before you, abide with the mystery. “Mystery” is the type of icky cliché a nature writer ought to avoid, but I genuinely mean it; ditto the untold generations. For millennia, people have cocked their heads to snipe and uttered a variation of WTF? Swedes explained the disembodied sound as a whinnying horse that lived in the clouds. Northern Germans believed it was goats hauling the thunder-god Donar across the heavens in a chariot, vigorously 108

bleating en route. The Nunamiut of Alaska heard an avikiak – a walrus – blowing. Not to ruin the folkloric fun, but science ultimately prevailed. Is the sonic something generated by lungs and bill? By flapping? European naturalists were stymied until 1856, when Friedrich Wilhelm Meves of the Zoological Riks-Museum in Stockholm solved the riddle with an experiment. Writes Meves: “But to convince one’s self fully that it is the first feather which produces the peculiar sound, it is only necessary carefully to pluck out such a one, to fasten its shaft with fine thread to a piece of steel wire a tenth of an inch in diameter and a foot long, and then to fix this at the end of a four-foot stick. If now one draws the feather, with its outer side forward, sharply through the air, at the same time making some short movements or shakings of the arm so as to represent the shivering motion of the wings during flight, one produces the neighing sound with the most astonishing exactness.” Aha, the tail feathers. Specifically, air vibrating the extra stiff outer tail feathers as the bird plunges and swerves. The gentleman who translated Meves’ pioneering study for an English-reading audience, John Wooley, witnessed his colleague’s surreal demonstration: “The mysterious noise of the wilderness was reproduced in a little room in the middle of Stockholm.” This DIY ornithological sleuthing is amusing, even inspiring – let’s rig feathery flyswatters of our own and jam out! A little room in Stockholm, however, is quite lame compared to the snipe’s habitat, the elemental scene in which winnowing occurs. Speaking of a different species, conservationist David Brower nailed it: “A condor is five percent feathers, flesh, blood and bone. All the rest is place.” Context – and in the case of snipe, context equals wetlands at sundown. These birds are decidedly crepuscular (“appearing or active in twilight”), as am I, as is Katy Duffy, an interpretive planner at Yellowstone National Park who said in a 2014 NPR interview: “It happens at a time that’s sort of magical. I think of dusk as magical because almost anything can happen. Your imagination kind of goes wild and when you hear sounds out of this, oh, semi-darkness, they seem ethereal... otherworldly.” By the beginning of May, having logged a dozen-plus evenings beside Peanut Lake, on the Town Ranch, and at secret mucky spots (ask the snipe), I’m compelled by my growing obsession to deepen into winnowing by camping up the Slate, near Gunsight Bridge. My kit is minimal. Ground tarp, foam pad, mummy bag. Hummus sandwich for dinner, IPA for dessert. No

headlamp, no paperback novel, no gadgets, no distractions. Spacing out. Outer space, inner space, inner... Boomshakalaka! The excursion is everything I could want and more. At peak winnowing, I use my breath in lieu of a stopwatch and count between four and six sonic somethings per inhale-exhale cycle. However, what really thrills me isn’t the overwhelming, Phil Spectorish “wall of sound,” but the occasional isolated snipe that, during the wee hours, subtly enters and exits my unconscious. These birds are not exclusively crepuscular; all night they arrive and depart, tail feathers vibrating my dreams. At dawn, my toes numb, the moon dangling above Red Lady, I dump a wheelbarrow of instant coffee crystals into a half-frozen water bottle and slam the bitter potion. Ayee! Holy friggin’ Nabokovian spine tingle! Along with the caffeine jolt comes the memory of my weird sleep, the rush of those midnight snipe that flew straight through my psyche, and along comes a line from the fellow I quoted in this essay’s opening paragraph – who, in describing winnowing as “bewildering,” was, I suspect, keenly aware of the word’s overtones (be wilder). A physician from Provo, Utah, Kevin Colver is better known among North American bird nerds for his bonus career as a recordist; he travels widely with a microphone, capturing exotic squawks and obscure screeches for audio guides. He’s credited with much of the Audubon app’s material, not to mention the red-tailed hawk cry employed in a hundred corny Hollywood films. Basically, he’s an explorer of the aural backcountry, a total boss, and he writes on his website: “Truth is, I hardly listen to human-produced music any more. I love the sounds of the natural world and they satisfy my ear and my heart.” Thanks to the snipe, I’m increasingly with Colver. So instead of breaking camp, I sit tight in my frosty bag, waiting for the sun, trilling wrens and clicking juncos and meowing towhees intermingling with my fantasy of a society that prizes soundscapes over Gerry and the Noodling Dead (my apologies, KBUT). Bro, I snagged a bootleg of Wilson’s Snipe, Live at Gunsight Bridge, May 2, 2021. That’s an epic show! But you gotta check out Riverland, April 22, with guests Great Horned Owl and Hoot Squad. I was at that concert! Wasn’t even on drugs, but I swear I heard the voice of God! Insane! The second set absolutely wails. Reminds me of Brush Creek, June 9. And the encore? Haaaaa!


A FELLOW FAN OF THESE ‘NEATLY PUT-TOGETHER’ BIRDS In June, I called Pat McGee, a wildlife biology professor at Western Colorado University, on the hunch that he might be, like me, a man of refined sensibility – that is, an unabashed lover of Wilson’s snipe. We talked for almost an hour, chuckling often, though neither of us said anything particularly funny. Maybe we were just glad to be talking Gallinago delicata instead of Netflix shows, doofus politicians and the S&P 500? Here’s a bit of our conversation.


I grew up in Littleton, Colorado, and have been in the valley for about 25 years. I teach a variety of classes, including wildlife biology, ornithology, mammalogy and ecology, and I started a non-profit organization called Sisk-a-dee that’s focused on conservation of the Gunnison sage-grouse. I have a broad interest in mountains, water, wild places and wild species, but the theme of my research is trying to understand the needs of wildlife across the annual cycle, then translating that into management and conservation.

PAT ON WHAT’S REALLY FUN ABOUT SNIPE (without my prompting):

Snipe do these cool aerial courtship displays. They fly up steeply and as they dive back down they make a mechanical noise with their feathers. It’s almost like the hooting of an owl. It travels a long distance, so they can attract mates.


There’s not a really good database or survey system, but I think they’re doing reasonably well. They like wet meadow areas, so they’re pretty adaptable to a lot of our agriculture. There is a conservation category now called “Common birds in steep decline,” which snipe could be on eventually. For instance, the Brewer’s sparrow is the most common bird in the sagebrush, but its population has declined by more than half in the last 50 years. Even though a species like snipe is common, that doesn’t mean it isn’t subject to population decline, extirpation and extinction.

The owners of the Verzuh Open Space, the Martens, got in touch with me because they’re really interested in the phenology of their land – when the birds arrive in the spring, the dates and sequence of breeding events, that kind of stuff. A student of mine conducted a weekly survey from mid-May through October in 2020. You don’t get the whole phenology story from one year of surveys, but we got a start. She found quite a few snipe, and also eggs, so that was pretty awesome, given that the property isn’t all that big.


The Martens’ property is exciting because it’s at the edge of town, and if you keep going, there’s a significant amount of acreage and riparian habitat. It’s so important to think at the landscape scale. The more we fragment habitat into smaller chunks, the less capable those chunks become supporting wildlife populations. We need these bigger, undisturbed areas where birds can do their thing. We keep losing critical pieces of the puzzle.


Everybody gets that if you bulldoze the land, you’ve lost the habitat. But what people might not get, especially in this valley where you’ve got competing values – love of wild nature versus love of outdoor recreation – is that our fun has a huge impact on wildlife. There’s a general sense that outdoor recreation and biodiversity can coexist, but at some point we have to say, Okay, can we limit some of our activities? Can we leave some spaces where people aren’t biking or running or kayaking

or skiing? We’re absolutely everywhere now, and our presence is not without consequence to the wild others.


People also tend to think that cars are more disturbing to wildlife than someone walking, but a lot of times it’s the reverse. Often wildlife will let you pass right by if you’re driving slowly, but if you’re walking or running or riding a bike, the animals are almost always going to be disturbed. In the case of birds – like on the McCormick Ranch Road – they will flush. So there’s this buffer zone that is impacted, and if you leave the road, you push it even farther off into the wetlands.


Snipe build their nests right down next to the water, sometimes on a little mound, sometimes even with these sweet little ramps. Any bird that nests on the ground is incredibly vulnerable to a host of threats. Imagine an unleashed dog running by with its amazing sense of smell!


There are two main approaches. If you put a box around the wetlands and say nobody can go in here because we’re trying to protect the birds, that’s spatial. If you say there’s a certain period when the migrant birds arrive and nest and raise their young, and we can go in there, just not during this window of time, that’s temporal. Both of these can be powerful approaches to 109

conservation. I think the future status of so many species depends on some kind of self-imposed restriction on our activities. The question is whether we’ll do it.


My starting place with snipe was like a lot of people’s – it’s a make-believe bird that you go out searching for with pots and pans and flashlights in the middle of the night. You go out on a “snipe hunt.” But then, when I was older, I learned it’s a real bird!


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Oh, they’re just a really neatly puttogether bird. They’ve got this long, long bill attached kind of awkwardly to a rather small head, and with it they’re able to probe deep down into the soil and tactilely locate food. And their eyes are placed on the sides of the head so they can almost see 360 degrees. They’re so secretive, so cryptic, so well adapted to living on the ground and blending in with the habitat. But then, it’s crazy – they do this amazing display, flying around the sky in amazing loops, making this beautiful hooting sound, trying to let the entire world know they exist. I just love their whole lifestyle.



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I suppose all good things come to an end, but when Donita’s Cantina closed in 2019, I felt the void. It felt unnatural. Admittedly, it had been a couple of years since I’d worked a shift or stopped in for a meal. So why this gut-wrenching, empty feeling? “You’ll want at least two restaurant jobs.” This was the advice I received on moving to Crested Butte in 2010. I lucked out, because I found work at Donita’s. For me, it was a lens through which I fell in love with Crested Butte. Donita’s was authentic

with an edgy character. The space was orderly and rough around the edges, like an old general store back east. It offered a familiar comfort. The tin ceiling, handmade tablecloths, hanging flower baskets and that homemade cobbler: everything at Donita’s had a story. Its layout, from the dining room to the kitchen, had purpose. It didn’t take me long to realize that Donita’s character was the result of sisters Kay and Heli’s 20-year-long labor of love. Neither Heli Peterson nor Kay Peterson

Cook moved to Crested Butte with the intention of owning a restaurant. “I was unemployed at the time, and it just fell into place,” explained Kay. Kay’s husband, Don, had just started working for Linda Blackledge in 1980. Linda had dreamed of opening a Mexican restaurant where she could share her grandmother’s recipes. Don had worked for Linda for about one month before rupturing his spleen while skiing gates – yes, gates – on a patch of snow above Green Lake in July. “It was a seasonal tradition,” Kay explained. “So I picked up Don’s shifts. Then I didn’t give him his job back. I thought, I like this!” Five years later Kay was a partial owner, and in 1999 she agreed to buy out her partners, with sister Heli becoming a partial owner shortly thereafter. The two moved through the restaurant methodically yet naturally. When the restaurant was filling up quickly, Kay appeared instantly with chips, salsa and one of those 12-pound water jugs. And before you knew it, Heli was conversing with the customers, evoking belly-deep laughter. As wait staff, I felt like part of a fine-tuned machine. There was closeness and camaraderie from shift meal to closing. Once the dining room was set and the kitchen prepped, staff shuffled into the bar, each with their choice of shift meal. “Seinfeld” playing from the bar television offered a meditative feel. That time was a welcomed cool-down from whatever adventure you’d gone on that day and a necessary transition into go-time. Working a July evening at Donita’s was a non-stop hustle. But fun – for staff and customers – was part of even the busiest of nights. Like prom-dress night, when each wait staffer, man or woman, sported their choice of prom dress from Mary Holder’s and Kay’s collections. Most were relics of the 1980s and ‘90s. “We had some quirky, quirky weirdos that worked for us,” Heli recalled with a laugh. “There was a true sense of family. People stayed and worked for us; they didn’t job hop. That says something.” Janae Deverell Pritchett, who started working at Donita’s in her early twenties, appreciated Kay’s and Heli’s “ability and willingness to tell you ‘how it was,’ without any fluff.” They worked as a sort of yin and yang. Heli would let certain things slide, but not Kay. “Kay was always the boss-boss, and I was the boss that everyone related to,” chuckled Heli. At Donita’s, you worked both for and with Kay and Heli. They were always there, working hard. “I liked being hands-on,” Kay said. “If I didn’t know it, I would learn it. Don learned how to fix every darn thing in the restaurant. Calling people to do 113

Previous page: Heli and Kay (in sombreros) joined friends and fans on the front steps of Donita’s in the restaurant’s final days. This page top: A 1982 staff photo (including Kay’s early partners, Gary and Donita Reitze), at the restaurant’s original home, the Elk Mountain Lodge. Below: Sisters Heli Mae Peterson and Kay Peterson Cook, the hands and heart of Donita’s.


repairs cost a lot of money. So he’d just go to town fixing things.” The sisters’ care for Donita’s extended well beyond running a business. “There was a sense of fellowship with customers. It wasn’t the new groovy people who moved to town that came to eat here. It was the old-timers. If they wanted to go out to eat, they would come to Donita’s,” Kay recalled. Waiting tables, I learned the stories of locals, their families and the Crested Butte they called home. Donita’s came to be part of the customers’ Crested Butte experience because Heli and Kay welcomed them like family. “What really kept me going back was the hug at the door from Heli or Kay,” recounted Sarah Keene. For the Keenes and so many, that welcome grew into friendship and care that went beyond Donita’s front steps. “After a day of skiing, my young niece would fall asleep at the table at Donita’s. So when she’d walk in every year, Heli would bring her some pillows.” Heli gifted those pillows to Sarah’s niece the last time they dined at Donita’s. No Gunnison Valley restaurant boasts a 20-year life without offering something special. For Donita’s, it wasn’t just Heli’s homemade ice cream or Kay’s cobbler. It was also their genuine nature. That, combined with so many years in business, meant that Heli and Kay had a lot of loyal customers. Bob Couchman, a longtime visitor to Crested Butte, first dined at Donita’s in the 1980s. “It was our go-to place when we were in town,” he said. For Bob and

his wife Barb, the personal greeting, as much as the good food, kept them going back. In 2007, Barb passed away. Kay connected Bob with the Crested Butte Land Trust, with whom he worked to place a bench on the Lower Loop in Barb’s memory. “Kay and Heli were so supportive and sympathetic that it gave me a lot of solace and comfort,” said Bob. Donita’s had a way of making people feel like they belonged to something special, and I’m not sure it can be replaced. “A marriage proposal was made on our front steps,” Kay recounted. “The Wolffs. They live on the Front Range, and their daughter loved Donita’s so much, she was proposed to there.” Those beautiful hanging flower baskets likely made for great proposal photos. “Customers could come in, get their same favorite table and same food. You could eat and not go home broke, but go home full,” said Heli. For affordability, it was hard to beat a five-dollar enchilada, the special margarita and free chips and salsa. In the back of the kitchen, hanging above the weekly schedule, was a handwritten chart used to track how many dinners were served each night. I loved this chart. Like almost everything at Donita’s, it was done by hand. No computers, no fancy “point-of-sale” system to place orders and track sales (though that did come eventually). What the chart showed was consistency. Each year, the crowds – and I mean crowds – showed up during holidays, and the locals filled in the gaps. After Kay and Heli announced they would be closing Donita’s, “folks wanted to eat there as much as possible, and we had lines down the sidewalk,” Kay remembered. Fans can still enjoy reminders of Donita’s. Kay and Heli will still make batches of salsa to gift, and every now and then someone requests a tray of enchiladas. While the 5,000-square-foot restaurant space has been renovated and split into five units, the original pressed and burnished tin ceiling remains. And the Donita’s flower garden, transplanted to Heli’s vegetable garden, “blooms like mad,” she said, with her trademark chuckle.



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“For a 911 call with an individual experiencing a cardiac or neurological event, as we say in this field, time is tissue. Every single second matters. Because our current station lacks sleeping quarters, our nighttime response in the winter can be six minutes. That is unacceptable. Industry standard is one to two minutes, and urban paramedics can respond within 30 seconds. Delayed response can result in irreversible tissue damage. A new station will dramatically improve our response time so we can save tissue in a brain or a heart.” CJ Malcolm, Chief, GVH Paramedics

A capital campaign is underway to address a critical need for a new station for Gunnison Valley Health Paramedics. We are over halfway to the $8.5 million needed for the new station.


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Chris Miller Nolan Blunck

JUNE 3-4 4 12, 19, 26 12, 19, 26 14, 28 15 16, 30 17 17 19 20 22 22-28 24 25 26 26 27 28 29 29 118

CB Mountain Theatre (CBMT): A Look Back at the ‘90s National Trails Day, CB Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA) Art Market at First and Elk parking lot Farmers Market at west end of Elk Avenue Duane’s history tours, CB Mountain Heritage Museum (CBMHM) Group ride with CBMBA board Historic Mountain Bike Tour, Hiking Tour, CBMHM KBUT Fish Fry Karen Hill artist reception, Center for the Arts (CFA) Juneteenth celebration, CFA Wild Minds Young Writers Camp, CFA Wednesday Workday volunteer trail work, CBMBA Junior Bike Week Crested Butte Chainless Championships ArtWalk at Crested Butte studios and galleries Black & White Ball at the CBMHM Jam music class, CFA Free Alpenglow concert, CFA outdoor stage Public Policy Forum Tour de Forks summer kickoff, CFA Live! from Mt. CB, free base area concert

Petar Dopchav


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Chalk Walk, CFA Art Market at First and Elk Farmers Market at west end of Elk Avenue Independence Day downtown parade, games, fireworks Free Alpenglow concerts, CFA outdoor stage Public Policy Forum Live! from Mt. CB, free base area concerts Songwriter Shuffle Thursday Evening Farmers Market in downtown CB Celebration of Music Gala, Crested Butte Music Festival (CBMF) ArtWalk at Crested Butte studios and galleries Crested Butte Wildflower Festival Starry Evening Gala for the Crested Butte Land Trust Forsythe-Wilbar artists reception, Kinder-Padon Gallery, CFA Broadway on the Butte, Crested Butte Music Festival (CBMF) Duane’s Van History Tours, CBMHM Historic Mountain Bike, Hiking Tours, CBMHM Grin & Bear It Trail Run, CB Nordic Center Caddis Cup Fishing Tournament, Crested Butte Land Trust Group ride with CBMBA board Bon Appetit! A Julia Childs Operetta, CFA Summer Pub Crawl, CBMHM Volunteer trail workday, CBMBA Wine & Food Festival, CFA Violin & Piano in the Garden, CBMF Living Journeys Summit Hike & Half Marathon Colorado Gypsy Jazz Camp, CBMF Hot Club Jazz Rafting, CBMF Gypsy Jazz All Stars, CBMF Jam class for musicians, CFA

Constance Mahoney





Chris Miller


Constance Mahoney


1-6 1-6 1, 8, 15 2, 9, 16 3 3, 10, 17 4 4 4, 11, 18, 25 5 5-7 6 6 7 7, 14, 21, 28 7-8 7, 14, 21, 28 9 11 11, 25 13 18 18 19 20 20 19-21 25 28 28-SEPT. 11

Bluegrass & Beyond Camp, CBMF Singer-Songwriter Camp, CBMF Alpenglow free outdoor concerts, CFA outdoor stage Public Policy Forum presentations, discussions Group ride with CBMBA board Live! from Mt. CB, free base area concerts Jeeping with Americana Bluegrass, CBMF Crested Butte Mountain Theatre’s 50th anniversary gala Thursday Evening Farmers Market in downtown CB Chamber Music with the Land Trust, CBMF Crested Butte Arts Festival Tray Wollington free concert, Red Lady Stage, Mt. CB, CBMF Feast in the Field, Mountain Roots Food Project Living Journeys benefit concert, Michael Franti, I Bar Ranch Art Market at First and Elk Crested Butte Open for Adaptive Sports Center Farmers Market at west end of Elk Avenue Duane’s History Tour: Crested Butte Ski History “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” with Elizabeth Bond, CBMHM Historic Mountain Bike, Hiking Tours, CBMHM Lynn Rushton Reed reception, Kinder-Padon Gallery, CFA Guts, Grits & Gals, with the gO Initiative Piano in the Garden, CBMF Music and a Movie, CBMF Pontoon Concert on the Water, CBMF ArtWalk at Crested Butte studios and galleries Adaptive Mountain Biking World Championships Alexander String Quartet, CBMF Jam class for musicians, CFA Bridges of the Butte events

SEPTEMBER 1 2 3, 4 4, 11, 18 4, 11, 18 7 8, 22 9 9 9 10 11 13 16 17 21-25 TBA 23, 24, 30 24 24

Bluegrass Jeeping Concert, CBMF Yonder Mountain String Band at the I-Bar, CBMF Grand Traverse Mountain Run & Mountain Bike, CB-Aspen Art Market at First and Elk Farmers Market at west end of Elk Avenue Volunteer trail workday, CBMBA Historic Mountain Bike, Hiking Tours, CBMHM Pearls & Pioneers, Pearl Pass kickoff, CBMHM Harvest Hoedown, Mountain Roots Food Project Western Heritage Group Show opens, Kinder-Padon Gallery, CFA Mt. Crested Butte Chili & Beer Festival Bridges of the Butte townie tour Volunteer weekend and party, CBMBA Historic Pub Crawl, CBMHM Mariachi Parade, CBMF Crested Butte Film Festival Vinotok fall harvest festival CB Mountain Theatre: A Look Back at the 2000s ArtWalk at Crested Butte studios and galleries Emma Coburn’s Elk Run 5K for Living Journeys

OCTOBER 1 2, 9 2, 9 12 20 29

CB Mountain Theatre: A Look Back at the 2000s (continued) Art Market at First and Elk Farmers Market at west end of Elk Avenue Battle of the Bartenders, CFA Ghost Stories, CBMHM For updated event information: Postmodern Jukebox, CFA

Greta Starritt

Xavi Fané


There will be food, there will be live music, and you better believe there will be beer.


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The smell of popping popcorn has faded from the noses of Carrie Wallace, Whitney Favor and Conrad Kaul – but not from their memories. The former employees of the Majestic Theatre have formed a nonprofit organization to re-open their beloved theater. The Majestic (beside Clark’s Market on Belleview) closed in March 2020 when Covid-19 hit the valley hard. As the pandemic continued to block the theater’s reopening for month after month, owners Mark and Ali Drucker could no longer make rent payments, and that September they closed the space for good. Wallace, Favor and Kaul formed Save the Majestic with the long-term aim of purchasing the building, but in the interim they hope to raise $300,000 to lease the space and reopen this summer. They researched and created a plan to run the facility as a nonprofit, showing new Hollywood movies in two theater spaces – based on social media feedback on what the community wants to see. The third theater space would be rented out for events like birthdays, film nights/festivals, live streams and other gatherings. The food and drink concessions can be one of the most profitable aspects of theater operation, Wallace said. The three organizers plan to partner with local businesses to enhance food and drink options – such as fresh slices from Mikey’s Pizza, cookies from The Breadery, First Ascent Coffee and cocktails with Montanya Rum. They also plan to display local artists’ work in a lobby mini-gallery. The Majestic is the only movie theater in a 90-mile radius of Crested Butte. Wallace pointed out that many small movie theaters operate as nonprofits, securing grants and outside funding to reduce reliance on Hollywood movie markets. So far, Save the Majestic funds have been raised through popcorn-by-donation at Center for the Arts movie showings; the Sweaty Kids Film Festival; a virtual silent auction; a Cult Classics film series at the Center; and hundreds of individual donations.





Connor Scalbom


Mountain Roots’ online food market:


Shoppers this summer can visit the Mountain Roots online marketplace to order sustainable, locally or regionally grown food. Orders placed during the ordering period (Thursday evening through Monday afternoon) will be available to pick up the following Thursday evening in either Gunnison or Crested Butte.

Melting Pot Cook-off: The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum and Town of Crested Butte will collaborate May 18 on a new event, the Melting Pot Cook-off. Chefs will make recipes from The Melting Pot Cookbook, written by Michele and Myrtle Veltri to celebrate the various cultures, ethnicities and culinary traditions from Crested Butte’s mining community. Chefs may put their own spins on the recipes. With your ticket, you can sample the ten participants’ creations, receive a booklet with the original recipes and how the chefs modified them, and enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage. Beer or wine can be added.

Feast in the Field: At Mountain Roots’

August 6 Feast in the Field, diners will savor a six-course meal by Dana Zobs, showcasing locally raised meat, vegetables and fruits. Artisan spirit makers, local brewers and winemakers will offer libations, and local farmers and ranchers will share their stories. This year, Mountain Roots will honor Jeff Hermanson for his support of local food.

Wine and dine to support the Center:

Shuffleboard Colorado Beer and Liquor Housemade Jalapeño Poppers Family Friendly

Brine & Fried Chicken Wings Organic Spring Mix Salads Hand Tossed Pizzas! Online Ordering Available

At The Plaza • 11 Snowmass Rd #35 • 970-349-7300 124

One of summer’s finest culinary events, the Crested Butte Wine + Food Festival will bring chefs, winemakers and experts here July 20-23. This Center for the Arts fundraiser includes winemakers’ dinners, the Grand Tasting, VIP lounge with highly rated wines, and many seminars for novices to connoisseurs. Whet your appetite before the festival with “Bon Appetit! A Julia Child Operetta” at the Center on July 16. On June 29, the summer Tour de Forks season opens with a multi-course meal, paired with premier wines, served riverside at the Gunnison Riverbanks Ranch in Almont.






Crested Butte’s Local Brewery and Taproom 326 Belleview Avenue (4th & Belleview)

202 Elk Avenue (2nd & Elk)




Greta Starritt

SCIENCE AND NATURE While you’re out and about in Crested Butte, chances are that you’ll come across a hummingbird. They enjoy eating nectar from the local flowers or getting a treat at the many hummingbird feeders people have in their gardens or attached to their houses. Did you know that a hummingbird weighs less than a nickel and its eggs are about the size of a jellybean? Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, especially red, so most feeders include that color. Here’s a recipe that is safe for hummingbirds if you want to help fill the hummingbird feeder in your yard. Add one cup of plain white granulated table sugar (refined cane sugar) to four cups of water in a pot. With help from an adult, slowly warm the mixture to boiling. Stir it regularly as you heat it to prevent sugar from burning to the bottom of your pot. Once the sugar fully dissolves, remove the liquid from the stove and let it cool. When the mixture is completely cool, put it into your hummingbird feeder and enjoy watching the little birds stop by for a treat. Please do not use honey, molasses, maple syrup or powdered sugar when making hummingbird food. These can cause health issues for hummingbirds. Also, remember to empty and thoroughly wash the feeder each week.

Rebecca Ofstedahl

ART AND NATURE When we go out hiking, camping or picnicking in the mountains, it’s important to keep the nature around us safe and healthy. That means no picking flowers or pulling the branches and leaves off of the trees. However, you can still make beautiful nature art while you’re outside by using the items you find on the ground. If you gather up rocks, twigs and fallen leaves or flower petals, you can make a nature mandala for the next person who stays at your campsite or passes along the trail to find and enjoy. Once you have gathered your items, choose one item to place in the center. Then make a ring around your center item, followed by a larger ring around that ring, and so on until you’re happy with the mandala you created. You can even gather all of the items you used for your mandala and make a new mandala with them, trying new patterns in your rings. For example, I decided to place a large rock at the center of my mandala. I surrounded my rock with a circle of leaves. Then I surrounded my leaves with a circle of small rocks and my circle of small rocks with a circle of twigs.

MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURES Did you know that before Crested Butte was a ski town, it used to be a mining town? You can still find old mining equipment, coal and the closed entrances to some mines along some trails in this area. When you walk by an old mine and hear knocking, it might be a Tommyknocker at work. A long time ago, miners believed in a mythological creature called a Tommyknocker. In other languages, a Tommyknocker was sometimes called a mountain ghost or a little miner. Some people believed Tommyknockers looked like little green men. Tommyknocker stories started in the mines of Pennsylvania in the 1800s, and, as the miners moved farther west to Colorado and California, the Tommyknocker stories moved with them. If you worked in a mine and heard knocking, the stories said, it meant that a Tommyknocker was nearby tapping on the walls. If it was a good Tommyknocker, the knocking would lead you to treasure. If it was a bad Tommyknocker, there would be trouble. To keep the Tommyknockers happy, miners would leave them bits of food or other little gifts so the creatures would protect them in the mines. If a mine closed, sometimes miners left a small space for the Tommyknockers to enter and exit when the entrance was sealed, in the hopes that the Tommyknockers would follow the miners to the next mine and help them there.



Community Radio for the Gunnison Valley


NO ONE IN GUNNISON COUNTY HAS TO FACE CANCER ALONE... AND YOU CAN HELP! JOIN US FOR SOME FUN THIS SUMMER! 2nd Annual Golf Scramble Saturday, May 21 at Dos Rios Golf Course 22nd Summit Hike & 10th Half Marathon Saturday, July 23 on Mt Crested Butte Michael Franti Benefit Concert Sunday, August 7 at the IBar Ranch





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Constance Mahoney

LaggisDesign&Construction The premier design/build contractor of Crested Butte

Experience. Ambition. Style. | 970-209-0485

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