For more than 50 years, Mountain Rescue Aspen has been saving lives in the backcountry areas of this region with little fanfare. That’s fine with the volunteer rescue workers, who prefer to help their community in relative anonymity.
What will receive plenty of attention is the brand-new, state-of-the art facility that will serve as the headquarters and a training and education center for Mountain Rescue Aspen, located next to the Aspen Business Center.
The public is invited to the grand-opening celebration from noon to 3 p.m. Monday at the new facility, located at 37925 Highway 82, across from the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. There’s a free barbecue until the food runs out and two rescue helicopters will be on display.
Mountain Rescue Aspen’s old headquarters was at 630 W. Main St. in Aspen and offered about 2,000 square feet of space.
“We had room for one vehicle and maybe a couple of snowmobiles and ATVs,” said Jeff Edelson, president of Mountain Rescue Aspen. “The rest of our emergency vehicles were stored at different locations in this area.”
The new facility has nearly 14,000 square feet of space, including 6,000 square feet that’s dedicated to a vehicle parking area with four bays that can each accommodate a vehicle and trailer. During the summer, the trailers will hold ATVs and in the winter will hold snowmobiles.
“We’re in a much better place to provide a high level of service,” Edelson said. “Now we’re set up to respond in a safer and more efficient way.”
One of the first things people will see above the main entrance is the name of the building: C.B. Cameron Rescue Center. Cameron died in a plane crash near Capital Creek Valley in 1977. Lynda Cameron, the daughter of Cameron, was 15 at the time and was one of the six survivors of the accident who were rescued by Mountain Rescue Aspen.
Lynda Cameron made a donation said to be in excess of $1 million to Mountain Rescue Aspen in 2011. The organization is entirely supported by donations and grants from the community. Cameron’s contribution is the largest the organization has ever received.
A statement released in 2011 said, “The donation was a tribute to Cameron’s father, for whom the facility will be named as well as a personal ‘thank you’ for the long-standing history of Mountain Rescue Aspen.”
Charles Cunniffe Architects Aspen designed the building. The exterior features a wood-based design that blends into the surrounding landscape, while the interior gives an all-encompassing functionality that matches the needs of the Mountain Rescue crew.
The first thing visitors will see as they enter the building is the main lobby that also will serve as a museum area with rescue memorabilia on display. The main level also houses a training room that can accommodate 50 to 60 people at one time.
A large locker room gives each volunteer enough space to store rescue gear for any weather situation. There’s also a small repair shop, a kitchen and eating area and a dedicated space for radio gear, satellite phones and GPS devices.
The second floor has two sleeping areas for volunteers who may be too tired to drive home after a mission. There’s also a conference area and a backup county-dispatch system.
In the center of the second floor is a main command room that offers an expansive view of the airport, with a map and planning area next door. Mountain Rescue will use the airport whenever a helicopter is needed for a mission.
The area above the garage bay houses a training loft with rope rescue anchors in place. It allows for a rope to be connected across the top of the bay so volunteers can practice rope rescues indoors.
On the south end of the building, a three-story tower offers even better views west toward the airport. The tower also allows the volunteers to practice rappelling.
On top of the roof is a 16-kilowatt photovoltaic system to power the building with a generator backup for emergencies.
There are still opportunities to give to help cover the cost of the building. There’s a tile donor wall with tiles still available and several rooms have naming rights obtainable. To donate, go to http://mountainrescueaspen.org.
“We’re hoping a lot of people come see the building on Sept. 1,” Edelson said. “We’re really proud of the facility and what it adds to our community.”