The Shining Mountains Powwow was something not to be missed last night at the Aspen High School. The Ute Foundation held Aspen’s first-ever powwow which was a nine-hour affair, complete with intertribal dancers, dignitaries and royalty from regional tribes, contest dancing and drumming, as well as cultural booths, arts and crafts, storytelling and indigenous vendors. Here is a short video recap created by Anna Stonehouse for you to enjoy.
Shining Mountains Powwow
Former Marine, amputee finds new life, skiing career at sports clinic in Snowmass (video)
George Kellogg had a choice. He could easily have let his injury get the best of him, part of a string of unlucky and self-inflicted issues he was dealing with.
Instead, he decided to climb that mountain — at times, literally — and make the most of his situation.
“This chairlift is going to keep on going without me or with me,” Kellogg said. “I can either sit at the bottom of the mountain and cry over a beer, or I can ski down it.”
Nearly seven years after his accident, the Texas native has gotten pretty good at the skiing down part. This is especially impressive considering he only has one good leg to do it on.
Kellogg, who now lives in Granby, is a former Marine and fourth-year participant in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, held the past 18 years in Snowmass Village. Hosted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans, it’s the largest rehabilitation program of its kind in the world. More than 400 disabled veterans took part in this year’s programming, which wraps up Friday.
“This is the best thing, I think, the VA has to offer,” Kellogg said Wednesday from Snowmass. “If you do this right and you take this program as it’s suppose to come, it will change your life. And it can be used as a spring board, a launching, to go somewhere else.”
As unique as Kellogg’s journey has been, it’s also similar to so many of the veterans who have spent the past week skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, scuba diving and taking archery lessons as part of the sports clinic. Currently 28, Kellogg had two stints in the military and was awarded two Purple Hearts during his service. During his first tour as part of the Afghanistan War, he was in a tactical vehicle that ran into an explosive that left him thankful to be alive.
This experience, and the rehab required, led to an opioid addiction. After turning to marijuana to help the pain, he was tested positive for THC less than two months into his second deployment and was discharged from the Marine Corps.
He left the military in June 2012. In September of that same year, while riding his motorcycle on a highway in Houston, he was hit by a vehicle. The accident took his left leg and forever changed his life.
“The tagline for the Winter Sports Clinic is ‘Miracles on the Mountain,’ and that’s absolutely true,” said Paul Dowsett, a ski and snowboard instructor from Canada. “We’ve seen so many transformative moments for so many veterans. George is just kind of the poster child.”
Dowsett has worked with Kellogg all four of his years at the sports clinic in Snowmass. A passionate skateboarder before losing his leg, Kellogg first found snowboarding as a suitable replacement, but didn’t enjoy using his prosthetic leg in that fashion. So, Dowsett suggested three-track skiing, which is essentially one-legged skiing with the aid of two outriggers for stabilization and turning. As it turned out, Kellogg had a hidden talent he was unaware of.
“It’s great therapy. It’s really hard, and that’s what makes it great,” Kellogg said of three-track skiing. “I skateboarded throughout the Marine Corp. I even took a skateboard to Afghanistan. Once I lost that, there was a big hole in my life.”
Skiing has filled that void, and it’s become more than a hobby. Somewhat coincidentally, Dowsett also instructed three-time Paralympian Melanie Schwartz back in the day. Schwartz, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, also is a three-track skier. She currently lives in Aspen and has trained with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
Kellogg blames her for much of his newfound hunger to become a Paralympian himself. He now trains with the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, where he is making a push as a professional skier.
“She is the one who kind of sent me on the path, said it is not impossible,” Kellogg said of Schwartz. “I was living on a sailboat. I was planning on doing a circumnavigation. My boat hasn’t left the dock since the last Winter Sports Clinic. In fact, I’ve only been back to Texas for seven days since then.”
Kellogg said, in some ways, losing his leg also saved his life. He was headed down a dark road, but was forced to confront his own personal demons and now has a quickly evolving career as a ski racer ahead of him.
Dowsett and Kellogg stay in touch after the clinic ends each year. Kellogg credits his instructor as much as Schwartz, if not more so, for steering him toward a professional skiing career. And Dowsett believes Kellogg has a chance at success, simply because of his positive attitude and willingness to push on.
“George is one of the most coachable people I’ve ever met,” Dowsett said. “When you give George clear instructions of what you want him to do, when George trusts you he will do exactly what you’ve asked him to do. As a coach, there is nothing better.”
Evidence represents Ted Bundy’s time in the Roaring Fork Valley
For a guy who never lived here, Ted Bundy certainly made a mark on Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.
He kidnapped and brutally murdered a Michigan nurse from a Snowmass Village hotel in January 1975, then jumped out of a second-story window at the Pitkin County Courthouse in July 1977 during a court recess after he’d been extradited to Aspen to face charges in the woman’s death, and was on the lam for eight days.
Finally, Bundy escaped from the Garfield County Jail in Glenwood Springs on Dec. 31, 1977, after removing a light fixture from the roof of his cell, squeezing through the small hole and vanishing into the night. He never returned to Colorado.
During his months in Glenwood Springs and Aspen in 1977, Bundy — who acted as his own attorney — and prosecutors with the 9th Judicial District were preparing to go to trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell, who was abducted from the Wildwood Inn in Snowmass Village. The trial never happened because of his Glenwood escape and subsequent execution in Florida in January 1989 for three murders he committed in that state.
Ever since Bundy escaped Colorado for good, however, the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has been holding on to nine boxes of evidence and other documents related to the Bundy trial that never was. The boxes have been sitting in a closet in the DA offices at the Garfield County Courthouse and are occasionally perused by journalists and others interested in the notorious serial killer, who confessed to killing more than 50 women.
“There’s been a significant amount of interest (in Bundy) recently because of the (30th) anniversary of his death,” said Jeff Fain, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.
The DA’s Office is in the process of digitizing all of the materials, most of which are mundane legal documents or minutia related to the investigation into Campbell’s death. But there are several items tucked in among the boxes — including physical evidence that may at some point be returned to authorities in Salt Lake City — that stick out as particularly interesting artifacts of Bundy’s time in the Roaring Fork Valley and the murder he committed here.
Included in those artifacts is a crowbar later found to contain blood and a Colorado Ski Country guide from the 1974-75 ski season that was found in Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment that tied him directly to the Snowmass Village murder.
BUNDY IN THE VALLEY: A BRIEF HISTORY
Campbell, 24, disappeared Jan. 12 after going to her room at the Wildwood Inn to retrieve a magazine she was going to read in the lobby with her fiancé and friends. A witness reported seeing her get off the elevator on the hotel’s second floor, but she was never seen alive again. The magazine and all her belongings were later found in her room.
Campbell’s nude body was discovered five weeks later Feb. 17 along Owl Creek Road as it drops down from Sinclair Divide into Snowmass Village. Her body had been buried under snow for much of that period and had been disfigured by animals. She suffered blows to the back of the head, appeared to have had her hands bound behind her and was likely thrown from a car, according to an Aspen Times article from Nov. 6, 1975. Examiners could find no evidence that she was sexually assaulted, according to a letter in the boxes of Bundy documents from then-Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast to Campbell’s brother.
Meanwhile, Bundy was convicted of aggravated kidnapping in March 1976 in Salt Lake City for trying to handcuff and abduct a woman there in November 1974. He was sentenced to between one and 15 years in the Utah Penitentiary for the crime, then was extradited to Aspen to face charges connected to Campbell’s murder.
Bundy denied killing Campbell and told The Aspen Times in an Aug. 4, 1977, feature headlined “Who is Ted Bundy?” that: “I’m extremely confident and firmly believe in my own innocence.”
Bundy also worked his notorious charm on reporters, law enforcement personnel and others at the courthouse, reportedly referring to his leap from the courthouse as “The Great Escape,” and telling a reporter he enjoyed reading an account of it, according to the same article.
“Talking with reporters during a court break, he once corrected one’s use of language,” the August 1977 article continues. “’I wish you would stop calling me an ‘accused murderer,’ he said, “and say ‘accused of murder.’”
One of his cellmates also was quoted in the piece. “He’s a hell of a nice guy,” the man reportedly said.
During his stay in the Roaring Fork Valley, Bundy was housed in the old Garfield County Jail, which has since been torn down, because Kienast worried he might try to escape from “the antiquated conditions” at Pitkin County’s jail, according to a June 9, 1977, Aspen Times story about his courthouse escape.
Bundy was transported to Aspen from Glenwood Springs for court appearances.
Before he was executed in Florida in January 1989, Bundy admitted to killing Campbell. He told a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office investigator that he went to the Wildwood Inn on crutches in hopes of luring a young woman to help him carry his ski boots to his car, according to a January 1989 Aspen Times article.
Bundy said he posted himself near the hotel’s pool and hoped another woman would help him, though she ignored him. Instead, Campbell offered to help, and once he got her to the parking lot, Bundy told the detective, he hit her over the head with his ski boots and “stuffed” her in his Volkswagen Bug, according to the article.
ARTIFACTS FROM THE TRIAL THAT WASN’T
Among the items in storage at the DA’s Office in Glenwood Springs are the booties Bundy wore while incarcerated at the Garfield County Jail. The navy blue, knitted booties have been sitting in a plastic bag since Bundy last used them in December 1977.
Also found in the boxes of documents is a detailed report about Bundy’s escape from the jail in Glenwood Springs.
Included is a lengthy inventory of the stuff he left behind in his cell after he broke out. Among the legal documents and texts, food items like vegetable protein powder and clothing was a large collection of books.
They included “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72” by Hunter S. Thompson, the Woody Creek writer who lost the 1970 Pitkin County sheriff’s race to Carroll Whitmire, the man who occupied the Sheriff’s Office when Bundy committed the Snowmass Village murder.
Other titles found in his cell included “Tai Pan” and “Shogun” by James Clavell, “The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown, “The Good Earth” and “Sons” by Pearl S. Buck, “Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story” by Carlos Baker, “The Word” by Irving Wallace, “The Two Towers” and “Return of the King” by J.R.R. Tolkien and “Quite Early One Morning” by Dylan Thomas, according to the inventory.
The lengthy inventory also included Penthouse and Playboy magazines, a K-Mart radio and Christmas tree decorations, according to the report.
Bundy apparently received several Christmas cards during the winter of 1977, including one, oddly enough, from Sheriff Dick Kienast and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The cards were saved as evidence in a manila envelope and tucked in among the boxes of evidence.
“Dear Ted,” one of Bundy’s Christmas well-wishers begins. “Am I delinquent or what about writing? I’ve been pretty busy. The past month has brought me two flat tires, a dead battery, a burglarized apartment, a boring trip to L.A., a broken thumb and much more. What’s happening there (I don’t see the news much anymore)? Write. Love (someone whose first name starts with an A)”
Another saved artifact in the boxes documents the sale of Bundy’s notorious VW Bug.
The plain sheet of yellow paper is titled “Bill of Sale” and dated Sept. 17, 1975. It is hand-written in red ink and states that on that date, Bryan Severson “has bought and paid for in full the sum of $800 (eight hundred dollars) my beige 1968 Volkswagen sedan.” It is signed Theodore R. Bundy.
Hairs from three of Bundy’s victims were later found in the car, according to reports.
After Bundy was arrested by Salt Lake City police in August 1975 — when they found a pry bar, a ski mask, a pair of pantyhose with eye and nose holes cut into them, an ice pick, nylon rope, gloves and handcuffs in the trunk of his VW — police also searched his apartment.
In his home, police also found a satchel containing a crow bar, a tire iron, a small pocket knife, a serrated kitchen knife in a cardboard sheath and a flashlight. The woman who narrowly escaped Bundy’s clutches in Salt Lake City in 1974 reported that he had a crowbar in his hand while she struggled to get away from him, according to an Aspen Times article from Aug. 4, 1977.
The contents of the satchel are among the items stored in the Bundy boxes at the DA’s Office. The crow bar was examined by experts, who found blood on it, though it was not enough to trace back to a victim, according to documents in the boxes.
Finally, the most interesting item in the Bundy evidence boxes is a “1974-75 guide to Colorado Ski Country.”
The guide was found in Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment after he was arrested for the attempted kidnapping, and proved to be a particularly damning, though circumstantial, piece of evidence against him, Fain said recently.
That’s because on the page detailing lodging options in Snowmass that season, there is an “X” made with black ink next to the entry for the Wildwood Inn.
“That was a big one,” Fain said.
When the Salt Lake detective relayed the information about the ski guide, the Pitkin County detective investigating the murder couldn’t believe it, said Fain, who has spoken with a representative of the detective.
The DA’s Office plans to eventually ship the items taken from Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment back to police there, Fain said. The documents related to his case will be kept digitally for the numerous journalists and others who frequently request permission to look through them, he said.
Most of the documents will be destroyed once they’ve been digitized, though some items like the ski guide likely will be retained, Fain said.
“We have really limited storage for evidence,” Fain said. “Things with historical significance … shouldn’t be destroyed.”
Avalanche expert says Conundrum slide likely a 300-year event
A massive slide that swept down from Highlands Ridge into Conundrum Creek Valley last weekend was probably a 300-year event, a leading avalanche consultant said Tuesday while touring the site.
“This is definitely a big one for Colorado,” said Art Mears while surveying the volume of snow and debris the avalanche deposited. The only comparable slide he has seen in Colorado struck the Gothic area near Crested Butte in 1995, he said.
Mears is an engineer from Gunnison who consults with governments and individuals to locate infrastructure and buildings where they will avoid avalanches. When structures are built in avalanche-prone areas, he helps create designs to mitigate the risk. He has worked on 1,100 projects in nine states and eight countries. He has designed several avalanche mitigation systems for homes in Pitkin County, including a “splitting wedge” concrete wall that probably saved a house at 1053 Conundrum Creek Road from getting flattened by last weekend’s slide.
The wall suffered no visible damage and it deflected most of the high-density lower layer of snow and debris in the avalanche. Some damage was sustained on the west end of the house. Reinforced glass held but an entire window frame was dislodged. Part of an upper-story wall was punched in but the house apparently didn’t suffer any structural damage.
The splitting wedge was designed to protect the house from a 100-year avalanche, per Pitkin County’s requirements. That means there is a 1 percent risk of an avalanche that size happening every year. With a 300-year event, there is a three-tenths of a percent annual probability of an avalanche that size occurring.
The concrete wedge is 21 feet at the top and tapered down to 17 feet on the lower ends. The south leg is 110 feet long and the west leg is 90 feet.
Tons of snow, trees and rock fell from the Five Fingers and K-Chutes on the west side of the valley. The avalanche fell with such force that debris shot more than 200 feet up the east side, wiping out additional trees. Then the debris spilled downvalley or to the north, where it buried the Conundrum Creek Trailhead and U.S. Forest Service facilities there. Much of the debris wrapped around the house to the east.
However, it was clear from broken aspen and conifer trees surrounding the house that debris also ran into the wedge. Mears said there was likely enough material flowing that it bent the trees and caused some of them to break. Smaller aspen trees were smashed flat.
Mears said the house would have been in a red or high hazard area if it didn’t have the splitting wedge. The special wall dropped it to a blue or moderate hazard area. Without the wall, the house probably would have been heavily damaged by last weekend’s slide, he said. The house was unoccupied at the time of the slide.
The house was built in 1987, according to records in the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office. An avalanche damaged it in 1996.
The current owner, listed as MW III Aspen LLC, bought the house and 25.8 acres in December 1998. The new owner applied to Pitkin County in 2001 to build the splitting wedge to protect the 5-bedroom, 5½-bath structure of nearly 5,000 square feet.
In a report prepared for that application, Mears described the potential destructive force of a 100-year avalanche in that area.
“The Five Fingers path produces a major avalanche which can involve more than 100 acres of snow during (a 100-year event) and falls about 3,500 feet to the Conundrum Creek Valley floor,” his 2001 report said. “Maximum velocities on the steep slope will exceed 110 mph.”
He accurately predicted that the blast from the avalanche would ascend roughly 300 feet up the east wall of the valley.
Mears said Tuesday that despite its size, the avalanche probably only lasted about one minute. The powder cloud kicked into the air probably settled within another 30 seconds or so, he said.
There are additional avalanche chutes downvalley or north from the house. A slide in what’s known as the Teepee Chute killed a man living in a teepee on adjacent property in February 1995.
Mears said Pitkin County has a lot of areas of high avalanche hazard because of its numerous valleys with steep slopes. The risk of damage to property is high because of the amount of development in the prone areas.
While Pitkin County has a design standard for a 100-year avalanche event, Gunnison County has a 300-year standard, he noted.
“I believe, in my opinion, Pitkin County should (do) that,” he said.
Pitkin County is a leader in land-issues in a lot of ways, Mears said, and avalanche mitigation should be another.
The latest Conundrum avalanche demonstrates why a great design standard may be needed. The width of the crown was estimated at 5,000 feet by investigators from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
“Highlands Ridge released naturally. Not a path or two off the ridge but everything from the Five Fingers to the K-Chutes,” CAIC’s report said.
Multiple feeder paths share a common run-out, making the avalanche particularly destructive.
CAIC rated the slide a 4.5 out of 5 on the avalanche destruction scale. Mears said the destructive potential is difficult to assess. One way would be to return when the snow melts and date the age of the large conifers the avalanche took out, he said.
While many avalanche experts don’t feel it’s possible to have a D5 avalanche in the Continental U.S., Mears said the Conundrum slide could well qualify.
Aspen local’s video captures Loge Bowl avalanche, gets engulfed in snow cloud
Video credit: Jesse Deane
This avalanche was set off on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. by a helicopter working with Aspen Ski Patrol doing avalanche mitigation. The helicopter dropped charges into Loge Bowl on the back side of Loge Peak near Aspen Highlands. Jesse Deane and his dad were asked to help make sure the Maroon Creek Road was clear of pedestrians before the charges were dropped. He captured this video of the avalanche that occurred.
Rock Bottom Ranch goes whole hog on sustainable agriculture education
Jason Smith grabbed an inch-thick layer of fat along the back of half a pig in two strong hands and gave several tugs until it ripped away from the carcass.
Smith, the director of Rock Bottom Ranch, explained to 14 onlookers that the fat would be ground and used in sausage.
The butchery class wasn’t for the faint of heart, but the chefs, restaurateurs, grocery store officials and frontline workers in the farm-to-table movement who watched him work were there to learn more about sustainable farming. Rock Bottom Ranch regularly holds butchery classes with consumers, but the gathering Tuesday was among the first for local workers in the food industry.
The audience included the owner and a chef at The Pullman, staff at Meat and Cheese in Aspen, and workers at Whole Foods Market and Skip’s Farm to Market in Basalt.
Smith said Rock Bottom Ranch has built its infrastructure and gotten its food-production systems in place. Now it is focusing on “getting information out to more people,” he said. “This was really a shift for us.”
During the butchery demonstration, Smith lamented that pork tenderloins are highly coveted by restaurants and their customers, but there are just two of the choice cuts per pig and they make up such a small fraction of the available meat.
Rock Bottom Ranch faces a challenge selling some of that other meat, but to be truly sustainable it has to go whole hog. It doesn’t make economic sense for farmers to raise a pig for only the most highly sought-after cuts, he said. So Smith, a former chef, offered advice on how less popular parts of the pig can be used.
“Typically they have 30 percent waste at the processing plant,” Smith said. “Here it’s about 8 or 9 percent.”
Smith won’t use lungs, brains or eyeballs. But other parts regarded by the processing plants as waste — stomachs, cheeks, tongues, jowls — are used.
The pigs raised at the ranch for over seven to eight months produce roughly 80 pounds of meat — tenderloin, pork chops, Boston butt, ham and bacon. Lesser-known pieces will be ground into sausage or used for soups and broths.
Pigs are an integral part of the sustainable agriculture mission at Rock Bottom Ranch, which is owned by Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
“Pigs with their snouts are really good at rooting around,” said Alyssa Barsanti, agriculture manager at the ranch.
So they were enlisted to help rehabilitate the soil. The ranch started raising heritage breeds, Large Black and Tamworth, not so much for the meat, but to disturb the soil and return nutrients to the ground. Sheep, goats and chickens also are used in the process.
The pigs get to roam fenced parts of the ranch rather than staying confined in an industrial-sized building designed to make them put on weight as quickly as possible.
“It’s lived its life the way I think a pig ought to live,” Smith said.
He regards it as a serious matter to take an animal’s life, so he wants to use all the meat he can.
The message resonated with his audience. Dalene Barton, manager of Skip’s Farm to Market in Basalt, said so many customers just want pork tenderloin or bacon. She attended Smith’s class so she could learn more about other parts of the pig “to be able to serve our customers in a better way.”
Many customers yearn to know more about the food they are eating, so her goal was to pick up on suggestions of how customers could use other cuts. It helped to see in real time how Smith processed the pig and what he said could be done with various cuts, Barton said.
Taylor Wolters, chef de cuisine at The Pullman in Glenwood Springs and a midvalley native, said he wants to explore ways the restaurant can support small, local farms and restaurants.
“I really want to get involved with the relationship between restaurants and farms,” he said. “I think there’s a huge disconnect in the way that the industrial system is these days.”
There are challenges working with local ranches and farms, such as getting a regular supply and getting the consistency that diners expect, Wolters said. He’s determined to keep working to develop the relationships and find alternatives to business as usual.
“It’s hard to get away from,” Wolters said. “Restaurants are basically addicted to the convenience of being able to order cases of portioned meat and serve it just like that.”
Avon fire doused in minutes Monday; woman charged in Monday’s East Vail campground fire
AVON — Fire crews stomped out a small fire Monday evening just west of the Brookside Lodge on U.S. Highway 6 in Avon.
The fire was reported at 6:48 p.m., and westbound Highway 6 was closed east of West Beaver Creek Boulevard. The fire was limited to a few dozen square yards.
The Eagle River Fire Protection District, Vail Fire Department and Avon Police Department had the fire handled and cleared by 7:37 p.m.
However, about 10 minutes later, an Avon police officer investigating the source of the original fire and the flammability of the dry ground fuels in the area inadvertently caused the fire to restart, Avon Police said in a statement.
The same fire crews were immediately back at the scene, and the half-acre fire was completely extinguished by 8:39 p.m.
Avon Police said they plan to conduct an internal review of the incident.
The Avon fire was one of several, large and small, that has local officials asking people to use extra caution amid dry conditions, high winds and humidity in the single digits.
“Residents are reminded, as we remind ourselves, to be vigilant when using fire, given the drier-than-usual conditions,” Avon Police said in a statement.
Fire in Edwards extinguished
Just before 6 p.m. Tuesday there also was a grass/brush fire between the river and Eagle River Village mobile home park in Edwards, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. The fire was started by three juveniles playing with a lighter. The fire was quickly extinguished.
Woman charged in East Vail fire
A woman faces misdemeanor charges for sparking a fire in East Vail around 11:30 a.m. Monday.
The Vail Fire Department and Eagle River Fire Protection District quickly jumped on the small fire and kept it small — less than an acre, said Aaron Mayville, with the U.S. Forest Service Holy Cross Ranger District.
The fire, near the Gore Creek Campground above the Gore Creek trailhead, grew to three-quarters of an acre. No structures were threatened, and no evacuations were ordered for Gore Creek campground.
The woman whose campfire ignited the Gore Fire received a summons charging her with one count of “firing woods or prairie,” a class 2 misdemeanor.
“Please be responsible, careful and respectful,” Mayville said. “They did some good work quickly to get it handled. We train for exactly that.”
Crews also stomped on a fire at the Minturn shooting range that was touched off Saturday.
Containment continues on Bocco fire
The biggest blaze in the area, the Bocco fire, located 3 miles northwest of Wolcott, consumed 415 acres and is 50 percent contained.
Crews continued mop-up efforts throughout the day Monday. Despite warm, dry and breezy conditions, there was minimal fire activity, with some smoking and smoldering within the interior of the fire perimeter, incident commander Jeremy Spetter said.
“Smoke and dust will continue to be visible in the coming days,” Spetter said. “There are still smoldering hot spots within the fire perimeter that may continue to produce smoke; we are being very diligent with our work because of continued weather conditions.”
Evacuations for the Alkali Creek Neighborhood were lifted at 1 p.m. Monday.
State Highway 131 is currently open but may close, if needed, for fire-suppression efforts and public safety. Access to the Eagle County Landfill will remain open even if Highway 131 is closed. Milk Creek Road and Horse Mountain Road are open. Horse Mountain Road continues to be used for fire operations, and emergency vehicles may be present on the road.
An unauthorized drone shut down all air operations on the fire on Sunday afternoon. Unauthorized drone flights pose serious risks to firefighter and public safety and the effectiveness of wildfire suppression operations. Fire managers remind the public: If you fly, we can’t.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vail Olympian Tess Johnson donates rice won in World Cup competition
AVON — Vail skier Tess Johnson won 60 pounds of rice in a World Cup competition in Japan in March.
Now back home, Johnson spent Monday afternoon at the Salvation Army, bagging up the rice into quart-sized bags for local families.
Johnson, 17, spent much of the ski season in Asia, competing in China in December, the Olympics in South Korea in February and a World Cup event in Japan in March.
Her best results came after the Olympics, when she won a dual moguls competition on the Tazawako course in Japan.
“They gave me a nice check, a medal and three 20-pound bags of rice,” she said.
Regular recipients of quart bags full of rice from the Salvation Army may notice a difference in quality.
“It’s supposed to be the best rice in Japan,” Johnson said. “I’m keeping one bag to cook with my friends.”
OLYMPIAN AND SPECIAL OLYMPIAN
Jason Pratt, a Special Olympian from Vail, has been bagging up rice at the Salvation Army for the past decade.
“We have a regular donor who brings us large bags, and Jason divides them up into smaller portions,” said Tsu Wolin-Brown, with the Salvation Army in Avon.
Pratt and Johnson worked diligently, pausing for the occasional hug break.
Jason Pratt’s mother, Donna Pratt, said the experience was a rewarding one for Jason.
The Pratts moved to Vail from Iowa in the early 1980s. At the time, there was not a lot of opportunity for locals who were eligible to compete in the Special Olympics. Donna Pratt and Jason’s sisters, Jodi and Annie, started a training program in Vail.
“We trained volunteers and they would work with our athletes,” Donna Pratt said.
When Jason Pratt was 16, his participation in the Special Olympics paved the way for him to meet President Gerald Ford.
“They wanted any Special Olympics athletes who were here to come to the tree lighting in Vail, so we took Jason,” Donna Pratt said.
It’s an experience she looked back on as Jason worked with Johnson on Monday.
“Living here, you get to see a lot of interesting people that otherwise you’d only read about,” Donna Pratt said.
MAY 5 MATCHUP
Johnson is a senior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, currently on spring break.
In addition to volunteering and finishing classes at the Vail Mountain School, her other major focus right now is the remainder of the season with the Vail Mountain School soccer team, which recruits kids from Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy.
Johnson’s team won state both her freshman and sophomore year; now, as a senior, the road to the championship will be much more difficult. The season started while Johnson was at the Olympics; since returning, she’s competed in three games.
“It’s going to be a dogfight just making it to the playoffs this year,” Johnson said.
Anderson Ranch artists responding to school shootings, the border wall, refugee crisis, racism in new work
Walking through the studios at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, where visiting artists from around the world and across the spectrum of media come to make work for 10 weeks each fall and spring, you can put your finger on the pulse of the art world and take a crash course on the concerns of today’s working artists.
The topical, politically charged work underway by this spring’s class of residents at the Ranch reflects a movement toward making a real-world social impact through art.
In sculpture, printmaking, video, painting and photographic works, residents are responding to school shootings and to the global refugee crisis, to immigration and the debate over the U.S.-Mexico border wall, to racism and colorism and some of the most vexing issues of our historical moment.
“For me, it’s this question of ‘How do we make connections between different communities and how do we get outside the niche of the art world and actually create change, create connection and have catharsis with other people?’” Brooklyn-based, cross-disciplinary artist Amy Khoshbin said.
A few days after Khoshbin arrived here last month, the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting shook the country. She has responded rapidly in the past six weeks by undertaking a body of work about gun culture. Koshbin began by surveying people with the question “What is the opposite of a weapon?” Based on the answers — a blanket or a hug, for example — she’s making large prints and a series of small, ceramic action figures and plush toys aimed at children to offer alternatives to violence.
“The idea behind it is to think about, what is the antithesis of a culture of violence and what could we start thinking about in terms of disarmament?” she explained.
Story continues below video —
In a work of performance art, Khoshbin went to Denver’s Tanner Gun Show last weekend and posed as a frightened high school teacher. With a hidden camera filming from her purse, she recorded gun dealers’ responses when she told them she was nervous about school shootings.
“Some people, off the bat, were like, ‘Definitely concealed-carry, bring a gun to school, we need more guns in schools,’” she said. “Other people were like, ‘You need to be trained and think about safety.’ But the bottom line was that gun culture serves as all these vectors in what it means to be an American right now.”
The phrase she heard repeatedly, she said, was “You never know.” She’s making an art film based on the experience.
While at the Ranch, Khoshbin also made a 12-minute audio work she’s calling a “guided media relaxation meditation,” a subversive guided meditation tape aiming to counter fear-based messaging in mass media. It’s part of a larger project: her 2021 campaign for New York City Council. In a soothing voice, she guides the listener through an actual meditation while mixing in political rhetoric and sly social commentary: “Imagine a terrorist. What does it look like in your mind? Where are they from? Think about those symbols of hate and think about the light within you.”
In the sculpture studio, Coby Kennedy — who also is based in Brooklyn and also works across disciplines including painting, video and photography — is digging into the intricacies of dog-whistle racism and subtle colorism. In Tyler Perry films and on cable news programs alike, he has identified ways that media perpetuates a culture, as he put it, “where black is wack and white is right, or light is right.”
The African-American son of a light-skinned mid-Atlantic mother and a dark-skinned Southern father, Kennedy said he’s spent his whole life observing the prejudices and stereotypes that people develop toward those with different skin colors and tones.
At the Ranch, Kennedy is painting sculptures, crafted from bulletproof Kevlar, of a one-eyed monster character he’s dubbed “Thuggernaut,” offering a jarring visual rebuke to the racist use of words like “thug” to describe black men.
“It all began when I was watching CNN or Fox News or something — I think it was O’Reilly, good old Bill — where he was going off about the rapper Common getting invited to the White House,” Kennedy recalled. “Commentators were like, ‘How can the president invite this thug, this gangster rapper to the White House?’”
Common, of course, is anything but a gangster rapper or thug. Two summers ago, for example, the Grammy and Oscar winner was onstage here at an Aspen Institute event discussing corporate responsibility with Walter Isaacson and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.
In the “Thuggernaut,” Kennedy found a visual representation of the mythical black “thug” who the cable news crowd was projecting onto Common.
“It was obvious they were creating this myth, this catch-all for black youth,” Kennedy recalled. “So I was like, if they’re going to make this myth, I need to make the ‘Thuggernaut.’ This is what you’re talking about: this six-armed pacadermic beast that roams the urban landscape dishing out genocide and self-defeating behavior.”
TONY de los REYES
Steps away in the painting studio, Los Angeles artist Tony de los Reyes is making his way through a series he has dubbed “Border Theory” depicting the politically charged landscape of the Mexican-American border.
“It documents the nature of the border as I perceive it, both personally and historically,” de los Reyes said.
The artist is of Mexican descent — his great-grandmother, he noted, crossed the border to give birth to his grandfather — and has been making art about the border for five years. He began with abstract line drawings based on satellite imagery.
The paintings in progress in Snowmass depict the high desert landscape as seen through the border wall in Jacumba, California. His canvases all have fuzzy rectangular blocks of color lining their vertical edges, so the viewer is made to look through the bars of the wall. The paintings are based on photos that de los Reyes shot from that perspective.
He also is depicting film stills from the 1982 Jack Nicholson film “The Border,” which he placed in the dirt on the border, photographed there and is now painting. And he has amassed a fascinating collection of antique postcards from border towns. They depict a wide range of visions of the area: from idyllic nature scenes to militaristic portraits of border agents to a postcard of refugees crossing the Rio Grande River into America on July 4, 1913. De los Reyes is making paintings based on the postcards.
“What happens with most border art is that it focuses on what we already know, which is the division of space,” de los Reyes explained. “What I’m trying to focus on is the psychology of the space. It’s so absolutely loaded, even when there’s nobody there.”
In the Ranch’s printmaking studio, Kristina Paabus is making works reflecting upon her Estonian heritage and the ways governments in Soviet nations used architecture to intimidate and control the citizenry.
“All of my work deals with these systems of control, or how we control the world around us, all these systems we put in place to understand the world,” she explained. “But lately I’ve been specifically interested in government control through architecture.”
Paabus is on a yearlong sabbatical from teaching at Oberlin College in Ohio. She recently traveled through Russia and Eastern Europe looking for relics of oppressive Soviet architecture. She’s now making prints based on what she saw, including abstracted works based on a design often used in steel fences that was dubbed “Lenin’s Sun.”
“It’s a decorative element but it’s purpose is not decorative,” she said. “It’s a constant reminder of this heaviness and this watchfulness.”
Another print is based on the massive curtains in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, which she described with a chuckle as “massive, oppressive reminders of politeness.”
CARA FAYE EARL
Paabus is sharing the studio space with printmaker Cara Faye Earl, who is deep into a project based on a recent research trip to Greece, where she interviewed desperate refugees arriving on the shores of the Greek Isles.
After more than five weeks photographing and talking with refugees in camps on Lesbos and elsewhere early this year, Earl came to the Ranch to make a body of work about the crisis that’s forced some 22 million refugees from their homes in recent years. On the wall of the studio, she’s pinned photos, drawings and bright pieces of life vests with rocks and seashells and beach detritus in corresponding colors.
Earl also has made a series of clay works, based on the linked arms of Sudanese children who she saw join together to sing for Syrian kids in one of the refugee camps.
“I was working through a lot emotionally,” she said of arriving in Snowmass soon after her research trip. “But also I was figuring out how this would make its way into my work.”
She’s now in the midst of a 10-part series of prints, made in the shape of the ancient Greek two-handled amphora wine jugs. Each print will use images to tell the story of a refugee Earl met in Europe. Her subjects include Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis and West Africans.
“The refugee crisis is so personal that I felt I had to be there,” she said. “Every single one of these people has an individual story — none is alike.”
She hopes these prints will offer a way for viewers to engage with a humanitarian crisis that they might otherwise ignore.
“My goal is to create a dialogue,” she said. “It would be great if I’m able to create an impact on a few people who say, ‘Wow, what can we do to help?’”
Aspen Adventure Woman: Who is she? You’ll be surprised
“YAY ANNA!” was the roar I heard finally summiting Highland Bowl about 30 minutes after the women’s group I was with. Mind you, this group was filled with women of all age ranges, most of them moms and some grandmothers.
In situations where I’m the slowest or the least coordinated I crack jokes — self-mockery gets me through embarrassing situations.
“Will you ladies still let me hang out with you?” I asked.
“If you rock pants like that you can do anything with us!” one woman said of my leopard-print snowboard pants deemed my “party pants” due to their loudness.
I instantly felt accepted into this women’s group just because of my willingness to try to better myself. Being in a community of extremely fit women and people in general can be very intimidating, but this group welcomes women of all skill levels and stands by the motto, “No one gets left behind” — and they don’t tolerate excuses like “I’m too old” or “I’m too slow.”
These women meet every Tuesday to head out on an adventure. Whether it’s mountain biking a new trail or skinning up a mountain, the “Frosties” don’t miss a Tuesday gathering. They lift up one another and create a comfortable environment for anyone to join.
Dana Laughren is part of the group and she recently broke her leg skiing. The group has showered her with love and support, even creating little stickers that say “Hangs with Dana” with a snowflake and bike wheel. Dana, who is part of The Aspen Times’ family, as well, covered her crutches with the stickers and has been blown away by all of the texts and calls and prepared meals they brought.
The level of fitness and sense of adventure within Aspen women is unmeasurable, and the only way to describe them is badass. I’ve lived in Aspen just over a year and a half after five years in Breckenridge and quickly recognized the next level of women going out and adventuring here.
For the past few months, I have been searching in the valley to try to define the “Aspen Adventure Woman.”
Last year, Aspen local Christy Mahon became the first woman to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. She believes everyone in the group is so “normal” with “normal jobs,” but they’re doing amazing things.
Olympian Gretchen Bleiler’s take is that adventurers here, especially her female counterparts, are “putting ourselves in situations that would make other people totally uncomfortable.”
Jordie Karlinski, Nichole Mason and Sammy Podhurst coach or guide others not only in outdoors situations but also on finding their life paths by following their passions.
There is a realness to these women when it comes to connecting with others. There is a humbleness to these women, as well. I felt with each interaction that these women had been my friends for years, and the support they gave me on our little adventures and the laughs we shared always will stay with me.
The #MeToo movement is loud and proud right now, supporting women to speak up against sexual harassment. I think the advice these women of Aspen gave about adventuring and not being afraid is completely in sync with this movement.
These Aspen women have a sense of independence and won’t stand for their voices being ignored. Many of them focus on living in the present and don’t allow the external factors in life to keep them down, and I think these are really life skills, not necessarily only relevant in the adventure realm.
The spirit of the women of Aspen is fiery and alive.
Perhaps I selfishly arranged to meet all of these women to empower myself, but I have no regrets. I plan on spreading this sense of adventure and worth to others. These women want to instill their passion and love for the outdoors into others. They are all teachers and mentors — spreading their knowledge, encouragement and sense of adventure to women and men.
I know there are other badass women in the valley, and I’m personally impressed every day I live here at the feats I see accomplished.
Aspen is filled with special people, and these badass women of Aspen are paving the way for future generations of independent girls growing up in this valley. I couldn’t be more excited for the years to come.
“I’m just having a really awkward day,” Chelsea whispered to her nordic ski teammate after being interviewed on video. A fourth-generation Aspenite, she is following in the footsteps of her competitive nordic ski-racing father and is headed to Dartmouth College next year where she will compete on the nordic team.
She loves being outdoors and in the mountains. When she started traveling outside of the valley for soccer games and ski races, she realized women from this are an exception.
“I grew up totally thinking it was the norm,” she said. “I think it’s really important that girls and everyone living in this valley realize that it’s not the norm because as soon as I started traveling outside of Aspen I realized how lucky I am to have a community of women.”
One of Chelsea’s favorite adventures was this year for nordic when she went to Alaska for senior nationals and raced against women who are competing in the Olympics for Team USA. With only about three hours of sunlight each day, she raced along the ocean up the coast in Anchorage.
She loves being outside and playing in “our mountains” and traveling all over the world, but she says she’s going to miss the special community within Aspen. She is excited to build new relationships at Dartmouth.
Gretchen went from being an Ohio girl at age 10 to a mountain girl overnight when her mother relocated the family to Aspen. Being exposed to the Outdoor Education trip in sixth grade (where the students went backpacking in the backcountry) put into perspective for a girl who had never been camping that she lived in a totally alternate universe now.
Growing up in Aspen and being exposed to the active experiences taught her how to be an outdoors person and inspired her active lifestyle.
Her resume includes: two trips to the Olympics and one silver medal in snowboard halfpipe; four-time X Games gold medalist; member of the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame and the Action Sports Hall of Fame; and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
“This town is filled with warriors. It’s a warrior spirit here. You have to learn how to be tough because the environment is really rugged,” she said when asked to describe the Aspen Adventure Woman. “The more we live in it the more we get comfortable in conditions that most people would be totally uncomfortable in.”
Her advice to young girls growing up in the valley is to get out and explore and be curious, ask for help and don’t be afraid to ask questions. In the beginning we all need help and education to guide us through new adventures and what it is to live in this valley.
Gretchen’s mom is the person who inspired her to pursue snowboarding and becoming an Olympian. Her mom’s leap of faith moving her family from Ohio to Aspen showed Gretchen that “You can pave your own road and create your own destiny.”
Her mother worried watching Gretchen compete, but to Gretchen that was a sign of a strong woman because “even though you are terrified for your kids, to let them be them, and fly if they have to fly.”
One of her first real backcountry splitboarding experiences was an adventure in her own backyard of Aspen touring to Cathedral Peak. Her group chose a chute beside Cathedral Peak. Gretchen was utterly exhausted but was also filled with satisfaction after completing the adventure.
“I was the slowest one in the group and felt that I was red-lining myself the whole day. When you really wanna get out in the backcountry and you wanna play you have to be in good shape or else you’ll be suffering the whole time.”
Jordie’s parents threw her onto skis when she was 2 years old. Born in California, she learned to ski at Mammoth and Lake Tahoe before moving to Colorado in the first grade.
Her parents switched to snowboarding when they moved to Aspen and she was about 6, and her whole family was hooked on it. Coming to Aspen at a young age, she got the benefit of the Aspen schools’ Outdoor Education programs, which influence her to this day.
Jordie and Gretchen Bleiler grew up in the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Gretchen was a couple of years older than Jordie, who looked up to Gretchen as a role model because of her competitive spirit and success. They would later travel the world together competing for the U.S. Snowboard Team: Jordie in slopestyle and boardercross and Gretchen in superpipe.
Now retired from competitive snowboard racing, Jordie is training for two Ironman 70.3s: one in Utah in May and the other in August in Boulder. When she was competing in snowboarding she would often train with cycling and swimming and has always loved running. The structure and dedication for the triathlon reminds her of those training days, and she has been loving it.
She encourages women to get their girlfriend group together and experience adventures without the help of guys.
“‘Strong’ is a word I feel sums up the Aspen Adventure Woman,” she said.
Girls growing up in the valley should take an educational approach to their endeavors, she says, and keep safety in the top of mind. She also suggests to have a good group of friends to go out and explore and learn together. You never know if whatever you find could stick with you or could lead to your ultimate passion or career.
One of Jordie’s favorite adventures was her first mountaineering experience hiking up Mount Daly. Her group camped the night before summiting, which included crampons and ice axs, and snowboarding down.
“You can look at a mountain from so far away and to know that you can be up on top of it the next day is a really incredible thing,” she said with a sense of accomplishment. “That got me hooked on getting into the backcountry and skiing bigger lines and bigger peaks.”
Christy is “skating through this year” by not competing in any races and without any big projects to accomplish this year.
It hasn’t stopped Christy from still getting out and adventuring.
After becoming the first woman to ski all of Colorado’s fourteeners last year, she is trying to ski all of the state’s 600-plus 13,000-foot peaks. Ski mountaineering fuels Christy’s connection to nature.
“It makes you feel small and is an escape from everyday life and pressures that we feel,” she said, adding that it brings everything back to normal for her and puts her worries into perspective when she’s immersed in nature.
Christy wants to be the happiest person out there, just like one of her role models Ellen Miller, who was the first American female to climb the north and south sides of Mount Everest.
Moving to Aspen was one of the best decisions she’s ever made in life, Christy says. The 20-year local enjoys the culture of humble people doing rad things in the grandeur of nature.
To Christy, the Aspen Adventure Woman is someone 9 or 10 years old to 80 years old. It can be anyone; people don’t have to have this amazing athletic gift to be an adventurer. It is someone who gets out a map, knows what they want do, knows what makes them happy — someone who’s willing to try something new and pushes themselves. In Aspen, it’s someone who takes advantage of every hour of the day, whether it’s skinning before work in the morning or going for a run at night.
Christy’s husband, Ted, has been one of her biggest motivators to get out and explore. He was climbing all of the fourteeners in Colorado, which inspired Christy to climb all of them, as well. Then he wanted to ski the fourteeners, and Christy decided that sounded like a good goal for her to complete, also.
Her advice to other females in the valley: “Never say, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that.’ You can, you just have to work hard, you just have to put in the time. If you want to do it you can do it, just don’t ever say ‘I can’t do that.’”
As a female mountaineer, her partners have always respected her voice. She surrounds herself with people who might want a woman’s perspective, which may be more conservative at times but also is very encouraging. Adventurers, she says, have to know themselves and their ability, figure out what they like in their pack and be confident. She knows she runs cold, so she packs three pairs of heavy-duty mitts and extra layers on her expeditions; she doesn’t care what others think because she knows what she needs.
One of Christy’s favorite adventures was a 10-day traverse through Canada’s Bugaboo Mountains to Rogers Pass. They were like “Hobbits traversing through an amazing land.” It changed how she looked at terrain upon returning to Colorado.
Instead of looking at summiting peaks, it became more about traveling through the land.
Aspen is that next level as far as adventuring goes, says Nichole, who coaches snowboarding for Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and was named the 2017 USSA Snowboarding Domestic Coach of the Year as well as its Development Coach of the Year. As a female coach, Nichole has a motherly instinct and makes sure her athletes are taken care of, especially when they travel. Many of them refer to her as Mom, which doesn’t bother her in the slightest.
She spends most of the winter season on “planes, trains and automobiles” traveling to competitions worldwide. At times it can be a little intimidating at the top of a course surrounded by primarily male coaches, but she said it makes it that much more empowering being a female coach. Nichole speaks fondly about the close-knit snowboarding community and how it’s very family-like.
The Aspen Adventure Woman to Nichole is anyone who is going out and keeping up with the boys. Society emphasizes males as the outdoorsy type, but so many women, especially here in Aspen, are outdoors everyday.
“I’ve definitely never been in a community where the women are as empowered as they are here,” Nichole said.
Her advice to girls about adventuring: “Stay present and be confident.” People get anxious thinking about the future, she said, but if you stay present and know what you’re doing and follow your heart, that’s the biggest ticket to success.
Nichole credits several mentors who have helped her find her path. Laura Munch, a female coach when Nichole was an athlete, helped her get her first coaching job and find her initial career path. Sasha Nations inspired Nichole and was her first boss for coaching. It was inspiring to get hired on by a woman initially, Nichole says. She admired Nations’ strength, independence and that she was running a very successful program. Miah Wheeler brought Nichole over to the valley and saw potential in her she didn’t know she had. He taught her to balance life and helped her look at the bigger picture rather than just the single piece of the puzzle and has mentored her through the next phase of her coaching career.
One of the craziest adventures for Nichole is going to another country that isn’t primarily English-speaking. Going into the unknown and being responsible for the lives of adolescents to make sure they’re prepared to do international travel, she has to balance keeping her athletes safe while still having fun. Nichole is “essentially using snowboarding as a life tool” for her students, she said.
Nichole grew up in Summit County and says the Aspen community is welcoming and there is always someone there to help lead you or find a new passion.
“Sunny Sam” is one smiley female adventurer who is out there solely for herself and feeding her passion for the outdoors. Sammy thanks her parents who bred the ski gene in her. They were living the ski bum life in Colorado and Vermont post-college and drove around in a car eating Hostess snack cakes so they could afford to ski. They always told Sammy to make sure to love what you do, because you have to work hard to play hard.
She not only adventures for fun but has also been working at Aspen Expeditions Worldwide since 2011, where she is a full-time senior ski, rock and alpine guide. Upon meeting with Sammy she was taking a couple of rest days (which happened to be some of the biggest powder days of the season) to prepare for her first Skimo race, and after that she was getting ready to fly out to Mexico for 10 days of rock climbing.
“This is definitely a lesson in self control,” she said.
It’s an extremely exhausting profession and not your typical desk job, but her profession is also her passion, so work doesn’t really feel like work. She goes skinning before she goes guiding and after guiding she climbs in her garage.
She is a passionate climber and ski mountaineer and loves to take her adventuring abroad, traveling to places such as India, Nepal, Vietnam and Cambodia as well as Europe and South America. Some of her most memorable climbs/skis have been in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, a part of the Peruvian Andes, with several summits above 6,000 meters. She has done extensive ski exploration in the Elk Range, with prominent ski descents from the summits of the famed Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. When skiing the east face of Pyramid, Sammy said her legs were absolutely on fire with it being the third peak she had mountaineered that weekend but she was able to soak in everything and every turn.
It’s tough for Sammy to relax with her “go, go, go” personality. Being outside is a form of meditation for Sammy, and she has to very much be in the present moment because she’s responsible for people’s lives.
The Aspen Adventure Woman, she says, is someone who is out there doing it all just for themselves. They aren’t doing it to prove anything to others.
“Stay true to yourself and don’t fall into the mainstream thoughts of what is expectedly ‘cool’ or will get you more likes on your social pages” is her advice. “Adventure because it fills your heart and soul.”
The bar is set high here in Aspen for adventuring, and it motivates and inspires her to do more or do better or go harder. Christy Mahon is a role model, Sammy says, because she is constantly pushing herself and doing it with a smile on her face and she is a “positive ball of fire.”
Nine-year-old Devon has grown up in Aspen and is a bubbly, bright ski racer at AVSC. Her adventures began at an even younger age, including hiking Highland Bowl at age 6 without a flinch. Her father, David, remembered turning around and thinking just how small she was going up the extreme terrain.
Her family has always been active and outdoorsy, like taking a ski trip to Alaska, which was one of Devon’s favorites. Another adventure with her family that has stuck with her was while camping one night and their tent was attacked by a bear. Devon giggled and giggled while telling the story; no flinch of terror at all.
Now, she is completely enamored with world-renowned alpine ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin as her role model.
“She’s a really nice person in general and she’s a really good ski racer, too,” Devon said.
Her favorite part of alpine ski racing is learning something new every day. She “always gets new tips and stuff,” but her AVSC coaches say Devon is always striving to be faster than the boys. Her parents said that being punctual to practice is very important to her. At ski practice earlier this month, her friend Tess needed to go into the warming hut to fill out her goal sheet, and Devon joined (they were practically joined at the hip). When the coach said, “Devon, you can take more runs right now if you want,” without hesitation Devon said she wanted to wait for Tess to finish. Tess looks up from her goals sheet with a smile: “You’re a good friend.”
Her advice about adventuring to her peers and other girls growing up in the valley: “Always give it your best, don’t get intimidated and just try as hard as you can. Don’t think about the bad stuff that could happen.”
Devon’s family’s commitment to sports, adventure and travel was evident when talking with her. She is well on her way to adding to the Aspen Adventure Woman community.
“I really just love the outdoors,” she said with a grin.