Obituary: Chason Patrick Russell
March 10, 1980 – June 17, 2021
Adventurous souls are often admirable or unique, even inspiring. But few, if any, can be all three while rousing a call to shed self and focus on others. Chason Patrick Russell lived as such. He managed to squeeze the inner most drops of a life well lived in the mountains and give back more than he ever took.
Chason was born in Montrose, Colorado March 10th 1980, to parents Salli and Jim. Their home and community roots stretched deep into the earth surrounding nearby Telluride, Colorado. This landscape shaped them as they carved out a place to live. A few years later, the family Russell took full bloom with the birth of brother Garrett.
Salli and Jim raised their boys on a mountainous foundation. Through communal labor and cooperation, this grew into the construction of the Alta Lakes Observatory. The Russell family ethos placed great value on raw life experiences and a plentiful community of friends. Vibrations of the mighty San Juan mountains and rugged canyons of the Colorado river drainage adorned daily life.
From the get go, our standard three dimensional world struggled to contain Chason Russell. He was inspired by the winding paths of Telluride legends who organically became his mentors. Through the course of his life, Chason mastered the martial arts of ski mountaineering, kayaking and climbing. As the backyard landscape became a window to the world, expeditions to the lofty summits and bank full rivers of our planet soon followed. The Rocky Mountain West and walls of Grand Canyon grew chapters of adventure in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, India, Nepal, Scotland, France, Italy, Switzerland, Mongolia, Japan, British Columbia and the giants of Alaska.
As he circled the globe, Chason used photography as a journal to share his view of the human experience. This creativity took shape as a degree in fine arts and photography from Montana State University in Bozeman. Chason had the uncanny perspicacity to capture the visceral energy of high adventure, balanced with the sublime and cosmic immensity of mother nature, in a single frame.
In turn, Chason opened the door as a mentor for aspiring mountain groms and local families in the Telluride and Roaring Fork Valley communities. He put his outdoor skills and passion to work in developing a career as an adventure coordinator for the Soffer-Robbins family of Aspen. After years of wild and wonderful experiences, these relationships grew from clients and colleagues to dear friends and partners.
He also dedicated much of his time to the; Telluride Big Mountain Team, Telluride Academy, San Juan Kayaking School, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, Roaring Fork Kayak Club and Mountain Rescue Aspen. The list of young mountain athletes turned Jedi, under the steady mentorship of Chason Russell, is stout and proud.
It sure makes sense that he was drawn to the far reaching portals of existence. Chason explored his backyard and travelled the world. A seeker with a wild heart, balanced by a peaceful soul. Chason was legit. Anyone who crossed paths with him had the immense fortune to know a true friend. A man of strength, creativity and an insatiable fire to experience life and love at its authentic core, eroded of pretense and facade.
A perfect picture of Chason’s impact on his community unfolded from the day after his passing. It became evident that the effort to recover his body would involve a great deal of complexity, risk management and resources. A call went out for help. Within a few hours a large team of friends from the region and around the west, with several decades of river and mountain rescue experience, mobilized. What transpired became a tribute of dedication and love. A river shaped funeral with a concerto of rope rigging cooperation, a benediction of weeping rain from the heavens and the physical form of Chason Russell, in peaceful repose, returned to his family to be committed back to the earth.
Chason rode a wonderous wave of joy and positivity as he ‘shuffled off this mortal coil’ into the deep and ever surrounding natural mystic. Honeymoon river trip photos with his love Jessica and these words were left on his work desk:
I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire
I choose to inhabit my days
To allow my living to open me
To make me less afraid, more accessible
To loosen my heart
Until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise
I choose to risk my insignificance
So that which came to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
And that which came to me as blossom
Goes on as fruit
By Dawna Markova
Chason was and is a quantum blast of brilliance. As a result, our loss and gut wrenching grief will never be tidy and neat. Closure is not really desired or even possible with a force of nature like him. Instead, we will accept the pain, in light of the knowing that his ‘Onda’ is all around us. His wave of energy rests inside each drop of rain, crystal of snow and sparkle of chossy stone that we call home.
Chason Russell’s spirit flows on, wild and free, in the hearts and souls of the innumerable lives that he touched.
Celebrations of Chason’s life will be held for the Telluride and Aspen communities.
Thursday, July 1st 2021 at the Schmid Ranch 4:20PM:
4553 County Rd. 63L
Telluride, CO 81435
Thursday, July 8th 2021 at 6:00 pm
Co-sponsored by AVSC and Mountain Rescue Aspen
A memorial fund has been founded to help with family costs and create a base for the Chason P. Russell Outdoor Education Scholarship Fund via the following link:
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