Search and rescue attempt takes three days in dangerous terrain
The body of Crested Butte resident Mike Bowen was discovered underneath avalanche debris on Saturday, December 20, following a three-day search and rescue operation.
Search and rescue attempt takes three days in dangerous terrain
The body of Crested Butte resident Mike Bowen was discovered underneath avalanche debris on Saturday, December 20, following a three-day search and rescue operation.
Jackson Hole resident shares insight on sustaining the Golden Goose
The world’s population is growing at an exponential rate. In the last 50 years the population increased by more than three and a half billion, adding more people to the planet than the entire population of the last 2,000 years. Read More »
Crested Butte budget lessons begin
It was Budget Class 101 for the Crested Butte Town Council last Monday evening as it began the process of gathering information and allocating money from the town coffers for 2009. Read More »
Magazine honors progressive communities
With the wildflowers blooming and glorious summer days in full tilt, Crested Butte residents may find themselves musing that this is among the best places to live in the nation.
Catching up on the basics of CBMR’s Snodgrass plan
With Crested Butte calling on residents to express their views on plans by Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) to expand lift-assisted skiing onto neighboring Snodgrass Mountain, it may be time for a review. Read More »
Late night was never so easy
By Kendra Walker
“You saved my life.” “You saved my weekend.” Nowadays, CB Babysitters co-founders Laura Gutierrez and Katie Lawn hear comments like these often.
Since 2015, CB Babysitters has been fulfilling sitter requests from locals and visiting families in need of childcare. The service works as an “Uber” of sorts for babysitting requests, where parents can reach out with their sitting needs—dates, times, number of kids, location, etc.—and CB Babysitters connects them with an available sitter.
“When clients are desperate, and if they’re not from here, they’re not familiar, our role is to help,” said Gutierrez. “For me, it’s a great satisfaction when parents are able to find something reliable where they can go out and their kids are safe.”
The idea originally spurred from Gutierrez’s husband, Anthony Perez, who worked as the concierge at the Grand Lodge in 2007. Families started requesting babysitting services, so he would go down a list of local sitters he put together until someone was available. Gutierrez, who moved here from Venezuela in 2014, took over a year later to coordinate everything. That’s when the referral service transformed into its own co-op group of local sitters promoting each other.
Lawn started babysitting through the co-op in 2017 and soon joined Gutierrez to help coordinate requests. The two have managed the service as a co-founding team ever since.
According to them, at least 65 percent of the families are repeat clients from season to season. The rest of the requests they receive are typically from visiting families coming to town for one-time events such as vacations and weddings. “One of the most satisfying things is when we can fulfill a last-minute request so the parents can go out to dinner for a few hours, or go mountain biking for the day or ski without the kids,” said Lawn.
Gutierrez and Lawn take pride in their reliable fleet of background-checked, local sitters, and stress that a CB Babysitter “is not a person who will just sit and watch TV with the kids all night.”
“We make it fun for the kids because they are also on vacation,” said Gutierrez. “Parents often feel guilty because they’re going out to have fun but their kids are going to have just as much, if not more, fun.” Lawn added, “Parents love us because our sitters have a local perspective of the town, we know what to do here, we know local events taking place here. We connect families with the town and community.”
Denver-based Greg Carlin and his wife found CB Babysitters last summer for their baby, who was three months old at the time. “I think it’s really convenient for people like us who have kids, especially young kids who aren’t old enough to go out and hike or ski, and we’re able to bring them on the trip but also do all the great things that Crested Butte has to offer,” Greg said. “And have someone we trust to leave with the baby and go and get a real vacation for a few hours” he added. “
During that first winter in 2015, Gutierrez received 80 sitter requests. Fast-forward to this most recent winter season—236 requests. Last summer, CB Babysitters received 288 requests and anticipate even more this summer.
Because of the steady growth and popularity of the service over the years, Gutierrez and Lawn realized they had an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment within the community and turn the co-op into a limited liability company, or LLC. They conducted market comparisons with other Colorado ski towns, including Telluride, Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge, and talked with other similar babysitting services. Based on input from these communities and repeat clients, they realized they could make some adjustments that would better align with their goals and help them become more competitive with other ski towns.
“My biggest motivation was all this change from the small Crested Butte Mountain Resort family into Vail Resorts,” said Gutierrez. “We still want to keep it local instead of getting drowned by some big corporate sitting service taking over from the outside.”
Changes they have made this summer include the formation of the LLC, a new website, higher competitive rates and higher wages for their sitters. “Being an LLC, we are growing and there are added expenses—taxes, marketing, hiring an attorney to help us with liability,” said Lawn. Gutierrez also noted their desire to be part of the chamber of commerce and participate in town events like the farmers market, where entry/membership fees will be much more feasible as an LLC.
The new website, cbbabysitters.com, is designed to be more efficient and user-friendly and includes an online request form for families. “We try to make the whole process as quick and easy for parents as possible so it’s one less stress, one less thing they’re doing while they’re planning their vacation,” said Lawn.
Gutierrez and Lawn also expressed how helpful the community has been—hotel services, event planners and businesses—in recommending CB Babysitters to their customers. In return, CB Babysitters makes recommendations to their clients and steers families toward specialized services available in the community, such as CBMR ski lessons, CB Devo mountain biking and Rocky Mountain Biological Lab activities, to name a few.
“We have a goal to work with other local companies and non-profits to help each other and spread the word about what draws families here,” said Lawn.
“We want to support our other local businesses and not step over them,” added Gutierrez. “I’m vey proud of the small town we have and this community, and I want to show families the best and how beautiful the community is. It’s kind of like being an ambassador for our town.”
To learn more about CB Babysitters or to request a sitter, visit cbbabysitters.com.
STOR priorities are improved parking, signage, bathrooms
By Katherine Nettles
The continued increase in tourism and recreation throughout Gunnison County has left a mark on certain well-travelled areas and is now the subject of focus among local land managers.
In order to curb the collateral damage of recreation, new signs and a parking area along the Slate River, more designated campgrounds to replace dispersed sites and inter-agency partnership on trail outreach at Taylor Park Canyon are among the improvements to local recreation areas that may be seen as early as this month, according to stakeholders who met in a Gunnison County Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation (STOR) committee meeting last week.
And more projects are to come, with the collaborative efforts of the STOR committee and new funding it received recently from a $350,000 GOCO grant for land stewardship, as reported by the Crested Butte News on June 21. A large part of the discussion at the June 27 meeting was brainstorming ideas for future projects to improve camping, parking and sanitation facilities in the Gunnison Valley.
While the committee reviewed that it had discussed Signal Creek, West Maroon and Judd Falls at its last meeting, its members proceeded to cover needs at Peanut Lake/Lower Loop, Gothic Campground, Rustler’s Gulch, the Almont river put-in, Nicholson Lake/Slate River and Taylor Canyon Park. The themes were, again and again, parking, signage and restrooms to reduce the misuse of and damage to the areas.
Taylor Park Canyon, which was regarded as a large problem area, took up a fair amount of discussion.
Gunnison Trails representative Gary Pierson said the organization is interested in helping the United States Forest Service (USFS) with a trails crew, to help manage some of that area. USFS Gunnison District ranger Matt McCombs said this could help immensely.
“The impacts there are extremely heavy. It’s important to have a field presence to tend to field contacts. And if you’re digging trail all day, you’re not out making contact with riders, and creating a new culture,” McCombs said.
Chris Parmeter with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said that in general, land managers have to draw a line and make it clear to recreationalists that they have limitations on use and availability.
“In order to be good stewards of the land, we just can’t allow everything, everywhere, all the time. We’re going to have to start saying no … and some people are going to just have to suffer. Some people are going to have to say, well, I guess I can’t do this here,” Parmeter said.
The committee did not make any final decisions on how or where to allocate the GOCO funds, but reviewed the STOR committee member survey results and discussed various needs at different locations (i.e., bathrooms at Slate River trailhead and parking at Rustlers Gulch) to help zero in on priorities. Several participating entities, such as Gunnison County and the USFS, also discussed their own ongoing efforts to minimize recreational impacts with projects that are already under way.
Gunnison County public works director Marlene Crosby explained her crew’s plans to sign the Slate River Road with “No ATV” signs this summer, to reduce the impact of unauthorized vehicle use in that area. ATV use on the Slate River Road is technically not permitted until past Pittsburg, since ATVs are not permitted on county roads. At Pittsburg, where the county road turns into a USFS road, a parking area has been discussed as a collaboration with the county and the USFS, said Crosby. “But we haven’t been able to get to it due to the late arrival of spring.
“The town and the land trust have been working on how to develop a trailhead there,” Crosby added. Crosby said the signs were a sure thing and were scheduled to arrive any day.
Aaron Drendal of the USFS presented the challenges and increasing burden of dispersed camping in various drainages, and the USFS’ work to restore some of the heavily damaged areas such as Musicians Camp in the Slate River Valley. He and McCombs talked about the need for additional designated campsites, which are more formal than dispersed sites, with signage, parking, permanent fire rings and delineation.
McCombs said the USFS has identified that dispersed camping both in and around Crested Butte is unsustainable. “Dispersed camping has been a problem that’s growing and growing, and we feel like we’re outside our forest plan guidance,” he said later in a separate interview with the Crested Butte News.
As part of a public review process, McCombs said the USFS took the opportunity to start the conversation with the STOR committee, because it is such a large group of local stakeholders. He explained how more designated campsites would help the situation, as would public outreach and education efforts about the changes.
“It would also arrest the unsustainable resource damage as visitation continues to increase,” McCombs said. “We wanted to brief the STOR committee on our work in case they decide to go forward with this,” he said. “I see the stewardship fund as well as the GOCO grant as great potential opportunities to invest in sustainable, high-quality experiences for visitors and residents alike in this area.”
The USFS’ next steps will be outreach to the public for further input.
Community and Economic Development director Cathie Pagano said that while the STOR committee’s project prioritization is initially related to the GOCO funding, she anticipates it will also inform future project funding discussions for the organization.
The STOR committee includes more than 20 representatives from Gunnison County; the city of Gunnison; the towns of Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and Pitkin; Colorado Parks and Wildlife; the U.S. Forest Service (USFS); the Bureau of Land Management; the National Park Service; the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association; the Gunnison County Stockgrowers’ Association; Crested Butte Mountain Resort; Western State Colorado University; the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District; and several additional public at-large representatives from the Crested Butte Land Trust, Nordic Center, Conservation Corps and others.
By Dawne Belloise
Ashley UpChurch is all about community, which has been an ongoing theme throughout her life. She grew up in Raleigh, N.C., playing a lot of sports, from soccer and softball to basketball, volleyball and ultimate Frisbee. Horses were her fascination and she was able to get riding lessons in exchange for working at a barn and a veterinarian’s office. Her family would often go camping in West Virginia at a state park that rented cabins with electricity, a gas cook stove and a fireplace for heat. “I would spend all day at the barn where I’d groom and feed horses and they’d let me do trail rides for free,” Ashley recalls with a smile. She says she still loves horses.
Confessing that she felt awkward in school, Ashley joined the marching band because, “I liked the family that the marching band provided. We could all just go hang out in the band room instead of being awkward everywhere else in school where the cool kids were.” She played saxophone in the band throughout high school but laughs, “I was never very good and I could barely keep time.”
Ashley graduated from high school in 2005 and says that she had no idea what she wanted to do. “But I knew that I needed to figure out a way to pay for college so I got a scholarship at East Carolina University in Greenville to be a middle school language arts teacher in North Carolina. I didn’t want to be a teacher—that wasn’t the impetus to get that scholarship—I just wanted a way to pay for college,” which was a financially logical decision that allowed her to graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in middle school language arts and led her to her first teaching assignment in Colombia, South America.
“I wanted to travel and it’s really easy to get a teaching position outside of our country. It was amazing, and serious culture shock,” Ashley says. “I spoke no Spanish but I learned quickly. The school was bilingual and the kids are taught English from elementary school, but if a child transferred from another school, then they hadn’t been taught English. It’s hard enough being able to communicate with kids but additionally there was the language and cultural barrier and it was my first year teaching. I didn’t know what I was doing but I had a lot of fun,” she says, although as a 5’11” blonde woman, it was annoying when people continually called her “Barbie” in the streets.
While she was in college, Ashley studied abroad in Finland for six months, “from September through December, which is not the time to be in Finland,” she laughs. “It was so dark. But I got to go skinny-dipping under the Northern Lights, above the Arctic Circle, and it was magical. You do this after you take a sauna, so it’s a cold plunge.”
Back in North Carolina, she returned to her college job as a summer camp counselor, teaching horseback riding and guiding raft and backpacking trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She returned to her camp position every summer for eight years. During one spring, she hiked 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Virginia and in 2011, she took a teaching position in Raleigh for two years.
Ashley met Daniel Kreykes at a party in Brevard, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Prior to the party, I had a huge crush on him at camp where we both worked, but I got to camp late that summer and some other girl claimed him,” Ashley laughs. “Our first date was a local hike that I had done many times and Dan said he could do it from his house. He told me it was three miles to the top of this mountain, but it was actually six miles one way to the top, and our life has pretty much been like that ever since,” she says. They hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2014, starting in Maine and hiking south to North Carolina, completing the 1,700 miles and four months of trekking together. At the end of the trail, two days later, they were married.
“We had already quit our jobs, we didn’t have an apartment, and all our stuff was in storage. We knew that if we were going to move somewhere, this was the time. I had always wanted to live in Colorado for an embarrassingly silly reason— in fifth grade, when you learned what all the state mottos are, I remembered it was ‘Colorful Colorado’ and as a kid, I thought it was a state of rainbows. As an adult, I thought, I wanna go live in that place that as a kid I thought would be really cool. Dan was totally down to move there because he’s a hiker, skier, kayaker, mountain biker and climber.” Dan was looking for ski instructor jobs while they were still trekking.
The couple knew they didn’t want to live on the I-70 corridor or, Ashley smirks, “work for Vail. We’d heard of Aspen and Telluride, and Dan applied at those and a couple of other independent resorts.” Still on their trek, Dan had to run six miles to a town where he could get cell service for a phone interview with Crested Butte Mountain Resort, which offered him the job.
They arrived in Crested Butte in early December 2014. “We had to live in a motel in Gunnison for the first month because we couldn’t find housing up here,” Ashley recalls. But they finally found a home in Crested Butte South, where they’ve been ever since. Ashley took a job at Pooh’s Corner.
“I loved working at Pooh’s. The summers were a little tough, exhausting, as all retail in this town can be. I do love kids. I loved being a camp counselor and there were aspects of teaching that I just adored and were fantastic.” She “played” at Pooh’s for a year and a half before being hired at the Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce as membership and marketing coordinator. She grins, admitting that the day she applied for the position, she had to ask Google what a chamber of commerce was. In May 2017, Ashley became the executive director of the chamber.
“I love it and working for these small businesses, especially when I walk into any of our stores and see that they’re succeeding. I love helping people succeed with their dreams. That’s really what a small business is, it’s your dream. The thing I like most about my job is the community. It’s been a theme in my life. I loved marching band and summer camp because it gave me a community. And teaching too, my kids were my community and we’d do all kinds of stuff together. My favorite thing on the Appalachian Trail was the trail community, the trail family.”
In their chosen community at the end of the road in Crested Butte, Ashley feels the draw of the mountains. “I love hiking with my husband and my dog, Jake. Learning to ski on this mountain as an adult is terrifying,” she admits. “I like skiing although it’s not my favorite sport but you gotta do something in the winter. I’m learning to Nordic ski. Mostly, I’m a hiker and I’m trying to complete all the trails in the Gunnison watershed. It’s called Trail Quest and it’s an app designed around mountain biking that the Tourism Association developed.
“The challenge is to ride all of the single track in the watershed. The perimeter is from our side of Monarch all the way over to Paonia and from Schofield Pass, 401, all the way to the Hartman’s. That’s what I’ve been focusing on since I’ve been here. I’m also learning to mountain bike. Before Trail Quest came out we were trying to hit every peak that you can see from town. We love to climb mountains and Teo and Whetstone are my favorites for views in the area.”
Ashley’s quest and the importance of community is a priority for her. “The community keeps me here. I love the people and how they embrace each other and it’s just so much fun here. And we still have so many mountains to climb,” she concludes.
Costumes galore at the Chainless and Bridges of the Butte
by Dawne Belloise
Summer is finally upon us, we hope, and to kick it off is one of Crested Butte’s favorite events: Crested Butte Bike Week.
The craziest and most anticipated race event of the weekend is the notorious Chainless World Championship Bike Race, which screams down from the top of Kebler Pass into the heart of town and is immediately followed by a celebratory party. Seven miles of gravitationally challenging dirt road that drops into the top of Elk Avenue takes place this Friday, June 28, with racers screaming down the dusty descent beginning at the traditional 4:20 p.m. This is the oldest mountain bike festival in the world and undeniably the best. Originally dubbed Fat Tire Bike Week before its name change several years ago, it highlights Crested Butte as the legendary home of not only mountain biking, but also of costuming.
Most Crested Butte competitions and events involve costuming up and Buttians take their costume creating seriously. In fact, many start creating their themes and get-ups months in advance, even as they cross the finish line they’ve got next year’s costumes already materializing in their heads. From teams to individuals, they are pros leaning to the theatrical extreme and they shine in the Chainless Race.
Through the years, the costumes have gotten more elaborate, complex and comical. Boat bikes, gorilla and chicken suits, Vikings, several Darth Vaders and Star Wars characters, pirates and disco glitterati, even real-life brides and grooms in their wedding garb, and on a variety of contraptions.
In past races, Mike Arbaney’s front end, loose pivot point bike named the Gambler that can bend itself in two was always amusing to watch. Racers do it for the prestige and the glory, the fun and of course, the bragging rights.
There are prizes for the best bike, best costume and an assortment of other funky awards in addition to the more tough first, second and third arriving at the bottom in one piece. The no guts/no-glory race is also famous for its carnage as racers descend the final hill trying to avoid the side slide right turn onto Elk Avenue from old Kebler Road into screaming throngs of fans.
The Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce now hosts the weekend event. Executive director Ashley UpChurch recalls her favorite costumes from years past, “There was the Beatles-themed Yellow Submarine,” a life-sized, bright yellow sub captained by Rick Murray and crew in full Sgt. Pepper garb, from the 1967 album and 1968 animated film. It was a 3-D sculpture on bike frames sailing down the pass and the subject of bar conversations for many months afterwards.
Another best-loved theme was the family team costumed up as the Mario Brothers video game, complete with a daring chariot that sported their toddler dressed up as the Toad character. “It was like a racing Mario game,” UpChurch laughs, “Not that I condone putting young children in the Chainless. The costumes are my favorite part of the Chainless, and the Chainless is the most fun.”
The Chainless race began when a gaggle of locals decided to pedal their klunkers up a mountain, disconnect their chains and fly down the pass just to see what would happen. If you go with a coaster brake bike you don’t have brakes when you take the chain off. In the old days, they were ballsy, using only their feet, so they’d wear heavy boots to brake. The participants use zip ties to bind up the chains now, which allows them to be able to brake but not pedal. It’s a true celebration of the townie klunker bike, although all bikes are welcome, and there is an eclectic assortment of handmade bikes, art bikes and all the crafty sculptures that people now take up Kebler Road.
Nod to Matty Robb
Crested Butte lost one of its own much loved locals recently, an avid Chainless contestant, Matty Robb, and in honor of Matty, his friends have also organized an after party at the Big Mine Ice Rink with live music, and the typical local fare and fun. Donations for the pig roast will be accepted and appreciated and the shindig celebration will go until the sky gets darkish.
There’s a big nod to the also celebrated and never forgotten Andy Bamberg, who was a huge inspiration to Matty. The teal-colored, three-person bike that Andy built, now called the Bamberg and bequeathed to Matty when Andy passed, was ridden by Matty and Andy in what was purportedly the first Chainless, which legend has it, was not on Kebler but off Baldy mountain and down to the Slate River in the late 1990s when a small band of local wahoos got together for Buttian craziness and decided they could ride without chains, and possibly without brakes. Matty rode that bike in every Chainless since. Watch for the Bamberg bike in the race this Friday.
UpChurch notes that only 300 racers are allowed in the Chainless because any more than that, she says, gets a little out of hand, although she adds, “It’s not a strict cap.”
Racers drop off their bikes Friday at the Four-Way Stop, behind the chamber of commerce, beginning at 9 a.m. until the deadline at noon, but the earlier the better, and UpChurch advises not to wait until the last minute.
The shuttle to schlep the racers to Kebler Pass summit starts hauling at 2:30 p.m. until the last bus up at 3:30 p.m. and if that last shuttle is full, you’re on your own to get to the summit. The chamber reminds participants to wear a helmet and sign the waiver.
The Chainless World Championship Bike Race official after-party is still at the First Street and Elk Avenue parking lot. Local brewers, Irwin Brewing is sponsoring so there’ll be beer (yay!) at all the weekend events.
The Chainless isn’t the only event that features insane costumes. The annual Bridges of the Butte 24-Hour Townie Tour starts Saturday, high noon at the Town Park, and is a benefit fundraiser for the Adaptive Sports Center.
Everyone shows up to loop through the streets of town and over every bridge, riding into the wee hours of the night for 24 solid hours—it’s an ongoing pedal party with lots of time to socialize. From ballerina faeries to aliens, psychedelic squid to super heroes, decked out cycles with bells and whistles that will go nuclear with disco mirror balls, flashing LEDs and glow in the dark spokes when the night falls because when the sun goes down, the aurora borealis of Crested Butte kicks in as the riders get to show off their snazzy bike lights. Some participants’ metal steeds are an all-out light show. It’s a tour, not a race, so everyone can participate and ride as much, or as little, as they feel—families, individuals, businesses who drum up their own teams, everyone from little kids to grandparents.
New this year is Adaptive’s goal to have 100 people raise $100 each and if you raise that, you’re entered to win one of the many donated awesome prizes that will be announced at the after party at noon Sunday at the Town Park base camp. If you raise over $250, you’ll get the chance to win a townie bike. Those who are ambitious and raise over $500 can win a Crested Butte Mountain Resort ski pass for the 2019-2010 season. Someone’s going to be real happy.
Last year saw the registration limit of 300 participants sign up. Registration is online at adaptivesports.org/events until 5 p.m. on Friday or until they sell out, whichever comes first, and it usually sells out, so get registered.
The tour was the brainchild of a couple of instructors, created specifically as a fundraiser for their Argentina program for training instructors and volunteers. Now, the money that’s raised from Bridges of the Butte goes for Adaptive’s general scholarship fund because all their activities are subsidized and accessible to as many people as possible. Bridges of the Butte Townie Tour helps to give hope to those who don’t have access to the same recreation others have, Adaptive helps those who have lost some of their abilities.
UpChurch says she’s really looking forward to the weekend’s events. “Bike Week is a favorite event and I just love any event that rings in the summer. I hope people come out and costume up, party, ride bikes and drink beer.”
Registration and a full schedule of events for Crested Butte Bike Week is online at cbbikeweek.com. You can also browse page 60 of this issue to see the schedule.
Adaptive Sports Center, a non-profit organization located in Crested Butte provides life-enhancing year-round recreation activities for people with disabilities and their families. Info and events can be found at adaptivesports.org.