Laura Mitchell glows, her eyes sparkle and a huge grin graces her face. She’s just come off the Colorado River, her maiden raft trip through the Grand Canyon, and her energy is understandably high after three weeks of rapids, lush hidden canyons and waterfalls.
“I love water. Sailing, floating, swimming, rafting. I’m a water girl. I grew up sailing. Mom taught me how to sail,” she smiles. “I’ve wanted to go on a Grand Canyon trip for 20 years and I just didn’t want to sit on a raft—I wanted to be a participant, not just a rider,” says the former raft guide for Scenic River Tours in Gunnison back in late 1980s.
Permits to get on the Colorado in the Grand Canyon aren’t that easy to come by and they’re expensive, but when a last-minute cancellation opened on a trip with some friends, Mitchell grabbed it. “Visually it was just amazing,” she says, still in awe. “I went on some really fun hikes, like up to Thunder River, which is a totally different ecosystem. It felt like you were in Hawaii, so green and lush with water pouring out of the walls. I swam in the Little Colorado River and Elves Chasm up this little tiny creek. You go into these rock creeks and there are waterfalls coming out into these little pools you can swim in. The water is so cold but the air is 100 degrees. The nights are amazing, the sky is so clear and the Milky Way so bright. I’ve been in the Grand Canyon looking over it but it’s nothing like going down the river for 226 miles. I’m ready to do it again,” Mitchell eagerly admits.
Mitchell is a third-generation Coloradoan, born in Denver to active outdoorsy parents. She spent her childhood canoeing, hiking, swimming, playing soccer and skiing with her family. Choosing a college was a no brainer…she headed up to Western State College in 1986. Turns out, Mitchell had a family history in the area. “My maternal grandparents actually met in Gunnison in 1938. My grandmother skied at Pioneer and was a public health nurse in Gunnison in 1938 and ‘39,” she tells.
Mitchell’s grandfather had come up to visit some childhood friends, an old-time ranching family in Sapinero, which is now under Blue Mesa Reservoir. He would come out to fish and work on the ranch. After he met and married Mitchell’s grandmother, the couple moved to Denver.
Mitchell also hails from the notable Zang family of Denver brewery fame, Oxford Hotel and Lakeside Amusement Park. There’s a picture of her great-grandfather, Phillip Zang, hanging in Kochevar’s since the bar bought beer from them. With that sort of connectivity, Mitchell feels she was definitely meant to be here.
During Mitchell’s last year in college in 1989, she and three of her girlfriends packed up a U-haul and moved to Crested Butte, where, she recalls, there was a total housing shortage, even though you could buy a house back then for $50,000. “We were four girls, 21 years old and we had pets so no one would rent to us.” Luckily, one of her girlfriend’s parents bought a condo and they all moved in. “We had super fun party days, skied our buns off, and I returned to college.”
Mitchell graduated with a degree in business management and went to work for the Sweitzer boys at True Value, while also serving at banquets at the Grand Butte Hotel.
“After graduating from college the Sweitzers told me I needed to get a better job so they arranged for me to get a job at the Brick Bank. I was there for six years from 1992 and people still associate me with the bank. I knew everybody in town who bounced a check!” Mitchell chuckles.
continued on next page
continued from previous page
Her life changed dramatically when she was misdiagnosed after her appendix ruptured. By the time physicians figured out the problem, the poison had saturated some of her organs. They weren’t sure she was going to make it but the mountain girl pulled through, spending two weeks in the hospital. That moment transformed her and she went from being a businessperson into a healing person.
Mitchell took that summer of ‘97 to heal herself and when she was ready, she went to work at Christy’s Sports, the perfect ski bum job. In 1999, through 2006, she became a real estate agent, having worked as a property appraiser for Don Pulley. But she realized that the housing market was about to turn, “The film on the bubble was starting to get squishy by then,” and, Mitchell notes, the bottom fell out of the market shortly afterward.
Mitchell had started ortho-bionomy classes in 2003 and began her practice in 2008 when the real estate bubble finally burst. Laura opened her own office at 301 Belleview and named it Sage Ananda Therapy.
She also studied as a yoga teacher, a year-long program with Yoga World Reach, taught through Yoga for the Peaceful. “It’s a Hatha based yoga, and I combine a blend of ortho-bionomy and yoga that’s restorative and therapeutic,” Mitchell explains. Ortho-bionomy translates into “The correct life study,” which means it’s a correct path of life,” Mitchell points out. “It’s getting back to your original self, and it’s based in homeopathy and osteopathy, like cures like, and structure governs function. It really resonated with me. I could work on my family and friends.
“What we do with the body is so simple that there’s not any correct terminology for it,” Mitchell continued. “I had already been teaching classes when I started training for yoga. I got into yoga for body awareness and posture—I had really bad posture,” she confesses.
The ordeal with her appendix had left Laura unable to have children and after 10 years of trying to start a family, Mitchell and her hubby, Jim Beck, connected with a Denver woman who was giving her child up for adoption. The woman’s son, Kyle, was born in December 2003 and Laura laughs, “He looks like the kid I always thought I would have.”
Every spring Laura and her family head down to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico for three weeks to hang in the sun, camp on the beach and sail a 16-foot Hobie that her husband got for her as a wedding gift back in 1994. This year she and Kyle raced in the sailboat races and won in their division. Next year they’ll go for it again but in a higher division. Although she’s landlocked here in Crested Butte, Mitchell loves skiing and all the outdoor activities this wonderland has to offer and she’ll be costumed up with team Chiquita Banana for this weekend’s Adaptive Sports biking shindig, 24 hours of the Bridges of the Butte.
Someday in the future Mitchell admits that she sees herself splitting her time between the snow and the water but for now, she finds solace in the mountains and in skiing, biking, and rafting on Long Lake. “I love this community. I love that this is a small town that my son can cruise around and feel safe in. I love being outside and being able to do all the things I want. And the humbleness of this town—we’re not Telluride, we’re not Aspen. At the end of the day it’s still a small town. And spiritually, outside is my church. Know what GOD stands for? Great Out Doors,” she says, beaming a smile that unmistakably says this will always be home.