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            Saturday marked the end of an era, with the passing of Howard “Bo” Callaway at age 86.

            Bo, his brother-in-law Ralph Walton and their sons Edward and Scout shaped Crested Butte Mountain Resort for most of its formative middle years. The Callaway and Walton families bought the ski area out of bankruptcy in 1970 and invested money, time and brain power to build it to its heyday of more than half a million skier-days per year. They sold the ski area to the Mueller family in 2004.

            I think of Bo Callaway primarily for his impact in Crested Butte and at Callaway Gardens, the family’s resort and nature preserve in Georgia, but he was known in wider circles for his role in the state and national Republican Party. 

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Well, Crested Butte will be VERY well represented in the Sochi Olympics in February. Huge congratulations to Crested Butte’s AARON BLUNCK and DAVID CHODOUNSKY, who were both named to the U.S. Olympic Team this week.

            We ran a story in this winter’s Crested Butte Magazine about Dr. Gloria Beim serving as the head doctor for the U.S. Olympic Team, with a side story on contender Aaron Blunck, 2012 steeplechase Olympian Emma Coburn, long-time Olympics photographer Nathan Bilow, and the slate of valley residents who are former Olympic athletes.

            What I failed to include was a report on David Chodounsky. David is a repeat NCAA Champion in the slalom, racing for Dartmouth 2004-2008 and leading the men’s alpine team to its first overall NCAA team championship in 32 years. Since graduating, he’s been a strong World Cup contender in slalom, giant slalom and super G.

            As I was writing the short article on Olympic contenders late last summer, I really underestimated David’s tenacity and courage going into this ski season. He’d missed the 2011-2012 season due to a patella injury, surgery and rehab. He followed that with a strong come-back season last winter, but I didn’t realize just how powerful a force he would be this year. Sochi, here comes David Chodounsky!

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            Lots of North American ski areas boasted brilliant sunshine and flawless snow conditions last Saturday. But only Crested Butte boasted several hundred costumed Santas skiing or snowboarding, tippling, laughing and comparing beards on the Ice Bar deck. The Santa Ski Crawl (followed by the Santa Pub Crawl for St. Nicks of legal drinking age) was Mt. Crested Butte’s attempt to set a new world record for skiing Santas. I haven’t heard the official count or whether Mt. Crested Butte is destined for the record books; people had so much fun, they don’t seem too worried about the bookkeeping details.

            The Santa rally came on the heels of Crested Butte’s victory in Powder Magazine’s online Ski Town Throwdown, a series of head-to-head voting competitions between North American ski towns. In the final Facebook round last week, Crested Butte won by less than 100 votes over Eaglecrest, Alaska, out of more than 34,000 votes cast.

            I suspect there’s a connection between the two phenomena: hundreds of jolly skiing Santas and Crested Butte’s unlikely Throwdown triumph. 

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In a recent writing-tips newsletter, I read an article about marketing freelance story ideas to magazine editors. The top tip: quantify and label, e.g. the top ten, the worst five, the eight biggest, coolest, most disgusting… whatever. Want to get more than a yawn at your proposed article on job interviewing? Call it “The Five Top Reasons You Didn’t Get That Last Job.” Bingo.

            A zillion people must have read that marketing tip, because almost every magazine cover and Facebook ad blurb I’ve seen lately has highlighted some banner like that: the most dangerous dozen, the hottest five, the sexiest three. The tip must be working.

What’s also interesting is how often Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley have shown up on these lists.

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Bear in the Lake

Sep
2013
11

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            When my friend Karen and her family visited from Houston a few summers ago, we headed out to find a perfect picnic spot. As we piled out of the car near Meridian Lake, something big and brown lumbered along the road toward us. A bear. We watched as it turned and ambled down the slope, paddled across the lake and sauntered up the far hillside, all within a stone’s throw of our viewpoint on the spillway. Even the kids stood silenced by the spectacle.

            A few months later, a package arrived at my house. From the box I unfolded a beautiful, small quilt with a cloth label: “Bear in the Lake. Made for Sandy by Karen Hastings.” Karen had put together several different patterns to create the quilt: a center design symbolizing a lake, repeating squares formed with geometric bear paw shapes, and a border of stylized mountains and trees. Blue-greens and touches of brown stood out from an earthy tan background. I loved it.

            True, I’m easily amazed. My talents do not lie in the arts and crafts realm – or “arts and craps,” as my mother once called it in a thank-you note for some monstrosity I’d made for her. I’m not sure it was a typo. I’ve done just enough crafty things to understand the patience, artistry and labor that go into the true beauties. What an honor to be the recipient of such a creation.

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This week would be different, I told myself. I’d write, pay bills, concoct a healthy dinner… and stay the heck away from those seductive trails. But, no, the rain dissolved into sunshine, the wildflowers bloomed, and hiking buddies texted. And I succumbed, guiltily lacing up my dusty hiking boots once again. As the fish spoiled and veggies wilted uncooked in my refrigerator, I had to admit: yes, I am a problem hiker. At least in the Crested Butte summer.

It’s easy enough to justify. Hiking in moderation is good for you. It clears the mind, strengthens the body, and uplifts the spirits, especially in a flower-rich year like this one. If only those afternoon showers would return, I’d also get the oil changed, dust the gritty nightstand and finish that article. The problem isn’t me, it’s this dang relentlessly beautiful weather.

For weeks now, I’ve told myself it’s okay. I mean I’m a social hiker; it’s a great social lubricant. It’s not like I hike alone. Well, only on days when I just want to grab a quick one and my hiking buddies are probably busy.

Really, I HAD to hike every day this week. We had out-of-town company; it would be rude not to hike. And then there was that editorial discussion with a magazine writer. Business meetings just go more smoothly with a little hiking. And lunch with a friend; what’s the harm of a little hiking with lunch? And then when I did force myself to sit down to write, well, sometimes you just need a wee hike to get the old creative juices flowing. 

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            I just spent a month in Nepal, a destination that towers above all others, literally. My husband Michael and I trekked over Thorung-La, called the highest pass in the world at almost 18,000 feet, after two weeks of hiking in the shadow of the four Annapurna summits. The smallest of those rises above 26,000 feet.

            But before I extol the wonders of Nepal, let me say a word about…vanity.

            I’ve never been a beauty queen. But in my advancing maturity, I’ve become accustomed to my moisturizer, eyeliner and hair dryer with curling attachments. Only with some reluctance did I pack my trekking duffle with no appearance enhancers. Although Michael and I had hired a porter for our foray, I knew I had to heed Maslow’s “needs hierarchy” (e.g. food, safety… clean teeth), and my sleeping bag, blister kit and toothbrush left no room for volumizing hair mousse.

            As it turned out, I found it surprisingly easy to go native on the trekking trail. I learned to slosh a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s all-purpose liquid soap on scalp and armpits beneath a cold-water spigot, then let it all air-dry in its own time. A ponytail band, ball cap and bandana provided coiffure management. Some nights I did little more than smear the sunscreen off my face with a grimy bandana before tumbling into my sleeping bag. The only thing I put on my eyes was my sweat-filmed sunglasses, ever needed for gazing at yaks on distant slopes, mountain eagles floating in the thin air or glaciers hanging from summits so high they made our necks sore.

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