Crested Butte or Bust

April 29th 1992

There’s a riot in the streets, tell me where were you?

You were sitting home watching your T.V.

While I was part of blatantism anarchy

– SUBLIME

There he stood above the tunnel in between Alameda and Oakland, California where looters and protesters were causing all kinds of havoc on Broadway Avenue, protesting the Rodney King Riots that were sweeping across the Nation.

“Sad it has finally come to this shit.” He thought, as he put his newly acquired stereo in his backpack.

He was used to the racial tensions but never really thought he would live to see the day when the National Guard shot rubber bullets and tear gas into one and all regardless of race, religion or age. Nothing new he thought considering in 1966, (the year he was born) then acting Governor of California, Ronald Reagan sent in Riot Police and the National Guard to beat down demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the University of California, Berkeley

-the epicenter of Vietnam War protest.

He was born into a time of war and civil unrest……….

Everything was in Crisis.

Energy Crisis

Watergate Crisis

Debt Crisis.

Fuel Crisis.

Crisis of Confidence.

Or there always seemed to be a War.

Cold WarWar on Drugs, War on VietnamContra CostaWar in the Middle EastWar on the Poor
It’s what he grew up with. It’s all he knew and saw Mr. Cronkite, the last honest journalist, on the television set 24/7. Some called it Civil Unrest while others called it Anarchy. ANARCHY,…………….. he liked the sound of that.

About half way through his first year of college he found out the kid he was raising wasn’t biologically his and the State of California came and took him away. It seemed like it was a blessing in disguise having a kid got him to get his GED so he could go to college and off some hardcore drugs but at the same time when they said he wasn’t his, he wanted nothing more to get out of the East Bay and go to the Mountains. Tired of all the bullshit following the riots he decided to cash in his financial aid check from attending Laney Community College to pursue his new found passion of Snowboarding. He had skied before in Lake Tahoe back in 1976 when he was 10 years old but took to this new found “snow surfing” more to his liking. It was so different from skiing in so many aspects and it was new.

The first time he went “riding” was at Dodge Ridge ski area in 1989, a small Ma and Pa mountain one of the few resorts within the Sierra Nevada mountains of California that allowed snowboarders at all. As they were deemed to dangerous and out of control with their crazy hair, music choices and clothes style that bucked certain trends of the day.

One of his friends at the time took him up to the top of the lift and told him to just get to the bottom in one piece and to take it easy. Attaching his required leash strap to his leading leg and snowboard, he stands up taking in the view of snow encrusted mountains then pointing the nose of the board down, he soon found himself flying down the run, tears streaming behind. He could feel his heart beating with adrenaline, cold air burning his lungs and then somewhere in the distance could hear his friend screaming from behind;

“Dude!….Turn!….”  Tuuuuurn!!…..” Oh FUCK!!,….. TUUUUUUUUUUUURN!!!”As he was gaining more speed the board begins to shake and shudder and soon what was once in motion ceased to be immediately. The next thing he learned about snowboarding was called “catching a front edge”, so into the hard packed snow he face planted with a total “yard sale” of all his possessions not enclosed in a zippered pocket or strapped onto his body which coincidently included his bag of weed and brass protopipe which no “Shredder” ever went without. Tragedy.

Coughing up blood and snow he laughs back:

“Now you tell me?” He  was sold from that point on. Even though the rest of the day continued to be full of “caught edges” to and fro and no shortage of face plants into the Sierra Cement that tasted like Vanilla to him. It had a much easier learning curve than skiing he thought. Since that experience back in 76” was somewhat similar on top of Squaw Valley where he employed the same tactic, which came to be known as “Point and Shoot Technique” within a few yards he ended up hitting a ski lift tower. A female Ski Patroller came to his rescue. He was in love at first sight of her Farrah Fawcett hairdo, huge white frame Varney’s and “tight ass hell” fitting multi colored one piece ski suit obviously provided for by the ski resort. Free Advertising in Z flesh!

Little did this guy realize that 35 years later he would be operating a snowcat at that same ski area known as Squaw Valley. Mountain Climbing and Backcountry Splitboarding some of the best terrain in the lower 48 States and Alaska. He came into old ski areas with names like Crested Butte, Donner Pass, Leadville, Wolf Creek, Brighton and Driggs where he would usually find himself inexplicably involved in some type of altercation, debauchery, or overindulgence that all ski towns provided with Drugs, Alcohol and no shortage of hot ass International J-1 workers from some Slavic country. He loved Hunting for Snow Bunnies. Regardless of circumstances he always seemed to come out on top of it all somehow, albeit sort of battered and perplexed. Herein lies some of the those tales in a place somewhere East of Nowhere, West of Somewhere, North of Sometime, South of Some place………a place called Pandomonium.

II

Sign Reads:

HARMLESS- CRESTED BUTTE OR BUST


Since getting into snowboarding he never missed out on a Snowboarding magazine he could research the very primitive equipment of the day and to find out the best ski towns to live in for cheap. This was his priority. He was constantly on the hunt for discount tickets and would harass people at any and all ski resorts, throughout the Sierra’s, Wasatch, Teton and Rocky Mountain Ranges. He would spy those who were leaving early and request “or trade some weed for clipping” their lift tickets to use for the remainder of the day. Back then, a ski lift pass was a wire you looped through your coat zipper with a mountain pass sticker applied, which they clipped off and tied onto new owner. Great way to ride on the cheap while surviving on P and B tortilla rolls or anything given to him by the food bank. Way before all that high tech crap they got now. Cheap and Easy since most people usually only rode half the day anyhow. Ski Patrolers Hated fuckers like him and he loved fucking Corporate over anyhow.

Win-win situation right? Although a somewhat parasitic relationship. In one such rag he found a story about a Ski for Free deal that was held early or late season in Crested Butte, Colorado. It was also going to host the first ever Big Mountain Competition.

Anatomy: Crested Butte’s North Face

Don’t be fooled by the T-bar that accesses this terrain: This is no bunny slope. The North Face, a massive back bowl that slants as much as 50 degrees, is the site of big-mountain competitions and gladed, fluff-filled stashes. If it’s a powder day, get here quickly.

1) Honey Pie: For a perfect warmup run, ride the North Face T-bar and follow the signs to Rachel’s, a mellow slope that gets trampled quickly. Halfway down, drop over the ridge to your right to reach Honey Pie, a 32- degree open slope. If that’s tracked out, traverse skier’s right through the trees to find softer snow in the well-spaced woods of Stevie’s or Paradise Glade.

2) North Face Cliffs: From the T-bar, follow the signs to the North Face. You’ll go down a short groomer, then cut right on a traverse through the trees. From there, pick your line. North Face Cliffs can be unskiable in lowsnow years, but when it’s filled in, you can huck 50-footers if you’re so inclined. High Notch and Hard Slab offer smaller 10-footers or 300 vertical feet of soft, cliff-free skiing.

3) Hawk’s Nest: Ski High Notch or Hard Slab, then head straight down through the thinned-out trees to Hawk’s Nest, a wide-open slab of wind-buffed cream. On a powder day, you can slash three big turns down this 400-vertical-foot face. If it hasn’t snowed in a couple weeks, watch out for car-size bumps. Veer right toward the bottom to reach Rosy Lane, a knoll that often hides powder.

4) Last Steep: If you’re itching for more vertical, head down from Rosy Lane moving left to reach Last Steep, a smooth 40-degree pitch. If your legs are killing you, head far left about three quarters of the way down Last Steep to catch Bucks Traverse, an unmarked singletrack through

the trees back to the Paradise quad. If you’re feeling ballsy, go skier’s right of Last Steep, for Cesspool, Sock it to Me, and Little Hour Glass, venues in Crested Butte’s notoriously steep big-mountain comp. Each is riddled with 15-foot mandatory airs and narrow 50-degree chutes. You’ll need a big dump for much of the rowdy terrain here to be skiable.

In 1992, Crested Butte hosted the Lower 48’s first extreme-skiing competition, with the qualifier on Hawk’s Nest. Four years later, the venue was moved to Sock it to Me, where Seth Morrison first spun a helicopter off a rock.

The North Face terrain is, well, north-facing. Which means it stays shaded longer. Translation: no sun crust to deal with. Powder stays dry and cold almost all day long and well into March and April.

Summit elevation: 12,162 feet

Base elevation: 9,375 feet

Total vertical drop: 3,062 feet

Skiable acres: 1,167

He heard of Colorado from old Mountain Man yarns and John Denver songs. All he knew about Crested Butte was it was a old Victorian Mining town that had a badass mountain on the out it’s back door. There, someone came up with the idea for the ski resort to offer a free pass early or late season. How they came up with this ploy was nothing short of “Supergenious”. Typically in the early or late transition season, early November or late April the crowds are not at the resorts because the snowpack may be too thin. It was no easy task in order to get to Crested Butte as well compared to Aspen or Breckenridge. So in order to draw people to the town of Crested Butte the business owners would pay for the operating cost of a few lifts to open and in return they would reap all the cash flow from the hundreds of ski bums from across the country and beyond that came to ski for free. The mountain pass had a calendar on it for those free days and they would simply punch out the days you rode. He gave offerings to the Snow God Ullr and soon was planning to hitchhike out to Colorado, some 1700 miles away from Oakland.

He just couldn’t wait to get all the gear he thought he would need from the local Army Navy Surplus store. Now one thing you have to understand was everything was sought after not by the quality of gear mind you but how cheap if not for free he could get it. Even a bunch of old gear that he wouldn’t ever use was given to him from bro’s who had useless shit they wanted to get rid of. It consisted of a old military steel frame backpack made from heavy canvas along with a gas stove that rarely stayed alight.  A bunch of knives, one huge Thermos, the kind of flashlight you could fight Sasquatch off with, miscellaneous twine gum and wire like MacGyver, one cheap emergency blanket, a 10×10 blue tarp for shelter and a slingshot just in case he had to eat a rabbit or something. Most of his clothes were made of cotton which does not hold insulating properties well when wet. His younger sister told him nylons kept her warm so that along with some 100% cotton long underwear was the extent of any base layers. He soon was able to get a ride to Salt Lake City, Utah where he had old friends and some family. There he went to Kmart and bought some of those slip on snow booties that you would hardly empty the garbage in without a blowout. He tightened them down with a heel harness made of duct tape. A banana yellow rubber rain suit and some old steel snow shoes were found at a used outdoor gear shop to complete ensemble of Ghettoness.

But more importantly, he found a old plastic snowboard at a yard sale with these hideous steel exposed screw edges and only very primitive slip in bindings. They couldn’t even go that far as to call them bindings, something most likely probably found at Toys “R” Us. Didn’t matter much since there was a ton of heel slop in those cheap ass Kmart booties anyhow.

in his mind it wasn’t about the latest gear/trends. It was more about the journey ahead.

He then got a ride from Salt Lake City to Pueblo, Colorado and ended up going to the True Value store getting a bunch of screws, washers, heavy duty rubber bands and bungee cords in order to hold his feet on the board, did some much needed P-Tex work with some JB Weld on core and reset popped off edges which he also tuned up with a small bastard file. He took one look at it and proclaimed it “The Frankenboard.” Somewhere outside of Pueblo, Colorado a big Norwegian Skier pulls over to pick him up before Sunset as the snow gets deeper and the temperatures plummet. The driver couldn’t believe this dude was hitchin’ across the West to Snowboard and he was more than happy to give him a ride into the Old Victorian town of Crested Butte.

Ski Town: Crested Butte, Colo.

This southern Colorado burg charms visitors with all of the beauty and none of the attitude.

The renegade of ski towns, Crested Butte sits in the center of the state and is noticeably less chic than its northern neighbor, Aspen. Yes, it’s a little hard to get to, and a little rough around the edges, but Crested Butte boasts as much town pride as it does eccentric characters and locally controlled real estate. Intriguingly, this mining town was never successful enough to establish brick or stone buildings, so colorful, wooden Victorian-era structures dot the downtown, where people ride their fat bikes year-round. While it was a shock to locals when Crested Butte Mountain Resort decided to go Epic, many people feel confident this could mean much-needed improvements to the ski resort without impacting the core and genuine funkiness of this town.

When he got dropped off in the old town it was after midnight, no one was on the streets where the snow was at least eight feet deep on the sidewalks! He was in awe and felt like he was in a Charles Dickenson’s fable. The snow was falling with the street lamps casting shadows of the falling flakes, it was surreal. The first night he stayed inside a old bus stop that was at least warm enough to sleep and soon fell into a deep slumber where the aches and pains of our road weary traveler would not phase him. He awoke the next morning in search of someplace to call home for a few days or weeks. With the old backpack straining under the weight of the not needed gear, he set off to explore this charming town. Settling into a coffee shop where he ordered the most divine white hot chocolate, he was able to pick the minds of the locals on his best bet for shelter. Some eyed him suspiciously and suggested checking out the post on community boards or dig a snow cave, which he seriously contemplated. While wandering through town he made mental notes of all the best “watering holes” and public restrooms. 

As night settled in he found himself going down some old ally ways and found a old miners log cabin. He approached the door and let himself in and then he heard,

“Dude close the door! Find a spot to crash, we ride early.”

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness he could see forms in sleeping bags on the floor, work benches and loft. He could hear snoring and lovers giggle, he knew he was home.

The next day he awoke alone. He was so tired he slept through everyone getting ready. He got his gear together and threw his backpack into a corner along with a pile of other peoples shit. He caught a local free ride bus dressed in that rubber rain suit he paid $12 for. The bus had all the local dogs in town painted on it.

When he arrived at the Mountain’s ski lift ticket office he was just amazed how they gave you a pass with no exchange of money, it seemed so foreign to him. He was stumbling in a rush to get his cheap ass shit together as he got in line for the chairlift. When he got to the loading zone the “lifty” stopped him looking suspiciously at his Frankenboard. The pock marked teenager spurted,

“Uh dude, I don’t think I can let you on with that binding setup man…..”

He about came unglued on this poor unsuspecting lad and was then assaulted with a barrage of the trials and tribulations it took for him to get there at all. People behind him in line chimed in chanting let him on let him on! So the kid nervously lets him load on a chair to avoid a mass uprising of these vagrant cheap ass mother fuckers who came to ride for free.

He had a smile so big as the chair whisked him up over the left side of the Northface. He had visions of “hucking” off the cliffs and taking away the Big Mountain competition which was being held later in the season.

As he offloaded and could see the Maroon Bell Mountain Range that inspired our Purple Mountain Majesty line in our National Anthem. The Aspen trees were all naked and he shot directly for a mature stand to test his board. Soon he found himself in a open glade where he ollied up over a small knoll, that’s when he heard the loud snap as he landed, the board shot down the mountain without him. He stood there all alone in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and watched as his board fly down the gully in perfect unity with the fall, line never to be seen again. He looked down and seen the so called bindings were still strapped to his feet. Apparently the rubber bands held but the old screws holding the bindings on the deck stripped out.

There he sat contemplating jumping off the nose of the Northface where they wouldn’t find him until Spring thaw. Then he busted out his trusty wooden pipe and smoked a bowl of the strain of the day which was most likely some horrible cheap Mexican weed full of stems and seeds. He didn’t care as he laid back and made a snow angel and was still in pretty good spirits considering the situation. Approximately one and a half hours later he finally made it down to the mid mountain lodge/bar. It was just opening and empty except for a young beautiful blonde dreadlocked bartender. He sat down in front of her sweating his ass off as he stripped down to his skivvies. She looked at this odd jumble of knock off gear and the long 1/2 ass attempt at dreads matted to his neck from sweat and a nose ring.

“Hi, why ain’t you riding?” She said softly wherein he went on about his journey and ultimate demise he just experienced while ordering two beers and a shot of Jägermeister.

She looked at him with empathy in her heart and said:

“Your in luck dude! I got a old 163 Barfoot I will sell you for $20, right now.”

He held back tears and pulled out his thin wallet and handed her over a Jackson, most likely his last. He was back in the game and gave her a nice overly long hug for her generosity,  she pulled away and looked at him for a minute then said:

” You should go get some turns in and drew him a map of some powder stashes on the mountain.

 It would seem there was a God and his name was ULLR. The next few weeks were like being at the child of a Grateful Dead concert and the World Cup ski races. People with the passion to slide down the mountains in pure wild undeterred abandon, where only those with you heard your war whoops and cries of ecstasy. Intimate friends these once strangers would become family in a moment off a cornice. There dug deep into the mountainside near Irwin Lodge was a snow cave dug of immense proportions. No less than 6 separate caves like a giant Ant farm for knuckle draggers, three pinners and those downhill guys too. It was out fitted with the back seat of cars for sofas and small nooks glowing with candles, a Monastery for those who dared to brave the epic call for shredders in that winter of 1992.

One night the reggae band known as Eek a Mouse was playing at the Brewery in town. This was such a energetic show with people getting out on the dance floor just having a great time as a snow afghan knitted flake by flake blankets the town. He made his way up front with a pipe full of weed w/ some hash sprinkled on top. He took a deep hit in between sets and blew it in the singers face then handed it to him who then handed it off to the remaining members. Then everybody just started passing around joints as the Reggae Vibe played into the sumptuous night. The temperatures were literally rising inside and everyone is stripping down to their skin sweating and grinding in unison. As the wee hours of the night trudged ever onward he found himself dancing with damn near every woman in the bar then staggering back to the wood shed he had called home for 2 weeks, alone. His hair was frozen like ice latte dreadlocks and one clump even snapped off right side of head. He had no shirt and steam was coming off his body as he drifted down those alley ways where Doc Holliday once stabbed a Man behind Kochevars Bar. After damn near freezing to death walking back he found his spot in the loft he commandeered once the lovers left. He snuggled into his old army down bag that weighed at 15 pounds and fell into a deep slumber. Sometime the next morning he is awakened because he cant seem to move his arms or legs for that matter. Oh man could it be he took some unknown substance from that hottie the night before and is now feeling the paralyzing effects? Not out of the question been known to happen before. The more he struggled the more it became apparent after trying to gnaw his way out of the sleeping bag with his teeth that it was frozen to his body. It was like a ice python suffocating him. Struggling for an eternity rolling back and forth across the floor like Harry Houdini, he was able to free one arm and make his way out ever so slowly like a beautiful Snowdragon coming from its nymph stage. As he stood there trying to figure out just what in the fuck happened he smelled urine as he thawed out. Then picking up the frozen bag realized that in his drunken stupor he pissed on himself and then froze solid in his sleeping bag. Well it looked like it was going to be a laundry day down at the frozen over creek next to Kochevars Bar where $2 beers and Free Popcorn would keep him content and the ever constant hunger at bay. His clothes were once again hanging out over that old potbelly stove in the corner where he was playing on the Old Shuffleboard deck, his ass flap half unbuttoned. The afore mentioned sleeping bag is steaming of the remnants of White Buffalo Peace Ale. Tune in next time kids for more misadventures of Pan Same Pan Time same Pan channel……….. FUTURE POST YET TO COME:

Powderhorn / Grand Mesa Ski Bum Lifestyle- Northern Exposure

Snowbird Utah 1995

Temp services cave dwelling hitchiking back to GJ w/ Cujo handy wipes hippy bath Flagstff Mtn. Granola 3 pinners

Feather River College Nor-Cal 1996

Pack Station/ Stable Ops/ Equine Science

Colorado Mtn. College Leadville CO. 1997

Ski Area Operations, Glenwood Springs/ Breckenridge

Copper Mountain, CO. / B Lift Pub/ Poma

SNOWCATS

Brandywine / Jail

Death comes in threes

Aztec & Inca

Lake Tahoe/Royal Gorge / Donner PassGrey Ghjost FJ40
Grand Targhee IdahoI brought way to much HASH to Idaho
Fugitive

Pumba FJ55 Royal Gorge/ Donner Pass Lake Tahoe

Sugar bowl /Donner Summit Lodge

Juneau Outdoor Program @ UAS

Chateau Pando / Mt. Guide/Rafting Guide/

Glitter Gulch Denali N.P.

Raft Nenana/Erratic’s/ Boxman

Girdwood/ Cap’n Anarchy

7 years a fugitive/ Statute of Limitations

BOOK II

Living in Lala Land

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