Alpine Picnic with Patricia — WildSnow Family Tradition

Post by blogger | August 31, 2009      
Backcountry Skiing

Patricia yesterday, with her last pair of skis. She remembers her final run vividly ''...down the bumps, skiing as good as I ever had, snaking my way down with the sun shining and the snow flying...'' I picked out the skis for her, back in what was definitely her day. I guess Plake had a hand in designing those sticks? I hope he gets a kick out of this blog post, as I know he likes the retro.

It’s been nothing less than an era in my life, our marriage, and our son’s life as well. I’m talking about the Dawson family connecting to Crested Butte since the 1970s, starting when my mother Patricia moved over there from Aspen in 1972 and built a house on Coal Creek at the west end of town.

Mom moved away a few times, and always came back. She loved heating her house with wood, splitting rounds by hand well into her late 60s, and even cooking on a wood burning cookstove. We’re talking Whole Earth Catalog stuff here, back to basics, mountain lifestyle that goes beyond synthetic softshells — way beyond.

Patricia did everything from running an arts non profit to being the Crested Butte Mayor’s assistant, all the while befriending dozens, actually, hundreds, of people in every age group. She alpine skied until a few years ago when having two artificial knees and other health issues made speed an iffy proposition. After alpine skiing she still got out on waxless track skis, gliding around a nearby golf course enjoying the tangy bite of alpine winter.

But most of all Patricia is an artist. A painter specifically, though she’s dabbled in creating everything from clothing to pottery. Inspired by the vivid colors of alpine skies and flowers, for years now she’s produced a series of stunning oil paintings that sell well, and grace homes from here to Texas.

Well, life marches on and Crested Butte is a hard place to age gracefully. Time for a move. I’ve got two brothers in Marin County, and they’re setting her up in some nice digs out there so she can live a less physically stressed life and enjoy grandchildren. The move is happening in a few weeks, so we headed over the mountains to CB for one more exercise of a Dawson tradition, the family alpine picnic.

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The spread.

The menu:
– Grana bakery (Carbondale’s finest) rye bread and onion rolls
– Aged rypenear and gouda cheeses
– Sandwich lettuce
– Cabbage salad
– Cucumber salad
– Deli roast beef
– Arona sauvignon blanc, New Zealand
– Farm eggs, hardboiled
– Apples
– Blue corn chips
– Desert: Grana ginger and chocolate chip cookies (almost too much), Rittersport and Tobler chocololate
– Organic lemonade, mineral water

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In the alpine above Crested Butte, Lisa lays out the goods, we say a prayer, make a toast -- and dig in!

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Patricia, receiving inspiration for another painting?

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Three generations.

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One of Patricia's now legendary paintings, apologies if the digitial repro doesn't do it justice. You get the idea. this one depicts the view of Wetstone Peak from her studio.

Patrica is looking forward to visiting CB during coming summers, and we hope to gather together again, perhaps in the same place, perhaps with more family. For now, we have a vivid memory of windy alpine sky blanketing our four family members as we dine on rye bread and Tobler, talking about old times and recent adventures. Between laughs, our eyes linger over a looming pallet of grim slate scarps set off by verdant alpine carpets, all dropping like a perfectly composed painting to the vibrating azure of Emerald Lake. The mountain where Patricia loved to ski shows in the distance, we point them out to her grandson.


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15 Responses to “Alpine Picnic with Patricia — WildSnow Family Tradition”

  1. Mark August 31st, 2009 8:40 am

    Great tradition. Best wishes and prayers for a good move Patricia.

  2. CCD August 31st, 2009 10:14 am

    Yes, a wonderful tradition, one that I miss
    But great to see Patricia up in the mountains that she loves.
    I know she is saying her so longs to the mountains, must be a bitter sweet time for her. But many of her best friends have connections here in Cali, so it won’t be long before she has many visitors.
    Yesterday evening we took a hike on the west side of Mt. Burdell, watching the fog begin to climb across the coastal ridges from Pt. Reyes as the sun set .Today the fog has cooled us down to a nice 65 from yesterdays 95.
    We’ll have to introduce the Colorado crew to our picnic tradition here in Marin County at the beach–Point Reyes, perhaps, or maybe up in wine country….
    See you then…

  3. Deborah Bradford August 31st, 2009 10:39 am

    Such a lovely post-Pat looks just like I remember her,back in those wild old days,when you all lived just east of town…She’s certainly been the hub of a lot of wheels,and I’m sure that will continue,in Cali. Please give her my love, and best wishes for this next chapter-and a big hug for you,ofcourse!
    Deborah B.

  4. Brittany Walker August 31st, 2009 12:09 pm

    We will miss your occasional presence here in the Butte. But, I’m glad your mom will be able to make a move that will allow to live a life that’s physically less stressful. You’re right, it’s hard to age gracefully in this town.

    Your picnic looked wonderful! Glad the rain didn’t get ya!

  5. Lou August 31st, 2009 1:26 pm

    Brit, we’ll still be visiting as frequently as possible! It’ll be the couch circuit however. Sure was great over the years to just visit and have a bedroom any time at Patricia’s. Got in some great skiing many many times.

  6. Bob Walker August 31st, 2009 3:08 pm

    Lou , It is great of you to let us in on that moment with your mother and her history. I see were you get your background and love for the mountains. I spent Sun. 8-30 with my mother on her 84th b-day having breakfast and enjoying the mountains. She was a monarch gal but did not ski last year for the first season in 50 some years but says shell be back this season and I’m sure she will. The mountain life seems to make a person look ten years older and feel twenty years younger and shes always been willing to take the trade off. Thanks for sharing the moment! Bob Walker Pueblo CO.

  7. Lou August 31st, 2009 3:57 pm

    Bob, thanks for your appreciation. How much personal stuff one shares is an issue with blogging, but my mom has always encouraged my writing knowing full well that writing about real life would be the result. I pull my punches anyway, but this sort of thing makes good blogs that I hope would encourage others who live, work and play in the mountains as multi-generational families.

  8. JW August 31st, 2009 9:44 pm

    Dang, those are some long skis Patricia is holding! When I learned to ski, early 60s, you wanted skis that were at least wrist height (arm held over head). The challenge, just to guide skis that long thru the bumps at Telluride or on the front 4 at Stowe. NO wonder my mom gave it up! Its kind of funny to look back at skis like that, especially after reading the latest gear reviews in Backcountry and Skiing.

    My mom and dad, brother and sister and I skied together, routinely, when we were growing up. Family trip to the hill most Sundays after church. My folks ultimately gave it up, as they got older and split up, and moved away from the mountains. My brother, sister and I all stuck with it and got into the BC, albeit on different terms and schedules.

    Skiing and family go together, as your photos prove. My family, wife and three adult children, we are a pretty independent bunch, but the skiing is a great long term bond that gets us together at least 1/year and keeps us together.

    That’s a nice post, Lou. 🙂

  9. Randonnee August 31st, 2009 9:54 pm

    Very nice, thanks for sharing that. I have a pair of those skis in the garage, with Markers, the last pair that I worked on FT!

  10. Lou September 1st, 2009 6:38 am

    K2 EXTREME!!!!!

  11. Mark September 1st, 2009 7:05 am

    A friend had a pair of Extremes and his take was that they skied well but had very soft bases.

  12. Bryce September 1st, 2009 10:29 am

    Extremes were the first new pair of skis I ever bought, as a senior in high school in 1992. Before that it was all ski swaps. Mine were 202, the perfect size for a skinny 5’8″ kid! Those were the days.

    Very nice post. And thanks for the memory.

  13. Brad September 1st, 2009 11:47 am

    Jeeez, I wish those Coloradans would stop moving to California. :shocked:

  14. Slave.To.Turns September 2nd, 2009 11:41 am

    Lou…you look exactly like your mother! Great story, great pics.

  15. Lou September 2nd, 2009 2:27 pm

    Slave, thanks!

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