Boom and Bust: Monarch, Colorado

By Duane Vandenbusche The date was July 14, 1878, and Nicholas Creede was tired. The veteran miner from Indiana had been prospecting for two months in the South Arkansas River country and had found nothing. Then, about five miles east of a high pass, he hit a promising strike and named it Monarch. The discovery …

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The Western State Ski Team: “The Little Engine That Could”

By Duane Vandenbusche

The Western State College ski team began innocently enough. Shortly after the end of World War II, veterans returned to the college. Some had been members of the famed 10th Mountain Ski Division, which trained at Pando near Tennessee Pass and had fought in the mountains of Italy. The idea for a ski team came from two veterans of the 10th Mountain: Crosby Perry-Smith from New York and Dick Wellington from Maine.

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Excerpts from ‘Around Monarch Pass’

Author Duane Vandenbusche, a professor of history at Western State College in Gunnison since 1962, is the author of several books on the Gunnison Country and Western Colorado. Until 2007, he doubled as a cross-country coach at the college, where his men’s and women’s teams won 12 national championships and produced three Olympians. In this volume, photographs gathered from libraries, museums, private collections, and old-timers – many of them previously unpublished – bring the rich history of Monarch Country alive.

We have been given permission to publish excerpts from the book for you here. Dr. Vandenbusche will be giving a presentation about Monarch Pass at the Salida SteamPlant on December 11 at 6:00 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Photos and text reprinted with permission from “Around Monarch Pass,” by Duane Vandenbusche. Available from the publisher online at or by calling (888) 313-2665.

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College Students Who Could Save Your Life: The Western State College Mountain Rescue Team

WSC mountain rescue

by Luke Mehall

It started with a professor lost in the mountains of the Gunnison backcountry in the 1960s and it’s grown to be the top college-based mountain rescue team in the United States.

“We don’t have an exact record of when the team started, but the story is that a professor was lost in the mountains and a group of students and teachers banded together to find him,” Chip Lamar, team leader of the Western State College (WSC) Mountain Rescue Team said. “These types of searches continued to happen and then the team got involved in more technical, rock climbing rescues.”

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Down on the Ground with Getting Work

by George Sibley

In this year’s “Sonofagunn” show in Gunnison — our annual light “roast” of the Upper Gunnison valley as an Arts Center fundraiser — one of the things we are trying to address is what we consider our local dilemma. The dilemma being no-longer-so-young Western State College graduates, maybe a decade past graduation but still here, underemployed and overworked in the tourist economy. They are looking down the road for a real future. In other words, “I am twenty-some, going on forty,” sung to a vaguely familiar show tune.

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regional restaurant review – The W Café

For over fifty years the W Cafe has been feeding its share of hungry Western State students, alumni, locals and tourists.

With its vinyl tablecloths and booths, yard-sale wall art and hectic but friendly and efficient staff, one can’t help but hearken back to roadside cafes from endless road trips through America’s midsection.

This is no shi-shi breakfast joint, it’s the real deal. You want stick-to-your-ribs biscuits and gravy to help ward off the cold Gunnison winter? This is your place. A smothered breakfast burrito served with sides of guacamole and sour cream? They’ve got it.

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