If timing is everything, the Mountain Studies Institute in Silverton
picked the perfect year to hold its inaugural conference: 2002
was declared the “International Year of the Mountain”
by the United Nations.
“A Mountain Summit: Communities, Culture and Conservation,”
which will take place Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 26-28
at Durango Mountain Resort, also will celebrate the founding
of the institute, which opened in June.
organization’s executive director, Ellen Stein, says MSI
was several years in the making.
“It’s an idea
that’s been discussed for 20 years,” she said.
The institute is a collaboration
among Fort Lewis College, the U.S. Forest Service/Bureau of
Land Management, San Juan County and the town of Silverton.
Using Silverton’s rugged peaks as a living classroom,
MSI’s goal is to study the geology, ecology and human
history of the San Juan region.
“The mission is to enhance
understanding and sustainable use of the San Juan Mountains
by facilitating academic studies, field research and experiential
learning opportunities,” she said.
The conference will echo this
theme and feature speakers ranging from local politicians and
historians to poets, writers and environmentalists. Topics range
from conservation and public-land use to mountain community
going to be a variety of speakers talking on a bunch of different
topics,” Stein said. Everyone from public-land managers,
academics, students, natural-resource professionals, mountaineers,
conservationists, planners, community developers, recreationists,
mountain lovers and history buffs are all encouraged to attend,
Highlights include John Hereford,
director of Great Outdoors Colorado, who will lecture on “Protecting
Colorado’s Natural and Cultural Resources”; and
Alton Byers, of the West Virginia-based Mountain Institute,
who will cover “Preserving Mountain Systems.”
The event also will feature
local speakers, including avalanche forecaster Jerry Roberts
discussing avalanche forecasting and mitigation and Thurman
Wilson, of the San Juan National Forest, who will lecture on
the social and ecological effects of fire.
The conference also will feature
activities beyond the academic setting, with field trips as
well as a movie that’s open to the public.
At 8 p.m. Friday in the Miner’s
Tavern, 1069 Greene St., in Silverton, “Spirit of Snow,”
a historical documentary of backcountry skiing in the Western
U.S. and Canada by Dave O’leske, with an introduction
by local skiing legend, Dolores LaChapelle, will be shown. The
film received a special jury award at the 2002 Mountain Film
Festival in Telluride and will be shown at this year’s
Banff Mountain Film Festival. The evening also will include
a poetry reading by Rosemary Wahtola Trommer and a 12-minute
short on the “extreme” restoration of the Old Hundred
The movie costs $5 with part
of the proceeds going to MSI.
For those wishing to get out
and explore the very mountains they’re discussing, the
conference also will feature fieldtrips. Fieldtrips exploring
the area’s mining and cultural heritage, including the
San Juan County Museum, Silverton Cemetery and the Old Hundred
and Mayflower mines will be offered as a pre-conference tour
the three days prior to the summit (Sept. 23-25). More tours
as well as hikes and jeep trips also will be offered on the
closing day of the summit, Sept. 28.