When Jordan White talks about Chason Russell, he does so from two perspectives: one as president of Mountain Rescue Aspen, for whom Russell volunteered, and also as a friend.
I knew him on the team and through everything. He was a very talented member of Mountain Rescue, White said of Russell, whose body was discovered after a two-day search after the kayaker disappeared in a grueling swift known as the Meatgrinder in the Crystal River on Thursday.
Russell, 41, broke away from his three-member kayak group on Thursday, overturned and was released from his kayak. According to an announcement from the Pitkin County Coronation Office on Sunday morning, he drowned in the incident, a death that was judged as an accident. Dispatch received the call reporting Russell’s missing status Thursday night, around 9:25 p.m. Despite significant search efforts led by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office both on foot and by drone, to no avail those efforts had to be put on hold and resumed Friday morning.
But it was not just sheriff’s deputies united by responses from the Carbondale & Rural Protection District and MRA teams looking for Russell, said Victor Major, another Telluride native now living in Aspen.
A large crew from Telluride came out, as well as people from all over the state, including Denver and Durango. They all came out to help, the Major said Sunday. I think everyone knew Chason would have done the same for each of them.
One of his feelings echoed from White to Russell.
A group of Telluride people came out and in the end, as I understand it, they were the ones who actually found it. It was quite touching to see how many people came to town right away. Tha White. He was not a very high personality, but his actions spoke volumes about him.
These activities ranged from skiing to cycling to kayaking and sharing any of those passions with anyone who wants to learn. Both White and Major describe Russell as a mentor a role that Major feels lucky to have experienced, both as teenagers in Telluride learning kayaking in a city not known for the sport to train as a mountain skier big. Later, when the two moved, albeit separately for different reasons, to the Fork Noise Valley, the Major kept in touch with his old coach.
He was a person I would reach out to ski or kayak, the Major said when he transferred to Aspen. When he was coming of age in Telluride, Chason was there and was really involved in the kayak club and the ski team on the big mountain. He really helped bring up many young children in the mountains from Teluride.
He was a mentor to me and a coach and a hero, but also a friend, and I think that was what a lot of people had a relationship with, he continued.
Among the ad-hoc, basic search operation that took place between friends and family, as described by Pitkin County Deputy Mayor Alex Burchetta, was Russell’s young wife, whom he married on June 9th.
There is a touching element to it, Burchetta said. They notified the fire department in Carbondale as soon as they found it, then we went out and did our thing.
Russell transferred to Aspen from Telluride in 2011, after more than a decade of teaching at Telluride Academy. In addition to training at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and volunteering with the MRA, Russell also worked for a family in Aspen as a kind of hybrid between the property manager and the adventure coordinator, he told the Adventure Journal in a 2016 interview.
Well, I generally tell people I do property management and some cross-country skiing training. They generally ask which company I work for. Well, I do not. I work for a family in Aspen, but it’s more than just taking a look at their property, Russell said. More more like I am their son for everything, daily and multi-day adventures, usually skiing, cycling, hiking or kayaking.
It was a job that went well for him, as many day adventures, sometimes all over the world, were the way he preferred to spend his personal time, too. White fondly recalled a trip he made with Russell and another MRA member, Keith Bosscher, to Mongolia a few years ago.
I had this part of Mongolia where I wanted to go skiing for a while. I had some other friends were Chason and Keith, and we joined him and we went. It was fun, White said.
Still, White remembers both of his roles when talking about Russell.
I’m telling you to go on a trip to Mongolia as a friend, he said. Salvation in the mountains is feeling like we have lost a member of our family. But well support each other and spend time together and we want to do everything we can to support his family as well.
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