Chris Mikesell always climbed the mountain to see the view. That’s how he lived his life – knowing where he wanted to go and then making it happen. He packed more adventure into 23 years than most of us do in an entire lifetime, and he was an inspiration to everyone he met. Through the work of The Chris Mikesell Foundation, his impact on people will continue.
Born in Kansas, Chris grew up with a sense of wonder that led him around the world. He formed lasting friendships wherever he traveled. Making his home in Crested Butte, Colorado, he learned to love and respect every aspect of the mountains. He graduated from Western State College, hiked, skied and became a whitewater raft guide and Snocat operator.
In 2001 Chris moved to Gunnison, CO, to attend Western State College of Colorado, then moved to Crested Butte the following year and commuted to school. While in college, he studied abroad for a summer in England, and made a college-sponsored trip to Italy. He graduated in 2005 from Western with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration. After graduation, he took a three-month backpacking trip around the world, visiting England, Scotland, Belgium, India, Thailand, Laos, and New Zealand. He made many friends along the way, packing much energy and spirit into everything he did.
Chris listed his interests on Facebook as; Rivers, Skiing, Travel, Photography, Climbing, Live Music, always in that order … but he had a more serious side. He read constantly and became angry when he became aware of human injustice. He was deeply concerned with what was happening across Africa. He was appalled by the poverty he witnessed during his trek in India, and he told his parents he wanted to do something about it.
Chris worked for several years as a whitewater raft guide for Scenic Rivers Tours, guiding on the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers. In the summer of 2006, he guided for North American River Runners on the Gauley River in West Virginia, one of the premier whitewater rafting rivers in the world. He was in his first season of working for Crested Butte mountain Resort as a Snocat operator at the time of his accident.
“Chris always called Crested Butte paradise,” said his sister Laura, an interior designer living in Crested Butte. “Whenever people would visit him, he would greet them with “Welcome to paradise, guys!”
“Chris made me want to live every day of my life like he did his,” said his youngest sister, Julie. “This led me to things like Outward Bound, a love of travel, and moving to Colorado to go to college.” Julie graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. in May 2011.
“Chris loved people. He just wanted to know everyone’s story and never met a person he didn’t like,“ Kendall said. “Chris believed in preserving open space. He wanted Crested Butte to stay like it was when he was first there,” Sherry said.
Although Chris’ life ended on the mountain he loved, his pioneering spirit lives on. His mother, Sherry, poignantly explained his quest for experiencing life at its fullest.“When Chris would take off, he would go and not look back,” she said. “A lot of people turn and wave, but not Chris; he was always excited about his next adventure.”
In the final farewell from his co-workers on the Snocat crew, published in the Crested Butte News on February 23, 2007, Dave Masssey wrote: “Chris: Thanks for your attitude and your effort. You will always be missed, and never forgotten.” Through the work of The Chris Mikesell Foundation, his dreams will be kept alive and his positive impact on people will continue. “If you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t see the view.”