By Owen Woods |

THE stories you might hear of backcountry survival seem far-removed from our everyday, ordinary lives. This summer, Alamosa’s Volunteer Search and Rescue team has experienced three stories of survival that most of us have only read or heard of.

They will live on as lessons in survival and testaments to the willpower of the human mind. Every decision made in the mountains can send you into a nightmare of preposterous proportions, into deep canyons of Dante’s delight. And once you’re down in there, it’s up to every decision you make to pull yourself back out. 

An inferno can be escaped. 

Thanks to three people who commanded enough knowledge, common sense, and bravery to stay alive, these volunteers got to enjoy a cool day and even cooler beer. 

This year’s event was one of celebration and revelry, one that matters most to the people who put everything behind them for the sake of the greater good. “So that others may live,” AVSAR’s motto states. 

Suds4SAR is AVSAR’s annual fundraiser. Doing it block-party-style is a way for the community to meet the team face-to-face. It gives passersby and tourists a chance to learn something new and to meet someone who’s faced adversity in the mountain majesty. Most of all, it allows team members and community members alike an opportunity to connect over some suds and some songs. 

Blue Sky, the local flavor of talented musicians and die-hard rockers, opened the show up and played a set for the ages. They played old, they played original, and they played their hearts out. 

AVSAR’s volunteers worked at different stations throughout the event. There were always a few happy faces behind the beer tent, ready to take beer tickets and pour a perfect cup. A PSAR (Preventative Search and Rescue) tent sat at the head of the tents, ready to answer questions, regale in a tale or two, and give a speech on The 10 Essentials. A silent auction row sat, lined with donations of goods, services, and artwork. Volunteers lined these tents to answer any questions and of course to be another storytelling voice. There was fashion for sale, where people could get a hat, a pin, t-shirt, or a comfy hoodie knowing that their money is being spent for a good cause. 

Zach Day, a musician from Mississippi, came down and played his guitar like the old masters before him. He played a solid set list of originals and covers, all by himself up on the stage. His cowboy hat covered his eyes, so all that was left to transfix oneself on was the guitar and the hands that commanded the sound. 

A cornhole tournament took place between volunteers and locals. Some games ended before they even began. Some games remained at a total stalemate for 10 or 15 sets. Back-and-forth bag tossing shouldn’t be exciting, but when the competition is that fierce you can’t help but feel the sting of it on the back of your neck. 

To close the evening out was the Nikki Z Band, or Zantana, a Santana cover band. The six of them on stage performed with such verboseness and stylistic wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am that one guy asked, “Is that the actual Santana up there?” The sound was impeccable, but the performance drove it home. 

So, to next year we go. AVSAR’s season isn’t quite over. People are still heading up to the hills and enjoying the mountains before the weather gets too bad. The volunteers remain on call. If you see an AVSAR team member around town, buy ’em a beer, or ask ’em about the Ten Essentials; just don’t tell ’em you don’t have a CORSAR card, yet.


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