John Lewis Dyer was born far from the Rocky Mountains in the lowlands of Ohio, March 16, 1812. He was a farmer, then a miner, then perhaps Colorado’s first committed backcountry skier. This year a new backcountry ski race in Leadville, Colorado carries on his passion for winter travel in the Mosquito Mountains.
As the story goes, Dyer was a young man working in the lead mines of Wisconsin when he first heard what he determined was the voice of God. He was convinced that this voice was telling him to spend his days as a preacher and to see the Rocky Mountains.
His horse got him to Nebraska and his feet got him another 700 miles to Park County, Colorado. Dyer preached in the mining camps during the early silver boom of the 1860s. Since preaching didn’t pay the bills and Father Dyer was traveling from camp to camp anyways, his took on a second job as a backcountry ski touring mailman.
Dyer crossed the Mosquito Mountains every week carrying the mail along with his religious fervor from Alma to Leadville and back. In the winter this meant crossing the 13,185 ft Mosquito Pass in the snow. Using a combination of snowshoes and Norwegian style wooden skies, Dyer became a fixture in the history of Colorado’s mountains.
This year Leadville is inaugurating the Father Dyer Postal Run, a backcountry ski race to the top of Dyer Mountain (13,855ft).
The Mosquitos offer a true playground for mountain adventure often overlooked by winter recreationalists. Miles of groomed country roads and trails provide the perfect canvas for Nordic touring, as well as access to one 14ner, two centennial 13ners, and countless other high peaks.
The Father Dyer Postal Run is a fundraiser for winter trails maintenance in Lake County, Colorado.
Wanna be like Father Dyer? Think about signing up for the Postal Run.
Dr. Alex Lee lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Alex is a professor at Alaska Pacific University, teaching philosophy and environmental studies. He also works as a sometimes guide, naturalist, writer, and photographer.