Locals 2012: Art and Milly Judson
June 29, 2012
Art and Milly Judson met in a snowstorm during a mountain rescue mission west of Fort Collins. Although not exactly a first date, it was a fitting initial encounter for the two University of Colorado students whose lives have been full of mountains and snowstorms.
He was a child of New York's Adirondacks transplanted to Northern California. She grew up in Chicago and became enthralled by the Colorado Rockies. Their paths crossed as members of Rocky Mountain Rescue Group. If you ask Art, he'll likely confess that he fell in love because she was a better climber than he was. "I was a better climber then, and I'm still a better climber," Milly says.
"Jud," as friends know him, freely acknowledges that his wife once extricated him from a tricky situation on a volcano in Oregon's High Cascades known as Mount Thielsen. "I was leading and got myself stuck," he recalls. "Milly had to take the lead and belay me up."
The two married in 1956 while Art was studying geology at the University of Colorado and then moved to Oregon State University in Corvallis, where Art earned his bachelor's degree in forestry in 1960. The couple will have been married 55 years in December.
After reading a magazine article about snow rangers practicing avalanche control in preparation for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, Calif., he found his calling. That interest in avalanches and snow safety brought the couple back to Colorado where Art landed a job as a snow ranger with the Arapaho National Forest. He became a protege of veteran snow ranger Dick Stillman, conducting research on avalanche zones on Berthoud Pass. Milly, meanwhile, enjoyed careers as a high school English teacher and manager of a travel agency. She also is an accomplished fine-art painter. The two built their home in Steamboat and moved here in 1969.
Art is keenly aware that more people than ever are skiing and snowmobiling in the backcountry these days, and he doesn't understand the chances they're taking. "It's a different kind of thinking," he says. "People have more knowledge (about avalanche conditions), and they don't want to be told you can't really forecast these things accurately."
Milly has the distinction of having an avalanche path on the northeast flank of Hahn's Peak named after her, the Milly O (her maiden name is Opie).
In 2006, Art received recognition for his contributions to the field of avalanche forecasting and safety by the American Avalanche Association.
He faithfully records weather data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at 7 a.m. every day. And he still drives up Elk River Road in the winter with a pair of binoculars and a camera to keep an eye on avalanche activity across Routt County.