John Lathrop Shomler came to Crested Butte, Colo., in 1982 with a quiver of trades, work and life experience and a DREAM. Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) had just installed snowmaking the summer before. The Winter of Un had shook up the industry and CBMR wanted to be in the game. John traveled from Atlanta, Ga., to help. The streets were unpaved and the town slightly raw. The skiing was phenomenal. If you were willing to work hard, the varied people of the community accepted you with a minimum of squabbles.
John was born April 4, 1956 in Burbank, Calif., and welcomed into the home of Russell Paul and Pauline April (Lathrop) Shomler, to join his sister, Ruth (DeShazer). In 1962 the family moved to Sandy Springs, Ga., where he attained all the social graces of a southern gentleman.
As a teenager John embraced music, especially southern rock. He learned about the history, the instrumentation, the production and the people. As he got older, he became increasingly knowledgeable about other genres. At one point his CD collection was so extensive and his willingness to make tapes for people known that he was referred to as “The Music Man.” His radio show on KBUT, The Fat Man in the Bathtub, was curated with love from the music he owned.
John learned to ski when he was 11 at the Telemark Ski Resort (Home of the Birkebeiner) in northern Wisconsin while visiting his cousins, Paul, Rick and Pam (Scala) Lathrop who lived in Marshfield. He was so enamored with the sport that his parents bought a condo at Sugar Mountain in North Carolina and became an integral part of that community.
After high school he attended Colorado Mountain College in Leadville and “majored” in exploring, hiking and skiing the mountains of the area. The local mining history fascinated him and inspired him to join the Colorado Historical Society of which he was a member for years. John believed in doing things right which often translated into doing it his way. He went back to Atlanta and attended technical school to prepare for a career in the ski industry.
That first summer in 1982, John gave himself the nickname, Buckwheat. Between his wayward curly hair, his uncomplicated sincerity and mischievous ways it fit. In the days of shoestring budgets and seasonal fluctuations, John’s ability to weld, mechanic, McGuiver and be where he was needed hit paydirt; a full time year-round position at CBMR as a snowcat mechanic.
And then life got messy.
John made the adjustment with his golden retriever, Autumn, by his side. He groomed the ski runs in the winter and installed snowmaking pipe in the summer. His ability to configure scribbles into a useful, maybe overbuilt, functional object was well known, and Wonder Wheel Welding opened for business in 1987. Being his own boss suited him. He spent time in the summer driving the backcountry, learning everything he could about the history of the Gunnison Valley. He admired the miners and ranchers for their work ethic, determination and perseverance. The tools and methods they used inspired him. In the winter he had the opportunity to sled with the best of the time; Biro, Silke, Lochnacher. And Paradise Café was always the place for breakfast.
He built a house with spectacular views on his beloved Cow Camp property at CR 317 and Slate River Rd. in 1995. He reveled in his spruce and aspen trees and would run hundreds of feet of hose out of the irrigation ditches there to water each one. The barn was post and beam and the epitome of a man cave. His lifetime collection of caps hung on display. He had practically every tool known to humankind at hand.
And then life got messy again and he didn’t adjust as well.
John Lathrop Shomler died Aug 3, 2020 in an automobile accident outside of Almont, Colo.
He is survived by his son and his golden grand fur baby, Wynonna, 225 S. Boulevard St., Gunnison, CO 81230-3119.
Somewhere Foley is tuned to F2 growling on the two way, Where the *#!@ is Shomler? The answer, “Arggh! Buckley!” May every groomed run on the mountain this season be as smooth as a pool table.
In honor of John, please make a donation of any amount to the Gunnison Valley Health Foundation Community Outreach: jbirne@gvh-colorado. org, 970.642-8400, 711 N. Taylor St., Gunnison, CO 81230.