AIIA

Addict To Athlete coach Tara Butson, Jon Miller of Jagged Edge and Telluride local Jake Baker outside the mountain gear shop last week. (Photo courtesy of Tara Butson)

There are many paths to sobriety and recovery.

The Telluride nonprofit known as Addict II Athlete employs at least two: a running path, and a biking path.

As its name implies, A II A uses running, and biking, and hiking, too, to help its members replace destructive behaviors “with things of greater value.”

In Telluride, few things are valued more greatly than nature. Certainly that’s true for 28-year-old local Jake Baker, who says the camaraderie and support he’s received through A II A have offered him “the first sense of community I’ve ever had in my life. This group combines the two things that are most important to me: sobriety and a connection to the outdoors. I have people to turn to.”

Just last week, A II A offered Baker something of literal value, as well: a new pair of running shoes. Many of Baker’s belongings had been destroyed in a fire about a year and a half ago.

“I lost so many clothes, shoes and hats,” Baker recalled.

A II A recently received a grant for athletic supplies from the Telluride Rotary Club, and Tara Butson — the founder of the Telluride chapter of A II A, who had met Baker at the Telluride Nordic Center — was able to assist. “She said, ‘Justin, you need running shoes! Meet me at Jagged Edge, and we’ll take care of this.’”

And so, a week ago today, Baker — with an assist from a fellow nature lover and local athlete, Jagged Edge’s Jon Miller — entered the outdoor gear shop on Telluride’s Main Street, and emerged with “the lightest-weight running shoes I’ve ever gotten,” Baker said with a tone of wonder. “They’re waterproof, too.”

The protection was needed. “I go up on Liberty Bell, and in mud season, your feet will get wet,” Baker said.

Though A II A’s orientation — its true north — is outdoors, the group has been meeting indoors these last few months via Zoom.

“Before it really started snowing hard, we’d meet under the tarps in Town Park and talk, and then go take a walk,” Baker said.

As the weather has warmed these local athletes have replaced Zoom meetings (where participants convene from all over the world) with adventures outdoors. “We’ve been road biking on the Dallas Divide, in Norwood Canyon, or in Naturita and Nucla. Any place it’s warm and dry,” Butson said.

Right now, several members are training for the annual Spring Tour of St. George: “We’re bringing six athletes and their families,” Butson said.

The ride, which takes place April 17, offers routes of 30, 75 or 100 miles through the sandstone landscapes of Sand Hollow State Park and Quail Creek State Park.

Though Baker hasn’t been training for the ride, he cherishes the tight bonds he’s formed with A II A’s fellow athletes in the box canyon and on Zoom get-togethers abroad.

“We’re friends helping friends,” he said. “This is how you build a community. These people understand.”

There’s never a charge to attend A II A events, either online or in-person.

“We have Zoom meetings every Tuesday at 6 p.m., and lunch runs will resume in May,” once the snow melts, “on Mondays and Thursdays at 11:30 a.m.,” Butson said.

Baker is pleased with the tight circle of friends he’s made, and Butson is happy about the group’s progress, too.

“Our team of athletes is growing” and now includes about a dozen members. “They’re just doing fantastic,” she said with satisfaction. “For only starting in September, during COVID, I feel very good about that. Great things are happening.”

A II A operates locally with assistance from Jenny Thomas, a San Miguel County licensed addictions counselor. To learn more about the nonprofit, visit addicttoathlete.com or call Butston at 970-708-7736.