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Steamboat Magazine

Boat People

12/01/2010 01:00AM ● By Jennie Lay

Winter 2010:

Boat People

by Jennie Lay

Diver Dennis - Local scuba salvager Dennis Freeman goes great depths to ply his trade   Lose the keys to your BMW in the Yampa River? Dump your Rolex between the water-ski boats at Stagecoach Reservoir? No problem. Local technical scuba diver Dennis Freeman has the gear and the salvage skills � and he has already proven himself with dozens of saves like these.   In fact, he has only suffered one unsuccessful rescue to date � a wedding ring Who You 'Gonna Call? Scuba diver Dennis Freeman readying for another rescue mission. Photo by Corey Kopischke. someone plunked into Steamboat Lake. The owners had carefully selected landmarks to secure the location � but the landmarks were trucks that rolled out before Dennis arrived. Word to the wise: Before you call Steamboat Springs' scuba savior, pick an immobile target.   Dennis started his Alpine Mariner business in northeast Texas in 1979. There he retrieved motors and propellers amidst snapping turtles and alligators. Since moving his business to Steamboat in 1993, his underwater work has been a bit more agricultural, including things like inspecting dams on ranch reservoirs, repairing headgates and building aeration ponds. Last summer, he loaded his scuba gear onto a fourwheeler and hauled it up to 9,500 feet to clear an irrigation gate where a beaver had stopped the outflow.   There aren't any snapping turtles to contend with in the Yampa Valley, but Dennis has tangled with alpine landscapes feof us will ever see � like the bottom of Stagecoach Reservoir. For the record, the sage is still holding strong down there, and it has created a quagmire of fishing lines and hooks that makes retrievals a nuisance. "This is not a recreational situation," Dennis says, noting that he typically has surface support for safety and tool maneuvering. "It takes a lot of knowledge and experience."   Dennis wears a full face mask while diving, as local water bodies brim with everything from leeches to copoop. Compound that with 38-degree water, zero visibility and entanglement and entrapment issues, and Dennis' scuba diving isn't exactly as fun as recreational diving. "But I like the technical aspects," he says. "The challenge is fun. It's not about the danger."   At a mere five to 20 feet deep, clearing out a headgate might not sound so problematic. But consider the aforementioned conditions exacerbated by powerful suction once that gate clears. Dennis also has to beware of cold temperatures and dropping tools. Putting a single nut and bolt together with 7mm gloves and no visual cues becomes a monumental challenge. Set a tool down in the silty bottom of a pond and it disappears. Plus, underwater jobs require auxiliary gear � including many of Dennis' custom-built tools designed for specific jobs.   "It takes a lot of evaluation, planning and building before you go down," he says. "Think of it as underwater plumbing � done blind."In his own words Natural Netminder - Hockey stand-out Matt Dawes making all the right moves   All-Colorado hockey goalie Matt Dawes made saves and waves this fall when he joined the Colorado Thunderbirds Midget Major U-18 AAA team to spend his senior year of high school atCherry Creek, one of the most competitive leagues in the nation. Midway through the 60-game season, and with eyes on playing Division I, he helped his squad to a 20-8-2 record. We caught up with Steamboat Springs' All-Colorado goalie to find out more about Steamboat's hockey scene and thenuances of netminding on the Front Range"Moving down to Denver really showed me homuch I love and am connected to Steamboat. Nothing beats growing up in a small mountain town. I love the skiing, the mountains, the outdoors, the weather and pretty much everything about it. "Some of my favorite hockey memories are from Steamboat; playing there was amazing. There is a great sense of the love of the game. In other places youth hockey is taken way too seriously and is too much about winning. There is nothing like going out in -20 degree weather when you are 8 years old to play for the pure love of the game. We are truly gifted to havethe coaches and support for hockey that we do."I love being the last line of defense. You have to study the game and be tough mentally to handle the pressure. But I love the endless mental aspect of it.Hasta Luego, Hat Trick: Matt, in his nethunderbirds uniform. Photo by Corey Kopischke."Playing for the Colorad Thunderbirds is going great. The team is playing very well, and it's like a nefamily for me. I've adapted to the nelevel of play."The first feweekends were a very big eye-opener. This level of hockey doesn't even compare to high school hockey. The skill level is amazing � the speed is much faster, the shots more accurate, the passes quicker, and the game much more intense. But I love it. Anyone can win at any time."There's nothing like home ice and a home rink. I don't knoif people realize hofortunate Steamboat is to have the rink we do. Having traveled this season from LA to Detroit, our locker rooms in Steamboat are the biggest and nicest I've been in, and the ice is the best I've skated on. It's kind of like our champagne powder; it's so cold and dry."The hockey scene in Steamboat is great. For a town that didn't really get into it until the mid 1990s, we have some outstanding alumni. They're great role models for the younger players intown. It's also great that Tom (Preissing, of the Colorado Avalanche) lives in town. Hopefully he'll be able to do some camps with the youth players."Our youth programs have progressed very well. The continuity of coaching is reflected by our teams' success, like the Pee Wees winning the state championships last year. Steamboat has great coaching, a great facility and a very supporting community. I think our youth programs will produce some very successful and talented kids in the years to come.Butler's Bulldog   Extraordinary dogs abound in Steamboat Springs, but fehave the pedigrees - or garner the respect - of Bronco and Maverick.   Local dog lover Gabe Butler spent Thanksgiving dominating a National Kennel Club dog shoin California with his champion American bulldog, Maverick, in hopes to pick up where he and his champion canine left off in March of 2008 as Best of Show.    When Gabe isn't building houses as owner and operator of Montana Log Homes of Canine Kudos: Gabe Butler, with Maverick and all his medals.Colorado, he's traveling the country to shohis dogs in NKC, American Bulldog National Alliance dog shows. Gave's dogs, Bronco and son Maverick, are reigning champions defending a worldwide, unprecedent five-generation championship run.    In the summer' of 2001 at 1 1/2 years old, Bronco showed up at his first ABA shoand left the Best of ShoChampion. Named after the Denver football team, Bronco continued his winning streak by dominating nearly every shoGabe entered him in. "Bronco became really famous," Gabe says, relating a tailgating story where Bronco was plastered on the JumboTron for attacking the Atlanta Falcon's real-life mascot.   By 2007 Bronco's days on top were numbered, so Gave began seraching for a nepup to take over. That spring Gabe picked Maverick as the only male out of another first-class litter. "I had some other breeders go look at the puppies for me," he says. "The all told me that the male looked like a miniauture Bronco with even better markings, pigment, and musculature. If I didn't get him they were sure that somebody else would beat Bronco with him in the ring within a year."   As a 3-month-old puppy, Maverick entered his inaugural NKC shoin California, and like his father, won the enire weekend. Three weeks later he stole another NKC shochampionship in Alabama, followed by a third title in Ohio that July. "From then on shoorganizers started calling me and telling me, "We want that dog Maverick to come to our show," Gabe says. "He's proven nothat he's the dog no one can beat in the ring."