Logging time at Yule

Carrie Click

Last Friday morning, with 8″ to 10″ of newly fallen snow, Gary Bascom was on avalanche alert. Pedal to the metal, he drove the Yule Quarry’s well-worn Suburban from the Marble Fire Station four miles up the narrow, snow and ice-packed four-wheel-drive road to the quarry entrance.

“There are 14 avalanche chutes that cut across this road,” Bascom explained, radio in hand. “We always call in our locations to crew above or below in case we get caught.”

Bascom has been working at the quarry for 12 years. Trained by an Italian quarry foreman, Bascom learned the marble business literally from the ground up. Although some marble quarries have an open pit, this one is underground because of the location of the enormous marble vein, part of the Leadville Formation, estimated by company owner Rex Loesby to be 250 to 300 feet thick.

“I was the bakery manager at City Market in Basalt before this,” Bascom said, smiling. Now, it’s impossible to think of him doing anything else but quarrying marble. It’s gotten in his blood.

Once at the quarry, the Suburban rolled into a giant cave opening into the mountain.

The quarry has a feeling reminiscent of Batman’s bat cave. Lights illuminated the enormity of the quarry, with its multiple rooms – some with mind-boggling 300-foot-high ceilings. White marble dust covered the ground.

Bascom’s crew of seven full-timers and two part-timers are in their 20s, and all are certified by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Most come from Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford, where they work at coal mines.

Quarry jobs are highly coveted. At the last hiring, there were 37 applicants for just a few openings.

One quarry worker drives one and a half hours each way from his home to work and back each day. Amy White, the only woman on the crew, worked at the Somerset coal mine before working at the quarry.

“It’s much cleaner here,” she said, standing in white marble dust mud. “At Somerset, your face gets covered in soot.”

Bascom has high praise for his workers.

“We hire people who are passionate about marble,” he said. “It shows in their work.”

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