Sanctuaries in the Snow

The Toad (Todd Olson) Statue and Toad's Road (Buttermilk)

There is a wrought-iron statue of a toad near the entrance to "Toad's Road" on Buttermilk.  The statue was done by local sculptors Jim Snyder and Larry Lefner; see photo of them below.  The statue was dedicated to the memory of Todd Olson on December 20, 2003.  Longtime ski instructor Todd "Toad" Olson passed away in June 2003 at his home in Carbondale. He was 51.  Olson, who had endured an arduous five-year battle with leukemia, was widely heralded as the most legendary instructor to have taught at Buttermilk Mountain Ski School.  For 33 years Olson worked in the Kids' Division at Buttermilk and was nicknamed "Mr. Toad."  The seventh photo shown in the grouping of photos immediately below was taken in the summer of 2009, and shows that the statue is mounted on a large rock.  There used to be some glasses on the frog statue, but they are not there any more. 

For more information, see these articles quoted below:  "Aaahwooooga" dated December 22, 2003 from the Aspen Times, the letter to the editor of the Aspen Times dated December 11, 2003, the article "Todd 'Toad' Olson to be remembered Saturday" from the Aspen Daily News of October 10, 2003, and finally the article "Road for 'Toad' Olsen now a Tough one" from the Aspen Times dated April 1, 2003.  These articles are shown in the section following the photo section below.

Also see the Aspen Daily News article "Leukemia claims life of 'Toad'" by Troy Hooper , dated Wednesday, June 18, 2003 at

Thanks to Rick Stevens and Lisa Pizza for giving the author information about this statue.  Toad's Road is located near the Bear Run at Buttermilk. 

See the article in the Snowmass Sun newspaper of April 4, 2012, "Memorials Dedicated to Todd Olson and Chuck Severy" by David Wood, which is set out in full below at the bottom of this page.)

Photos of the statue are below. 

If you have any photos of or information about this item that you would like to share for use on this page, please send to the author at [email protected].

This statue is covered in the book, "Sanctuaries in the Snow--The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass."  The book may be purchased on this page on this site:

Click on images to enlarge.

The article quoted below appeared in the December 19, 2003 issue of the Aspen Times newspaper, along with the photo by Paul Conrad shown below.
"The legacy of legendary Aspen ski instructor Todd ‘Toad’ Olson will be celebrated Saturday, Dec. 20.  At 3 p.m., Toad’s Road will be rededicated to Olson with the unveiling of a statue of a toad sitting on a rock at the start of the trail . Local sculptors Jim Snyder, left, and Larry Lefner position their work Thursday at the top of Toad’s Road on Buttermilk.  The two said ‘it was an honor’ to donate their time and materials for the memorial.  Following the ceremony Saturday, a memorial will be held at Bumps restaurant for anybody and everybody who wishes to celebrate Olson’s life.  In addition, the creation of the Toad Froggy Uncle Chuck Scholarship will be formally unveiled by the kids’ division at Buttermilk and the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.  ‘Frog’ was Greg Fortin, a longtime ski instructor who ran the Aspenauts program at Buttermilk.  ‘Uncle Chuck’ was Chuck Severy, who worked in the AVSC Ridgerunner program.  All three — Toad, Frog, and Uncle Chuck — have died within the last six years.  The scholarship supports children who wish to participate in the AVSC’s Base Camp Program.  Contributions are needed."
The photo of Jim Snyder and Larry Lefner shown below was printed with the article; click on the photo to enlarge it. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.



By Allyn Harvey
December 22, 2003

(Aspen Times)


On Saturday, it felt like there were about 500 times more people on the hill then there were on Friday. On Sunday, there were probably twice as many as there were Saturday. And today, no doubt, there are even more.

There was a lot going on on the hill this weekend, but the biggest thing of all was the rededication at Buttermilk of Toad Road to honor the life of longtime kids ski instructor Todd Olson, better known as Mr. Toad, Toady or, simply, Toad.

Toad, who spent 33 of his 51 years teaching kids how to ski at Buttermilk, was known for, among other things, bellowing “Aaahwooooga!” anytime it suited his fancy. He died of cancer in June at the age of 51.

About 150 people showed up to honor the man who had more uses for a hotdog than Oscar Meyer would care to acknowledge. (See Weenies in Space, or weenies in your glove.)

The ceremony began with Toad stories. Like the time he was left speechless by the mother of one of his students who one morning, after hearing that Toad was feeling a little slow and tired, told him, “Maybe you just need to take a good poop.”

Or like the experience of Alex, a youngish pro at Buttermilk who, when she was one of Toad’s students, asked him his real name. “My parents didn’t like me,” Toad told Alex. “They named me Ben Dover.” It wasn’t until Alex reached the wise age of 16 that the joke made sense.

Rev. Gregg Anderson from the Aspen Chapel read from a piece penned in the 13th century, a Ute Indian prayer and Thoreau. Andy Hanson shared an essay on Toad by one of his longest and most faithful privates, who wrote of the “unyielding love and friendship Toad showed our children.” And ski instructor Dick Merritt read a letter from Toad’s mom.

The ceremony ended with bottle rockets, the spreading of Toad’s ashes and the unveiling of a sculpture of a bespeckled toad (the tail-less, leaping, amphibian kind, not the human, Buttermilk ski pro kind).

Then everyone skied off, down Toad Road, of course.


There’s always time for a Toad story

(Letter to the Editor, Aspen Times)

December 11, 2003

As a town we continue to lose people to cancer. Our ski school has lost too many people this year, as well. It is my duty to announce yet another memorial reception, this time for the renowned Toad (Todd Olson).

On Dec. 20 at Buttermilk we will celebrate the life of Mr. Toad, the Toad, Mr. Towed (all the same person). At 3 p.m. we will rededicate Toad’s road, a kids trail at Buttermilk, with a wrought iron figure of a toad. At 4 p.m. there will be a memorial reception for Mr. Towed at Bumps restaurant hosted by the Kid’s School of Buttermilk and Toad’s family. All friends and co-workers are invited to attend.

One more story of the Toad is, indeed, in order. Toad and I were checking out his new Mazda on our way to a construction job in New Castle.

Toad said, “Let’s check out how fast this baby will do.” Traveling at high speed on I-70 we came around a curve and somebody gave us his headlights in a blinking fashion. Toad stated maybe he better slow down.

At the next curve we spotted the Colorado Highway Patrol escorting about 5,000 sheep on I-70. Fishtailing to a stop, Toad and I both exclaimed at the same moment, “No lamb chops for dinner this day.”

With a big sigh of relief we both sat there doing our best to entertain the sheep with our best Baaaaaah Baaaaaah. Both of us did very good imitations as we were both from sheep country. The sheep just stared us down. Goodbye Mr. Towed, we will all miss your very elephantine sense of humor.

Andy Hanson


Todd 'Toad' Olson to be remembered Saturday


Guest - Non ADN Writer:  Staff Report October 10, 2003

This Saturday will be a day to remember the late Todd Olson, affectionately known as Mr. Toad.

At 3 p.m., Toad's Road will be rededicated to the memory of Toad with a wrought-iron statue of a toad sitting on a rock at the beginning of the trail.

Following will be a memorial reception at Bumps restaurant. All friends, former students, co-workers and others are invited to attend.

A new memorial scholarship will also be announced, which is being sponsored by the Kids' Division at Buttermilk and the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.

The scholarship will be called the "Toad Froggy Uncle Chuck Scholarship" to benefit children of the valley with snowboard and ski lessons.

The scholarship title uses the name of Toad, along with Frog, who was Greg Fortin, a longtime pro who ran the Aspenauts program for many years at Buttermilk and recently passed away.

Uncle Chuck Severy was the father of the famous local running family and he worked in the AVSC Ridgerunner program for many years.

All three pros worked in the Kids' Division of Buttermilk.

"Toad, Froggy and Uncle Chuck were instructors that we all dream to be - funny creative and awesome role models," said Andy Hanson. "Come support this tribute to our missing three."


Road for 'Toad' Olsen now a tough one

By Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer
April 1, 2003

One day Toad was on a bus with a class of young skiers. The bus was stuck in afternoon traffic between Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk. The kids were growing restless.

Toad reached deep into his parka. Out came the rubber dog poo, which was good for at least five minutes of nearly uncontrolled giggling.  And then he unleashed the fake boogers, which had the kids bent over with laughter and the adults on the bus watching to see what else Toad had up his sleeves. The performance was pure genius, but it was just another day in the life of 51-year-old Todd "Toad" Olsen, who has been teaching kids how to ski, and how to laugh, at Buttermilk for 33 years.  "We have so much fun," he said. "It's great to see the kids improve."

Toad spoke yesterday from his hospital bed at the Stanford Hospital and Clinic in Palo Alto, Calif., where he has just endured 17 days of chemotherapy in his ongoing fight against chronic myeloid leukemia, or CML, a slowly progressing cancer that affects the body's white blood cells. He's been fighting the disease for five years, but was on skis as recently as February.

"Yesterday and today have been tough," Toad said, his voice lacking, just for a moment, its normal undercurrent of humor. "But I have to get through this phase so I can have the transplant."

A bone marrow transplant is a key option for CML patients, and Toad's sister has been identified as an appropriately matched donor, which can make a big difference in a patient's survival rate.

For his part, Toad is keeping busy these days in his special pressurized hospital room by putting stickers on 800 invitations to an event for the hospital's volunteer staff.

"I talked to some ladies last week and said I would love to do something to keep busy for an afternoon," Toad said.
And after the "ladies" found out about Toad's inner child, which is always close to the surface, they put him hip-deep in stickers.
But he would much rather be at Buttermilk, out with a group of 8-year-olds, exploring the tree trails, launching "weenies-in-space," and talking about "googles" and "burger breath" and the "splatter brothers," which are those two kids in the class who inevitably keep skiing into each other.

And his fellow ski pros at Buttermilk would obviously rather see Toad where he is supposed to be. "Toad is the Buttermilk kid's ski school," said fellow kid's instructor Rich Severy.

They've planned a fund-raiser for Toad on Thursday, April 10, at Buttermilk, which is to be a "TOADally Awesome Day." The lifts will be closed, but starting at 3 p.m. there will be volleyball, tubing and sledding for the kids followed by a dinner dance at 6 p.m., with a band and a silent auction. There's a $35 donation for adults and $20 for kids.

There is also a donation box set up on "Toad's Road," a tree trail, where kids of all ages can drop off a ski-in, ski-out donation to help defray Toad's medical costs. Also, donations can be mailed to Toad, care of Rick and Diane Stevens, 190 Riverside Drive, Basalt, CO 81621.  (Toad's current mailing address is Stanford Hospital, F/GR 37, Stanford, CA 94305.)

For the ski schools of Aspen and Snowmass this year, supporting a fellow pro who is battling a tough disease has become all too common of an exercise.  In October, longtime pro Rudi Netzer was lost to cancer. In January, veteran instructor Chuck Carlson lost his battle with cancer. And in February, Eric Smith, the young head snowboard pro at Snowmass, passed on to a higher realm.

"All of these men are deeply loved and missed by all of us," Weems Westfeldt, the operations director for the ski school, wrote recently. "However, like the family we are, we have all drawn together to support one another."

Toad first joined the ski school family in 1970, when he was still just Todd Olsen. But when he started teaching skiing at Buttermilk with Lizard Breath, Warthead, McGilla Gorilla and Frog, he morphed into Toad.  "One year led to another," he said. "And now I've had second-generation kids [as students], and I'm pretty sure some third-generation kids. Kids come up all the time and say `You taught my mom' or `You taught my uncle.'"

Toad is famous for bonding with the kids he meets in ski school and teaching them how to ski with them barely knowing they are in class.
"I think Toad always remembered what it was like to be a kid," said Severy, whose late brother, Chuck, was Toad's partner in childish antics for years at Buttermilk.

When Toad meets a new group of students, usually between 6 and 10 years old, he gets down on his knees and connects with them at their level. He does a careful equipment check to see if boots are on the right feet and if hats and "googles" are on right.
Then he asks the kids what sports they do in the summer and finds out which ones are soccer players and hockey players.
"And then one of my final questions is, `Who has ever jumped off a garage roof?'" he said. "And I get a couple of hands. And I tell them, `I want you guys to ski right behind me.'"

Toad works first on building trust with the kids. And then he shares with them all the wonderful secrets of Buttermilk.
"It is such a key to get their trust," Toad said. "It is just amazing when it clicks."

Rich Severy said Toad was patient with all kids, no matter their ability or coordination level. "He just loves the kids," Severy said.
And once the kids believe in Toad, as they quickly do, magic happens.

All the things Toad, and other ski pros at Buttermilk do, like racing down the tree trails, going on the journey to Fort Frog, and searching in the woods for Big Foot's lost cousin, "Big Face," help young skiers learn to turn, control their speed and make good choices on snow.
Toad's reward?

Well, when the kids come back the next year at Christmas, they know to gather up all the dead flies they can find on their condo's windowsills.

"They put them in a plastic bag and gift wrap them for me," he said. "They say, `Toad, I got you a little present here,' and it is a bag of 100 flies. And I've gotten every book you can imagine about toads and frogs."

Now many of those same kids who once brought Toad flies and other presents have grown up and have kids of their own.  And while many hail from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, many are valley residents who first met Toad sometime during his 23 years of teaching for what is now the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.  "Half of them are now bigger and taller than me," Toad said.  But it is almost certain that all of them still look up to Toad, who was able to meet them on their level and then turn them into fake-booger-loving little skiers.

[Brent Gardner-Smith's e-mail address is [email protected]]

Below is an article about the Toad Statue written by David Wood and which appeared in the Snowmass Sun newspaper.

Memorials dedicated to Todd Olson and Chuck Severy
By David Wood
Snowmass Sun, April 4, 2012

Memorials dedicated to Todd Olson and Chuck Severy
By David Wood
Snowmass Sun, April 4, 2012

SNOWMASS VILLAGE — There are three on-mountain memorials remembering Buttermilk ski instructors Todd Olson and Chuck Severy.

Longtime ski instructor Todd “Toad” Olson passed away in June 2003 at his home in Carbondale at the age of 51, after having endured an arduous five-year battle with leukemia. He is widely heralded as one of the most legendary instructors to have taught at Buttermilk.

For 33 years he worked in the kids' division and was nicknamed “Mr. Toad.” In his memory, a wrought-iron statue of a toad was erected near the entrance to “Toad's Road” on Buttermilk and dedicated on Dec. 20, 2003. The statue was done by local sculptors Jim Snyder and Larry Lefner.

Charles “Chuck” Severy had a successful career as a petroleum geologist in Denver, and then moved to Aspen in 1987, becoming a ski instructor and teaching children at Buttermilk. He died of cancer on April 14, 1998, at the age of 47.

His son, Christopher, died later the same year, on Oct. 12, in an accident while riding his bicycle down a steep road on Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder. Chuck and Christopher's favorite ski run was Perry's Prowl on Aspen Mountain and there are two plaques dedicated to them, and located on a large rock outcrop near that run. One plaque on the rock is dedicated to both men, and states: “In Loving Memory of Chuck Severy 1951-1998 and Christopher Severy 1976-1998-Our Shining Stars CLS.” The other plaque is dedicated to Chuck Severy alone, and states: “In Memory of Chuck Severy 1951 - 1998.”

There is a joint shrine dedicated to both Chuck Severy and Tood Olson and contained on one large tree at Buttermilk. A sign posted on the tree reads as follows: “This is a memorial in honor of Uncle Chuck and Toad, two kids' ski instructors who died of cancer. Please respect their spirits and do not disturb anything. Thank you.”

The shrine consists of many strings of beads, leis, medals, mementos, a parrot, a ski helmet, one of Todd Olson's ski passes, a poem (“Uncle Chuck”) by Robin Severy, piñata figures, and many other items. This shrine is located near the top of Uncle Chuck Glades (named after Chuck Severy in December 2002) at Buttermilk.

David Wood ([email protected]) is the author of the best-selling book about the Aspen shrines, “Sanctuaries in the Snow-The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass.” He donates all of his profits from book sales to a local charity, The Trashmasters Scholarship Fund. The book can be purchased in Snowmass Village at Snowmass Sports, the Stew Pot, Sundance Liquor and Gifts, the Village Market, and 81615, as well as at various locations in Aspen.

Sanctuaries in the Snow

The Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass (Including Plaques, Memorials, Displays and miscellaneous items) All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission from the author. For any such permission contact [email protected]

  • David C. Wood
  • [email protected]