Three Legends Tell the Story of Colorado’s Angel of Mt. Shavano
The snow angel gracing Mt. Shavano outside of Salida has three different legends of how the angel originated. The unusual part is even though they are widely different, the legends all share the same theme.
The Mt. Shavano angel can be seen in spring after most of the snow has melted off the mountain -- as you can see in the Instagram photo above. If you're traveling out of Salida towards Monarch Pass, look to the west and you'll see the mountain.
Which one of these three legends is true is anyone's guess, but all of them are fantastic stories of how important the snow on Mt. Shavano is to people in the upper Arkansas River valley.
In this legend, the goddess Jupiter exiled a young goddess who's unpredictable and mischievous behavior annoyed her. Jupiter turned the young goddess into an angel of ice and told her she would be stuck to Mt. Shavano until tragedy struck the humans in the valley below.
One year, there was very little snow. A severe drought brought on sickness and death. This made the goddess angel cry which caused her body of ice to break apart and fall towards the valley. As it traveled down the mountain, the ice melted and filled the river with water ending the drought.
The goddess Jupiter returned and told the angel she was freed and could leave the mountain. The angel told Jupiter she wanted to stay so she could care for the people below. The request was granted but only on the condition, the angel would melt away every spring.
The Indian Princess
The valley below Mt. Shavano was at one time occupied by Indians who found the fertile area ideal for hunting, fishing and other food sources. A year of little snow in the mountains left the valley so dry the Indians were forced to start searching for another place to live.
An Indian princess, heartbroken at the prospect of having to move, went to the base of the mountain and prayed, asking the spirits to end the drought. The Indian god of plenty said he would answer her prayer, but only if she sacrificed herself to the gods.
The god then transformed the princess into the Angel of Mt. Shavano. Each spring, the princess reappears and cries for her people. The tears melt the ice and snow and provide water to the river and streams below.
This legend is lesser known but still part of the history of how the angel came to be. The Indian Chief Shavano lived in the valley below the mountain and became close friends with a freed slave and mountain man named Jim Beckwourth. Another version of the story tells of Chief Shavano's friendship with a scout named George Beckwith.
In both stories, the chief's friend was severely injured in an accident. The chief went to the base of Mt. Shavano to pray for his friend. As a sign the spirits had heard his prayer, an angel of snow appeared on the side of Mt. Shavano.