Thursday, February 20, 2020

Search Results for: resort town life

Why bother?

Dear Crested Butte:

Pottsville, Northern NSW, Australia. Heard of it? Doubtful.

Heard of Byron Bay? Most have. About 20 kilometers north of Byron on the beach is Pottsville, where my family lives. We are on the hippie fringe, south of the Gold Coast strip. Between there and Crested Butte there are hundreds of places to snow ski. Whether it is summer or winter, I can find a place to ski that would be a whole lot closer to home than Crested Butte.

A 20-minute drive and a four-hour flight can put me in Queenstown, New Zealand with Alps all around and lift-served peaks. A day’s drive in the months of July to September puts me in Australian alpine villages, skiing amongst gum trees with no time zone change and very little altitude change. Between December and April a world of opportunities opens up. One flight would get us to Japan and its legendary powder dumps; there is only a two-hour time difference, abundant snow and villages built for westerners. The mountains aren’t thin-air-high so there is little chance of the headaches, nausea, shortness of breath and general complications that occur after arriving in the Butte.

photo by Lydia Stern
photo by Lydia Stern

So, let’s say instead of Japan you make the 12-hour flight to LAX and decide to bypass skiing in California or Utah or Nevada because you really want to ski in Colorado. After a three-hour flight to Denver, how many ski resorts are along the Front Range within a three-hour drive down wide highways serviced by door-to-door shuttles from Denver Airport? These are easy, seamless, comfortable and convenient. These are places that dwarf Crested Butte in skiing acreage. These are places that have thousands of accommodation options conveniently situated to access thousands of miles of trails.

But no—we head to Crested Butte from Denver. That means taking either another flight, which is highly weather-dependent, making four flights from our house in Pottsville totaling more than 20 hours in the air over a two-day period (this assumes all connections are seamless), or we can forgo the last flight and drive the five hours from Denver over high-altitude passes and across wind-swept prairies to arrive at the split town of Crested Butte/Mt Crested Butte, where in town you are above 8,000 feet. Where the facilities are a bit run down compared to the flashier resorts and where the skiable terrain is limited unless there is mega snow.

So why bother?

On average we bother every two years and I have done so for more than 20 years. Are we nuts? If it were only the skiing, well, as I have said, we must travel past uncountable ski hills to get here, so that wouldn’t make sense.

I have traveled here when I was single, then when married, then with a baby, toddlers, and now with a pair of preteens.

Every time we experience jet lag, altitude sickness, a bout of the Crested Butte crud and after four days here we ask, “Why do we keep doing this? Didn’t we learn from last time?”

Then after a week to ten days the fog lifts, breathing becomes easier, the snow falls and the sun shines and you start to see what it is that brings you back.

It’s not the snow. It’s not the resort facilities or the skiable terrain.

It is walking to the town shuttle along quiet streets, passing winter cyclists with yoga mats or skate skiers with dogs heading to the Poop Loop. It is the excited smiles on the bus. It is seeing familiar faces and cars that stop for pedestrians. It is experiencing cars that stop in the streets while their drivers have a chat. It is the courtesy in the shops and the restaurants. The person who chases you to return a glove you dropped. There is the sense that in Crested Butte, while time is important, watching it is not going to interfere with life. Is it knowing that houses are left unlocked, cars have keys in the ignition and that this is known but rarely abused.

Before the roads were paved here and the Internet joined everything around the world, there was a wonderful isolationist frontier feeling about being at the end of the road. Survival was dependent on community, with the community eager to accept any who came. There is a “You can go anywhere else but you want to be in Crested Butte” appreciation.

Here the town and resort are unbreakably intertwined, with each knowing that they need each other to survive, but like fighting siblings, they are not going to admit that they care.

Will they ever? I suppose that is part of the “local charm.”

Over the years I have been a distant witness to the tug of war between town and the mountain. Expansion? No way. But there is still the attitude of “We need to keep the skiers returning so people can pay my mortgage and pay for their kids’ college.”

This does exemplify a characteristic of the area—passionate people. People passionately calling the valley home. People who believe and tirelessly pursue ideas, activities and want to live the fullest, most real and most meaningful lives possible in breathtaking surroundings.

When we return we try to stay for more than a month. It takes that long to adjust to the altitude, climate and also the way of being. It takes more than a month to slowly reconnect with old friends. It can’t be planned and must be slower than social media dictates. It’s bumping into people at Clark’s, by the ice rink or over a beer at the Eldo. It’s going to live theatre to watch familiar faces tread the boards and going backstage after to chat about the play and life. Or it is walking the sunny side of Elk Avenue on a cold January day while feeling your nose hairs freeze.

It takes more than a month. And then you appreciate all the specialness that comes with getting here.

It takes a full cycle of the moon, conversations about places and ideas, and a hike or three out of Teocalli Bowl before I start to know why I bother—and will keep bothering.

Do you know why?

Cameron Wegemund

Profile: Dara Indra Buchele-Collins

Dara the Explorer

by Dawne Belloise

Because her parents were into learning different disciplines for careers, in her young childhood Dara Buchele-Collins was shuttled between Montana, New Mexico and a gated community in California (which she says was probably exclusive simply to keep the DEA out—it was a super funky, hippie community). Between them, Dara’s parents studied forestry, nursing, preschool education and jointly, massage therapy. Dara laughs, “Can’t you tell by my name that I was raised by hippie parents?”

The family settled down in Ft. Collins when Dara was six, and that’s where she grew up from that point forward. “All that moving would have been harder if I had been older. At that young age you don’t get attached enough to people outside of the family. I think this is why I like to travel around so much and have been to so many places,” Dara concludes.

Dara graduated from Poudre High School in 2000 and admits, “I had no clue what I wanted to do. I debated going to school but I wasn’t really sure if that’s what I wanted to do. I particularly didn’t like high school. I was bored with it. I didn’t really want to do more school at that point so I moved to Estes Park and lived and worked at the Stanley Hotel.”

Dara attended the front desk of the inspiration for The Shining. Living in the dorms, she gained some worldly experience through the international staff that also lived and worked at the hotel. “A whole bunch of Scottish and Irish guys, a couple of Russians and a girl from Bangladesh,” she recalls. “It made me think about traveling, leaving and going somewhere else.”

After a year and a half, Dara went looking for National Park jobs and determined, “Alaska seemed different and fun and far away. I worked in Denali at a hotel front desk, again living in the dorms with tons of people from all over the country, mostly Americans. There was no real plan, it was all about just going, seeing something different, not being in Ft. Collins. I knew I didn’t want to stay in Alaska for the winter, I like sun way too much to live somewhere without sunlight.”

Researching other resort areas, it became a toss-up between Tahoe and Big Sky. Dara says, “I ended up at Big Sky. It was a good winter skiing and playing. That was the winter I figured I needed a plan and not wander around working random jobs.”

Dara somewhat reluctantly moved back to Ft. Collins to come up with a plan, attending school part time and working, but that was short-lived. “After a year I felt stuck and I knew I needed to leave. I knew I needed to do something but I was totally lost. I had a friend who was moving to Gunnison to go to WSC.”


photo by Lydia Stern
photo by Lydia Stern

I came up with him a couple of times and decided that I’d go for it. It was mostly just for the change and I knew Crested Butte was right down the road and I could ski and get jobs at hotels… not that that’s what I wanted to do but just that I could do that while I figured out other things.”

It was 2003 and Dara found herself behind the front desk at the Grand Lodge when she had the revelation that Crested Butte felt like it should be home base for a while. “It took me two years to get moved up to Crested Butte from Gunnison. I took a retail job at Peak Sports for four winters and loved it. During the summers I worked at Rocky Mountain Trees, later moving to the Alpengardener in Crested Butte South for three years.”

Dara also earned her Master Gardener certificate, a program through CSU extension services. “I loved gardening. My mom gardened heavily so I grew up with it even though I ignored it as a kid. It’s hard to make a living in the garden centers, though, because it’s such a short growing season here. I was looking for something else that would be more consistent and year-round.”

In 2012, the year that the earth and everything ever known was supposed to come to an end, Dara took a job at the paint store Mountain Colors. The owner, Kim Raines, was looking for a dependable employee and so Dara became the paint store manager.

Three years later, she’s still helping people decide the best colors for their homes, fences and lighting situations. She can expertly pick out specific shades that many don’t have the experienced eye for but can make all the difference in subtlety. “I love my job and I love helping people with color. I like having a job where I’m constantly learning something new and that’s what so great about Mountain Colors, I’m always learning something and I get to disseminate that info to others.”

A ski injury a year ago brought about a realization, the sense of being trapped and immobile, which triggered in Dara a desire to travel. She had gotten a taste of enjoying a vastly different culture as a high school exchange student in Japan and she wanted to experience that again. “I did a lot of traveling in the southwest—Moab, Escalante, Grand Gulch, southern Utah stuff, for mountain biking and hiking,” but it was a last-minute, spur of the moment itch that made her take that leap.

Dara booked a flight and packed her bags for a two-week discovery trek through Ecuador last month. As most travelers understand, that sort of spontaneity can be addictive and oh so liberating.

A friend of a friend had moved to Ecuador so she tagged onto that friend and went. “We started in Quito. It’s a big city,” she says of the world’s highest capital (at least in altitude). “It’s a little overwhelming, as any city is. I had to take a step back. We stayed at a hostel in the old town, surrounded by huge mountains and active volcanoes. From there we went to Mindo for a day trip to do a chocolate tour,” where they show how the delectable treat is grown and processed from tree and pod to candy.

From the town of Tena, the gateway to the Amazon, Dara rafted the river after hiking through the thick, lush jungle with a guide. She then continued on to Banos, where she quenched her thirst with the sweet juice of fresh-squeezed sugar cane and tasted taffy made from it. “I really related to Banos because the overarching feel is a lot like Crested Butte. It’s also a tourist town and they’re independent with cute little shops that sell native goods.” She was especially taken by the local peoples. “Everyone’s so friendly and open throughout the country, so open to meeting new people—they’re not dismissive.”

Perhaps more important to Dara is what travel represents and can do for personal growth. “Part of travel is always about changing and growing. All travel is about an evolution of self. Sometimes the changes are big and sometimes the changes are subtle. Traveling gets you out of your comfort zone. It reminds me that there are friendly people all over the world and getting out and meeting them should be part of life. It should remind us to be more open and inclusive. I want to meet the people and understand why they live where they do. Meeting other cultures and people shows us how similar we all are.”

Although exploring and traveling is on the top of Dara’s list, she’s enamored of her chosen home in Crested Butte. “I want to keep trying to figure out how to travel more but still be here. I love it here. It’s a great community and a good feel. And snow has always been a part of my life. Snow and sagebrush are two things I’d have a really hard time living without. I like the community and having my home base here. From the start, this felt like home. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do… I’m not sure I’ll ever finish figuring out what I want to do. I always want to be learning something and there’s always something new to learn and new to do.”

Gear up for the Fat Bike Worlds

Can you dig it?!

by Than Acuff

Crested Butte is often considered the birthplace of mountain biking and could very well now become the birthplace of fat biking, at least for the Rocky Mountains and beyond. The Borealis Fat Bike World Championships, a.k.a. Fat Bike Worlds, is coming to Crested Butte Wednesday through Sunday, January 27-31.

We’ve seen ‘em, those fat bikes I mean, riding around town, up and down the surrounding valleys, at Crested Butte Mountain Resort and even on some of the skin tracks closer to town. And while fat biking is huge in the Midwest (more than 700 fat bikers competed in the first annual Fat Bike Birkebeiner), it’s still in its relative infancy in the mountain towns of the West, until now.

Thanks to the brains of one Jason Stubbe, the inertia of Aaron Huckstep and the fevered energy of Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce director Dave Ochs, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte will host the first-ever Fat Bike World Championships.


“We’ve been hosting fat bike races as part of the Alley Loop the last four years and last year the light bulb went off,” explains Ochs. “If we’re going to do something, let’s go all the way. Fat bike racers are popping up in a lot of mountain communities, the momentum is there so… go big or go home.”

So far more than 200 fat bikers are registered for the Fat Bike Worlds, hailing from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, England, and Ireland, as well as around the country.

“I’m blown away. It’s awesome,” says Ochs. “I think we’re going to hit 250, maybe more.”

The Fat Bike Worlds kick off on Wednesday, January 27 with the Kick-Off Party sponsored by Chopwood Mercantile at the Brick Oven at 5:30 p.m., but the action starts on Thursday, January 28 with the first race of the weekend, the relay/solo race on the groomed trails of the North Village by the Snodgrass Trailhead, at 11 a.m. Grills will be fired up and beer from Odell Brewing will be available for racers and gawkers.

The trails were “track-packed” by Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) and Ochs and his crew have been out grooming a 30-inch wide singletrack with a groomer (complete with some Doug Bradbury enhancements) specific for creating fat bike trails.

“CBMR pretty much committed that area to fat biking,” says Ochs. “We laid out the track with fat biking in mind. The course has sweet bermed corners and just great flow.”

The day wraps up with an event shindig at Montanya’s Distillery at 6 p.m., where participants can wash the sting of fat biking away with some award-winning locally distilled rum.

Friday, January 29 riders and fat bike fans can rest, relax and jib flap at an all-day conference on all things fat biking as well as continue to get in some additional riding. Conferences will be going on in the Annex at Mountaineer Square and rides will be happening starting at 11 a.m. as a modified route on North Village will be primed for the Fat Bike Conference for land managers, resort reps and fat bike enthusiasts alike to enjoy spinning on fresh corduroy.

The whole fat bike contingency is then invited to the Avalanche with more free Odell’s beer starting at 5 p.m.

The four-day fat bike fest comes to a climax on Saturday, January 30 with the official world championship race on the Crested Butte Nordic trails starting and finishing at the Town Ranch on the outskirts of the town of Crested Butte. The course will include sections of Nordic trail typically closed to fat bikes but, thanks to the permission of Crested Butte Nordic, will be opened for the prestigious event.

“Saturday’s a big day and I’m super-excited about it being in town,” says Ochs.

The racing starts at 11 a.m. and the course will begin at the Town Ranch behind the community school, head up a portion of the rec path and then onto some tasty groomed Nordic trails before returning to the start. Elite racers get six laps on the 5.5-mile long loop for a total of 33 miles and 3,330 feet of climbing, while the open class will get three laps.

“It’ll be pretty hard for the elite riders but it’s 100 percent rideable,” says Ochs. “It’ll be very similar to what mountain biking is like in Crested Butte.”

Ochs expects the elite class leaders to finish in about two and a half hours and when all is said and done, seven world champions will be crowned, from men’s and women’s elite, men and women juniors, men and women champions over 55 years old and a hand cycling Fat Bike World Champion.

Each champion will then get the distinct pleasure of having the Fat Tire Worlds logo literally branded on their body as a lifetime reminder of their achievement.

At 2:30 p.m., once the smoke has cleared from the branding party, Lez Zeppelin will step onto a mobile stage set up on the Town Ranch, plug in and rock. Five dollars cash gets you into the show and, of course, there will be plenty of food and Odell’s beer flowing.

The Fat Bike Worlds comes to a close on Sunday, January 31 with the “Hair of the Dawg” downhill event. Starting at 11 a.m. fat bikers will be gathering at the base area and ride to the top of the Painter Boy lift. From there they will have the option to drop down the Awakening downhill track or the Teaser downhill track, both of which start at the top of Painter Boy and finish at the bottom of Painter Boy. Both tracks have been packed by the CBMR packing crew and snowmobiles in preparation for slayage.

“We’re crazy-excited about this,” says Ochs. “There’s plenty of opportunity for rad downhill fat biking.”

Fat bikers must get themselves to the top as there will be no lift service for bikes available, and both Saturday and Sunday offer a chance for fat bikers to get famous as world-renowned ski filmmaker Warren Miller will be in town to catch the action for his next film project. Did I mention there will be even more Odell’s beer flowing?

For more information, course descriptions, registration and all things Fat Bike Worlds check out Online registration is open until Sunday, January 24, after which registration will be handled by the chamber of commerce.

Locals making waves in an entrepreneurial age

Part three:  Industrial Manufacturing

By Adam Broderick

Editor’s note: It’s not easy making ends meet in mountain communities that rely heavily on cooperative weather and seasonal tourism. In this winter series, reporter Adam Broderick explores different experiences of business owners who live and work in the Gunnison Valley, yet whose work is mostly seen and sold elsewhere.

The pristine backcountry, the stillness in the valley, and the family-oriented community. These are the underlying reasons most people choose to live here. So when a local company grows and the opportunity to leave this place for somewhere more conducive to expansion arises, what stops motivated businesspeople from hitting the road? It seems those same factors apply.

In discussing outbound business with local professionals, some ups and downs of operating a company locally have been revealed. This week we speak with two manufacturers who fabricate industrial products before shipping them out of the valley. As with anyone featured in this series, they live here because this is where their hearts are and they’ve chosen to deal with any issues that come as part of that package deal.

Andris Zobs, ID Sculpture

Some people never let go of their obsessions with playgrounds. These recreational areas are fun when we’re kids and can still be captivating as we age, as long as they get progressively more technical or subjective.

Playgrounds by IDS.   courtesy photo
Playgrounds by IDS. courtesy photo

Take a climbing wall, for example. It’s essentially a playground for both adults and kids. As the guys at ID Sculpture (IDS) know, it takes being a parent or somebody who watches kids play to really know how to make the ultimate playground. Most of the staff at IDS have kids and want to create playground sculptures that inspire imagination and leave the canvas, if you will, open as to how kids can play on them.

Along with the creation of new safety regulations in past years, the team at IDS feels the playground industry has become standardized. A slide is just a slide, and activities have become programmed. ID Sculpture is trying to break away from that paradigm. They believe conventional playgrounds are too easy to navigate and that art and playgrounds should coexist so that a piece of art can also be something to play on.

Andris Zobs is director of operations and business development at IDS, formerly known as Integrated Design Solutions and founded by cutting-edge rock climber Ian Glas. In 2009, Glas was focused on climbing the world’s toughest routes and in the off-seasons he molded climbing holds for various clients. He founded IDS in 2009. In 2012 he partnered with Zobs, who was an architectural designer before he was director at the Office for Resource Efficiency (ORE). Zobs is still on the ORE board of directors but his full-time gig involves creating art with a playful purpose, and vice versa.

IDS began as a climbing feature fabrication company with just a few climbers and designers, but soon evolved into a major manufacturer of sculptural concrete playground equipment, public art and exhibits. When Glas started the business, climbing walls were mostly made of steel and plywood and cement coatings were rare. He wanted to add a new level of realism and creativity to artificial rocks, so along came IDS.

The company now has 13 employees and does everything from designing to manufacturing to shipping from a Gunnison warehouse. Glas is CEO and lives in Gunnison. Zobs and several employees live in Crested Butte and make the daily commute.

Zobs’ work in sustainability has encouraged him to use 100 percent recyclable materials and to recycle all waste. All steel fabrication is done in-house. The concrete mix IDS incorporates into playgrounds and climbing structures to “a sculptable cementitious coating that can be applied to a contoured structural armature” was an expensive investment to develop but is now ideal for playing and climbing.

Together the team digitized the process of designing projects with computer aided drafting and manufacturing (CAD/CAM), “and now we have really cool digital sculpting tools,” Zobs says. They use 3D scanners and printers.

Zobs feels they really excel when they get to work with landscape architects to make custom sculptures. IDS operates on the belief that every project should be designed with place in mind and that everything they build should be timeless, in terms of both design and durability.

They designed and built the climbing boulder you’ve probably seen at Rainbow Park, but Zobs says that’s an old project and not a great example of their best work. IDS has constantly invested in the quality of their product, working with concrete mix design consultants and engineers.

Their ability to do custom work lets them localize projects, like the flour silo sculpture they just designed for a place in Utah that is known for a historic flour mill. Or if they were asked to build a 10-foot-tall, 20-foot-long climbable Brontosaurus and ship it to a school in Missouri, they could make that happen. If they were asked to replicate a natural climbing wall in Utah with identical holds, cracks, and overhangs, and set it up in Chattanooga, Tenn., they could do that, too.

IDS recently built a playground at a large public park in Salt Lake City. It’s over 350 feet long and features climbable caves and waterfalls, and utilizes more than 600 unique, prefabricated parts. Shipping the parts from Gunnison and installing it had IDS employees in Utah for almost three months. Zobs says they send a lot of oversized loads out of town, often as a caravan of flatbed trailers loaded with freshly carved sculptures.

Some local businesses might argue that shipping costs hinder business around these parts, but Zobs says that when your products are as unique as IDS makes them, the shipping costs are a small part of the equation.

The company continues to grow because of their ability to customize sculptures and deliver them, as well as the quality of products they export. Currently, about 80 percent of projects are playground-related and 20 percent are exhibits and public art sculptures.

If you were to travel the world in search of awesome playgrounds, you would find IDS products in 22 U.S. states, Canada, and beyond. They’re even in Dubai. Locally, the climbing wall at the Gunnison Community Center was an IDS project. So were the playground at the Gunnison Middle School and the boulder at Legion Park in Crested Butte South. IDS recently donated a piece to Stepping Stones Children’s Center here in town.

Zobs hopes to see IDS grow in size and efficiency in the near future, and to be able to manage growth while maintaining the quality of products and the company’s creative niche in the market.

But he finds some obstacles to doing business in the Gunnison Valley, like finding and retaining skilled, dependable employees. He also thinks improving affordable housing options and diversifying the economy to incorporate more people actually making products in the area to will help improve business here. “Better flights and Internet would be great as well,” he adds. “But while there are challenges to locating our business here, they are not insurmountable, so why wouldn’t we live here?”

Zobs explains that Glas started the business here because he wanted to be here. “We want to be here,” he says. “We don’t feel constrained by the region. We like the Gunnison Valley because it’s quiet and family oriented. [The Gunnison Valley] needs to make its way through economic developments.”

The Sciortinos, LetterFab 

Trea Sciortino found a new love through his involvement with LetterFab, the wholesale manufacturer of aluminum-fabricated, LED illuminated channel letters (three dimensional letters you see on many building exteriors, especially in big cities) based in the Riverland Industrial Park a few miles south of Crested Butte. He fell in love with metalworking, metal art, and blacksmithing, and says he’ll live the rest of his life thanking his company for introducing him to a diverse platform for art. Prior to starting LetterFab from scratch in 2007, he was in construction and carpentry and has always had a passion for arts and crafts.

Signage by LetterFab.   courtesy photo
Signage by LetterFab. courtesy photo

Warren Sciortino, Trea’s father and the man behind the LetterFab idea, was selling signs in Louisiana for a different sign company before pitching the business idea to his son. Channel letters have been a staple to American signage since the ‘50s, and since LED entered the industry in 2005, prices have dropped significantly. Now LetterFab has endless opportunities in the sign industry. They’ve done 100-foot tall pylon signs; they made a large sign for the basketball stadium in Madison Square Garden; they did the Capital One letters for the Orange Bowl; they work in every state, including Hawaii, and have signs in Canada, the Caribbean, and the Cayman Islands.

LetterFab creates custom illuminated metal signs and other custom sign projects, but Trea says LED illuminated channel letters are their bread and butter. They’ll occasionally consider a local project, like the sign for Montanya Distillers, but LetterFab caters best to big businesses and franchises that need the same sign multiple times.

continued on next page

continued from previous page

LetterFab has 15 people on staff, including Trea and Warren. Trea manages operations while Warren is in charge of sales. The two use their combined knowledge of the sign industry to put projects together. Once Warren sells a project, their crew uses large bending machines to make the letters A-Z out of aluminum. Then they chemically weld what’s called a trim cap, which is basically like a Tupperware lid for the letter bases. Finally, LEDs are installed in the letters, which illuminate the letters against a night sky. The letters are then shipped across, or out of, the country on freight trucks.

Trea says freight options have improved the past eight years he and his father have been in business, which has made it easier to get products out of the valley. He explained that it used to be just FedEx and sporadically other companies, but companies like SAIA and Conway have stepped up their game to compete with FedEx and he’s now happy with all three of those freight providers.

“We’re doing this in the middle of nowhere specifically so we can live in the mountains. We deal with deep snow, a remote location, and everything ships out of here.

“That has been our biggest challenge, along with finding good employees. You know as well as I do that nobody moves out here to work 40-hour weeks,” Trea tells me. “I’m here to not be involved in the rat race. It’s mountains and our lifestyle up here long before channel letters and success in business.”

It’s more expensive for LetterFab to operate here than it would be in a city like Grand Junction or Denver, so the Sciortinos must focus on being efficient and streamlining production. Since all sign materials are incoming and outgoing, getting them in and out of the valley is a major hurdle. Manufacturing in the middle of nowhere is difficult, but Trea says they do it because when they finally get some time off they can enjoy the surrounding mountains and push the reset button. The mountains are precious to the Sciortinos. According to Trea, “This place is gorgeous, with gravity.”

Trea moved here in 1997 to pursue big-mountain snowboarding. He built his home on one of the first deed-restricted lots on the Verzuh Annexation in 2002 and has made all the money he can account for in the Upper Gunnison Valley. He says it’s been a long journey since his 20s, and it hasn’t been easy.

Warren moved here after his son. He was living vicariously through Trea, always asking about his snowboarding and mountain biking adventures. Warren fell in love with Aspen in the 1970s and had always dreamed of living in Colorado, and starting LetterFab enabled him to finally move away from New Orleans, where he’d spent almost 60 years. It was the only way he could move to a place like this and make a living. Warren came up with the idea and Trea took the bull by the horns, as he puts it, and set up fabrication in Riverland.

Warren also works with Guest Services and guides snowshoe tours for Crested Butte Mountain Resort. He rides an electric mountain bike during summer, the only way he can climb the trails here and enjoy the downhills without having a heart attack on the way up.

And that’s no joke. He’s had two massive heart attacks, one from which he died and was brought back to life, and has returned to become an Ironman triathlete. He loves talking to people and will spend the better part of a day teaching the ins and outs he’s learned to a person new to signage.

When they think about all the times they’ve put in extra-long hours and wished they could have crawled into an old mine shaft to get away, thinking about playing in the mountains and appreciating real life (which Trea believes lives in the wilderness surrounding Crested Butte) keeps them going strong. Then again, when business slows from time to time, they’re reminded how it feels to barely squeeze by. But they’re aware many local business owners are in similar situations.

“Sometimes there’s a hole to crawl out of if the phone doesn’t ring enough, but we’ve managed to weather the storms. Literally,” Trea jokes.

LetterFab has a fairly new facility in New Orleans, an effort to grow the company through easier means of shipping. But you won’t find either Sciortino moving there to help out. They’ll be busy expanding in Riverland, where fire suppression resources are now up to code with county requirements so LetterFab’s 1,800-square-foot weatherport will be replaced with a 3,250-square-foot building. Trea says this should greatly improve efficiency. He also says keeping the same employees will boost efficiency as each crewmember further masters their trade.

“I have my dream crew right now,” he says. “I have the guys I’ve been looking for for eight years, and I’d like to have the same crew years from now. Then we’ll be even more of a well-oiled machine.”

Thank you for absorbing this three-part feature story on local entrepreneurs working out of this little slice of heaven. After all, it’s the people who bring all the wonderful features of this place together that make it worth sharing. So as we continue on the trail toward each of our own definitions of success, remember to support local business and the people who work hard to stay here. Like each person interviewed for this series knows, it’s not all about the money. It’s about how we earn it and what we do when we focus on the real prize: the place we call home.

Tourism Association increases 2016 spending for marketing and events

“Gunnison Getaway” and year-round biking

By Adam Broderick

Gunnison County is determined to bring more visitors, and more money, to the valley in 2016, and the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association (TA) is planning some new strategies to reach that goal.

Promoting a new “Gunnison Getaway” campaign, grooming fat bike trails and promoting the Fat Bike World Championships this winter, and “doubling down” on mountain biking during summer are just a few items on the TA’s agenda.

This winter, the county commissioners, acting as the Local Marketing District (LMD), agreed to allocate $1.4 million from the county-wide 4 percent lodging tax it collects to help fund the TA’s projected $1.7 million spend in 2016. In 2015, the TA asked the LMD for $1.2 million. The following is a breakdown of how some of the funds is being spent.

Fat Biking

With Fat Bikes expected to make up 20 percent of the mountain bike market within the next decade, the county is jumping on the bandwagon—or leading it, perhaps. The first-ever Fat Bike World Championships are slated for the last weekend in January, a time when it is usually more difficult to attract visitors than in, say, February or March. Not only will course tracks be ready for the event, grooming single track trails is likely in the near future for both ends of the valley.

According to county commissioner Jonathan Houck, the Bureau of Land Management has already approved a proposal to groom fat bike trails near the Gunnison Nordic Club by Hartman Rocks. “Fat bike groomers are narrower groomers than ski groomers, so that’s easier to do,” Houck said.

Gunnison Getaway

The new winter “Gunnison Getaway” campaign this ski season will promote the city of Gunnison as a place to stay, eat, and spend money outside of Crested Butte, and will promote different transportation options to the town and ski area a half-hour north.

Laurel Runcie, project manager for the TA, says Gunnison Getaway promotes the best value for skiing in Colorado because the lodging prices are so low in Gunnison. She says Crested Butte Mountain Resort is also partnering with the TA to offer some pretty low-price tickets. So far, selling Gunnison as a destination getaway seems promising.

“We had a writer from Summit Daily come visit. She stayed in Gunnison and she went biking in both ends of the valley and explored both towns, and she wrote about biking as a valley-wide commodity,” Runcie said.

The Summit Daily writer “also writes for Outside Magazine and Mountain Magazine,” added Rebecca Filice, the TA’s social media and public relations manager. “She basically said ‘I want to come in and I want to fat bike.’ When a bike shop in the north end of the valley couldn’t help her out with a rental, All Sports Replay in Gunnison took care of her. She also stopped in Double Shot Cyclery down there and right away one of the staff rattled off a bunch of trails and directions. She had a great time riding Hartman Rocks and also spent time in Crested Butte.”

Filice says having both ends of the valley as a resource makes her job a lot easier because if visiting media gets bored, it’s their own fault. “If it’s the off-season, that’s okay because they’re still going to have a great time,” she said.

Commissioner Phil Chamberland told the TA at the budget meeting he is happy to see them looking at new ways to bring in funds. “I think you’ll also see people who stay in Gunnison realizing how close Monarch Ski Area is and they’ll start skiing there for a day or two as well,” he said. “And now with the late-night bus, you can still enjoy the nightlife in Crested Butte and make it back down to Gunnison.”

Warren Miller

The TA is also excited that the Warren Miller team will be filming a fat biking movie here this winter. One way the TA will benefit from the movie, besides the visual presentation of Crested Butte’s being close to the heart of fat biking, is that viewer emails will be collected along with ticket stubs at movie premieres around the country. Warren Miller has agreed to share those email addresses with the TA, so those people can then be targeted as potential visitors to the Gunnison Valley.


A popular mountain bike event held in Moab during spring and fall and in Whistler during summer could potentially land here as well. Outerbike attracts gearheads and bike companies to the annual multi-day gear-testing event. It brings more than 1,000 people to Moab for at least two consecutive nights, and organizers are currently looking for a Rocky Mountain location.

“Outerbike is a big deal in the field of bike tests,” says TA executive director John Norton. “All the bike manufacturers are there. We went this year to talk about the trails in the valley, and we’re trying to get them to come here. There’s no place at Hartman [Rocks] to put it, so we’re thinking maybe in the North Village.”

Trail Signage 

The TA will be promoting the county’s world-class trails next summer, but one of their main focuses will also be adding user information signs to existing trails. The TA received positive feedback from both local landowners and visitors alike about the signs that went up this past summer, so they’re hoping to add to those this coming summer. They’re also discussing what to put in a brochure for visitors, to explain the “rules of the roads” in hopes of protecting the backcountry from overuse and ensuring visitors have a quality user experience.

Norton is confident the TA will receive a $50,000 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), which would help fund more signage, so this summer they should be doubling down on the number of signs they put in.

“[Commissioner] Phil Chamberland seems to think we will get the grant, and he’s very involved in the state program,” Norton said. “I do think we’ll get that money.”

The TA plans to spend roughly $1.7 million on marketing in 2016. Total projected revenue for the year is $1,648,525, including the $1.4 million budgeted by the LMD ($116,667 for each month in 2016) and the $50,000 CPW grant. Other revenue sources include $85,000 in admissions tax from Mt. Crested Butte, $18,600 to host the Fat Bike World Championships, and the 4 percent lodging tax the LMD collects. Add to that $101,360 in rollover funds from last year, and the TA should spend almost exactly what they project to bring in.

Should lodging tax revenues come up short, the LMD would have to reconsider its $1.4 million allocation. Neither the county’s finance department nor the LMD expects that to be the case; however, the amount the TA is awarded may need adjusting based on actual lodging tax revenues.

“They request $1.4 million and that’s what we’re going to appropriate for them,” explained county commissioner Jonathan Houck. “To be clear, the money they get is based on what they project to bring in, so we’re not over-appropriating funds.”

Community calendar Thursday, January 7–Wednesday, January 13

Events & Entertainment 

• 4:30 p.m. Renee Wright and Nichole Reycraft play at the Princess Wine Bar.
• 6-9 p.m. Gypsy Jazz Social Club plays at Montanya Distillers.
• 7 p.m. Bill Dowell plays at the Princess Wine Bar.
• 10 p.m. Karaoke upstairs in the Sky Bar at the Talk of the Town.

• 5:30 p.m. First Friday Art Walk in Gunnison.
• 7 p.m. Dawne Belloise and Chuck Grossman play at the Princess Wine Bar.
• 10 p.m. JJ Evanoff plays at the Eldo.

• 7 p.m. Craig McLaughlin plays at the Princess Wine Bar.
• 7 p.m. CABARET: “Deep, Dark, Delightful, & Dirty” at the GAC.
• 10 p.m. Tnertle plays at the Eldo.

• 3-7 p.m. Happy Hour Sundays with Chuck Grossman at the Eldo.
• 6-9 p.m. Wylie “Crazy Horse” Jones plays at Montanya Distillers.
• 7 p.m. Tyler Lucas and Katherine Taylor play at the Princess Wine Bar.

• 7 p.m. Sam DeRaimo plays at the Princess Wine Bar.
• 10 p.m. Open Mic Night at the Eldo.

• 7 p.m. Chuck Grossman plays at the Princess Wine Bar.

• 6:30 p.m. Coloring & Conversation at the Old Rock Library.
• 7 p.m. Evelyn Roper plays at the Princess Wine Bar.
• 7:30 p.m. Pool Tournament upstairs at the Talk of the Town.

KIDS Calendar

• 9 a.m. Munchkin’s Music & Dance Class in the High Attitude Dance Academy in Gunnison.
• 9:30 a.m. Tumblebugs in Jerry’s Gym.
• 3-8 p.m. Youth Gymnastics, Jerry’s Gym at Town Hall 349-5338.

• 11 a.m. Big Kids Storytime for ages 3 and up and Old Rock Library.
• 6:30 p.m. Old Rock Library First Friday Film Series shows Minions.

• 4 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for kids at Town Hall. 349-7752.
• 4:45 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for juniors at Town Hall. 349-7752.

• 11 a.m. Romp & Rhyme Storytime for families and kids of all ages at Old Rock Library.
• 3-8 p.m. Youth Gymnastics, Jerry’s Gym at Town Hall 349-5338.

• 9 a.m. Munchkin’s Music & Dance Class in the Fitness Room at Old Town Hall.
• 10 a.m. Munchkin’s Music & Dance Class in the Fitness Room at Old Town Hall.
• 11 a.m. Babies and Toddlers Storytime at Old Rock Library.
• 3:45-4:45 p.m. Tween Scene (ages 8-12) at the Old Rock Library.
• 4-8 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for kids at Town Hall. 349-7752.

• 6-6:45 a.m. Meditation at Yoga for the Peaceful, by donation.
• 7 a.m. Core Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 8 a.m. Ecumenical Meditation at UCC.
• 8:30 a.m. Women’s book discussion group at UCC.
• 8:45 a.m. All levels Yoga Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 8:45 a.m. Indoor Biking Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Vinyasa Flow Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Gunnison County Branch Office is open at the Crested Butte Town Offices.
• 9 a.m. Nia Dance Workshop at Sunset Hall in CB South.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Yoga Basics at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• noon All Saints in the Mountain Episcopal Church Community Healing Service at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church. 349-9371.
• noon CORE Stability. 970-901-4413.
• noon-1 p.m. Lunch Break Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• noon-1:15 p.m. Prana Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 12:30 p.m. ACBL Sanctioned Open Bridge Game. 349-5535.
• 4-5:30 p.m. St. Mary’s Garage. 300 Belleview, Unit 2. Free clothing and bedding. 970-318-6826.
• 4:30-6 p.m. Crested Butte Community Food Bank open at Oh Be
Joyful Church (First Thursday of every month.)
• 5:30 p.m. Bikram Yoga at CORE.
• 5:30 p.m. Communion Services at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Vinyasa Flow at Town Hall
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Prana Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful
• 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Silversmithing at the Art Studio of the Center for the Arts (Thursdays through February 11). 349-7044.
• 5:45 p.m. World Dance Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 6:30 p.m. AA Open Meditation at UCC.
• 7 p.m. Women Supporting Women Group Discussion at the Nordic Inn.
• 7-8:30 p.m. Kirtan at Yoga for the Peaceful.
• 7:30 p.m. Narcotics Anonymous meets at 114 N. Wisconsin St. in Gunnison.

• 6:30 a.m. All Levels Iyengar Yoga Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 7:30 a.m. Barre Workout at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 8:30 a.m. Alanon at UCC Parlour (in back). 349-6482.
• 8:30 – 9:15 a.m. Aerial Conditioning with the Crested Butte Dance Collective at the Center for the Arts. 349-7487.
• 8:45 a.m. Core Power Yoga Class at the Pump Room.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Warm Power Vinyasa Fusion at Town Hall
• 9 a.m. Juliette’s Balance Barre at Western Pilates Studio in Crested Butte. 596-1714.
• 9-10:30 a.m. Prana Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• noon Closed AA at UCC.
• noon Metabolic Blast at CORE. 970-901-4413.
• noon-1 p.m. Lunch Break Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• noon-1:15 p.m. Restorative Yoga at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 1:30-3 p.m. Hot Power Yoga at Town Hall
• 4:30-5:45 p.m. Aprés Ski Yoga at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 5:30 p.m. Bikram Yoga at CORE.
• 5:30 p.m. Communion service at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Happy Hour Flow at Town Hall
• 6-7 p.m. Poi Playshop at the Pump Room.
• 7-9 p.m. Pick-Up adult Karate, Fitness Room at Town Hall.

• 7:30 a.m. Open AA at UCC.
• 8 a.m. Indoor Biking Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Prana Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 9-10:15 a.m. Stretch and Shred in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 9-10:30 a.m. Community Yoga at the Sanctuary Yoga & Pilates Studio, Gunnison.
• 9:15 a.m. All Levels Yoga Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 10:30 a.m. Hip Hop Community Dance Class at the Pump Room (above Fire House on 3rd & Maroon). 415-225-5300.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Slow Flow at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Introduction to Tapestry Weaving with Megan Craver at Kasala Gallery. 111 Elk Avenue.
• 12:15-1 p.m. Kid’s Aerial Dance: Kindergarten with the Dance Collective at the Center for the Arts. 349-7487.
• 1-3 p.m. Adventures in Knitting with Laura Elm at Kasala Gallery. 111 Elk Avenue.
• 1:10-2 p.m. Kid’s Aerial Dance: Grades 1- 3 with the Dance Collective at the Center for the Arts. 349-7487.
• 2:15 – 3:15 p.m. Kid’s Aerial Dance: Grades 4 – 6 with the Dance Collective at the Center for the Arts. 349-7487.
• 4:30-5:45 p.m. Aprés Ski Yoga at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 5 p.m. Teen Movie Night at the Old Rock Library. Jupiter Ascending and Super 8.
• 5:30 p.m. Bikram Yoga at CORE.
• 6:30-7:30 p.m. Guided Sound Meditiation at 405 4th Street.

• 7-8 a.m. Meditation at Yoga For The Peaceful, by donation.
• 8:30 a.m. Mass at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 9 a.m. Worship Service at Oh-Be-Joyful Church.
• 9 a.m. Worship Service at UCC Church.
• 9-10:15 a.m. Slow Flow at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 9:30-11 a.m. Community Free Yoga Class in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 10:30 a.m. Cameron Corn Memorial and Celebration of Life potluck at the Eldo.
• 1 p.m. Winter Beading Class: Wire Swirl Pendant at Pema Dewa. 349-7563.
• 4:30-6 p.m. Restorative Yoga at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 5-6 p.m. All Saints in the Mountain Episcopal Eucharist at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church. 349-9371.
• 5-7 p.m. Pick-Up Adult Basketball. HS Gym, CBCS.
• 5:30 p.m. Bikram Yoga at CORE.
• 6 p.m. AA meets at UCC.
• 6:30 p.m. Duplicate Bridge at UCC. Call 349-9296.
• 7 p.m. Gamblers Anonymous meets at the Last Resort.

• 6:30 a.m. Strength and Conditioning with Janae or Pip at CORE. 901-4413.
• 7:30-8:30 a.m. Community Flow at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Vinyasa Flow Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 8:45 a.m. Core Power Yoga Class at the Pump Room.
• 8:45 a.m. Pilates at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 9-10:30 a.m. Prana Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• noon-1 p.m. Lunch Break Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• noon-1 p.m. Slow Flow at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 12:30 p.m. ACBL Sanctioned Open Bridge Game. 349-5535.
• 1:30-3 p.m. Hot Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 4-8 p.m. Tang Soo classes for kids and adults. 349-7752.
• 5 p.m. Mothering Support Group at the GVH Education House, 300 East Denver St. (First Monday of every month.)
• 5:30 p.m. Communion Service at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 5:30 p.m. Yin/Yang Circuit with Ginny and Jess at CORE. 901-4413.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Yin Yoga Nidra at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Gentle Restorative Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 5:30-7 p.m.  Level 2 Aerial Lyra with the Dance Collective at the Center for the Arts (Mondays through January 25). 349-7487.
• 5:30-7 p.m. Moms in Motion class at the GVH rehab gym.
• 5:45 p.m. Boot Camp Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 6:30-8 p.m. Women’s Domestic Violence Support Group at Project Hope. Childcare available upon request. 641-2712.
• 7:30 p.m. Open AA at UCC. 349-5711.
• 7:30 p.m. Narcotics Anonymous meets at 114 N. Wisconsin St. in Gunnison.

• 7 a.m. Core Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 7:30 a.m. AA/Alanon Open at UCC. 349-5711.
• 8:45 a.m. Indoor Biking at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Warm Power Vinyasa Fusion at Town Hall.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Vinyasa at Yoga for the Peaceful.
• 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Gunnison County branch office is open at the Crested Butte Town Offices, 507 Maroon Ave.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Yoga Basics at Yoga for the Peaceful.
• 11:30 a.m. League of Women Voters meeting at 210 W. Spencer in Gunnison.
• noon AA Closed at UCC.
• noon-1 p.m. Lunch Break Yoga at Town Hall.
• noon-1:15 p.m. Prana Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 2-4 p.m. Tech Tuesdays at Old Rock Library. 349-6535.
• 4-5:30 p.m. St. Mary’s Garage. 300 Belleview, Unit 2. Free clothing & bedding. 970-318-6826.
• 5:15 p.m. RedCord suspension class at Western Pilates Studio in Crested Butte. 596-1714.
• 5:30 p.m. Communion Service at Queen of All Saints Church.
• 5:30-6:15 p.m. Beginning and Intermediate Pastel at the Art Studio of the Center for the Arts. 349-7044.
• 5:30 – 6:15 p.m. Aerial Conditioning with the Crested Butte Dance Collective at the Center for the Arts. 349-7487.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Slow Flow at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Vinyasa Flow at Town Hall.
• 5:45 p.m. All Levels Iyengar Yoga Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 6-7 p.m. Community Connection Night at UCC Parlour.
• 6:15-7 p.m. Open Aerial Dance with the Crested Butte Dance Collective at the Center for the Arts. 349-7487.
• 7 p.m. Alanon meeting at the Last Resort.
• 7-8:30 p.m. Blessing Way Circle support group at Sopris Women’s Clinic. 720-217-3843.
• 7-9 p.m. Pick-up adult Karate, Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 7:45-9:45 p.m. Drop-In Adult Volleyball, CBCS MS Gym.

• 6:30 a.m. All Levels Iyengar Yoga Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 7:30 a.m. Rotary meeting at the Grand Lodge.
• 7:30-8:30 a.m. Prana Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 7:30-8:30 a.m. Vinyasa Flow Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 8:45 a.m. Mat Mix at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Ashtanga-Vinyasa Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• 9-10:30 a.m. Prana Vinyasa at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 9:30-11:30 a.m. Gray Hares meet at the CB Nordic Center for nordic skiing.
• 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Two Buttes Senior Citizens van transportation. Roundtrip to Gunnison. 275-4768.
• noon Closed AA at UCC.
• noon-1 p.m. Lunch Break Yoga in the Fitness Room at Town Hall.
• noon-1 p.m. Yoga Therapeutics at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 1:30-3 p.m. Hot Yoga at Town Hall.
• 4-8 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for kids and adults. 349-7752.
• 5 p.m. Mass at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 5 p.m. Pairs Skimo Race at CBMR.
• 5:30 p.m. Prenatal Yoga class in Crested Butte South. 349-1209.
• 5:30 p.m. Bikram Yoga at CORE.
• 5:30 p.m. Free Health Insurance Presentation and Q & A at Sopris Women’s Clinic.
• 5:45 p.m. Boot Camp Class at The Gym. 349-2588.
• 5:45 p.m. Indoor Cycling at the Gym. 349-2588.
• 6 p.m. Celebrate Recovery Meetings: 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month, Oh Be Joyful Church, Crested Butte. 970-596-3846.
• 6-7:15 p.m. Kaiut Yoga at Yoga For The Peaceful.
• 6:30 p.m. Alanon at UCC Parlour (in back). 349-6482.
• 6:30-8 p.m. Restorative Yin Yoga Nidra at Town Hall.
• 7-9 p.m. “GriefShare,” a grief recovery seminar and support group, meets at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, 711 N. Main St., Gunnison. 970-349-7769.
• 7:45-9:45 p.m. Pick-Up Adult Indoor Soccer, CBCS HS Gym (through March).

Profile: Peace Wheeler

A Peace of Crested Butte

by Dawne Belloise

When I was born, my parents stopped going to church and stopped eating meat,” Peace Wheeler says, smiling with a glint in her eyes. Her father, Bill, was born and raised in Gunnison. Her mother, Joey, was a Boulderite, and they lived in Crested Butte from the late 1970s through the early ‘80s before moving to Paonia.


“I’m the youngest of five kids. They couldn’t afford Crested Butte back then so they moved to Paonia,” says Peace, but Paonia was a pretty rough place to grow up. “It’s always been conservative and my parents and our family weren‘t. All my brothers had long hair. The kids weren’t very friendly.”

In fact, Peace had such a bad experience in first grade that her mother bused her to the Hotchkiss schools where, Peace says, the kids were far nicer. Even though school was socially easier for her in Hotchkiss, the family missed Crested Butte and finally returned in 1996 when Peace was eight. “They loved [Crested Butte] and wanted to raise their kids here. I’m forever grateful they made that choice,” Peace says. Her fourth-grade class was the last to be taught in the old school (where the town offices are now) and the following year the kids moved into the brand new Crested Butte Community School. Peace graduated in 2005.

Peace enrolled at Western State College but left after a year, unsure of her direction. “I didn’t want to go back simply because it’s the socially expected thing to do, and,” she determined, “it’s not required to make you fulfilled in life.”

Following in her older brother Justin’s footsteps, she volunteered with the Crested Butte Fire Department, having already earned her Firefighter 1 certification at the age of 18, and then getting certification as a S-130/S-190 Wildland Firefighter via a nationally standardized test that allows her to fight forest fires both here and out of state. She went on for even more extensive training as an EMT-B with an IV certification.

“It wasn’t until both Justin and I joined the fire department that we learned our parents actually started the fire department in Marble. Dad was the fire chief and mom was the assistant fire chief when they lived there for a stint before we were born.”

After 12 years, Peace is taking a break from her firefighting work with the local department to enable her to pursue other things.

During her fire department years, Peace was also working for Crested Butte Mountain Resort as a lift op and ticket checker initially, and also as a ski instructor for a couple of seasons. But when a spot on the snowcat grooming team opened up in 2010, Peace went for it.

“I had bugged Mark Voegeli about it for years and he knew I had experience with hydraulics and heavy equipment operation through our family business of the rental center. I started as a Uley’s sleigh ride dinner driver, hauling the diners up with the sled. It was good to get a full season of experience just learning about the snowcat before learning to do the grooming.”

The next season, Peace graduated to grooming, but her very first night up was challenging.

“There’s a specific tree up there now named Peace Tree,” she cringes with a giggle. “There’s a big chunk out of it. It was my first shift, and on the graveyard shift, and it was a crazy white-out storm where we got 12 inches that night. I couldn’t see. I was following the shift supervisor, Chad Kaiser, who was showing me the route, turnaround spots and better ways to efficiently groom the slopes,” Peace says with a big sigh. “We were going down one of the cat tracks through the trees. He was in one of the smaller cats and I was in one of the bigger cats and he didn’t realize that the bigger cat wasn’t gonna fit…” Peace trails off, leaving the visuals and the grinding, scraping bang of a cat slamming into a tree to your imagination.

But there’s so much more to operating a cat than merely navigating through blizzards on scary vertical slopes and laying down the corduroy. Cat drivers also have to be knowledgeable in maintenance and basic repairs and in extreme conditions. “We end up doing a lot of maintenance on the cats on the slopes. In a blizzard, it’s not fun at all. If a hydraulic hose line breaks, you have to know how to swap it out. You have to know how to diagnose what’s going on with the cat. It can be tricky because there are a lot of hoses, electronics and mechanicals, nuts and bolts—there are so many things that can be wrong with a cat. We have to at least have an idea of how to solve the problem. It can be nerve-wracking when anything goes wrong and you hope you can get it up and running so you’re not scrambling to finish your work.”

Currently Peace is a fill-in groomer with CBMR because she also works at Irwin Guides for the Eleven company. It’s her second season with the latter, driving the Tucker, the big white beast, from Irwin’s office on Belleview up to the Irwin slopes on Scarp Ridge. “I drive to the movie cabin, drop everyone off and hop into the alpine cats to take them up to various locations on Scarp Ridge,” says Peace. Unknowing tourists and visitors don’t understand the training and expertise it takes to be one of the elite fleet who can qualify as a cat operator.

photo by Lydia Stern
photo by Lydia Stern

“My friend overheard a tourist on the chairlift say that all the girl cat drivers for Irwin were hired strictly because they were pretty,” Peace smirks—despite the fact that she just happens to be gorgeous, she also has more training and experience in not only snowcats, heavy machinery and maintenance but in firefighting, emergency service and safety than most. “So there’s a big misconception that we don’t have heavy equipment experience—and that made my blood boil, for obvious reasons.”

Not only does Peace groom the snow, she makes it. “I’ve been a snow maker for CBMR for three seasons now,” claims the Snow Queen proudly. “It’s the most dangerous and rewarding job. You’re working around hazardous conditions with a highly pressurized system with air and water. Then we’re creating giant mounds of snow with snow guns that we have to snowmobile to multiple times in a shift and even though we have chain brakes, it’s still scary slick, so you slide. It can be really terrifying.”

In 2007, back when she was a youngster of 19, Peace and her brothers Justin and John bought the Forest Queen bar and restaurant business. “Dunno why,” she says. “We kind of wanted to secure something as a family business.” Shortly after, her parents bought the building to secure the business location for them. As even loving siblings do, Peace admits, “We fought a lot because of the business and here I was only 19 and not sure what I was doing as a bar and restaurant owner. We ran it for a year, but it came to a screeching halt with my brother John’s sudden death,” she tells of the heartbreaking loss of her big bro on January 7, 2008.

“He was my roommate at the time. I was out shoveling the snow in our walkway. It was that epic year where it never stopped snowing, it was the year we had to tunnel to our houses.


“John was getting ready to go to the Queen for his bartending shift. He was the best bartender, he was such a social guy, and it was the highlight of his day to get to talk to people,” Peace describes.

“My brother Justin went into the house to pick him up for work and found him unresponsive. We called 911. Because we’re all really close in the fire department they knew it was my house. My friend Cory Tibljas who was on the department but wasn’t even on duty was the first one to arrive. He knew it had to be John. They tried, and almost revived him, but they couldn’t maintain it. Officially he had a heart attack. My life changed a lot. It made me realize that you can’t take things for granted, especially relationships and friendships. We, as a family, have struggled a lot with it but it’s made us stronger, and weaker, at times, but we’re constantly reminded that we have to stick together. It’s made my bond with Justin stronger. It was hard being back in that building. It’s still hard.” They closed the Forest Queen business following the loss of their brother.

Peace is still involved as a co-owner of her family’s business, Crested Butte Rental Center in Riverland. “We all do everything. It’s kind of a nutty operation. We have construction equipment, everything from small hand tools to big boom lifts and bobcats and the other side of the business is weddings and special occasions, renting everything from tables and tents to PA systems and lights—everything except the wedding dress,” she laughs.

High on her list of life adventures is to be a world traveler and Peace is finally getting around to doing that. “I made the decision to go to New Zealand because I needed a break,” she says, explaining her love for summer here but choosing to follow winter for a change. “I was at Mount Hutt ski field. It’s just what they call them,” she says referring to calling the slopes a field. “I was living in the town of Methven, an hour west of Christchurch, an interesting little town. Size-wise, it’s a lot like here without the character. It’s barely above sea level, but the peak was about 6,000 feet.”

Peace spent five months there during the New Zealand ski season, running their grooming cats. “I’m going back again this year but I’ll leave it open-ended as to whether I go back after this because it’ll be five consecutive winters with no summer.” Peace explains that all of South Island of New Zealand is exactly like Colorado but more drastic with its sea level to soaring heights mountains. “It made me really homesick when I got out to travel there. I made a lot of friends but it was hard not being around my family and close friends here. Although in general it was positive for me, once I bought the plane ticket it challenged me personally to get out of my comfort zone,” and as a bonus, there are no trees to run into with her snowcat down there.

Peace enthusiastically professes her love for her home, which will always be Crested Butte. “Sometimes I forget to remember that we’ve got it so good here. Getting out and traveling makes me realize that this is absolutely where I want to live but I know that I still want to travel a lot. I’m going to Japan in March to go skiing, because I’ve always wanted to ski there. I want to go back to Cambodia,” where she went just before leaving for New Zealand.

Peace feels that Crested Butte calls to a specific type. “It gets its hooks in the right people because it weeds people out. You either fit the character of this town perfectly, and that’s why we’re all here, or it pushes you out. We don’t chose Crested Butte, Crested Butte chooses us. But the biggest reason why Crested Butte will always be my home is because of the community. They rallied when my brother died, and they’re still so supportive. People remind me of John all the time and it means the world to me to be reminded that it’s not just us who miss him. Crested Butte and the people who make it what it is have my heart for life.”

Locals making waves in an entrepreneurial age Part two: Inventing products and filling a niche

By Adam Broderick

Editor’s Note: It’s not easy making ends meet in mountain communities that rely heavily on cooperative weather and seasonal tourism. In this winter series, reporter Adam Broderick explores experiences of business owners who live and work in the Gunnison Valley, yet whose work is mostly seen and sold elsewhere.

Some people just can’t shake off Crested Butte no matter how long they stay away. This place affects the soul in ways most elsewhere couldn’t imagine—the jaw-dropping landscape, the caring community, even the fact that we have to work a little harder to stay warm, visit loved ones, and make ends meet. It may not be apparent at first, but once it sets in it becomes a part of life. And it’s a life worth living. A life worth taking pride in.

This week we speak with two professionals who found creative ways to return to the place they’re most passionate about and make a living of it. As with anyone featured in this series, they live here because this is where their hearts are and they’ve chosen to deal with any issues that come as part of that package deal.

Jeff Scott, Re-Think and The Idea Launch Lab

“You’d be surprised that the guy who tunes your skis has a Ph.D. or your server at The Last Steep has a master’s degree,” says inventor-designer-tech guru and all-around fun guy Jeff Scott. And right he is. Interviewing him at his Fourth and Belleview shop in Crested Butte was like teleporting to a mini-Silicone Valley, an unusual feeling in a remote mountain town full of overeducated ski bums. I was impressed with his knowledge of ecommerce sales and search engine optimization (SEO), but his resourceful, inventive side is what really caught my attention.

Jeff Scott sketches, welds, and 3D prints, all in his space at 4th and Belleview.   photo by Lydia Stern
Jeff Scott sketches, welds, and 3D prints, all in his space at 4th and Belleview. photo by Lydia Stern

Scott is the board president of the local KBUT radio station, but those airwaves don’t get as much play outside the valley as the products he’s developed. At some point you’ve probably seen dog collars, townie bikes, or flying discs glowing in vibrant colors against a night sky. Those are Scott’s doing, and they’ve become the foundation of his new creative space, The Idea Launch Lab.

It all started with some friendly competition in the dark. Scott and friends enjoyed playing Ultimate Frisbee after work, so he designed a light-up disc for their night games.

When friends suggested he bring the disc to market, he opposed the idea; it was made strictly for their night game amusement.

A few years later Scott was fired from his job in software development and was curious what to do next. He reached out to a friend in Boulder and the two joined forces to produce more light-up discs. The prototype was improved and an e-commerce website built, and soon afterwards they both refinanced their houses and started making the improved products out of Boulder. One day the owner of NiteIze (innovative LED tools, toys and accessories) walked in with a business proposal. The FlashFlight light-up disc has now been on the market for 14 years. It is made in Denver because that’s where injection-molding needs are met, but Scott lives in Crested Butte.

Scott hails from Dallas, Texas. His brother came to Crested Butte for a college ski trip decades ago and returned to tell his dad how awesome skiing was, and that skis were much more fun than motorcycles. Then in 1974, Scott learned to ski here. The next year, his dad moved the family to Aspen and that’s where he graduated from high school in 1983. “Aspen became the place where the rich went to watch the rich,” he told me from across a table piled with product plans and prototypes. “But dad raised us outside and the wilderness became our church, and I knew I wanted to provide the same for my own kids. My brother and family friends are still on the Aspen side, but the glam factor is too much for me.”

Twelve years ago, he, his wife and two children, now 19 and 21, evaluated their passions and began shopping ski towns. Everywhere they looked they compared to Crested Butte. After building a business and securing royalties from FlashFlight products, they were able to move here. They love skiing and being involved in the wide range of unique, small-town events, and the tight-knit community provides great value for his family.

Scott recently moved the Boulder warehouse to Fourth and Belleview, where 3D printers, laser engravers and other high-tech machines are going in to improve and expedite more local design and development. He built the 3D printer, and even uses it to print additional parts for the same printer. He also handles the e-commerce side of things for NiteIze, and is constantly rethinking ways to add more benefit to the community and the environment.

Scott has a lot going on, so read this next paragraph carefully. The Idea Launch Lab is a part of his company called Re-Think, which he uses to throttle up ideas he’s been sitting on. His original business partner is in the process of retiring, so now Re-Think is picking up where PlayHard, the partnership’s company that developed the FlashFlight disc, is leaving off. Now, Re-Think is essentially the design and development business that builds and pushes products. The Idea Launch Lab formed after the number of NiteIze products, combined with Scott’s other endeavors, began enticing more people to learn how he develops products and brings them to market. Scott has been consulting others for a long time, and The Idea Launch Lab is working on a process to streamline peoples’ ideas and determine if they’re short-term or have real long-term potential.

The SpokeLit, an LED bike-spoke light, was developed on Elk Avenue when Scott wanted better lights on his kids’ bikes. It, as well as the SpotLit, a light-up dog collar accessory, both saw 40 percent growth in the past five years.

He now manufactures LEDs himself, and recently put a parabolic curve in a disc called the Hole-In-One, so the removable LED at the center of the plastic disc sends light out to the edges for greater illumination.

His light-up dog ball was getting better feedback as a light-up lacrosse ball, so he remarketed it for lacrosse and saw 4,000 percent growth the last two months.

He’s currently developing a line of LED camping products for another Colorado-based outdoor products company that incorporate better function, atmosphere, and mood using Bluetooth technology that can be controlled by a smartphone.

His Fat Tire Cruiser Bike is in the works, and will soon allow riders to travel both on and off snow-covered roads.

Outdoor sports and family time take priority over work, but recreation can be considered work for Scott since so many ideas come from playing outside. He just released a new product called the GripLit, which goes on bike handlebars to create a better depth perception for oncoming cars. “I like being able to make an item that provides a safety mechanism and if it’s groovy, all the better,” he says.

Scott is a big proponent of repurposing and recycling materials. Re-Think is a B-Corp company, meaning it’s a for-profit corporation that strives to positively impact the local community and the environment. He also wants to help employ people here, and sees having The Idea Launch Lab incubator space in Crested Butte as a great way to bring new business and create jobs. The main goal is to eventually make everything in the United States, using 90 percent to 95 percent recycled materials, and to retain inventory here in the Gunnison Valley so all order fulfillment and shipping can be done from Crested Butte.

A firm believer in helping other local businesses as well as his own, Scott pushed hard to get the broadband initiative on last November’s ballot. Internet speed at this end of the valley isn’t always reliable and having more options for broadband service is seen as a necessary to many professionals who live and work here. Scott sees Internet speeds as one of, if not the largest obstacle to running a smooth business predominantly online.

“Solving product problems and pains, that’s what we’re doing. We have so much going on right now. I’m spending a lot of time raising money, and I want to improve the manufacturing business so we’re producing in a more conscious way,” Scott says. “How can I offset my carbon footprint? Can we improve by 50 percent post-consumer materials on a product? We’re trying to do everything in Crested Butte the best we can.”

Kris Murray, Child Care Marketing Solutions

Kris Murray never owned a day care or a preschool, so it’s a little unusual for her to have created a business out of something she’s never actually done. “At the end of the day it’s about adding value to the customer experience, no matter what kind of business you’re in,” she says. She saw a niche and she filled it, and doing so allowed her to move back to Crested Butte, the place she prefers to call home.

Her office at the Four-way Stop is undergoing somewhat of a makeover to clear space for a growing business, which in six years has been built into a seven-figure company. Child Care Marketing Solutions is the largest provider of coaching and business improvement services for child care centers and preschools across the world. There are only a couple of other companies or consultants that do what her company does.

Murray has five employees total, with three in Crested Butte, one in Iowa, and one in Denver. Clients are mostly in North America, with a few in Australia and the United Kingdom. Only one current client is local, and that’s Paradise Place Preschool.

Murray says the biggest benefit to basing business in Crested Butte and working remotely is the lifestyle it offers. By her working remotely, the company is not limited. “Truly any of us could live anywhere and still be a cohesive team,” she says. “For me, lifestyle-wise, I’m living my dream by being here in Crested Butte. If I wanted to move to Park City, I could. But I don’t.”

Murray spent her whole life in marketing and advertising. Prior to starting Child Care Marketing Solutions in 2009 she was working with her brother’s manufacturing business in Cleveland, Ohio, where she grew up. She ran the marketing side of his company but wanted a way to do her own thing. In 2008 she noticed that none of the child care services she was considering for her own children, ages three and five at the time, marketed themselves well. During the recession the owner of one place she was considering lost a bunch of clients, so she made a deal to help get enrollment back up in exchange for free tuition. She about doubled the business in 11 months.

Since nobody else was helping the business side of child care services, Murray thought a new service was desperately needed. She spent a lot of time in day cares and preschools, watching from both a mom’s and a businesswoman’s perspective, and understood the customer experience.

It didn’t take long for her to realize how to add more value to that experience. “I found what worked for others and basically modeled that,” she explained. “There are other people who do these types of things for other businesses; real estate, dentistry, trainers in various niches. I determined the key drivers that would help child care services versus a dentist or chiropractor. I started out with webinars and books, and the coaching came later.”

Murray’s first book, The Ultimate Child Care Marketing Guide, has sold more than 2,000 copies in the four years it’s been on shelves. The 77 Best Strategies for Growing Your Child Care Business recently joined her first book for sale on Amazon. Her company now runs what’s called the Child Care Success Academy, with a curriculum and events where people get together and share business insights. She acts as the facilitator at those meetings, offering child care providers proven methods for growing business, attracting clients, increasing profits, expanding to more locations, and improving practices with staff and leadership.

Kris Murray.   courtesy photo
Kris Murray. courtesy photo

She explains that what her company teaches could apply to any small business. “Really, you could take my Ultimate Child Care Marketing Guide and cross out the words child care and put any other business in and the principles would still apply. I’ve used those same principles to grow this business.”

Murray recently expanded into the non-child care area, adding one client who runs a yoga business. She says it’s fun and fresh to start looking at other niches and also to help other businesswomen. She’s acted as a coach for a handful of local entrepreneurs here in Crested Butte. “I’m proud to add jobs to the valley,” she says. “In 2014 we had two employees and now I’m employing five, and I’m seeking to add another one or two positions in 2016. It means a lot to me to be able to add jobs to the valley.”

Murray has been a fill-in DJ at KBUT radio the past several months. She was a full-time DJ between 1992 and 1997 while also marketing for Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and one of her dreams was to come back and DJ again. Of course, she also missed the skiing, biking, and proximity to nature Crested Butte provides.

“Having lived here in the 90s I was always thinking of how to return some day. In 2008 I visited and started thinking harder about how to move back. In 2012 I made it a reality. I feel blessed to be probably one of the few who is able to live their dream lifestyle.”

Child Care Marketing Solutions is growing about 35 percent to 40 percent annually, but the company still struggles in certain ways, as any company does. Murray says Internet speed isn’t quite the issue it used to be because more options have come into the valley, but air travel in and out of Gunnison can be quite the hurdle. She is gone about one week per month on average, and when visiting important clients she needs travel to be reliable.

“Every time I fly I have to look at Gunnison, Montrose, Grand Junction, and Denver, and I drive to Denver often to catch flights. I’m happy about the Alaska Air thing because I fly to LA quarterly [Alaskan Airlines now flies direct from Gunnison to Los Angeles], but not having anything coming here from April to June [the Gunnison airport will be flightless this spring]…that’s not ideal,” she says. “I wanted to do some client visits here and bring more conferences to the valley, but because air service from Hartford, Connecticut, for example, is not reliable…I could be bringing thousands of dollars to the valley if air service were more reliable.”

Despite questionable flight service, business should continue improving. Murray has made a commitment to dedicate the rest of her professional life to helping as many child care business owners, directors, and managers as possible with enrollment, revenue, staff issues, time management, goal-setting, mindset, and more. She’s proud that her two books have helped thousands of owners and leaders become more effective. She’s also proud to live in Crested Butte, and wouldn’t let that go for…well, just about anything.

Check back next week for the final installment of Locals Making Waves in an Entrepreneurial Age. We’ll speak with more businesses in the Gunnison Valley, specifically manufacturers, about the ups and downs of exporting their expertise outside of the community they call home.

Locals making waves in an entrepreneurial age Part One: Content marketing and consulting

By Adam Broderick

Editor’s Note: It’s not easy making ends meet in mountain communities that rely heavily on cooperative weather and seasonal tourism. In this winter series, reporter Adam Broderick will explore different experiences of business owners who live and work in the Gunnison Valley, yet whose work is mostly seen and sold elsewhere.

Some obstacles seem consistent for business professionals who choose to live in such a remote location, like inconvenient transportation options in and out of the area or unreliable Internet speeds. But the benefits tend to far outweigh the compromises and make it worth the extra effort in the long run. Say, when a midweek powder day hits unexpectedly or when quality time with loved ones takes priority over work.

In discussing outbound business with local professionals, some ups and downs of operating a company locally have been revealed. This week we speak with two professionals who market web content and consult others in promoting business, especially online. As with anyone featured in this series, they live here because this is where their hearts are and they’ve chosen to deal with any issues that come as part of that package deal.

Buttery Agency

“We just call it Buttery,” says Mike Horn, editorial director at Buttery Agency, a multimedia agency that specializes in content development and experiential marketing.

Buttery, Horn says, is in a constant state of evolution. One second they’re working on print ads and custom publications, and the next they’re developing social media campaigns and producing video documentaries. Connecting all the projects is a common thread.

Horn knows it sounds like a cliché but explains that the company’s approach to marketing is all about living the client’s story. “Buttery’s style of advertising is unobtrusive; we do our best to tell a story, not just sling advertising in your face. We explore people’s stories and places’ stories and bring those experiences to others. Things are always changing but we’re always thinking ahead, asking ourselves and each other what we’re going to do next, which new perspectives we can explore, and how to keep things fresh.”

Horn lives in Crested Butte and he and his (equal) business partners—two in Vermont and one north of Boston—depend heavily on the Internet for communications.

All partners bring a different skillset to the table. Galin Foley is director of videography. Justin Cash is director of photography. Joe Polevy is art director and does all the design work, and Horn works more on the writing and editorial/communications side. Before Buttery, Horn worked in publishing for nearly a decade, primarily in outdoor and action sports. He says it has been interesting working on both sides of publications, from the editorial side and publishing to working with the companies that typically place ads in those publications.

Deborah Tutnauer speaking at an entrepeneur workshop in San Diego. courtesy photo
Deborah Tutnauer speaking at an entrepeneur workshop in San Diego. courtesy photo

In the past, he worked as managing editor at Backcountry Magazine and did a lot of freelance writing, and says that part of his transition into Buttery was aimed at making the virtual work existence work for himself. He didn’t want to go to Denver or Southern California or New York City to work as an editor for a magazine, or as a freelance writer chasing stories for Men’s Journal or other large market publications. He wanted to live in Crested Butte.

Although Crested Butte is where he wants to be, transportation can be a big hurdle for Horn and Buttery. He is the farthest of all his business partners from a major airport but says that’s part of what makes the Butte what it is. “You’re willing to work a little harder and travel further to be able to live here.”

Horn’s cell phone interrupts our conversation in his office, just two doors down from his home downtown. His wife called to ask when he would be back to give their 10-month-old daughter a bath.

“I’m a dad, too,” he says, laughing, as he ends the call. “The virtual agency allows me to be around my family a lot. My work is my time and I can be super-efficient, but I can also be home for lunch in zero time and chase the kid around, or whatever. I’m not commuting to work and adding time to my workday. I feel like I gain some time there and there’s a lot of value in that.”

Horn says Internet and frequency of flights in and out of Gunnison are the biggest challenges from an infrastructure standpoint. Although he thinks Internet speeds in Crested Butte are pretty good for such a remote location, the other Buttery teammates like to tease him about the hamster-wheel that’s powering the connection. “We use programs like Google+ to communicate and do a lot of video conferencing. We also transfer large files over the interwebs and mail hard drives back and forth. It works pretty well most of the time.”

Buttery travels often to meet with clients across the country, including Killington/Pico Ski Resort in Vermont, a.k.a. The Beast of the East, and also Stevens Pass Resort in Washington. The crew first came together while working on Killington’s print magazine but eventually took over its entire marketing program.

For Stevens Pass, Buttery does everything from print and banner ads to bus wraps, billboards and TV commercials.

Horn loves working with clients in different geographic areas but also takes pride in Buttery’s local projects. You may have seen one of the Never-Never Land videos the agency recently produced for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association, one featuring snowboarder Mary Boddington and another with freeskier Tom Runcie. “We get to tell cool stories about people who live here in the valley and that’s really gratifying,” he says.

Regardless where work might take the Buttery guys, what they like doing the most is coming together in person to collaborate. That’s when Horn feels they really shine, and have the most fun.

“It’s all about perpetual motion. Being virtual works really well for us. It keeps us nimble, and we have contacts and collaborators around the country. The plan is to continually improve and evolve as a company, and to continue working with good people.”

Deborah Tutnauer, LLC

Deborah Tutnauer has been a self-employed coach and consultant for over 25 years. She began as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist but has spent the past seven years as a business coach. You may recognize her from the Social Media for Business events at Old Rock Library, but social media and online promotions only scrape the surface of Tutnauer’s work. She helps businesses in and out of the Gunnison Valley transform from the ground up, from determining core values to aligning business goals and strategies with those values and eventually creating (or recreating) products and promoting them to best represent the businesses’ overarching objectives.

Tutnauer transitioned from the mental health field to the business field after a stint of Internet marketing and online sales.

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She learned to be an Internet marketer and a direct response marketer (generating immediate responses from consumers) in addition to teaching herself how to build businesses.

“The learning curve was so steep, way harder than my two master’s degrees,” Tutnauer says. “After my daughter was born, I just couldn’t be a good mom and a good therapist, so the computer screen became super appealing. That was the forefront of Twitter days. I learned to write some html code, got involved with network marketing, made and lost a bunch of money, then made a lot—and I did it all through the Internet.”

Although she did well in that field, she wanted to get back into coaching people to be their best selves, as she did as a therapist. For 20 years she helped people and found that was what she liked best. She reflects on her career transition: “I made the decision to ramp back up into this helping profession, as I call it. I created a coaching business, and now here we are. I still collect income from the network marketing, just because the funnels are set up, but I don’t deal with it anymore.”

She lives in Crested Butte South when she’s not traveling for her consulting business or commercial events, as her career choice does not tie her down to a location or a time schedule. Before moving here in 1995 from Maine, every winter weekend she drove four hours each direction to ski at Sugarloaf Mountain. So she made a list of 10 things she wanted to find in a town and hit the road to explore ski towns across the West. Three requirements from her list included not having to drive to ski, a small town with a great sense of community, and a highly educated liberal population.

“Crested Butte was the first place I went and I knew I was coming back but I continued on my trip because I felt like I needed to finish what I had started. I’ve literally lived all over the world and since I got here it’s never crossed my mind to live anywhere else,” she said with a smile.

In addition to coaching people to think bigger and step outside their boxes, in 2014 Tutnauer began expanding into more public speaking roles where she trains and motivates large groups of people. One example: last spring she was the keynote speaker for a semester course called Lectures in Entrepreneurship at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. In her words, she helps frustrated entrepreneurs get real about money, marketing, and meaning. She’s also been consulting with corporations and larger businesses, helping them improve company performance and boost employee motivation and morale by bringing new ideas and even games into the workplace.

“Many who benefit from my services feel as if they are bumping up against an invisible bubble. They know that something is in their way but they are challenged to discern what it is or how to shift,” Tutnauer says. “Together we create their business foundation and framework with clarity and authenticity. Until you are clear about who you are, you will continue to operate a business that is financially unsustainable.”

Tutnauer says her diverse methods are based on a vast cornucopia of knowledge, both empirical and spiritual. She’s been called an “Architect of Magical Structure,” she says, “for indeed what I show you how to do is to take the essence of your deepest truth and align it with an organized structure for your business success.”

Her 12-session Foundation and Framework Intensive program helps determine clients’ passions, values, and areas of expertise in order to help reassess why they’re in the business and what their business does for the end user. Then she helps them determine how to better attract customers by improving marketing techniques and web presence. She also offers a three-session Micro-Coaching program in which she provides the same directional recommendations she would for the 12-session program, but instead she and the client focus on one goal from beginning to end over the course of three sessions.

In direct correlation with running a business that aligns with what one believes in, Tutnauer emphasizes that people should live a life that’s in alignment with who they are. She says a lot of people don’t do that because they’ve never really taken the time to say, “Who am I really?”

“If you take the time to do the work to understand yourself and what gifts you really bring to the world, there could be a lot of options. A lot of people won’t even step to the edge of the cliff and look down. It’s not a judgment, I just hear so many people complaining. One of my core values is freedom and independence. I worked a job for one year in 1982 that I didn’t like after the first nine months, and I quit. When I coach people, I coach them to live a life and develop a business based on their interests, values and expertise.”

Check back next week for the second installment of Locals Making Waves in an Entrepreneurial Age. We’ll speak with more businesses in the Gunnison Valley, specifically designers and engineers, about the ups and downs of exporting their expertise outside of the community they call home.


By the Book

by Dawne Belloise

It’s good to have a mayor with a sense of humor, but more important, it’s essential to have a sense of humor if you’re the mayor. Glenn Michel seems to have that significant qualifier.

Over the course of time, Glenn’s life has gone in several very different directions, but when he talks about his experiences, it makes sense that all those adventures would culminate in sitting in the mayor’s chair of Crested Butte’s Town Council.

Growing up in eastern Iowa as the youngest of four siblings, Glenn wasn’t into organized high school sports, yet from ninth grade he was traveling most weekends with a club from the University of Iowa, the Iowa Mountaineers, which he points out is quite the oxymoron. The club took trips throughout the western U.S., Canada and even Europe.

“We did things like rock climbing, hikes, and skiing. By the time I was in the eleventh grade, I was teaching rock climbing to university students and taught cross-country skiing at Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin, three hours away. During summers we went to places like the Grand Canyon and in the winters we went to other areas like Leadville, Colorado, for backcountry ski trips. The local ski shop sponsored our ski team…

“I sucked at skiing,” Glenn laughs. “I was never any good but it was always fun to hang out with the guys and ski. I was never around my high school much because I was having all these great adventures. No one in my school even knew what I was doing.” Glenn graduated in 1986 and enrolled at the University of Iowa.

“I started as an engineering major but I graduated in 1992 with two degrees, a BA in history and one in economics. By that time our outdoor recreation program had grown to be the largest program in the nation. Through the Iowa Mountaineers club we taught classes, like gym, and we’d take like 70 kids rock climbing. We did trips every weekend, still going to Devil’s Lake and the Canadian Rockies, Sawtooth in Idaho, and Devils Tower.”

photo by Lydia Stern
photo by Lydia Stern

After graduation, Glenn became the full-time trip and guide leader for the Iowa Mountaineers. “My title was just ‘Glenn, who was gonna run the trip,’” he grins. From month-long mountaineering trips, guiding climbers to the summits of Peru’s 17k peaks and to Kauai, where, Glenn recalls, “They shipped me over and told me to find the best beaches and bars to take clients to. People from Iowa wanted to go with a group. We’d arrange for them to do hikes on the Nepali coast and catamaran, boogie board and snorkel. I was the facilitator.”

Glenn also guided eight one-week trips into the Havasupai reservation, during the fall and spring.

In 1993, Crested Butte’s Dave Penny was contracted to be a guide with Glenn’s group. “He was a phenomenal climber and could get the rope up anywhere and Dave asked if I had ever been to Crested Butte, which I hadn’t, so he invited me,” Glenn remembers.

“I was on the road 200 days a year, in my tent, either guiding or climbing alone. If I had a break I’d have a friend come and we’d climb together.” That year he was heading to California to climb and decided to stop into Crested Butte to see Dave.

“I was going everywhere back then so I didn’t catch the Crested Butte bug at that time. I kept moving around. Whenever I needed a home I could always blast back to the Midwest and find a job doing temporary construction, painting or something. I was the classic dude. I had my little red Chevy pickup with a topper and everything I owned in the world in it—which wasn’t much.”

Back in 1987, when Glenn was a freshmen, during a spring break while guiding in the Grand Canyon he met this German girl named Gesa. “We dated for years on and off, even though she was in Germany. I’d fly over during breaks.” He was guiding for Cascade Alpine Guides when the industry changed so much that you needed insurance and permits. After guiding for multiple companies Glenn started his own, called Midwest Mountain Connection, in 1996.

“I was subcontracting, taking groups to Mt. Rainier, the Canadian Rockies, the Grand Canyon and private individual guiding since my client list had grown.” He and Gesa were traveling together in Seattle. “In the classic sense, we shared a tent, but she always had her own thing going on. We were best friends. We climbed northern Italy, southern Germany, where you’d climb hard and then have a hefenweizen [a Bavarian wheat beer]. We wanted to find a place to settle down and just ‘be,’ so we drove 39 hours to Crested Butte, mostly because they had a women’s ice hockey team and Gesa wanted to play hockey.

“She didn’t know how to skate,” he smiles, “but she was an NCAA field hockey national champ at the University of Iowa. I could be anywhere because I was guiding, and she got a job working at Crested Butte Mountain Resort,” in 1998.

“When you guide it becomes tremendously lonely,” Glenn confesses. “Every week there are new clients, new people, and then they just go away. You’re giving your heart and soul and risking your life for these people. You end up being their psychiatrist (which helps me in politics), just dealing with people’s emotions and issues. So many people who want to climb difficult routes are running from something or looking for something else. You’re taking something you love and selling it and it really dilutes the personal enjoyment of it. I was getting older and considering the costs of insurance and permits and that it’s tremendously risky and pay was really low and Gesa got pregnant—so I became a carpenter. It’s a Crested Butte story,” he laughs, recounting the chronology of logic that led him into banging a hammer. “We were just naïve enough to think we could buy a piece of land in town and build a house. And I did. I designed it myself, built it with the help of friends sporadically helping out. We were one of the first to break ground in the Verzuh annexation.

“So, the reason I inadvertently got into politics is because I had to go before BOZAR to get my solar panels approved, and they were reluctant to approve them. We saw there was going to be a battle… we asked the town to give it the thumbs up, which they did, but after all this grief with Town Council and BOZAR, when it was all said and done, we won Project of the Year.

“At that time, our design had the most environmental points. It’s a tremendously green house,” he says proudly, and it was the impetus that pushed him into local politics.

In addition, Molly Minneman asked him to join the BOZAR crew, because, he grins, “She was desperate for someone. It’s hard to find folks to do it. But I knew the guidelines real well by then and also the zoning codes.” He stayed on with BOZAR for five years, two of them as chairperson.


“You make a lot of individuals mad,” he notes, “when you uphold the guidelines. The thing is, the town looks good, we have a great built environment and we have the world’s greatest dumbed-down western Victorian architecture. This town tells one of the greatest American stories architecturally, so in the week-in/week-out daily battles, you just look toward the future of what the town’s going to be.

“Frankly, the town is now at a turning point.” Glenn reflects on the many changes and phases Crested Butte has endured. “People really value what the town is. Just look at Elk Avenue—it’s tremendous. In American society, free market capitalism won’t give us Elk Ave. It took 40 years of effort, of BOZAR being consistent and having these hard conversations to create the great sense of place we have today. I think because we’ve done such a great job of preserving our sense of place, people are buying these historic mining cabins and wanting to restore them historically. They’re now willing to put big money into these historical structures. The simple truth is that they can’t tear them down anyway—they’re protected.”

Glenn admits that he’s very much a “rules” person, and with his training in economics and politics, he’s pretty strict on following those rules.

Twenty years after his initial college degrees, in 2009 he went back to Western State College to get his third BA, this time in politics and government, graduating in 2013.

“It was during the recession here when I didn’t have enough work as a carpenter. It was pretty grim. I don’t think people realized how challenging it was for local carpenters, how desperate it was. So that’s why I went back to school, to up my education base. The world changes a lot when you have a mortgage, a wife and two kids,” Glenn says. Their boys are Vincent, now 15 and Yvon, 12. “The world itself changed—computers, phones, 9/11,” adds Glenn.

In 2011, Glenn was elected to the Town Council, on which he served until this November when he was elected town mayor.

“There’s no office of the mayor at the Town Hall. When I first moved to town and went in to talk to the town manager, I remember thinking, wow, if this is the town manager’s office I bet the mayor’s office must be amazing.

“As mayor, I now know that my office is my cell phone and kitchen table. People don’t recognize that the mayoral position is a part-time gig.”

Glenn says there’s a lot more responsibility to being mayor than people realize, with the various boards and committees he’s on, all the special events to be handled, and individual citizens’ needs. “You’re always talking to people, always communicating, always listening to people. To govern effectively you have to have good listening skills and the ability to collaboratively work with people. It’s the idea that you go from the ‘I’ to the ‘we,’” he says but also admits, “Life’s cruel, capitalism stinks and I can’t change that. I can’t make life perfect for everyone.”

Glenn has a joie de vivre, a deep respect and admiration for the community. “It’s the lifestyle, the people—I can be myself and I’m accepted. I have a great life, I can come and go when I want, I’m self-employed, I work in my shop [he also makes furniture], I can ski when I want. It’s pretty choice.”