Daily Archives: June 5, 2015


Master of the Dance Universe

As Damian Woetzel tells it, his story begins with he and his brother having a lot of options. And that’s a big part of his outlook both personally and professionally: “To have as many possibilities as you can – no matter what you’re doing.

“My brother, Jonathon, and I had all sorts of lessons,” Woetzel says, reflectively. “Some of them, like judo, were with a bunch of kids. Others were more focused such as all types of private music lessons, which we had for a number of years. My father had grown up in Shanghai, so from a very young age, my brother and I also began learning Chinese.

“I was taken to my first ballet class when I was four years old. It was, literally, just one of many things to which I was exposed.”

The mentoring and education that Woetzel enjoyed at such an early age has carried over to his professional life two-fold. He was a world-renowned Principal Dancer with the New York City Ballet from 1985 to 2008, holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is on the President’s Committee of Arts and Humanities and is the artistic director of the Vail International Dance Festival, just to name a few of Woetzel’s noted roles.

You might say that Woetzel is a man for all seasons.

Woetzel began taking ballet lessons once a week and, at age seven, performed in The Nutcracker production at the Boston Ballet. “Occasionally, I’d be in something else, a big production that needed kids,” he says. “Like Swan Lake. I’d be holding an umbrella or something. But, being on stage, maybe once a year, kept me interested. I learned to be comfortable on stage and to be in theatre and I liked that.”

On the other hand, through his father’s work as a Professor of International Law at several universities and who was a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Santa Barbara, Woetzel was exposed to another side of life, as well.

“My father had a long-term dream and had formed the Foundation for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court. So I went to conferences with ambassadors and diplomats and heard about the struggles, even at that time, going on to fight anti-terrorism,” explains Woetzel.


When Woetzel was 11, his interest in ballet became a priority. “I don’t think there was any intention of me becoming a dancer. It was just one of a few different things to try,” Woetzel shares. “I began having a little more interest in ballet and, suddenly, it started to snowball. It seemed I had a natural talent that had not really been apparent in my having a lesson just once a week.

“So everything else I was doing, for instance, like learning to play the flute, just drifted away. I wasn’t interested in it anymore. I said that I wanted to go to more ballet classes. By the time I was 12, I can honestly say, I knew that I was going to be a dancer – and everything else was secondary.”

One Saturday morning, as they were being driven to a ballet lesson, the brothers came to a decision. They agreed that Jonathan would no longer take ballet lessons and that Damian would no longer study Chinese.

“My brother has lived in China for 30 years, as a director for McKinsey and Company,” says Woetzel with a laugh. “So you never know, in those moments, when things are to happen.”

And, for Woetzel, things began to happen very quickly. He graduated from high school in Los Angeles at age 15. At that moment, he says, he had to make a decision. Woetzel knew that he wanted to be a dancer and soon became a member of the Los Angeles Ballet and, with the company, made his first appearance in New York.

“Because I was only 15, I had to convince the family that I wasn’t going to go to college, reveals Woetzel. “So I moved to New York and went to the American School of Ballet before joining the New York City Ballet on my 18th birthday. That was my life. That was it! I rose thought the ranks of the New York City Ballet.”

Woetzel had also been asked to join the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and felt very lucky to have that option. “I chose the New York City Ballet, very clearly, because of the repertory – Balanchine’s works and, also, the choreography of Jerome Robbins who at the time, was working with the ballet company,” Woetzel says. “I felt that working with Robbins was being a part of the progression of dance. Dance is a young field. Balanchine dominated the 29th Century and, to me, really dominates the world of ballet over all. And that classical tradition is rooted at ABT. But I preferred to make sure that I had the both the Balanchine and Robbins trajectory, so that’s why I chose the City Ballet.”

After a few years of focusing intensely on his career, Woetzel began thinking about where, as an artist, he could fit in internationally. So, he got involved with different ventures, including the “Young Leader’s Forum,” which centered on U.S.-China relations on a cross section of fields and, naturally, Woetzel was the designated “arts person.”

“That experience bore a lot of fruit,“ Woetzel relates. “By chance, I met an incredible woman, Gabby Giffords, a State Senator from Arizona on a bus between events, who suggested that I look into a program at Harvard at the Kennedy School. ‘It’s a master’s program,’ she said. And after a little laughter, I said, ‘Well, I didn’t go to college, that’s going to be a trick.’  And she said, ’Well, it’s a mid-career program; you don’t know what might happen. There are people who have unorthodox stories, and your life suits you to this.’”

He knew it was a long shot, but when Woetzel returned home, he made arrangements to visit Harvard, took the obligatory tests and, eventually, was accepted to the two-year program. He was still dancing at City Ballet, but juggled his time to complete the degree.


If you look at the way Woetzel directs the Vail International Dance Festival, you will notice how he pays homage to the history of the past, but focuses on what he has learned, as well. He wants to have the masterpieces of Balanchine on display, where you can see the pinnacle of progress in the 20th Century – as well as the 19th Century works of Bournonville.

“I want to make sure that these works are carried on but, frankly, through the lens of the 21st century. I’m not interest in it being done in an archaic way,” says Woetzel.

“There’s always a responsibility,” continues Woetzel.  “I’m always thinking about what my next step will be and what I’m hoping for. If it’s a dancer or choreographer that I bring to the festival, I think about whether I should just have people do something that they know or have them take a risk, a chance to take the environment in Vail and do something that’s appropriate and rewarding.

“When I talk to a musician, I say, ‘I know you know the piece, but what else can we do? What else can we try? Let’s do something that we know. And let’s do something that’s a risk.’ There are hard-core people, in the audience, who see classical companies all over the world. There are others, like young people who pick up dance from television shows or other ways. And, to me, what’s most important is that dance not live in isolation but that it have a life within the arts and world as a whole. So, I’m interested in musicians and composers of the day. I’m interested in looking at things from other times that reflect that. I like streamlined, not fussy, relevant work.”

It’s no surprise that Woetzel’s knowledge and enthusiasm about dance carries over to his work with the arts programs and classrooms he visits. He’s always trying to meet the activity and level of excitement that is current in a student’s world.

“When you go into a classroom, the kids look at you, and if you’re not present, they’re not going to relate to you.  You don’t speak to their lives. So, you have to make something memorable,” explains Woetzel.

“So, let’s say, with Lil Buck, for instance, we have his performance of Camille Saint-Saens, The Swan.  He can work with the kids on that dance. And I know that I can teach the kids Balanchine’s Serenade, Woetzel continues. “It doesn’t matter whether or not these kids are dancers. Everybody can dance. So, we do what I call, Iron Chef it. We see the ‘ingredients’ and think, ‘Okay, what can we make?’ And we make today. We make something that’s their statement. So, we’re there, in the moment.

“Being that ‘arts person’, in the beginning, has led me to a lot of things that have taken up my post-stage career.  I think about what more I can do and what opportunities there are for artists. I think about arts organizations for cities and school districts.

“And that’s been a steady kind of drumbeat, for me, since that first experience.”


Chocolate: The Food of Gods

For chocoholics, just the word “chocolate” evokes feelings of comfort and joy. A feeling that can only be satiated with a taste that takes the craver to nirvana. Somehow words, say, like “cabbage” or “kale” don’t do it. Healthy? Yes.

However, doesn’t sound mouth-watering like the sweet sound of the word “chocolate”.

History says that the Aztecs and Mayans developed chocolate. British journalist, Scott Roeben, jokes that it was a “joint venture,” and for that reason, they “promptly forgot to invent the wheel.” Roeben goes on to say that not inventing the wheel was a setback for the Aztecs and Mayans, because “they (wheels) are often a necessity when driving to buy chocolate.”

In the past few years we all have heard the benefits of chocolate: counteracts the effects of depression and contains anti-oxidants called flavonoids that reduce the risk of heart disease. Some scientists say that chocolate may increase longevity. Everyone agrees – even the layman – that it stimulates endorphins that generate feelings of pleasure and well being, much like hiking on a crisp, Colorado blue-sky day.

Certainly chocolate seems to be a cure all – both emotionally and according to researchers, physically.

So, when the doctor says, “Eat some dark chocolate and call me in the morning,” be sure to follow orders. You can’t go wrong!



Your taste buds will go crazy with one taste of Big Little Fudge from Sugar Bar in Edwards! It’s over a square inch of lusciousness, gluten-free and made with pure liquor. A little bite of naughty – but tastes so good! Add to that Harry and David’s caramel and chocolate Moose Mix popcorn to complete your splurge!


Fruit, nuts, chocolate: a plethora of goodies grace the counters at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Vail and it’s hard to choose just one!


They’ve taken the Granny Smith apples to mouthwatering heights. Whether it’s the chocolate-dipped apple with white chocolate swirls, the nut-covered apple with pecans, milk chocolate and dark drizzle or the white-and-dark chocolate drizzled apple, you absolutely can’t go wrong. Add to that the whole roasted almonds covered with milk, white or dark chocolate coupled with the almond bark – and you’ll be in another world.



These bars, made by Mountain Flour in Eagle, are the height of yummy bars. Only TCHO, a single-origin chocolate produced in San Francisco that focuses on the pure flavors of the cacao, is used to make the bars. Sea Salted Caramel (brown sugar, butter, sweetened condensed milk, sea salt, glucose), Virginia Peanuts (puffed rice cereal is in place of the peanuts on the crunch bar) and 60.5-percent TCHO chocolate make up these treats – with the focal point of the bars being the subtle nuances of the chocolate and simple complementing flavors.


Products made locally are the focus of Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Company that features chocolates and truffles from Veree Chocolate and Colorado Candy Kitchen. The word “truffle” speaks of an abundance of gooey tastes that are nothing but mouth-watering and they’re always at the store for the picking.


That’s not to say that the dark chocolate nibbles and pecan and cashew caramel turtles don’t matter. They’re a favorite. Add to that, peanut butter and caramel squares, chocolat- covered caramel pretzels, and s’mores and you can enjoy your chocolate induced coma.  Of course, the store is not responsible.


There are lots of ways to make chocolate even more chocolaty – and that’s where Stonewall Kitchen’s sauce comes in.  As the label reads, “The heavenly combination of dark chocolate and seat salt is made even more decadent with the addition of butter caramel. The sea salt brings out the intensity of the dark chocolate and lets the salt caramel flavor come through.” Whether you pour the sauce over chocolate, ice cream or fruit, your taste buds will thank you.

English silver plate sauceboat, C.1900; 1940’s glassfooted cake plate, available at The Shaggy Ram.


No matter what time of day or night – you’ll find a plethora of chocolate at Rimini that is hard to resist. The tempered chocolate has a shiny finish, a juicy snap when bitten and is more resilient, than other chocolates, to environmental temperature change. As well, the 72-percent deZaan gourmet dark chocolate that is used has a rich concentration of cocoa, giving a positive bitterness and a predominate fruitiness in flavor. The top sellers are always house-made caramel with a pinch of sea salt.  And the flavors, such as birthday cake, white Russian and Mexican spice, as well as other funky flavors are inspired by the whim of the chef.  Can you say, “Yum?”

Sterling silver confection spoon in Tiffany pattern; hand-cut gourd design, both available at Michele’s. 


4-H in the Vail Valley

If you’ve been to a county fair – and who hasn’t – you know that at some point you find yourself wandering through an area where roosters crow, sheep bleat and exotic-looking chickens, extremely fuzzy rabbits and all types of lifestock rule!  This marvelous display is the result of hundreds of youngsters, all members of 4-H, who have worked thousands of hours to proudly and lovingly showcase their animals. And it’s been going on for decades.

It all began when, in the spring of 1882, Delaware College held a statewide contest for boys, who were asked to plant a quarter of an acre of vegetables or fruit of their choice. Cash prizes, certificates and subscriptions to the American Agriculturalist were rewarded.


Ten years later, in an effort to improve Wisconsin’s Kewaunee County Fair, its president organized a “youth movement,” in which he solicited the support of 6,000 boys and girls – children of farmers – to produce and exhibit fruit, vegetables and livestock. The fair was extremely successful, in part, due to this addition, and soon various states began to organize youth programs with names like “The Tomato Club”, “Corn Growing Club ” and eventually local agricultural after-school clubs sprang up in many rural areas.

Then, in 1914, the U.S. Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act that established a national Cooperative Extension Service which offered outreach programs through land-grant universities to educate rural Americans about advances in agricultural practices and technology. That same year, 4-H programs began – first in the Midwest and, eventually, all over the United States.

Heart, health, hands and health represent the four “Hs” in 4-H and are the four values that are important to all members: Head, managing, thinking; Heart, relating, caring; Hands, giving, working; Health, being, living.

Over the years, 4-H, originally formed as an agricultural organization, is much more. In urban areas, for instance the clubs various programs include public speaking, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, and encourage community involvement.

Yet, encouraging agriculture is still on the forefront for most clubs. With all the exciting technical innovations that appear almost daily, most people don’t think about where our food comes from. Yes, there’s always talk of global warming and, yes, we celebrate Earth Day each year, but the thought of food always being available is taken for granted.

These days, the average age of a farmer is 57. And farms are dwindling: kids moving away, looking for a better life after watching their parents struggling financially.  Finally, the United States government took notice.  For the first time, since the 1890 Land Grant Act, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 appropriated $75 million per year, through 2012, “to develop programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers.”  In 2014, an additional $20 million per year was added, through 2018. The rising average age of farmers, a projected decrease in the number of farmers and citing a need for new programs to address the needs of the next generation, were the reasons behind the renewed interest.

That “next generation” is exactly what 4-H is about. The kids who belong have passion about what they do. And passion is first and foremost! They, like all youngsters, enjoy being outdoors. They learn to nurture – whether it’s fruits and vegetables or chickens and pigs. It’s the process of seeing something come to fruition that encourages and gives each child confidence – knowing that it’s because he or she is responsible for its growth.  And what better way to give child self-assurance?

So, the next time to go to a fair and see those youngsters proudly standing next too their “baby,” whether it be a chicken, sheep, cow or zucchini, keep in mind all the hours these kids have put into their projects. And to think, years from now, they might be responsible for providing your coq au vin, rack of lamb, barbequed brisket or your turkey dinner. And not only the turkey, but the sweet potatoes and cherries for your pie, as well.


Homes in the Vail Valley: Reed Home, Bellyache Ridge

Artist and landscape architect Rosalind Reed cherishes the element of surprise and color, and uses both liberally and to arresting effect in her work. It is somehow fitting then, that her home, high on a ridge in Bellyache proves a wonderful surprise in itself. 

The road up Bellyache winds and climbs until it reaches a summit high on the mountain.  But that is not where the journey ends. Off to the side, a dirt road takes over from there, meandering deeper through aspen and pine, seemingly bent on disappearing into ever thickening forests. Then, as you round a bend in the off-mainstream road, the trees suddenly fall away, and a treasure of a hidden, nearly untouched valley opens as if summoned like Brigadoon from nowhere. It’s hard to find a more picturesque landscape, where forests run deep, encircling open meadows, under the rocky skyscapes of the dramatic New York Range.


There are only seven homes in this secluded and very private enclave of 35-acre lots. Through a gated entrance, basking in the glory of the views, Rosalind Reed’s home is perched. “It took a while for my eyes to get accustomed to the majesty out here,” admits this Chicago transplant. Let loose from the confines of the city, her artist’s imagination soared and came home to roost in this vast landscape.

“I see stories everywhere,” Reed, a member of the Vail Art Guild, says of her artwork. But that vision certainly can be said of her home, too.

The Bellyache home is both unimposing in its simplicity and striking in its difference. Reed did not design or build the original barn-like structure, whose carefully weathered face is mostly notable for its strength of line and the way its timeless appearance flows seamlessly with its Western setting. The most unusual element of the exterior is Reed’s addition – a red-capped, silo-shaped structure, grounded in stonework, which adds a welcome roundness to the straight lines of the original exterior and an element of intrigue for the onlooker. Then, there’re Reed’s gardens. In the summer, her designs riot colorfully around the expansive property, diverging playfully here, and winding in and around trees and meadows.


When Reed first bought the Bellyache home, she lived here part-time while still pursuing her successful, award-winning landscape design business of 25 years in Chicago. Now, a full-time Bellyache resident, she is mostly retired from the landscape design business, doing only occasional projects for friends or former clients.

“When I first saw the house, I thought it was amazing,” says Reed. “I like the feeling of a home rooted in barns, with a kind of modern functionality.” Yet, she assures, the entire house is low maintenance.

The original building was of post-and-beam construction, with beams crafted in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that were then re-fitted and raised here in surprisingly short order. One of the magnificent crossbeams in the living room still bears the inscription of its Lancaster origins. Much of the exterior woodwork and the interior doors, trim and flooring are reclaimed wood from the Salt Lake City Railroad trusses. The ceilings throughout the home are dramatically high, matching the scale of the massive beams and trusses. ”It keeps it open,” Reed observes. Yet, lower, dropped crossbeams in choice places, such as in the living room, also bring a sense of intimacy to the soaring heights. Wall finishes through most of the homes are kept light to offset the naturally dark wood.


It is in the home’s interior, where Reed begins to weave her story. Instead of matching wood tones, Reed has playfully offset the natural accents and juxtaposed the play of light and dark with surprising splashes of color. All the paned windows are framed in bright colors. Much of the paneled cabinetry, too, is colorful, rather than somber. Nor are the splashes of color uniform throughout the home; each room has its own personality, such as the green windows and cabinets in the living room, or the daffodil yellow windows in the upper guest suite. “The use of woodwork can be overbearing to me,” she explains. “I wanted it to be bright, and I like it as a contrast with the wooden trim.” It all works symphonically, enhancing the ageless feel, while adding a welcoming, heartfelt touch.

In the living room, the large, paned-windows overlook Mount Jackson, Gold Dust and Mount Holy Cross, as well as the expansive, pristine valley floor below. An impressive moss stone fireplace is one of the home’s two wood-burning fireplaces, lending warmth to Colorado’s chilliest nights. A white sofa is paired with plaid upholstered and rattan chairs; and underfoot are some of Reed’s favorite woven rugs. “A good day is when I can go buy rugs,” she quips. A delightfully rustic, double-Dutch door caps the relaxed mountain feel, and opens onto steps that wind to the patio and hot tub.

The dining room is assembled with an artist’s eye. Sage-green windows and bright green floorboards contrast vividly with the red leather dining chairs, encircling a traditional wood trestle dining table. On either side of the granite-topped barn-red buffet, are two of Reed’s own paintings. A contemporary black-and-white of a ballerina poses charmingly with an incongruent broom propped nearby; bold swaths of blue and yellow framing her stage. Reed explains that it was inspired by a trip to an artist cooperative in Cuba, where she spied a lone statue of a ballerina.



On the other side of the buffet, is a painting with a totally different feel and technique: a more classic piece in deep, satisfying hues depicting the Indian paintbrush found throughout the area. On adjacent walls are other pieces Reed has collected over the years; some from Beaver Creek, some from Chicago or other places she has visited. “I like collecting things that grab my attention,” she observes.

Reed’s furnishings throughout the home are eclectic. “The entire house is not furnished in any one style,” she explains. She prefers, like her art, to collect whatever speaks to her.

It was Bob Lundell, the general contractor Rosalind hired to build the home’s addition, who suggested a silo-shaped structure. Reeds imagination was immediately captured. Today, the upper silo is a study of light and nearly 360 views through high-stacked windows. It is indeed a room of inspiration – perfect for an artist – and serves as Reed’s birds-eye studio. Inside, canvases sit ready on easels, the smell of paint prevails; mugs of paintbrushes stand at the ready. Endless views, the rambling garden and wildlife delights prove ample fodder for her art.


Reed’s property runs from abundant forests to open meadows. Through the silo windows, a long slope, dips into a depression below, before opening onto the valley’s tree-circled meadow. In the depression, Reed constructed an eight-foot deep snowmelt pond that serves as the area’s drainage area. One day, her neighbor spied a mama bear taking her two cubs swimming in the pond. Another day, the sight of migrating elk pausing to play, then running down the embankment and splashing repeatedly into the pond, surprised Reed.

Reed’s gardens tell stories, too. Each setting is unique prose in itself, sometimes appearing amid rocky outcroppings, popping up in unexpected places or playfully running through trees to open into the lush colors of a mountain meadow in spring.

Reed admits that when she moved to the Rocky Mountains, she had to readjust her scale significantly from her city confines. But, she had a clear vision. “I had this fantasy,” she confides. “I wanted a garden that looked like Mother Nature would have organized the garden and woven it here and there around the home.” But Mother Nature had another hand in her plan: burrowing chipmunks and mice kept eating her plants. One day, 80 cows showed up to devour her lilies. The result turned her carefully- laid plans into large, random drifts of plantings. Still, somehow, it suited her, and she made the most of it. “The designer part in me gave way to the random part,” she says. “Because I use native plants, I’ve incorporated repetition and randomness.”

“I think the thing that distinguishes my gardens from others is that I like that element of surprise,” explains Reed. She might suddenly interrupt a hedgerow; leave a trail of creeping thyme and rosemary peeking out in unexpected places; or plant 15 cutout sheep in a spiral meditation circle. One garden includes a waterfall terminating into a dug out wooden canoe. Sometimes, random things surprise her in a delightful way. In one area of the landscape, she asked workers who were excavating not to put any rocks in a particular spot, because she planned to install a picnic table. Somehow the message was misconstrued, and when she came home, she found a large picnic table made entirely out of stone. It was a wonderful mistake she now treasures.


On Bellyache Ridge, Reed favors native or near native species from a similar clime. The plants she chooses are largely deer-resistant and will thrive in the rare mountain air. Her live-and-let-live philosophy prevails. She will extricate weeds; but if bluegrass pops up, she will let it stay. “If it grows, it stays. I’m all into success,” she says. “I want plants to grow, thrive and be happy.” Still, she loves variety; if she plants columbines and they begin choking out the fireweed, she won’t hesitate to pull some of the columbines. Reed also gravitates toward the strong vertical lines that echo the strength of the rocky peaks and the straight weathered planks of her home’s exterior, like penstemons and foxglove.


Reed transplants little, chooses perennials, and has virtually abandoned the annuals and potted plants that dominated her earlier life in Chicago as a landscape designer, where form and structure predominated and landscaping was in smaller, confined spaces, with only the occasional fire pit or small water feature.

Out here, Rosalind’s found, the sky’s the limit.



Making the Cut

Four Vail Valley female executive chefs reveal their challenges and passions

It’s hard enough to make the cut as an executive chef at a high-end Vail restaurant. But try breaking into a predominantly male career as a woman in the 1980s, like Larkspur’s, Paula Turner. Imagine navigating cultural and language barriers, like Veronica Morales, executive chef at dive {fish house} and Tacorico or Rosa Provoste at Sebastian’s, Leonora. Or having the courage to open a restaurant as Kelly Liken did in her early twenties.


These four female executive chefs aren’t just tough – they’re passionate. Contrary to old-school-chef style, where pots and pans flew nearly as often as searing words, they are carving out a more gentle, nurturing way to run professional kitchens, as they pave the way for a future generation of top women chefs.


How did your life in restaurants begin?

My thought was that I was  going to own a luncheonette/diner. That was it. I told my mom, “I’m gonna own a restaurant.” My first job was in a fine dining New Jersey kitchen when I was 15. It was very intense. I went from being responsible for a station when I hadn’t even been responsible for making my bed … (but) I just fit right in there. I was the little kid in the kitchen, and I never left. I was there all through high school, so I had no social life; Friday and Saturday nights were spent working. It was a whole new life; I went out with kitchen people. It was a quick learning curve, and I grew up fast. It is definitely a wild world … very Anthony Bourdain, especially 10 minutes out of New York City. It was a party scene and a fast-paced environment – old school – a lot of yelling and throwing things. People were mean and nasty.

What’s a typical workday look like now?

Yelling and screaming still happens. It’s a crazy environment. You put your line together, make sure you have all the ingredients … you have to prep, and you’re usually prepping into the service period, when the ticket machine starts screaming at you. You’re sweating, and you’re hot, and you’re uncomfortable, but it’s an adrenaline rush, too. It’s definitely a speed-freak career with 15-hour shifts where you never stop working.

What do you love about it?

I love the hospitality end of it. I love pleasing people – seeing people’s faces because they enjoyed my creations.

You and Kelly Liken are both married to chefs who understand the demands of your job. What about “non-chefs” spouses?

I know a lot of chefs who are married to spouses who aren’t chefs, and the biggest struggle is that their spouses do not get what we do and the hours we put in.

How difficult is it for a woman to become an executive chef?

It’s not as tough as it used to be, but it’s definitely tough. It used to be totally a man’s world, but it’s not as much anymore. There was no such thing as female chefs 20 years ago – or very few. It was looked at as a man’s career; so like any career, it was hard to get respect and hard to break in. Not only did you have to prove your skills, you had to be a part of the nasty screaming and yelling that used to happen. You had to do a little of that to have people notice you. As you get older, you don’t have to do that as much – you’ve proven your skills and have to be more nurturing. When I was younger, I had to prove I had balls. As I get older, I have to act like an adult, not a spoiled little brat.


What gave you enough confidence to open your own restaurant at age 27?

Honestly, naivety gave me the confidence. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I’m really glad, because had I known, I might have been too scared to do it.

What “epiphany” did you have when you first stepped foot into a professional kitchen?

My first restaurant job was in college; I just took it to earn some beer money, and I was a terrible waitress! But, from the moment I stepped into that first kitchen, it was like my hands just knew what they were doing. I can remember thinking, “This is what I’m meant to do.” I haven’t stopped cooking since. I dove right in.

What was it like being a female in a traditionally male-dominated career? 

At times it was challenging. Honestly, the time I felt it the most was in culinary school. I realized that I would have to be ten times better to get the same opportunities. I committed to being the best.

How do you envision the next generation of women chefs?

Rock stars. We bring certain gentility to the profession, and it’s been one of the best shifts the industry has had.

How did you break into celebrity television shows? 

It was a fluke, not something that I went after or had on my radar. The executive producer for Iron Chef called me one day. I thought I was getting punked! Turns out he was serious. I flew to New York City the next month, and everything snowballed from there.

What was the most challenging part of being on Iron Chef or Top Chef D.C.?

Top Chef is really challenging from a psychological standpoint. It’s exhausting, and that really gets to you after a while. It messes with your thinking; and that turns everything on its head. It’s very competitive, and there’s a lot on the line. On the other hand, Iron Chef is just plain fun. It’s all about the food and the cooking. We had a blast!

How would you introduce “yummy veggies” to people who aren’t big fans of vegetables?

Steamed, plain veggies can be so boring. I love to do new and different things. Purée, shaved, pickled. Just mix it up – you’ll love it.

What local charities do you support, and why?

Rick and I have a greenhouse and gardening program in our local elementary schools called Sowing Seeds. We teach kids about horticulture, life science and nutrition, as well as providing a sense of place in relationship to where their food comes from. We’re reaching over 1,000 students per week; we’re changing these kids’ lives.


Where did you grow up and learn to cook?

I grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico, in my younger years and moved to Vail when I was 13 because my mom put faith in the American dream. I have been living in the valley ever since. I learned to cook from my parents. Coming from a Mexican family, we would share meals together daily; and help was always needed around the kitchen.

How did you teach yourself to become a chef, and why did you decide against a culinary school?

Yes, I taught myself to be a chef, but you know that as a chef we never stop learning, we’re open to new challenges and new ideas every time. (As for) culinary school, I would like to go if I could, because I can always learn more.

What barriers did you face in making it as an executive chef?

The biggest challenge has been inside my head. I started at Dish as a dishwasher two weeks after they opened in 2006 – then a prep cook, then a grill cook, then sauté station, then sous chef; and then [owners] Pollyanna and Chris promoted me to executive chef in 2011. This involved trust from them, as owners, to elevate someone to these roles. The biggest barrier wasn’t a roadblock; it was a hurdle; and I got over it (by) knowing and trusting myself, my instincts, and keeping focused.

Have you had other challenges?

Sometimes it is a little bit difficult being both Latina and female in the kitchen, not from my co-workers or restaurant family, but from the stereotypes about my race and gender. We have open kitchens in both restaurants, and everyone sees what happens every step of the way. Sometimes there is disbelief or questions that I am the executive chef; but once I connect with our guests and they understand my joy and passion about food, all of that goes away.

What’s your cooking philosophy?

Always cook with your heart, your passion, your love for the food; and never allow yourself to get bored.

What would you say to kids, especially girls, who want to become executive chefs?

Simply chase your dreams and never give up, no matter how difficult sometimes this is. At the end of the day, it is worth it.


Who and what inspired you to become a chef? 

My mother would get up in the morning and start cooking breakfast and lunch and thinking about what she was going to make for dinner. She was very creative, and every day would make something different with very simple ingredients. Also, I was an avid reader, and that made me dream about traveling to see the world; and I realized that cooking was a great way to do it. Everyone in any part of the world needs to eat – and enjoys it. I traveled and worked in Mexico, England, Cook Islands and Vanuatu Islands, the U.S., and Chile, of course.

How did you choose to live in Vail?

I came here for the first time in 1999 with a training visa for almost two years. I love the valley, the lifestyle and the fact it’s so similar on the views and landscape to the south part of Chile, where I come from. In 2000, I met my husband, who was born in Maryland but was living here for more than 10 years already. We moved to Chile and then traveled around the world a little, but always wanted to come back to live in Vail and raise our two kids.


Did you face discrimination, either due to race or sex, and how did you overcome it?

Not at as a supervisor or manager level, (but) yes, in the beginning when I was young and old-school chefs would like to work only with boys because they thought they were better. But if they got me in their kitchen, after a couple of weeks, they realized that I was the same or a better worker; and they wanted to keep me on their teams. I was not less than any of those boys!


How do you inspire your staff?

By leading by example, by doing everything the best I can, by being there when they need it, by communicating clearly on my expectations, and by letting them participate in the creation of new dishes or ideas. I tell them they can get anywhere they want to, but it’s up to them.

How do you remain so passionate at your job?

It’s all about doing the best you can every single time. Don’t take anything for granted, and learn something new every day. Be humble, and observe what’s going on around you.

What was your worst, or funniest, “screw up” in the kitchen?

When I was working in London in a café, I did mislabel some shaved leeks for SHAVED LEGS. Everyone made fun of me for a long time.

What warnings would you give young chefs?

Kitchens are not glamorous; you must love, love, love what you do to succeed. Don’t do it because you want to be a head chef; enjoy what you do, share and teach what you learn. Also be clean and organized.


Ranchers, Vaqueros, Cowboys…

If your baby grows up to be a cowboy, there are some fun places to let them ride.

You can smell a rodeo before you see it: horses, leather, hay, chemistry. Prancing ponies and cocky cowboys, fancy hats, fancier chaps. Rodeos are part of the Wild West’s final frontier – there’s no buffer, no softening or rewriting what is essentially a wild and crazy, rough and tumble homage to a time when life was lived outside by bold characters and their fierce creatures. Ranchers. Vaqueros. Cowboys.

Early Days


Before ski resorts changed its identity, Colorado was known for endless miles of mountainous ranchland. Cattle and sheep were the stock of choice, while potatoes and lettuce were popular crops. In the early 1900s, McCoy and Minturn hosted their own rodeos; an opportunity for the townspeople to show off a little, egg each other on and celebrate. Vintage photos collected and compiled by the Eagle County Historical Society give a glimpse of those old-time rodeos, so dramatic and genteel in black and white. Cowboys – clean and starched, if a little worn around the edges – handle their horses in wide-open grassy meadows, long before development changed the landscape. The archives show snapshots from a slew of small Colorado towns in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, though there was a hiatus for each World War. There is even a photo shown from Yampa in 1900 when Fourth of July passengers on the stagecoach that ran from Wolcott to Steamboat Springs got to stop, stretch their legs and watch some buckin’ and rollin’ before loading up and continuing on their way.

“For a number of years, rodeos were popular in small communities like Yampa, Toponas, Burns and McCoy,” writes John Ambos in McCoy Memoirs in 1977, “but now, those who are interested in these events prefer to attend big ones.”


And Eagle County Fair & Rodeo was a big one from the beginning, though today’s multi-day affair is exponentially larger than the inaugural event of 1939. Called the Eagle County Fair and Fall Festival that first year, more than 1,200 people showed up to browse exhibits, compete in contests and eat the free lunch. Much ado was made over the local potatoes and livestock. A football game between Minturn and Eagle high schools (Eagle took it, 27-0), a free picture show at the local theater and an evening dance were among the day’s highlights. At the encouragement of the Eagle County Enterprise, in its recap of the fair – or perhaps it was simply the resounding enthusiasm the festivities generated from the get-go – it became an annual event.


Last year marked the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo’s 75th anniversary, with plenty of fanfare for the diamond celebration, including a lunch with old timers who could speak about the first few festivals. Long-time resident Jac Laman remembers being without the means to pay his entry fee when he was 8, so he snuck in via an irrigation pipe that spanning the Eagle River. For local rancher Vern Albertson, catching the calf at the first county fair wasn’t just a tale of victory. After raising that calf to become a mother of her own, he showed both the heifer and her calf at the next fair and did well, thus beginning his own cattle career.

There was chatter about Harvey Ickes, the mayor of Fulford, who ran the “meadow muffin throwing contest” that happened before the rodeo. Local lore says that if he liked you, he’d slip you a tennis ball instead of a horse plop. “It was a social thing and there was a big competition among the women especially,” says Mary Jo Gerard in the fair’s 75th anniversary video tribute.

Eagle County Fair & Rodeo


For the past 20 years, Burns’ resident Jackie Schlegel has been attending the fair and rodeo; her kids came through the local 4-H program and raised everything from cows to goats over the years. The Schlegels are multi-generational ranchers; her husband’s family homesteaded in Burns in the early 1900s, making her kids fifth-generation locals.

“Ranching is our livelihood, so it was always fun and interesting to see if we could raise a steer that would show well at the fair,” she says.

What makes a steer show well?

“He needs to be nice and square, and wide in the rear end,” she says matter-of-factly. “They used to talk about being able to set a plate right there: a nice even square, that’s what they’re looking for. And pretty hair.”

Schlegel would choose plenty of savory meat over soft, downy fur any day, so she didn’t take it personally when the family steer tasted better than it showed.

“The fair and the livestock — it’s just a good way to raise kids. It teaches them responsibility,” she explains.

The 4-H kids raise their animals, show them and then give them over to the auction block. The students get to keep whatever funds are raised – which is no small amount during the boom times. “That was college money, vehicle money for our kids,” Schlegel remembers.

Though the fair, with its exhibits and animals, is the backbone of the area’s history, the rodeo component is just as important and, admittedly, the lifeblood of the event.  The Schlegel family would practically camp out for the festivities, starting on the first day and going all the way through to the end of the event (and their energy) on Sunday.

“What makes a rodeo exciting is good stock, really good buckin’ animals. They need to be good, you need to have a good stock contractor. That’s how you draw the good riders. They don’t want to waste their time on bad animals,” Schlegel explains.

Though she cites the national finals in Las Vegas as the best rodeo you’ll ever see, she loves the local rodeo, especially when she knows the riders as sometimes happens in a ranching community. “They’ve got to be in shape. It’s not an easy eight seconds,” she says, referring to the amount of time a cowboy stays astride a buckin’ bronc for his ride in the ring, dismounting at the sound of the buzzer.

She remembers going to the Little Britches rodeo in Eagle during Flight Days 40 years ago – before somebody got hurt and a lawsuit ensued, marking the end of the rodeo for kids ages 8 to 18. But plenty of local riders got their start there, and went on to the pro circuit.

“It’s a way of life for some people,” she says. “There’re people in the valley now who have never been to one before. There’ are some people who don’t care to see the animals. They say it’s cruel. But these animals, they’re fed, they’re well cared for, probably better than some people treat their pets. They have a job — this is their job.” And no matter how long eight seconds feels, it’s still only eight seconds.

The 2015 Fair & Rodeo will include 4-H events such as a clothing project, Western and English horse show and competitions for myriad of animals including rabbits, lamb, swine, poultry and dogs. A carnival runs for the duration, and public competitions for canned goods, perishables, fashion projects and other events happen throughout the festival. Rodeo with pro riders, members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association, is the headline event, though the barrel racers and mutton bustin’ are big crowd favorites – as are the various musical acts.

“There’s an excitement there – the fun, the food, everyone all together. The crowd really gets going when the rodeo is happening on Friday night,” Schlegel promises.

Beaver Creek Rodeo


While the downvalley fair and rodeo is both historic and (seemingly) all encompassing, upvalley there’s a weekly, family-friendly rodeo hosted by Beaver Creek at Traer Creek in Avon.

“This is awesome!” enthuses Ohio resident and annual Vail visitor Jeremy Ensel. The father of three brings his family to the Vail Valley every July. They raft on the Colorado River, hike up Beaver Creek Mountain and ride bikes in Vail, but their all-time favorite tradition is gussying up for the Beaver Creek Rodeo and moseying over as soon as the gates open for “fair food” and ambiance. His youngest, Clare, age nine, has managed to wear a new pair of cowgirl boots each of the past three years (pink, white and purple, respectively).  She fits right into the mix of locals and visitors who pack out the venue most Thursdays from late June to mid-August.

The national anthem is sung at 6 p.m., and then it’s almost a greatest-hits tour of all rodeos, everywhere. Each event gets 10 or 15 minutes, and then boom – next event. Saddle bronc riding, team roping, bareback riding, calf scramble, barrel racing, mutton bustin’, burro racing and bull riding. Whew – it’s fast and furious, and doesn’t give anyone time to get bored, though somehow there’s still plenty of opportunities for margaritas and pulled pork sandwiches.

In addition to riding the mechanical bull and pony rides, families are welcome to sign up and participate in the calf scramble, burro racing and mutton bustin’. But a word to the wise: if you’re not acquainted with mutton bustin’, ask someone else to take a photo of your child astride the grumpy, rocking sheep, as you will either be too nervous or too giggly – or both – to hold the camera still.

For some, rodeos come through bloodlines and fields and endless practice sessions, but others gain entry with an open sense of adventure and appreciation for the Wild West. Though a pair of pink cowboy boots doesn’t hurt.


How to Speak Rodeo

Learn these terms and feel like an insider

Arm Jerker: Horse or bull that is really stout and bucks with a lot of power.

Bail Out: When a horse comes straight up on its hind legs as it comes out of the chute and just before it begins to buck.

Barrelman: An entertainer who uses a barrel to distract a bull after a ride, and sometimes to protect the cowboy.

Bulldogger: Steer wrestler.

Chasing the Cans: A rodeo term for barrel racing.

Crow Hopper: Description of an animal that jumps stiff-legged.

Floating: A technique sometimes used by saddle bronc riders that make them appear to be bucked off with every jump of the horse.

Freight Trained: When a contestant or clown gets run over by a bull traveling at top speed.

Hat Bender: A horse or bull that doesn’t buck and, rather, runs around the arena.

Heeler: The cowboy that ropes the hind legs of the steer in team roping.

High Roller: A horse that leaps into the air when bucking.

Hung up: When a bull rider or bareback rider cannot remove his hand from the rope or handle before he dismounts or is thrown off the bull’s or horse’s back, his hand is “hung up.”

Kack: The saddle used by saddle bronc riders.

Out the Back Door: Term for a rider that is thrown over the back end of an animal.

Pickup Man: A cowboy on horseback who assists the bareback and saddle bronc riders in dismounting.

Piggin’ string: In tie-down roping, the small rope used to tie a calf’s legs together.

Pigtail: A piece of string attached to the barrier that breaks if a timed-event contestant’s horse exits the box too soon, not giving the calf or steer enough of a head start.

Ropes: The correct term is rope, not lasso, lariat or riata; most ropes used in ProRodeo timed events are made of strong yet flexible braided materials, and a cowboy may change his rope selection depending on the weather and the cattle.

Roughstock: The bucking horses and bulls used in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, usually bred and raised for the job

Seeing Daylight: When a cowboy comes loose from a bucking animal far enough for the spectators to see daylight between the cowboy and the animal.

Snorty: A bull that blows air at a clown or downed cowboy.

Toes Out: A rider’s preferred style of holding the feet a 90-degree angle to the animal to ensure maximum spur contact.

Try: A noun used for both cowboys and livestock, denoting grit, determination, fitness, stamina and resilience: “Give that cowboy a hand – he had a lot of try.”



The Science behind the Scrubbing

Why natural cleaners work and why you should use them

Captain Vacuum’s All-Purpose Cleaner

Ingredients for spray

1 tsp borax, ½ tsp washing soda, 2 tbs vinegar or lemon juice,                                          ¼ to ½ tsp vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, 2 cups very hot water,                                spray bottle

Combine the borax, washing soda, vinegar and liquid soap in a spray bottle. Add very hot water, shake gently until minerals dissolve. Spray and clean using a sponge alternative, like a “spaghetti scrub.”

For buckets

1/8 cup borax, 1/8 cup washing soda, 1 tbs vegetable-oil-based liquid soap, ¼ cup vinegar, 2 gallons hot water

Place ingredients in a pail. Stir to dissolve. Use with a sponge alternative or mops as usual. Be sure to wear rubber gloves, as borax can be slightly caustic to skin. Rinse well.

Effortless Oven Cleaner


Baking soda, water and a squirt or two of vegetable-based liquid soap, such as Dr. Bonners

Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with baking soda. Sprinkle some more water on top of the baking soda. If you let it sit overnight, you can effortlessly wipe up the grease the next morning. When you’ve removed all the mess, dab a little vegetable soap on a scrub or dishcloth and wash all sides of the oven and inside of door. Rinse to remove all baking soda.

For tougher jobs

Follow the above directions, but add washing soda, particularly to burnt areas. Washing soda will help cut the grease, but it requires more rinsing.


By Cassie Pence

887 Words

When my husband and I, Captain Vacuum, opened our green cleaning company about a decade ago, natural cleaning was still on the fringe of mainstream. People with allergies were doing it. Crunchy old hippies were still doing it. For frugal grandmothers, well, vinegar is just the way they’ve always done it.

Now, the ingredients – and the benefits – of green cleaning are widely recognized. Vinegar, baking soda, lemon, washing soda, hydrogen peroxide and borax are some of the core ingredients, most of which are found in cupboards and easily mixed into multi-purpose cleaning agents.

Benefits are simple: a healthier you and a healthier planet. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s why most people now are making the switch.

Toxic chemicals surround us. From our building materials to our food and water supply to the toys we give our kids to the fire retardant on plane seat upholstery – we are constantly being exposed to strange, chemical combinations. It adds up and loads up in our bodies causing all kinds of ailments, from allergies to hormone disruption to cancer. Consider the way you use cleaning products. The product makes contact with your skin and you inhale it as you clean. Cutting toxic chemicals out of your cleaning products is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your exposure. It helps lessen the chemical build-up of modern day life in a very direct way.

Check out this statistic, for example: indoor air is typically two- to five- times more polluted than the air outside. Those nasty chemicals in conventional cleaning products are one of main contributors to that number. Drop the toxic stuff and improve your air quality.

Just as chemicals build up in our bodies, they build up in the environment, too. Petroleum-based products, which are commonly found in dish soap, are slow to break down in the environment, contaminate air and water and are a non renewable resource.

Most of this info about natural cleaning is understood, accepted, and in a way, old news. Chemicals bad. Plant-based products good. Yeah, yeah, we got it.

But there are many of you – even those who practice green cleaning – who secretly wonder: Do green cleaners really work?

I am one of green cleaning’s most staunch believers, but it wasn’t until Walking Mountains Science School in Avon charged me with the task of presenting the science behind green cleaners (as part of the “Science Behind” series) that I really learned how green cleaners kill germs and wash away dirt.

Using Captain Vacuum’s All Purpose Cleaner recipe (recipe in box) and Effortless Oven Cleaner (thank you green cleaning goddess Annie Bond), I’ll take each natural ingredient and identify the science behind its power. Truth is, most of today’s conventional, chemical-based cleaners started out as natural ones. The ingredients have taken an ugly turn, but the science is still the same.

There are three basic ways cleaning products work: as a surfactant, using the power of pH and as abrasives – AKA, pure elbow grease.

Vegetable-based soap – the perfect surfactant

Using surfactants is the most familiar way we clean our homes. It’s the way regular old soap and detergent work.

A surfactant lowers the surface tension of water, which allows oil and grease to be “grabbed” and washed away. Soap is an excellent surfactant because of its ability to emulsify. An emulsifier is capable of dispersing one liquid into another liquid that is incapable of being mixed. This means that while oil (which attracts dirt) doesn’t naturally mix with water, soap can suspend oil/dirt in water so it can be removed.

The problem is most soap on supermarket shelves is petroleum-based, and do we really need more petroleum in our lives? No. Vegetable-based oils, like coconut oil, make a better, safer, cleaner soap surfactant. My favorite brands include Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap and Seventh Generation.

The power of vinegar is in its pH

The pH scale is a scientific way of comparing the amount of acidity (low pH) or alkalinity (high pH) a substance has within it. The scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Products on either end of the scale generally should be avoided, since they can be caustic.

The most safe and useful green cleaning supplies are mildly acidic, such as vinegar and lemon juice, or mildly to moderately alkaline (also known as basic), such as baking soda and washing soda.

As mentioned above, cleaners have a specific pH and so do the things in your home that need to be cleaned, such as dirt and oil, which are generally acidic, and soap scum and hard water deposits, which are alkaline. When using the power of the pH scale to clean your home think about the “opposites attract” rule. You should use acidic substances to clean up alkaline messes and vice-versa.

Abrasives and elbow grease

The third way green-cleaning supplies can be used is an abrasive to manually remove dirt, like using the grainy combination of baking soda, salt and borax. Or, you can stir ingredients into a paste and rub onto the surface, like our Effortless Oven Cleaner.

For this easy oven cleaner, sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with baking soda. Sprinkle some more water on top of the baking soda. If you let sit overnight, you can effortlessly wipe up the grease the next morning.

So next time you pull out your homemade cleaners, have faith in the very old science of surfactants, pH and “elbow grease” that they aren’t just improving your health and the planet’s — these natural cleaners are actually working — kicking grime’s behind.


Vail’s Iron Seniors Rock the Mountain


If you sit and watch the world go by in Vail, Avon, Edwards or Eagle, or pop into one of our supermarkets, you will see valley locals, definitely of a certain age, going about their lives. You’ll notice the athletic spring in their step and that they are dressed to move. A high heel is a pretty rare sight. And don’t even try to find a tie. In warm weather, you will see lots of biking kits, hiking boots, tennis and golf outfits, and in the winter, out comes the gear for skiing and snowboarding. And, yes they do board. You have come to the land where seventy is definitely the new fifty.

These are Vail’s fabulous seniors. We would like to introduce you to a few who have made remaining active in body and mind a high art. Their lives are full of adventure and thrills and we think that they are extraordinary. But try telling them that, and they will respond, “Who, me?”

When Dick Patriacca moved to Vail 22 years ago, he was 48 and ready to begin a new life. Dick was an early aficionado of two of today’s hottest sports, downhill biking and snowboarding. Think of downhill biking as mountain biking’s much, much bigger brother. First, there is the bike. It weighs 53 pounds (its limited gear selection makes it almost impossible to ride uphill), has 3.0 burly tires, 10-inches of suspension travel on the front and back shocks and a bottom bracket with exceptionally high clearance. Next comes the body armor. Shoulders, arms, chest, hips and legs are protected, along with a full-face helmet that conforms to Department of Transportation specifications.


Once he’s kitted out, Darth Vader has nothing on him. So now that he’s ready, where does Dick go?  Dick explains very carefully not to just take off into the wilderness. Vail, like other resorts that welcome downhill bikers, has a very specific network of dedicated trails. These are laid out to take bikers over extremely demanding terrain, at speeds which can often over 50 miles an hour. The trails consist of man-made rock gardens and natural rock formations, steeply banked sections and significant drops. They often go through water. The trailheads are clearly marked “Experts Only – Downhill Equipment Recommended – Ride with a Partner.”  Not surprisingly, the only partners Dick can ride with are half his age. Dick says, “When you are going down a trail, you are 100-percent focused. Your mind is totally engaged.” We are not knocking crossword puzzles, but there seem to be other ways to keep those brain cells from going stale.

For the past two decades, Dick also has been an avid snowboarder, and for many years was a part-time instructor at Beaver Creek. Today, at 70, he is a dedicated advocate for both sports. He readily shares his enthusiasm with novices and is determined to help them succeed safely and responsibly.

“Whenever I take someone out, on a board or a bike, I explain that first we will learn to be safe and then we will start having fun,” he says. Somehow, Dick also finds time for paddleboarding on the Colorado River, another sport dominated by the young and the fearless. It seems, at heart, Dick is both!


How many kids can say that their grandmother skied two million seven hundred thousand vertical feet last year?  Well, there are two little Vailites who can. They are the grandchildren of Mary “Scooter” Hathorn who, for the past four years, has been the number-one woman on Vail Mountain as measured by EpicMix, the ski app that tracks vertical feet. In fact, over the past five years, she has clocked 10-million vertical.

Scooter skis with her husband, Byron, and they both figure on the EpicMix All Time Leaderboard. Scooter and Byron live in the house built by Scooter’s father. He was one of Vail’s early settlers, hitting the slopes until he was 82. His motto was, “A family that skis together stays together.”

Every day, Scooter and Byron leave their West Vail home around 8:30 a.m., walk up the road and ski down to Chair 8. “The EpicMix challenges us and defines our day,” says Scooter. “We don’t ski fast, but we don’t stop; and we stay out till about 1:30 in the afternoon, usually covering 20- to 30- thousand vertical.”  Each year they also tackle some pretty daunting one-day challenges, including “The Conqueror”, which entails skiing every lift in Vail, and the “Day Tripper”, in which they rush from resort to resort to ski Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in the same day.

Last year, Scooter, now 65, celebrated her fiftieth Christmas in Vail. She holds a degree from the University of Denver Law School, and practiced for ten years. Then, responding to the demands of a growing family, she became a super-volunteer, using her legal expertise on the boards of nonprofits. Today, she continues her volunteerism as a “Red Jacket” on Vail Mountain. As you were skiing, you may have seen those women and men in red, and one of them may have helped you out of a tight spot. They are the mountain’s first responders. “We are a team of locals who love Vail. We donate our time and share our professionalism, enthusiasm and knowledge with the guests,” she explains. “We have Red Cross training, and we carry radios, so that we can summon help for people in distress as we patrol the slopes.”

Red Jackets also provide welcome succor to skiers who have lost their way or need support getting down a difficult run, and they are general purveyors of information and good cheer. Needless to say, there is no idleness for Scooter in the summers. She is as assiduous on the golf course as she is on the slopes.

An Oldie but Goodie

Still skiing at 86? You bet, and there are no bunny hills for Dr. Fred Distelhorst. He reckons to do 100 to 120 days a year on the mountain, and he likes to finish up with three of Vail’s most demanding runs, Prima, Pronto and Log Chute. You have to like steep mogul fields to attempt these, and Fred does. Just to add some extra panache, he sometimes ends the day with a daffy, which sportsdefinitions.com describes as “an aerial stunt in which the skier takes a jump and, while in midair, points one ski forward and up and the other ski backward and down, bringing them together before landing.”

It is safe to say that skiing has been Fred’s lifelong passion. When he graduated from high school, he had every intention of being a ski bum; but instead he headed for college and then dental school. For over twenty years, Fred practiced general dentistry and orthodontics in the U.S. Army. So, where does a man who loves to ski and has lots of working life ahead of him go from there?  Fred happened to see an article in Holiday Magazine about a new resort called Vail. In 1965, he climbed into his father’s Oldsmobile Rocket 88 and drove to take a look. As a result, he purchased the land on Gore Creek in East Vail where he still lives and where he practiced orthodontics as Vail’s beloved “Dr. D.” until he was 80.

A man as active as Fred has to keep busy in the summer, too. So every day, he climbs on his bicycle and rides five miles up Vail Pass, where he stops to do stomach crunches and other exercises, and then rides back home. And heaven forbid life should be all play. Fred still does the lab work for his daughter Dorothy, who practices general dentistry in his old office. Are there any special secrets to his extraordinary fitness?  Fred, who is a strong advocate for the prevention of heart disease, would certainly give credit to the plant-based diet he adopted several years ago. And, being quite the cook, he describes the mouth-watering dishes he prepares. Vegan or not, you’d want an invitation to dinner.


For Marlin Smickley, life is all about nature, and what better place to live it than the Vail Valley? “Nature,” he says, “brings me peace, joy, happiness and harmony. I believe strongly in the power of the mind to use the energy of being in nature. It propels me on. And, here in Vail, all that I have to do is look out of my window to feel that good karma.”

When Marlin was close to retirement, he came to Vail on a visit and promptly fell in love with the valley. It had the natural beauty which he craved and was the perfect place to pursue an active outdoor life. In Pennsylvania, Marlin had hiked, biked and skied. In Colorado, his activities took on a competitive edge. At 76, he races big time, trail running in the warm months and snowshoeing in the winter. He is a regular contender in the Valley’s many running race events, and he competes each year in Denver’s Cherry Creek Sneak and the BolderBoulder. He regularly finishes first in his class, often besting younger contenders. He also loves to snowboard. When his daughter decided to take up the sport, they took lessons together. At that point, he was 60!

How does Marlin do it?  “I am blessed with a healthy body,” he says “and I work at keeping it that way.” This entails weekly interval training and Pilates, monthly maintenance visits to the physical therapist and acupuncturist and eating right.

Community involvement is also key. He continues his lifelong commitment to young people, volunteering in the Vail Recreation District’s youth programs. “I love high school sports,” he says. “The energy these kids put forth is tremendous and interacting with them keeps me young.” So does Vail’s sports-centered social life. “People here go all out for each other,” he says. “I belong to Vail Club 50 and the Colorado Mountain Club, and I am surrounded by friends with whom I can do the things I love.”


“Skiing and dancing go together,” says Kitty Gwathmey, and she should know because she is a wiz at both. Kitty has loved to dance since childhood. She started at the age of two in Wilmington, Delaware, and continued till she was fifteen in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She wanted to be a Rockette, and got a scholarship to Radio City Music Hall in tap and ballet; but at the time (she is now 75), her very proper background made taking it up impossible.

It is in Vail that dancing and skiing really came together for her. A natural on skis, she was soon instructing, and says that she could always tell when one of her students was a good dancer. For six years, she conducted the “Welcome to Vail” tour. “I love Vail, and I thoroughly enjoyed showing visitors how to get around this beautiful mountain,” she says, beaming. Her 31 years as an instructor have earned her a lifetime ski pass, which she uses regularly.

And what about dance? Every Tuesday morning at 8:30, Kitty teaches a one-hour tap class under the auspices of Colorado Mountain College. “Tap is as good for the mind as it is for the body,” she says. “I have people of all ages in my class, from seniors to college students home on break. We tap non-stop for an hour as I take them through 22 different routines. I see them get better and better; and for older people, there is no question that the tap class encourages a positive attitude.”

Of course, skiing and dancing are not the only strings to Kitty’s bow. She is a tennis player of note, who organizes ladies’ tennis day at Vail’s Cascade Resort, and a volunteer extraordinaire, who contributed eighty hours of her time to making the 2015 World Ski Championships held in Vail a success.

At Vail Valley Magazine, we think that Dick, Scooter, Fred, Marlin and Kitty are an inspiration.  So if you are one of the millions of Americans trying to figure out how to stay young as you age, come and join us. Glory in our views, breathe our air, live our lifestyle. We can’t promise that you will be doing a daffy jump at 86, but we can guarantee that you will be surrounded by the lust for life of this very special place; and believe us, it rubs off.


Get to know the Local Brews in the Vail Valley

Vail Valley breweries tap their kegs for the summer season

One of the great things about Colorado craft brews is that they can often be enjoyed under a blue blanket of sunny skies. The Vail Valley has some top-tier beer, quenching the end of an epic day spent cruising beneath the aspen trees or coasting on the rapids of the river.

While the local, regional and national brew scene continues to flow, keep an eye on these five Vail Valley breweries as they keep everyone hydrated with hops.

Vail Brewing Company 

The valley’s newest craft brewery is Vail Brewing Company, and co-owner Garrett Scahill says, “it’s been a long time coming.”

“There was nothing from Edwards until Buena Vista or Frisco, so we want to capture that Vail market,” says Scahill. “EagleVail is a great spot, but I think it needed something.”

When the original idea of building a brewery in Minturn didn’t unfold for Scahill, the Vail Brewing Company was born with a high-profile name and a high-traffic location—look for the branded silo you can see in EagleVail from I-70.

Even as a graduate from the World Brewing Academy in Chicago, Scahill says that creating the artisan ales and ironing out all the details for the new venture was a big learning experience for him and co-owner Scott Harrison.

“It always takes longer and costs twice as much as you expect,” says Scahill. “Everyone has been really helpful, and we really appreciate it. They’ve been helping with any questions we have about getting started, and helping us by giving us excess hops that they have.”

The new tasting room faces directly west, so it’s a perfect lounge spot for summer sunsets. The large garage doors make it easy to bring the outside in.

“We aren’t looking to grow as big as possible,” he adds. “To start, we want to grow slowly and create small-batch beer that’s quality. We want to make the best beer we can, we want people to come in and enjoy it.”

7 Hermits Brewing 


It seems like 7 Hermits Brewing in Eagle was started to fuel and “hydrate” mountain bikers, because that’s exactly what it does. The brewery serves handcrafted beer, as well as cocktails, wine and food. It sits right at the base of the 7 Hermits mountain range, where droves of mountain bikers make tire marks every day from April through November.

A lot of the beers are named after nearby mountain bike trails, like “Itch” — an IPA, and “Scratch” — an imperial IPA.

“I started when I was really young with my dad,” says Matt Marple, co-owner and brewmaster. “His friend brewed and made wine all the time. He was always making stuff in his basement and I was really curious about it.”

Marple says the more he watched, the more he learned, but it wasn’t until the Wine or Wort Home Brew Supply store opened down the road in Gypsum that he impulsively bought $1,500 in home brewing equipment.

“Everyone in the neighborhood would come over,” Marple says of his two years spent brewing from his home. “They were my guinea pigs.”

He’s a self-proclaimed “hop head,” so every beer he makes is hop-forward. “I’m allergic to yeast,” Marple admits

“That is why I started making beer the way I do,” he explains. “I use yeast that drops off almost entirely. The beers that I make are exceptionally clean; I focus more on the style of the maltiness and hopiness.”

Crazy Mountain Brewing Company 


Crazy Mountain Brewing poured its first beer at the Big Beers Festival in Vail at the beginning of 2010. The tasting room opened in October of that year, and the brewery began distributing around the state in 2011.

“Now, we distribute to 18 states and five countries — 15 percent of our sales come from export,” says Kevin Selvy, CEO and brewmaster of the establishment in Edwards. “For as small of a space as we are in, we pump a lot of beer out the door.”

Selvy and his wife, Marisa, started Crazy Mountain together; and five years later they‘ve grown to about 40 employees.

“I knew all along that I wanted to open a brewery,” Selvy says. “I started brewing at home, and then I made my way to Anchor Brewing in San Francisco with some of my recipes.”

Selvey worked in San Francisco for four-and-a-half years, and says that he spent that time planning his business and developing his recipes. “When I felt [the recipes] were where they needed to be, I set out and to find investors,” he says.

Currently, there are nine year-round brews and a seasonal one that rotates, so there are ten core Crazy Mountain Brews.

“There are also a lot of beers that we brew once a year,” says Selvy, “and we are constantly brewing batches that come out only once.”

Bonfire Brewing 


Co-founder of Bonfire Brewing, Andy Jessen, is known as the “Master of Minutiae” for the Eagle-born company, founded in 2010 by Jessen and his roommate at the time, Matthew Wirtz.

“The company has since grown by over 500 percent, now employing eight full-time individuals and producing thousands of barrels of beer each year,” explains Jessen.

As a dog-friendly and relaxed atmosphere, Bonfire’s taproom on Second Street in Eagle has become a community gathering place. Jessen says it allows for good casual gatherings and even business get-togethers.

“Customers stop in before and after meetings, or simply host their meetings at the tap room to begin with,” he says.

The first beers Bonfire produced were the Firestarter Pale Ale and the Demshitz Brown, and Jessen says they remain best sellers to this day.

“The Brush Creek Blonde isn’t far behind,” he adds. “The Great American Beer Festival silver medal winner “Glutart” — a raspberry gluten-free ale — is also gaining steam.”

Gore Range Brewery 


The first brewery in the Vail Valley is the kind of place where you want to have your own mug to return to time after time, because it’s a definitely a go-to watering hole for locals.

“The Mug Club has been a large part of creating a community feel at our bar,” says Jeremy Pluck, brewmaster of Gore Range Brewery in Edwards. “People join with their friends, family and neighbors assured that this will be the place to meet up and know that they will know others at the bar, whether they planned to meet up with or not.”

Pluck has been brewing at Gore Range since it was established in 1997. The brewery and restaurant was taken over by new ownership four years ago, which Pluck says has a very positive difference.

Gore Range is known for its three year-round beers: GRB Lager, Powder Pale and Fly Fisher Red.

“We have several seasonal selections that create quite a stir when they are tapped,” he shares. “Discombobulation – a Belgium Trippel, specialty IPAs, a Belgian saison and seasonal stouts.”

There are always three to five specialty beers on tap at the brewery, and this summer will bring a whole array of awaited brews.

Clearly, there’s no shortage of places to get ‘hoppy’ this summer. So enjoy the long days, hot sun and find your favorite brew.


Leadville 100 – The Ins and Outs of the World’s Toughest Athletic Endeavors

Find out why the Leadville 100’s veterans keep going back for more

To someone who’s been running nonstop for 10 or 13 hours, by the light of a headlamp, the boulders along the trail can look like mountain lions! Actually, in the lengthening shadows, they look like mountain lions leaping toward you. It’s terrifying. But it helps keep Bill Finkbeiner awake. Otherwise, the Leadville 100 veteran, who turns 60 this year and will compete in his 32nd Leadville ultra marathon this August, might start drifting off. This can happen while putting one foot in front of another, still moving, until he veers off trail or stumbles and wakes with a start.


Marge Hickmann is the opposite sort of runner. The Leadville 100 champion from 1985 (when the race was three years old and she was one of just two women to even cross the finish line), has never fallen asleep while running. At 65, she too will embark on her 32nd Leadville 100 race this August. The Leadville local who claims to have once been “a chubby girl from Pennsylvania” has competed in the 100-mile trail race every year for the last 31 years. She has only finished 16 times – two of them unofficial – because she had exceeded the 30-hour time limit. Although the win in ’85 was spectacular, the highlight of Hickmann’s Leadville 100 career was her tenth   place overall finish in 1997, when she tallied her fastest time – “23 hours and change” – and claims that the last 30 miles of the race “were like running on air.”

Finkbeiner, “sleep jogging” as he was at times has finished the race for 30 years straight. But when the California native started his 31st race last year, he limped to the starting line with knee pain.

“I knew two blocks into the run that I wasn’t going to make it,” he says. “But I’ve run every day for 35 years. I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to wait until I was pulled for time. I ended up doing 51 miles anyway. My knee stayed swollen for two or three weeks.”

You have to finish in 30 hours or it doesn’t count

Launched in 1983 by Leadville local, former miner, Colorado State Senator and self-proclaimed cowboy Ken Chlouber, the Leadville 100, also called the Race Across the Sky, has become one of the most popular ultra marathons in the world. It is likely the most difficult, as well.  With a starting elevation of 10,200 feet and topping out at about 12,600 feet, the race climbs and plummets and climbs again, for a total vertical ascent of 16,000 feet. The course starts and finishes on Leadville’s main drag – Harrison Avenue – and takes runners up and out of town on dirt back roads, over Hope Pass on steep, narrow, rocky single-track, and traverses straight through creeks and across marshy wetlands. Racers kick off the starting line at 4 a.m. Typically, less than half of the starters (there were 670 last year) ever make it to the finish. Many stop to vomit at certain points. Many keep running while vomiting. Some sprain their ankles, stop momentarily at an aid station to wrap their injury, then keep going; others change out of their soggy shoes while shoveling a few bites of pasta into their mouth. Many squish along for dozens of miles in soaking wet shoes. Some never stop. In August at 12,000 feet, it’s not unusual for snow to fall at some point during the dark night. At the halfway point, most of the field is hunched over and moving in reptilian lurches; some are slogging along with dragging feet, wearing clothes that look far too big for them and faces fixed with a thousand-yard stare. At 4 a.m., 24 hours into the race, the group resembles a pack of zombies.

Matt Carpenter of Manitou Springs holds the course record from his win in 2005, when he finished in 15 hours, 42 minutes and 59 seconds.

“They look like death coming in,” says Abby Long of Life Time Fitness. The corporate giant operates dozens of events and more than 100 athletic facilities throughout North America. Life Time took over the Leadville 100 run and mountain bike race as well as the Silver Rush 50 and marathon events from Chlouber in 2010. “I cannot wrap my head around the 100 [mile] run, seeing people cross the finish line who’ve been out there for 30 hours, running the whole time, through a sunrise twice,” Long says. “But then you see the folks winning sometimes who look great … like they just went out for a light jog.”

Even the winners, fresh faced as they may appear, will admit that it hurts. Talk to anyone within an hour of finishing the race and he or she will most likely swear to never, ever do another 100-mile race again. But give them a few more hours and they’ll change their tune. Some might call it masochistic.

I’ll never do that again. Wait. Sign me up for next year

“I’m down to 24 to 48 hours after the race when I want to do it again,” says Finkbeiner, who, with his 30 finishes, has more than anybody in Leadville history. After his first ever DNF last year, he is even more charged up for this year’s race. “I’ve always thought that with a 50-percent finish rate, there aren’t a lot of people hurting more than I that finish. If it’s not a medical emergency or missing a time limit, I’m going to stick it out.”

Sure, you have to be in phenomenal shape to even attempt a 100-mile running race. It takes months and even years of training to come close to staying on your feet for that long. But there’s a lot more to it than mere fitness.

“It’s not really about physicality. It’s at least half mental,” says Leadville 100 Race Director Josh Colley of Lifetime Fitness, a Leadville resident since 2000. “When you’re at the finish line, you see those guys who have tried and not made it, then they dig deeper and they finally make it. It’s magical to see.”

Chlouber, who is still involved in the race and has completed 14 of the 100-milers himself, is the king of the “dig deeper” mentality. Now 76, the former senator narrowly avoided a deadly avalanche that killed 11 climbers in Nepal in 2012, after he uncharacteristically turned back from a summit bid on Mount Manaslu, a feat that would have made him the oldest American to climb an 8,000-meter peak.

“Inside each of us is an inexhaustible well of grit, gut and determination,” Chlouber said in a video documenting his training for the 8,000-foot climb. “We have the courage to reach inside to that level, dig deep and go on when others will turn back.”

Still, as Chlouber himself demonstrated in Nepal, there are times when a person simply has to turn back.

Hickmann knows this, having stopped short of finishing the Leadville 100 approximately half of the times she’s attempted the race. But with 16 finishes – 14 under the 30-hour limit – she’s notched considerably more than any other woman in marathon history.

When you think you’re done, dig deeper

“You have to have a tough mental mindset to get through these cause it’s gonna hurt,” she says. “Everybod0y has their own mental games they play to get them through. I tell myself it can’t last longer than 30 hours and then the pain will be over. If I start to lose it, start whining and complaining, that’s when I actually talk to myself and say, ‘Shut up, Marge. Dig deep. Everybody’s hurting. Keep moving.’ ”

For Finkbeiner, whose best Leadville finish was 20 hours and 30 minutes for third place overall in 1992, the secret is to re-structure the way he thinks about pain. Or rather, to not think about it.

“There was a quote that said, ‘pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.’ I take that to mean that suffering is the mental part of how the pain affects you. Pain is the physical part,” he says. “You have to enjoy and embrace the pain.”

While many out-of-towners have spent their summers in the high Rockies training for the Leadville 100, Finkbeiner, from Auburn, CA, rolls into town the Thursday before the race (which begins at 4 a.m. Saturday morning). The altitude is a bear. It slows him down. And sometimes paired with the fatigue and eye tricks, he sees bears on the course that aren’t there.

“When it’s dark and you’re tired, you start to worry about what is out there that could get you,” he says. “You’re running down Hagerman Pass Road, and if there’s a boulder or tree stump, the shadow is moving toward you, and it looks like this thing that’s going to get you. That can really happen easily. But I’ve never seen a real animal out there bigger than a rodent. My biggest single problem is falling asleep. I start to have a dream. You hit the edge of the trail and trip. You go mile after mile dozing off. That hurts my time, too.”

Hickmann doesn’t have that problem. Her mind is focused on the simple task at hand … putting one foot in front of the other.

“I’ve never had hallucinations,” she says. “I’m also a massage therapist and going through massage school, you learn to be in touch with your intuition and body. I’m very focused on my body when I’m running. I can tell if my shoulders are getting tight, if I need to stretch a little. If I’m in a good running zone, I can just zone out. Sometimes during the day, I’ll think about my mom or dad who have passed away or this and that. But mostly I’m just cruising along on cruise control.”


The 2015 Leadville Trail 100 Run kicks off at 4 a.m. on Aug. 22. Registration has been sold out since January but there are still some qualifying spots available. For more information, visit leadvilleraceseries.com.