When Tricia Byrnes first came to Breckenridge as a young, bright-eyed kid from the icy East Coast, she was greeted by snowboarders barreling down the roof of an A-frame on Main Street.
Nearly 30 years later, the A-frames and rambunctiousness are fresh in Byrnes’ memory. It was late March 1987, just three years after Breckenridge first allowed snowboarders on the slopes. Her brother, then the family’s only professional snowboarder, was competing at the resort’s second World Snowboarding Championships.
In the ’80s, the “Worlds,” as it was known, was the crème de la crème of snowboard contests, built around the crème de la crème of ’80s features: a slushy, hand-dug halfpipe on Peak 9. The walls were barely 5 feet tall, with jagged lips and hardly any vertical.
Byrnes was blown away by it all.
“I thought it was totally wild and crazy and awesome,” Byrnes said of her first few days in Breck. “I was just blown away by everything that was happening.”
By March 1988, Byrnes returned to Breckenridge as a 13-year-old for her first taste of competition. She had traded her Burton Elite 150 for a competition-ready K2 Gyrator, then one of the fledgling industry’s most advanced boards, complete with a flat tail and sharply pointed nose. While she didn’t place at that first event — she was busy ogling Shaun Palmer in his trademark American flag bandana — it led to a pro career spanning more than 20 years, including wins at the Burton U.S. Open, the FIS Snowboarding World Cup and a spot on the second U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team in 2002.
It also led to Byrne’s lifelong love affair with Breckenridge.
“It was just radical, to pull out that old word,” she says. “It was a counterculture time in the sport, and it was cool to see a gigantic resort like Breckenridge embrace that.”
THE EARLY YEARS
Breckenridge was the first major Colorado resort to adopt snowboarding, but it wasn’t the first ski area in the state to take a chance on something new and different and seemingly dangerous. It was beat to the punch by the now-defunct Berthoud Pass Ski Area, which is also in the running for Colorado’s first ski area, period, though the title is up for debate.
Still, Breckenridge was ahead of the curve from the beginning. Shortly after snowboarders were first allowed on the mountain, resort management wanted to attract the new sport’s best — and wildest — talent with the sort of large-scale events that are now part of the Breck brand.
It began with the World Snowboarding Championships, which led to Grand Prix qualifiers in the ’90s, and the Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding in the late ’90s and early ’00s. The events drew dozens of now-legendary snowboarders: Palmer, Ross Powers, a young Shaun White and dozens more, along with longtime Breck residents JJ Thomas, Steve Fisher and Todd Richards. Those athletes have gone on to win dozens of medals at the X Games, Dew Tour, Grand Prix and Winter Olympics, thanks in large part to Breck’s claim to fame: the Peak 8 superpipe.
“The thing with Breckenridge is it’s always a reliable, great venue for competitions,” Byrnes says. “It still has one of the best halfpipes on the scene. You spend the first two weeks of December in Summit County, and it becomes just a special, nostalgic place with all the lights and decorations.”
For longtime locals like CJ Mueller, a record-setting speed skier and Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee, snowboarding’s first years in Breckenridge weren’t entirely rose-colored. He’s lived in Summit County since 1970, and shortly after snowboarding arrived, the sport felt like more of a rebellious lifestyle than a serious discipline.
“When it first started, a lot of the kids who were coming up to do it were into the ‘rebel without a clue’ thing,” Mueller says. “They were just into being rebels more than they might’ve been into snowboarding itself. But that’s really changed over the years, and it’s changed for the better.”
Unlike Stratton Mountain, where Byrnes says she was familiar with backlash from skiers, Breckenridge seemed to fully embrace the sport — and the culture it spawned.
“It never felt like we were excluded or pushed to another part of the mountain or the town,” Byrnes says. “They just seemed incredibly open. I just still have that vision of driving to town with my brother, seeing the people jump off the buildings. It was like the Wild West.”
BOOMS AND BUSTS
Breckenridge continues to be a major player in the snowboard world, even as the industry itself has started to slip. The sport enjoyed consistent growth until the last three or four seasons. Last season, a report from Snowsports Industries America found that roughly 30 percent of all snowsports participants are snowboarders, down from 32 percent during the 2012-13 season. Numbers have not yet been compiled for this season.
At the same time, skiing has blossomed, thanks in large part to technology and events pioneered by snowboarding. The SIA report shows that American boarders and skiers spent $2.8 billion on hard and soft goods last season — an industry record after two years of declining sales — led by Alpine touring equipment and bigger, fatter skis shaped curiously like snowboards.
“For a while, it seemed like all kids wanted to do was snowboard, just to do the opposite of what mom and dad were doing,” says Mueller, who wanted to try snowboarding after it first arrived in town and decided against it due to bad wrists. “Now, it seems like they’re more inclined to take it up on skis.”
Across Summit County, snowboarding remains big business. The Silverthorne-based company Unity Snowboards began officially pressing boards in 1995. When owner Pete Wurster first moved from Wisconsin to Colorado in 1995, it was known as Summit Snowboards, and he sold them from the trunk of a friend’s car at a rate of 50 per season.
Since then, the company has become one of the industry’s leading niche manufacturers, with a pro team that includes Breck’s Thomas and Taylor Gold, the 2014 Dew Tour superpipe champ.
“It’s been great in the sense that we’ve made boards for a lot of high-level athletes, like Taylor,” Wurster says. “Over the years I’ve had numerous riders who’ve come to me because they lost a sponsor or broke a board, so they come to the shop and we’ll get them one.”
For Byrnes, that kind of friendly, welcoming attitude is part of snowboarding’s DNA, just like halfpipes, powder turns and, of course, Breckenridge.
“At Breck, it just seems like they’re totally down for snowboarding and events and everything that comes with them,” Byrnes says. “The town still has the pulse of a quaint, small mountain town, but they’re open to everything snowboarding brings.”
Looking for fun ways to pass the days (and nights) of the holiday season? Here’s a list of activities and events taking place around Summit County through the end of the year to get you started.
• Santa and his elf Greg will be back at Arapahoe Basin getting in some turns before the holiday. On Saturday, Dec. 20, from 10 a.m. to noon, see if you can spot the big man in red. He’ll be passing out candy canes and listening to holiday wishes. Visit www.arapahoebasin.com/eventsfor more information.
• Shop Hop returns to Main Street on Saturday, Dec. 20. Local merchants will offer snacks, prizes, special guests and more while you do your holiday shopping. Check out a map of participating stores athttp://gobreck.com/shophop.
• The Breckenridge Music Festival is hosting a Holiday Brass Concert on Sunday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Riverwalk Center, and a portion of ticket sales will benefit the Summit County Cares holiday fundraiser. One hundred percent of the money raised for Summit County Cares helps locals facing eviction or disconnection of heat or who are in need of medical care. Tickets for Holiday Brass are $15 for adults and $5 for children. For more information, visit www.breckenridgemusicfestival.com.
• The Breckenridge Creative Arts Department is offering an assortment of art workshops and classes through the holidays in the Breckenridge Arts District, located on the corner of South Ridge Street and East Washington Avenue. Workshops include Last Minute Gifts — Sterling Silver Earrings with Kim Harrell at the Hot Shop from 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20; Woodfiring with Chris Hosbach in the Kiln Yard from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21; and Gingerbread Houses with Barry Brown at the Fuqua Livery Stable from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23. Visit www.breckcreate.org for details, pricing and reservations.
• Ready Paint Fire has lots of opportunities for holiday painting. Make a memory to treasure by decorating an ornament, Santa plate, whimsical Christmas tree, snowman or penguin. The store is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 323 N. Main St. Call (970) 453-5765 for more information and pricing.
• Breckenridge Backstage Theatre is currently running “Dog Park: The Musical,” where you are sure to tap your toes, laugh out loud and be won over by uncontrollable stage antics from actors playing various dog characters. The show runs on select days through Sunday, Jan. 3, and tickets start at $27 for adults and $20 for youth 18 and younger. Visit www.backstagetheatre.org or call (970) 453-0199 for show times and tickets.
• On Saturday, Dec. 27, the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre will present “Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music” at 7 p.m. at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Having started in the United Kingdom back in 1999, the “Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music” show has now become a worldwide hit, playing to packed houses across the globe with more than 10,000 performances in 11 different countries. Presale tickets are $17 for adults and $12 for youth, or $23 for adults and $17 for youth at the door. Visitwww.backstagetheatre.org or call (970) 453-0199 for details.
• Breckenridge Stables offers an experience that will let you soak in the views and crisp mountain air. Dress warm and head over to the corner of Washington Avenue and Main Street in Breckenridge to find the next available carriage ride around historic downtown, drawn by a team of Belgian or Percheron draft horses. For pricing and reservations, call (970) 453-4438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• La Francaise Bakery, located at 411 S. Main St., is displaying a French-inspired, handmade Gingerbread Chateau made entirely of edible materials throughout the holiday season. Come see gingerbread dough and icing come to life in a festive treat for kids of all ages. The bakery is open every day 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., including Christmas Day. Call (970) 547-7173 for more information.
• Experience a Historic Walking Tour & Victorian Tea with “Katie Briggle,” presented by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 27. Learn about the life of Katie Briggle, Breckenridge’s leading lady at the turn of the century, and hear stories about life in a prosperous mining town. At the end of the tour, explore the restored Briggle home and join “Katie” for Victorian tea service and homemade treats. The tour is $15 for adults (ages 13 and older) and $10 for children (ages 4 to 12). Reservations are required. Call (970) 453-9767, ext. 2, or visitwww.breckheritage.com for more information.
• Back by popular demand, “1964 The Tribute,” a Beatles benefit concert, will take the stage at the Riverwalk Center on Monday, Dec. 29. Taking listeners on a musical journey to an era of rock history, “1964 The Tribute” has played for sold-out crowds at Carnegie Hall and Red Rocks. Proceeds will support Domus Pacis Family Respite’s mission of providing wee long respites in Summit County for families going through their cancer journeys. General admission is $40, and VIP seating is $50, and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online atwww.breckenridgeriverwalkcenter.com or at the box office. Call (970) 547-3100 or (970) 547-4745 for more information.
• Get merry with the Twelve Days of Copper from Saturday, Dec. 20, to Wednesday, Dec. 31. There will be skiers skiing, riders sliding, holiday shopping, happy hours and 12 days of holiday cheer with Santa specials and holiday surprises, including glow-stick pageants, torchlight parades and fireworks. Visit www.coppercolorado.com for more information, including a full list of discounts and specials.
• Celebrate Christmas at Copper Mountain with a kids’ glow-stick pageant, torchlight parade and Santa Claus himself on Christmas Eve, Wednesday, Dec. 24. Festivities kick off at 6 p.m., with fireworks over West Lake at 7 p.m. Visit www.coppercolorado.com for full details.
• Welcome the holiday season with the Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s holiday variety show, featuring yuletide classics, audience favorites and brand-new songs to liven up the season. “The Holiday Follies” stars Brittany Jeffery, Andrew Tebo, Nina Waters, Diane Huber, Ben Whitmore and more, and is fun for all ages. Performances are Saturday, Dec. 20, and Sunday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 22, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $33 for adults and $22 for students, reserved seating. For more information, call (970) 513- 9386 or visit www.lakedillontheatre.org.
• The town of Frisco Recreation Department has a few openings left for its Winter Vacation Sensation/“No School” day camps for children ages 5 to 12 on Friday, Dec. 26. The camp will focus on themed activities that offer educational opportunities and runs from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with camper drop off between 8 and 8:45 a.m. and pick up between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. at 110 Third Avenue, Frisco. The rate for Frisco residents is $40 per day, and for nonresidents it is $45 per day. Registration is available online by going to www.friscorecreation.com or by visiting the Frisco Adventure Park Day Lodge located at 616 Recreation Way. Call (970) 668-9133 for more information.
• Tumble Bubbles at the Frisco Adventure Park will be donating 50 percent of ticket sales to the Summit County Cares holiday fundraiser from noon to 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 22. Admission is $10 per person or $7 per person with a current day Adventure Park ticket. Santa will be on site from 3 to 4 p.m. One hundred percent of the money raised for Summit County Cares helps locals facing eviction or disconnection of heat or who are in need of medical care. For more information, visitwww.summitfoundation.org.
• The Frisco Historic Park & Museum will operate on an adjusted schedule during the holidays. With the exception of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, when the museum will be closed, hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays and closed on Mondays. The museum preserves and promotes the town of Frisco’s heritage and history by presenting an educational experience to the community and its visitors, connecting the past, present and future to the world around us through self-guided walking tours, interactive exhibits and a Passport to History scavenger hunt. Admission is free. Call (970) 668-3428 for more information.
• The Frisco Recreation Department is offering its final canvas-painting party of the year in partnership with local artist Sheila Trowbridge on Saturday, Dec. 27, at the Frisco Adventure Park Day Lodge. All ability levels are welcome, and at the end, participants will walk away with their own painting of a whimsical bird scene. Participants 12 and older are welcome. The class fee is $45 or $50 for day-of registration. One beer, soda or glass of wine is included in the fee, and additional drinks and snacks will be available for purchase. All of the supplies are provided. Registration is available online atwww.friscorecreation.com.
• Keystone’s Christmas Chocolate Village is on display at the Keystone Lodge & Spa, 22101 U.S. Highway 6. This handcrafted holiday tradition from Keystone Resort executive pastry chef Ned Archibald features 8,000 pounds of chocolate crafted into a miniature alpine village, a working chocolate gondola, a cascading chocolate waterfall and a 4-foot-tall white chocolate Christmas tree with chocolate presents. This mouth-watering creation gets a special new addition every year. Visitwww.keystoneresort.com for more information.
• Keystone’s season-long Kidtopia programming includes the Kidtopia Snow Fort, the world’s largest snow fort, atop Dercum Mountain; Ripperoo’s Village Parade, featuring Keystone mascot Ripperoo and friends at 4 p.m. in River Run Village on Saturday, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 27; and Starquest, a free exploration of the universe with Keystone Science School at Kidtopia Headquarters in River Run at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 26. There’s also free Bigfoot Adventure Walks at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20, Tuesday, Dec. 23, Saturday, Dec. 27, and Tuesday, Dec. 30, at Kidtopia Headquarters. Learn more about these and other children’s activities at www.keystoneresort.com.
• Santa Claus will be visiting Keystone a few more times this season to collect last-minute gift requests from children. Find St. Nick on Saturday, Dec. 20, Sunday, Dec. 21, and Monday, Dec. 22, from 1 to 5 p.m. in Lakeside Village; Tuesday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 25, from 1 to 5 p.m. in River Run Village; or on Christmas Eve, Wednesday, Dec. 24, from 8 to 10 a.m. at The Bighorn Bistro’s breakfast with Santa or from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in River Run Village. Visit www.keystoneresort.com for more information.
• Keystone provides 11 ½ hours of skiing and snowboarding every day through Wednesday, Dec. 31, as the resort is open from 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. At 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 27, there will also be a free fireworks display visible from River Run and Lakeside Villages. Visitwww.keystoneresort.com for more information.
• The Outlets at Silverthorne will be hosting their annual after-Christmas and year-end sales from Friday, Dec. 26, through Monday, Jan. 5. Save 10 percent to 60 percent at stores such as Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, Le Creuset, Rue21, Samsonite, Wilsons Leather, OshKosh B’Gosh, Eddie Bauer, Jockey, Carter’s, G.H. Bass & Co., Which Wich, Pearl Izumi, Climax Jerky, Zumiez, Claire’s, Gymboree, PacSun, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and more. For more information, call (970) 468-5780 or visit www.outletsatsilverthorne.com.
It’s not easy being green, and in Summit County, those who wear the green uniform of the Forest Service are charged with protecting natural resources for the future and the sometimes conflicting community values of the present.
The beetles became a defining challenge in her 25-year career with the federal agency.
Now after six years leading the Dillon Ranger District, Cutts will retire in January. She will leave behind a legacy that includes a more cohesive team of employees, stronger community relationships and Forest Service projects that spurred heated discussion.
“She took some hard knocks.” But overall, “people just like her. She’s just a genuine person who cares about people and who cares about the land.” Cynthia Keller deputy district ranger
Though Cutts, 49, arrived after the planning for fuels-reduction projects, which entailed controversial clear-cuts, was underway, she oversaw the Forest Service’s local reaction to the beetles and move toward timber contracts that send beetle-killed trees to a nearby biomass power plant.
Cutts also supervised at least one large project at each of the county’s four ski resorts. She directed analyses of Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 6 expansion and push toward more summer activities, the Tenderfoot Mountain motorized trail system and the Summit Hut Association’s backcountry Weber Hut.
County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said over Cutts’ six years, some local Forest Service projects, and the environmental analyses required when anyone proposes large changes on national forest land, drew just as many comments in opposition as in support.
Still, Cutts bravely moved forward and stayed positive, Stiegelmeier said, while dealing with budget cuts and maintaining open-door communication with the public.
“It’s a tough job,” Steigelmeier said. “She will be greatly missed.”
White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, Cutts’ boss for the last five years, said the role of the district ranger has become more complicated since the days when it mostly involved field work.
“I always tell them, ‘You are the face of the agency in your community,’” he said. “She just has done a marvelous job.”
WALKING IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS
The middle of nine children, Cutts was born outside San Francisco and grew up with four older brothers and four younger sisters.
Her father worked as an English teacher while her mother took care of the kids, and during the summers the family would travel to historic sites and museums around the West.
Those trips and a love of the TV show “Quincy, M.E.,” which aired from 1976 to 1983, led Cutts toward a career in forensic anthropology.
She earned a degree in anthropology from the University of California Davis, where she focused on human evolution and biology, and she started a master’s program.
In 1989, her plans shifted when she found seasonal work as an archaeologist in California’s Inyo National Forest. The forest archaeologist there inspired her to continue her work surveying and protecting sites, and two years later Cutts became the year-round assistant forest archaeologist.
She loved that her job meant taking weeklong backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada mountains, including in the Golden Trout, John Muir and Ansel Adams wildernesses.
“How many people get to get paid to go out and look for archeological sites and protect them?” she said.
She discovered that history, by federal law, meant anything 50 years or older and worked to preserve cabins built in the early days of the Forest Service as well as some built for the set of a 1917 movie called “The Virginian.”
She also protected the area’s Native American history, she said, remembering some pottery pieces she found with fingerprints still on them.
WORKING WITH SENSITIVE SUBJECTS
In the 1990s, Cutts started facilitating discussions with players in the Golden Trout Wilderness, where the Forest Service was working on watershed restoration and protection. She got to know cattle ranchers, whose families had been living that way for a couple of generations, and she talked to leaders of a bottled water corporation.
“I just fell in love with bringing people together, especially when they don’t see eye to eye,” she said.
In 1994, Cutts earned an award from the secretary of agriculture for her work inside and outside the Forest Service on civil rights and women’s issues.
At work, she led the civil rights committee in her national forest, and during her time off she volunteered with a domestic violence crisis center. Cutts was the person who answered the phone at 3 a.m. when people called fearing for their lives, and she met women at the hospital after they’d been assaulted.
She also helped start the Eastern Sierra Clothesline Project, which allowed domestic violence survivors and family members to tell their stories anonymously through words and images on T-shirts.
The shirts hung in public parks, airing out dirty laundry and bringing awareness to hidden issues, she said. Cutts later brought the T-shirt display to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
She also helped start a support organization for cancer patients and their families, called the Eastern Sierra Breast Cancer Alliance.
Cutts said she has no personal connection to domestic violence or breast cancer. She did, however, support suicide prevention efforts after a brother killed himself when she was 15.
Her community service, which she’s excited to return to upon retirement, helped prepare her for her next role as Inyo National Forest public affairs specialist and civil rights officer.
She learned communication is key, she said, while she tracked complaints, resolved internal disputes and ensured that diversity and discrimination laws and policies were properly followed by Forest Service employees, contractors and others.
WITH GREAT POWER
In 2005, Cutts was promoted to district ranger in the Tahoe National Forest.
She asked the universe to wait to give her a large wildfire until she had at least a year’s experience.
A year and one day after she became district ranger, she responded to wildfire classified Type 1, which is as large as they get. It threatened humans, homes, railroads and power lines and involved multiple incident command teams and weeks of firefighting.
When Cutts moved to Colorado, she took charge of a ranger district that managed more than three-quarters of Summit County’s land.
Those who’ve worked with her say she has used that power well.
“She has absolutely transformed not only our district, our office of employees, but she’s transformed the way the community sees the Forest Service also,” said Cynthia Keller, deputy district ranger.
Cutts is a good listener who worked to build trust among everyone at the district office, Keller said. “She just shows that she cares.”
Fitzwilliams, who became forest supervisor a year after Cutts became district ranger, said, “She has created a highly functional unit that I understand was not that way when she got there.”
He added that as an employee she has never been afraid to challenge him.
“She’s not afraid to push back if she sees something a different way, in a professional manner, and I appreciate that,” he said.
Gail Shears, board president of the district’s nonprofit partner Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, also had kind words.
“We tend to do our own thing, but she’s always been so incredibly supportive,” Shears said. “I’ve always heard a good leader is a non-anxious presence, and that’s how I would describe Jan.”
Keller said she admired the way Cutts built relationships with county officials, ski areas and others and made long-term decisions to benefit the environment and people enjoying the forest that were sometimes unpopular.
“She took some hard knocks,” Keller said. But overall, “people just like her. She’s just a genuine person who cares about people and who cares about the land.”
Cutts said she was surprised by the few times when people were hurtful and unhelpful. When someone yelled at her or an employee, she tried to remember that the angry tirade stemmed from love for the place, the same love that bonds most of the county’s residents.
She also learned to ask more questions and challenge her assumptions, she said. “Oftentimes that thing that’s jumping out and being really noisy isn’t the issue. There’s something underlying.”
Cutts’ last day will be Jan. 9, and her replacement will start Jan. 12. The time frame separating the two leaders — just a weekend — is unheard of for the Forest Service, which usually spends months between permanent district rangers.
Cutts is looking forward to focusing on community service, traveling and visiting a home in New Mexico with her husband, who also works for the Forest Service in Golden and will retire in the spring.
The Lake Dillon Theatre Company continues its 20th anniversary season and year-round cabaret series with its December concert “The Holiday Follies,” an evening celebrating the season with humor and heart.
“Festive, joyous and merry,” said actress Diane Huber of the holiday concert. “This show is a wonderful revue of holidays tunes through the decades. It’s a show that will get you in the holiday spirit and have you singing and dancing along in your seats.”
“The Holiday Follies” features Huber (“Big River,” “Pinocchio”), Brittany Jeffery (“The World Goes Round,” “My Way: The Music of Frank Sinatra”), Andrew Tebo (“The Sunshine Boys,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”), Nina Waters (“Sweet Charity,” “Big River”) and Ben Whitmore (“Ring of Fire,” “Scapin”). The theater’s producing artistic director Chris Alleman directs the production, with musical direction by Cameron Kinnear.
“We are so pleased to be such a vibrant part of Dillon and Summit County this holiday season,” said Whitmore, who also serves as the theater’s production manager. “In partnership with the Dillon Business Association, we have hosted several holiday-themed performances already this month, including puppet shows, magic shows and music performances. We are honored to be a hub of entertainment for our community during this time of year.”
“We wanted to close out the season with a final celebration of our American traditions and values. The Holiday Follies’ is our organization’s way to bid farewell to 2014 and also show our appreciation for our amazing community’s support and participation this season.” Chris Alleman producing artistic director Lake Dillon Theatre Company
A REVUE FOR EVERYONE
The Lake Dillon’s revue features a wide variety of music celebrating the holiday season, including well-known favorites. And audiences can expect to hear little-known and brand-new songs paying tribute to the season.
“‘The Holiday Follies’ is not just an evening of ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Silent Night,’” Alleman said. “This show features quite a few original holiday songs that will be new for our audiences. And several of the songs are not directly about the holidays at all, but encompass the ideas and feelings that the holidays inspire, like family, gratitude and even loss. There are some very funny songs and quite a few touching moments, as well.”
“The tunes are so catchy and moving,” Huber said. “This is going to be a really special event, and I get to perform it with some awesomely talented friends, as well.”
OUT THE YEAR
“The Holiday Follies” closes the company’s 2014 theater season by honoring the American experience.
“For me, the holidays mean family, tradition, celebration and compassion,” Huber said. “The holidays are a magical time when people can reflect on all they have and be grateful for the friends and family they get to spend this time with.”
“We wanted to close out the season with a final celebration of our American traditions and values,” Alleman said. “‘The Holiday Follies’ is our organization’s way to bid farewell to 2014 and also show our appreciation for our amazing community’s support and participation this season.”
“We are all excited to bring back ‘The Holiday Follies’ for our audiences this year,” Whitmore said. “It’s going to be a fun, surprising, audience-friendly night of entertainment for the entire community. Audiences are sure to love it.”
Kim Zimmer’s wedding changed forever when she opened an email Saturday, Dec. 6.
Zimmer and her fiancée, Julie, chose a venue in an area known as Golden Horseshoe about 5 miles northeast of Breckenridge.
The venue, run by a company called Dry Gulch, features 40 acres of alpine meadows, trails and views of the Tenmile Range, as well as historic cabins and relics of a mining ghost town established around 1859. The largest gold nugget ever discovered in Colorado — called “Tom’s baby” — was found nearby.
Zimmer loved the location and the fact that the venue would let her bring in kegs from her favorite Breckenridge breweries.
She arranged shuttle transportation for the couple’s 175 guests. The pair decided on a menu with a local chef from All Events and Catering. They sent out save-the-dates and created a website full of the June 26 wedding details.
“The dream wedding was kind of coming together, and then, ugh. It was like being crushed.” Kim Zimmer
Then Zimmer read an email from John T. Cooney, the wedding venue’s owner. It read, “We regret to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances, Dry Gulch is canceling all weddings for the 2015 season.”
“Having to backtrack and call everyone was, like, ugh,” said Zimmer, 35, with a heavy sigh.
THE LEGAL BATTLE
Cooney, who lives in Boulder, blamed the cancellations on a legal battle with Summit County, and he wrote that Dry Gulch would refund site fees.
Summit County filed a lawsuit on Oct. 1, 2013, claiming the business was operating illegally. Dry Gulch disagrees.
“There’s a dispute, there’s no question about that,” said Wayne Schroeder, Cooney’s lawyer.
According to county records, Cooney bought the Dry Gulch property in 2006 and started operating a special event and wedding business on the land three years later.
That commercial activity was illegal, said county attorney Jeff Huntley, because zoning regulations established the land in 2001 as backcountry, which doesn’t allow commercial land use.
In the lawsuit, the county also claimed Cooney’s business was operating without a license and that structures on the property violated building and development codes.
County officials met with Cooney a few weeks ago, after the mid-November snowstorm, and found 67 building code violations.
Part of a structure collapsed while the group was inside.
“One of our building inspectors made a few choice comments on camera,” Huntley said.
That inspector was standing in a doorway, safely away from the collapse. Assistant county attorney Keely Ambrose described the attached structure as a tent with a wooden frame, which was lacking a required permit.
Schroeder said the tent would have been removed before winter but was left in place for the inspection and buckled under the heavy snow.
County officials also found a wood stove that was sending carbon monoxide into a building and electrical and other work done on the property without the required permits.
“The code violations will be fixed, whatever they may be, if there are in fact code violations,” Schroeder said, adding that he doesn’t know of any injuries that have happened on the property.
The county doesn’t believe any immediate safety threats were present, in which case all activities would’ve been ordered to stop, Ambrose said. In a written statement, however, the county applauded Dry Gulch for canceling weddings and ceasing to expose the public to potential risks.
HISTORIC USE OF
The main issue, Huntley said, is the ongoing commercial use of the property.
Before Cooney bought the land, it was owned by a snowmobile and jeep tour business called Tiger Run Tours.
For decades, the company operated under permits from the U.S. Forest Service, the town of Breckenridge and Summit County to take customers across public lands the three government entities managed.
According to a 2004 Summit Daily article, Tiger Run Tours was established in 1969 by Glenn Campbell, who also owned the nearby historic Revette Mansion. Though the area where Tiger Run Tours operated was rezoned as backcountry in 2001, the county considered the business “legal nonconforming,” essentially grandfathering the commercial land use.
According to the county’s land use and development code, grandfathered uses are considered abandoned if they cease for 180 consecutive days, and abandoned uses can’t be re-established or transferred to other uses that don’t meet the code.
“Their view is the six-month period is still valid,” Schroeder said.
He said state statute seems to nullify the county’s authority to end the commercial use.
“We have the right for tours and so forth on the property itself,” he said. “We want to have the legal issues resolved by the judge as prompt as possible.”
Schroeder said he didn’t want Cooney, who didn’t return calls, to answer questions.
County officials tried to resolve the issue out of court for two years after discovering the noncompliant land use in 2011, Huntley said.
Staff addressed Summit’s four planning commissions — citizen boards that guide development in the county’s four river basins — and asked whether any changes to backcountry zoning regulations should be made.
“It was an attempt to take the temperature, I guess, of the representatives of the community and make sure we were still moving in the right direction,” Ambrose said.
The commissions agreed that the backcountry zoning and land use codes should be left alone, she said, adding that Dry Gulch wasn’t brought up specifically because people often want to use public lands in ways that don’t follow code.
“It pops up all over,” she said.
The process that led to the current Golden Horseshoe zoning laws started close to 20 years ago, Huntley said.
In the mid-1990s, employees with the county, town of Breckenridge and Forest Service met with the community to create a plan that would protect the area’s natural and historic resources while balancing development and recreational opportunities. The process involved at least seven years of work, dozens of public meetings and hundreds of people, he said.
“There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this whole process,” Huntley said. “It’s a big deal.”
He wasn’t sure how long the court process will take, but he said he hopes to see some kind of resolution in the next year.
Meanwhile, Dry Gulch is open this winter for ghost town tours and catered skiing and snowshoeing tours.
WEDDING DREAMS CRUSHED
For Zimmer, a Frisco resident who works as a teacher in Vail, the cancelation meant scrambling to find another place to get married.
Dry Gulch charged $5,000 for a wedding with 100 guests and $6,250 for 150 guests. The venue is cheaper than other Summit County locations and allowed couples to make more choices.
Though Zimmer and her fiancée wanted a rustic Colorado wedding, they will now marry in Chicago, closer to where they are from.
“The dream wedding was kind of coming together, and then, ugh,” she said. “It was like being crushed.”
Zimmer said she booked one of the last dates available for 2015, so she imagines other couples are upset. She added that the caterers, flower arrangers, musicians and photographers who had business lined up must be, too.
“I didn’t want to take business out of the county because we love it here so much,” she said
Business is booming in Colorado’s mountain resorts, and the addition of recreational marijuana stores this year has attracted customers curious about legalized pot. But there’s mounting anxiety that ski towns have embraced stoner culture a little too much, potentially damaging the state’s tourism brand.
That worry flared up in two resort towns last week. In Breckenridge, residents voted overwhelmingly to force downtown’s lone dispensary off Main Street to a less-visible location. And just up the road in Granby, town officials used a property annex to prevent the first dispensary from opening there.
The fear is that some families — a mainstay of the ski tourism industry — will stop vacationing here.
“It’s not a morality issue, or that we think marijuana is bad,” said Breckenridge Councilman Gary Gallagher, who supported legal marijuana but also voted to force the Breckenridge Cannabis Club out of downtown. “Marijuana, it is not in this country’s DNA yet. It’s a little bit too early.”
So far, there’s no indication that legal pot has damaged tourism, Colorado’s No. 2 industry. The state notched a record $17.3 billion in tourism spending the year after legalization, with a record 64.6 million visitors, and state tourism officials say 2014 is poised to top last year’s record.
But it’s an open question whether pot has anything to do with it. Officials cite the improving economy and the weather, with healthy snow totals historically being the most significant driver for mountain visits.
The state and its marijuana industry are barred by law from advertising weed out of state, and the head of the Colorado Tourism Office says the state isn’t tracking the role of marijuana in tourist behavior.
“It’s all anecdotal,” Al White said. “I have heard from some angry parents who said they’ll never come back to Colorado because of marijuana. And I’ve also heard from people who say they came to Colorado just to see the marijuana.
“At the end of the day, it may be having a modest effect, but it’s not huge either way.”
The recent friction isn’t the first time officials have moved to lower marijuana’s profile.
The nation’s largest ski operator, Vail Resorts, made headlines over the last year tearing down makeshift shelters built illicitly in hard-to-reach areas and used by stoners to “get safe,” mountain slang for toking up out of the cold and away from ski patrollers. Resorts across the state are dotted with the so-called smoke shacks, and some of them are decades old.
“We will continue to communicate that consumption of marijuana is illegal in public and on federal land,” Vail Resorts’ Russ Pecoraro said in a statement about destroying the shacks in its four areas, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail.
Still, at rates greater than their urban neighbors, mountain communities backed marijuana legalization in 2012, including Breckenridge, an early and enthusiastic support base, and there’s no doubt that recreational pot has had an effect on ski towns.
A state-produced July report on the new marijuana industry concluded that 90 percent of recreational sales in mountain resort communities go to out-of-state visitors.
The influx of shoppers — and camera crews that have become frequent sights as they work on pot-themed news stories and documentaries — has prompted a lively debate among residents about how pot is changing their resorts.
“Whether you’re pro-marijuana or against marijuana, you have to be concerned about how tourists react to seeing it,” said Bob Gordman, a Breckenridge retiree who voted to move the dispensary.
Others say the marijuana novelty will die down naturally and that resort towns shouldn’t worry about dispensaries or the souvenir shops that put “Rocky Mountain High” puns on T-shirts.
“In five or 10 years, it’ll be no big issue,” said Bill Kiser, a Breckenridge retiree who voted to keep the dispensary on Main Street.
“Why don’t families get turned off when they go on vacation and see a bar and people drinking alcohol? Because they’re used to it,” Kiser said. “People will eventually get used to this, too.”