Editor’s note: This is the first of the series The Longevity Project, a collaboration between The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
Whether the lure of a ski bum winter or the appeal of a summer hiking 14ers, something about the mountains in the Roaring Fork Valley draws people from across the country in and holds them here.
Many journey to Aspen for a ski season, taking jobs in the hospitality industry to make ends meet while skiing as many days as they can fit in. While some call it quits after a single winter, others fall in love with the picturesque scenery and the tight-knit community and decide to plant their roots here.
Ellen Winter came to Aspen after graduating from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. She planned on doing one winter as a “ski bum” before moving back to pursue jobs aligned with her degree in marketing and communications.
“My first job was at Gwyn’s High Alpine, working as a server at the sit-down restaurant,” she said. “I thought I had made it in life because I was commuting to work on a chairlift, while all my friends were commuting in traffic.”
She wrapped up her first season in Aspen and headed back to Minnesota, where she got married the following summer. Her husband decided he wanted to give the ski bum winter a try, and the pair headed back to Aspen for another season.
“He worked for a bank ,and I worked back up at Gwyn’s. We just loved it,” she said. “You come for a winter, stay for a summer, and then you’re here for life.”
The Winters were fortunate to stitch their existence in Aspen with affordable housing and rentals, which Winters said was one of the biggest hurdles when it came to staying in Aspen.
After a couple of seasons at Gwyn’s, she took a job at Grassroots TV doing marketing and communications, what she went to college for.
“Grassroots introduced me to the Aspen community in such a different way,” she said. “It just made me love the community even more.”
Now she’s the marketing director for Christie’s International Real Estate, and her husband works for the city of Aspen Transportation Department. They have two daughters they are raising in Aspen and have created a network of friends through connections they found in the community.
“A lot of the jobs that I’ve had, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And so, being in a tight-knit community, and starting in the service position and growing to know the network of people that live here and visit here allowed me to change jobs and find new opportunities here,” she said.
Her time in the service industry is what allowed her to create a life for herself in Aspen, as well as invaluable skills she still carries with her in her job today.
“So much of what serving is is what marketing is, which is selling ideas,” she said. “Being able to multitask and hustle, I think, has stuck with me.”
After graduating from the University of Denver in 1997, Katherine Fry had a job in human resources with the city of Denver lined up. A friend of hers had an interview in Aspen, and since Aspen was one city in Colorado Fry had yet to travel to, she decided to join her friend for the trip.
“I woke up in the morning, and I opened the blinds, and I was overlooking Red Mountain. And I was like, ‘I am moving here,'” she said.
She marched down to the HR department at what was then the Ritz-Carlton and now the St. Regis and got a job at the fitness center. She said she went back to Denver to let her employers know she was relocating, then she moved to Aspen and has been here ever since.
“I fell in love with Aspen completely unexpectedly and sort of uprooted my future plans because I had to live in this valley,” Fry said.
She knew she wanted to use her degree in human resources and gave herself a year to find a job that aligned with her passions in Aspen. She spent her first six months in the fitness center at the Ritz Carlton scheduling massages, cleaning pools, and maintaining the fitness equipment.
“It was just such a fun summer,” she said.
In November of the same year, Fry got a job as an HR coordinator for the Aspen Club. The Ritz-Carlton was closing, and she was determined to find a job, so she could stay in Aspen.
“I just didn’t want to leave. I was hell bent on figuring out how to stay here,” she said.
Fry’s job at the Aspen Club is just one of the few positions she held before starting her own consulting business in 2022. She worked at Design Workshop for 12 years and then at the town of Snowmass Village for six.
“I wanted to be ingrained in my community, and the town of Snowmass Village had never had an HR professional. So I sort of developed the fundamentals for them,” she said.
Last winter, Fry blew out her knee and was forced to take her first-ever break from working in human resources after having her foot on the gas for 25 years.
“I took the opportunity to say, ‘OK, what do you actually want to do? What do you love about HR?’ And I just realized I really love the coaching side of HR. I’ve done career coaching for 25 years, but I really wanted to start to narrow down and focus on that element,” she said.
Her time off allowed her to go back to school for coaching, and from that, Marble Peak Consulting was born.
Through her company, Fry helps clients transition from deficit-based thinking to asset-based thinking. With 25 years of coaching experience, her passion lies in helping humans lead and live by leveling up, individually and collectively.
Holding multiple jobs allowed her to hone in on what she wanted to do and now. She preaches the same thing to her clients.
“No matter what age you are, you can completely refresh your life. You can completely risk you know, re-invent yourself; it’s just never too late,” she said. “I think that’s so exciting.”
Her advice for someone moving to the valley who wants to make a life there is simple: It’s all going to work out.
“Sometimes, we get caught in patterns of deficit-based thinking. So, being mindful of our thoughts, understanding the power of our brains, and choosing thoughts like, ‘It’s going to work out’ is powerful,” Fry said.
Presented by The Aspen Times and Glenwood Post Independent in partnership with Renew Senior Communities and TACAW, the Longevity Project is a bi-annual campaign to help educate our readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. The June event will look at how to navigate big life transitions, while maintaining, or regaining, purpose.
When: Tuesday, June 6.
Where: TACAW, The Arts Campus at Willits
Time: 5 p.m., Meet and Greet; 5:30-7, panel discussion
Tickets: Can be purchased online at events.cmnm.org/e/longevity2023