Meet `Bob Morse, Outdoor Specialist’
Post Independent Staff
SILT – Bob Morse has some advice for anyone who gets a chance to go on a “Grand trip,” -that is, a multi-week river trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
“Drop everything and do it,” Morse said. “Even if it means quitting your job.”
Morse, 56, knows the magic of a Grand trip. He was a guide for the legendary river-running maven Georgie White In the early ’80s. She was one of the first to create a commercial outfitting business using rubber rafts to navigate down the Colorado River through the Grand. He’s run that section of the Colorado so many times, as a professional guide and private boater, he’s practically lost count.
When Morse isn’t running the Grand, he’s doing a lot of other adventurous things. Morse has carved out what many would consider an ideal lifestyle. The job title on his business card reads “Bob Morse, Outdoor Specialist.”
And indeed he is. A licensed boatman and certified ski instructor, Morse splits his time between rowing boats during the summer for Whitewater Rafting in Glenwood Springs and teaching skiing at Buttermilk during the winter. He also teaches a range of first aid, EMT, CPR and language courses for Colorado Mountain College.
His house in Silt, which he shares with his wife of 18 years, Lesley Morse, and their two cats is a testament to an adventurous lifestyle.
Outside, there’s an old shed Morse calls the Boathouse, for good reason. Next to it is the Marina, a collection of boats including a canoe, a red dory named Hayduke and a 16-foot rubber raft.
From Grenoble to Carbondale
Morse was a ski racer from New Hampshire when he came out West to go to school at the University of Denver – and ski.
“I was on the same start list with Jean Claude Killy,” he said with a smile, of the few races in which he and Killy shared billing. “I was just further down the list than he was.”
Morse graduated in 1969 with degrees in business and languages – French and German – and got his M.B.A. in international business management after that.
Primed for a job in Europe with the ski industry, Morse landed a position working for Bob Lange of Lange ski boots in Grenoble, France.
“It was great,” Morse said of his penthouse apartment in Grenoble, and his lifestyle as a young, single American guy skiing and living in France. “Life was good.”
It was good, but it didn’t last. The company fell apart due to a buyout, and Morse jumped ship.
He came back to the United States and ended up in the Roaring Fork Valley, “with a big severance check,” he said.
In spite of Morse’s globetrotting lifestyle though, it never occurred to him to live upvalley in Aspen.
“It’s a nice place to visit,” he said of Aspen, “but I figured Carbondale was close enough. I never have felt like I had to be in the middle of it up there. When I go home, I want to go somewhere else.”
So, Morse bought a 10-speed bike for $135 from Aspen Sports and rented a house in Carbondale from Maecille Cerise.
“In those days, we could live within our means,” he said. “An Aspen ski pass cost $300 and I skied every day, until the money ran out.”
Quite a commute
With Morse’s European ski job money dwindling, he decided that living in western Colorado – and not jet-setting around ski resorts – was more to his liking.
“I took stock,” he said, “and I wanted to stay here.”
So, Morse started applying his background, experience and skills locally. He coached ski racing, and was the ski school director at Sunlight for a few years. He taught German and French, as well as first aid courses at CMC. Classes were held in the basement of the Hotel Colorado, which during the ’70s doubled as the Glenwood campus.
And he began getting into water sports. In the summer of ’73, he went on a six-day canoe and kayak trip down the San Juan River – and he was hooked. He started guiding raft trips for Whitewater Rafting down the Colorado through Glenwood Canyon and hasn’t stopped since.
“Now that Todd Olson has passed away, I think I’ve been guiding trips around here longer than anyone else,” Morse said. Olson, affectionately known as “Toad,” was a friend and fellow raft guide and ski instructor who died June 17.
Morse has a long career teaching skiing, too. It’s his 20th season at Buttermilk teaching for the Aspen Skiing Co.
“If you’re going to make it as a ski instructor, you’ve got to show up every day,” he said. “And I’m not talking five days a week. I’m talking eight.”
Because Aspen is quite a daily commute from Silt, during winters, Morse rents a room from friends who live in Woody Creek. He stays upvalley and loads up teaching courses in the evenings at CMC’s Aspen campus. Lesley comes up on the weekends to see her husband and, of course, ski.
`If I’m able, I’ll do it’
Through the years, Morse has moved downriver, from Carbondale to New Castle to his house in Silt, where everywhere you look there are framed photographs of big rapids swallowing up boats and people, and of skiers tackling steep terrain.
Even amidst all this healthy activity, Morse has had a few physical setbacks. A few years ago, he suffered a stroke and temporarily lost his ability to speak.
“I thought, `This can’t be a stroke,'” he said. “I don’t smoke and I don’t drink and I’m in good shape.”
Morse fully recovered from his stroke. Just last month he had a total shoulder replacement.
“I could row and I could pole plant, but I couldn’t bring a soup spoon up to my mouth,” he said with a grin.
This fall, Morse is planning to get lots of physical therapy and be ready to go when the snow flies.
“If I’m able, I’ll do the skiing thing, and I’ll run rivers,” he said. “I’m a guy with a master’s in international business, and this is what I do. I’m happy. And I look forward to going to work every day.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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Imagine Glenwood and The City of Glenwood Springs is slated to host a virtual town hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11.