Working the Valley: Making a Living on Two Wheels
Residents of the Roaring Fork Valley work a wide range of jobs, from ski lift operators and bus drivers to carpenters and seasonal police officers who patrol for signs of bears. Today we start a series we’re calling Working The Valley.
Kurt Fehrenbach is a long-time Valley resident who splits his time teaching skiing in the winter and helping mountain bikers in the summer. His job as a Bike Pro in Snowmass Village is relatively new but, he says, he’s been biking nearly all his life. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.
Kurt Fehrenbach sends up a cloud of dirt as he speeds down Snowmass resort on his mountain bike. It’s the end of his workday, but instead of heading home, he takes one more ride down the mountain.
"I’m crazy about cycling in every dimension. I haven’t owned a car for ten years, I commute all the time. In the wintertime, I love the fat bikes. The bicycle’s awesome, it's one of mankind’s greatest inventions," he says.
Fehrenbach is decked in protective gear. He’s tall and lean. He’s been teaching mountain biking for the Aspen Skiing Company for three years. He works for the Ski Co in wintertime too.
"I’ve been teaching skiing since 1982," he says.
Jeff Hanle is a spokesperson for the Aspen Skiing Company. He says, "It helps to be able to take what you know as a ski pro and transform that ability to teach, model and instruct into the bike world."
The company, says Hanle, looks to its crew of ski instructors to fill open bike pro positions.
"They know what they’re talking about and a lot of them are racers, or compete. It’s really cool, having been through the lessons myself. You can still learn something from these guys," he says.
Fehrenbach holds private lessons and teaches groups. He’s on his bike almost every day, navigating a growing network of trails at Snowmass and teaching nearly every kind of rider.
"The oldest student I’ve had is Carlos Sr., he was 78 years old and he came down Easy Rider, that’s our easiest trail. And, the youngest I’ve had, I’ve had kids as young as five years old."
Relative to teaching skiing, instructing mountain biking students is more difficult, he says. But, it’s not because of the students, themselves.
"Skiing’s a little bit easier right now because the ski area has been developed, the facility and infrastructure has been in place since 1947 on Aspen mountain."
The Snowmass mountain bike trails are just a couple of years old. Next year an expanded skills park and additional trails for beginners will likely be added.
Being a bike pro is perfect for Fehrenbach. He says it feeds his addiction to the sport and provides year-round income, something that’s hard to find in a resort economy.
"One of the tricks with working the seasonal job, teaching skiing in the wintertime, is finding the right job that compliments it in the summer without going down-under, which I did for years."
Back on the bike, Fehrenbach jumps down a few stairs and heads home, happy to be on two wheels.