Parker Olsen’s room is a former retail store in the old Ruthie’s restaurant on Aspen Mountain.
The 17-year-old Aspen High junior lives in the sprawling former restaurant space with his father, a cousin, another roommate and two dogs. Such living arrangements demand skiing and hiking, activities Olsen knows well.
Olsen’s dad, an engineer for the Aspen Skiing Co. at Bonnie’s and the Sundeck restaurants, put his son on skis when he was a year old. And the lad skis like it: fast, smooth and unafraid of launching off risers and cliffs.
His school days start off at 9,100 feet, with a stunning view of town from the living room, which was once the dining and bar area. Scores of chairs are stacked on one wall. The place has a commercial kitchen, bathrooms downstairs, cable, Internet and good cell service. The dogs lazed on a couch near pictures of Bob Beattie, Zeno Colo and other legendary ski racers.
Signs on the door mark the place as private property and closed, but skiers still “come in all the time,” Olsen said.
His morning commute is usually lower Roch Run to Goat Road to the top of Little Nell and down to Rubey Park, where he catches a bus to the stop on Maroon Creek Road near school.
Getting to town, depending on the season, sometimes involves snowmobiling halfway down the mountain to a vehicle or bike.
“But normally it tends to be a lot of walking,” he said.
He can do the 1,100-foot hike to his home in 30 minutes. Going down the mountain takes half the time, he said.
During the winter it helps that he “likes to ski as much as possible,” said Olsen, who has 95 days (probably 96 or 97 by today) on his season pass.
Olsen has lived in Ruthie’s, which SkiCo closed in 2001 because of lacking business, since 1999. Most of his friends think his residence is “a pain in the butt” because he has to put on ski clothes for one run to the bottom, then change into regular clothes for school.
“I just think they’re really, really jealous that I live on the mountain,” he said.
The only drawback is when he wants to join friends in town at night.
“I’m already here, I don’t really want to start up my snowmobile and go down,” said Olsen, who’s been driving a snow rig since he was 14. “And then I really don’t like making the groomers mad going over their tracks a bunch of times.”
Snowcats that drive by at night, and early-season snow guns, help him sleep, he said.
First tracks on powder days are particularly sweet for Olsen, who competes in big-mountain events on the Junior Freeskiing Tour.
“There’s probably no spot I haven’t been” on Aspen Mountain, Olsen said.
He’d like to go to college on the Front Range to study sports medicine, but said the Peace Corps also is enticing. Wherever he goes, the living arrangements will likely not involve the side of a mountain.
“I don’t know what it’s like to live in a normal house in town,” he laughed.