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While you were sleeping: Aspen area's early morning workers get the valley’s engine started

  • 2 min to read

Quiet. Enjoying the stillness before the rest of the world wakes. Those are the common themes among early morning workers in the Roaring Fork Valley. Starting their work days before the sun rises, many of these employees and business owners get lots accomplished in the wee hours of the morning before many of us have even started our days.


Owner of the Fench Pastry Cafe and Catering in the Aspen ABC, Margarita Alvarez Flores prepares fresh bakery items with homemade dough the morning of July 23.

The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen has several workers to keep the property functioning smoothly around the clock. From housekeeping, maintenance, to front of house staff among others.

Maliea Sanchez is one of the night concierges who works the graveyard hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sanchez says she enjoys working these hours because it is typically quiet with few requests from guests, and she can go home early and enjoy her day after preparing everything for a smooth shift change.

One of the Nell’s maintenance men, Alvaro Lopez, who’s been there 23 years, starts his work day at 7 a.m. and right away is busy with requests from guests and hotel staff, checking the pool and Jacuzzi pH levels and otherwise basically being a jack-of-all-trades. Lopez laughs as he goes over all of the various tasks he’s given on a daily basis, but he, too, likes to start early so he can return home for the remainder of the day.

Sihle Mnyandu starts preparing for breakfast service at Element 47 at 6:30 a.m. Mnyandu states, “I love working in the morning, I have the whole day for myself.”

Owner and pastry chef of the French Pastry Cafe and Catering in the Aspen Airport Business Center, Margarita Alvarez Flores ­begins her workdays at approximately 5 a.m. She and her husband have owned the cafe for about two years, but prior to that Flores worked in the kitchen for years, which gave her the knowledge she needed to take over the business. Flores says it is still a “guessing game” to her in regard to how many of each type of pastry to make.

A wafting, mouthwatering smell of fresh, warm baked goods greets your nostrils as you enter this charming family-run cafe. The “mom and pop” feel still exists in this devoted family’s business, and Flores’ precision to detail in every pastry makes her early morning hours of work preparing the different parts of the baking process well worth it.

Mountain Primal Meat Co. ranch hands work from “sun up to sun down, and then some,” chuckles employee Derran Erb. Nestled up against the Crown in Emma, this ranch exudes beauty in the early morning hours. In the hot summer months ranch work needs to get started early to avoid doing the most laborious tasks during the heat of the day.

After pushing a herd of the ranch’s Scottish Highlander cattle to a new grazing area Wednesday morning, ranch hands Brycen Nix, Trevor Johnson and Tripp Axtell unanimously agreed they “could never work a desk job,” and that ranching teaches “self-sufficient skills that can apply to many facets of life.”

As ranchers, they are not only stewards of the land and animal enthusiasts but the business elements including making relations within the community and other ranches and learning the market for their product make their job rewarding.

After the initial shock of an abrupt alarm clock awakening these early morning workers in the hours before sunrise, a true adoration exists for their careers, the stillness of the day and for the balancing of life with the remainder of each day.


Ranch hand, Trevor Johnson, shares a moment in the early morning light with his horse, Marvin, after wrangling cattle into a new grazing area Wednesday morning.