Town Story: Glenwood Springs
The Ute Indians first discovered the 124-degree mineral water bubbling from the Earth at Glenwood Springs. Since then, everyone from U.S. presidents to Molly Brown has come here to experience the water’s healing powers.
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BY DAYLIGHT, when the ghosts have gone to sleep, the view from Linwood Cemetery is an extraordinary mountain panorama. Actually, the view is extraordinary everywhere in Glenwood Springs, and people spend as much of their time as possible outdoors to enjoy it. Just east of town, the striated red cliffs of Glenwood Canyon look good from the highway, but folks here know they’re best viewed while rafting down the Colorado River. A walk from the canyon up Dead Horse Creek takes hikers to the turquoise waters and waterfalls of Hanging Lake, and the two major bicycle trails offer even more gorgeous scenery.
Summertime visitors can rent bikes from Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop, which in winter is the in-town headquarters of Sunlight Mountain Resort. This is the place the locals ski, the hometown alternative to the big-name ski resorts just down the road. Many use skis and snowboards from Glenwood Springs’ own Meier Skis.
Meier Skis began as a project in Matt Cudmore’s one-car garage. Five years ago, Cudmore received a $1,000 inheritance from his grandmother and vowed to do something worthwhile with it to honor her memory. That something? Build skis.
Cudmore, previously an architectural designer and aircraft mechanic, started working on the project in September 2009, and by the last week of ski season, he was able to take runs at Sunlight on his first completed pair. After selling his next skis to friends for only the cost of materials, Cudmore nurtured his hobby into a business that far outgrew the garage. The company’s skis are pure Colorado – the cores are made of locally grown aspen and recycled beetle-kill pine.
In his new workshop, he still has those first skis as a reminder of his humble start. Instead of the sophisticated graphics of his later skis, they’re decorated with colorful strips of fabric, originally part of a shirt he bought at Defiance Thrift Store.
Defiance is one of the most popular, and certainly most unique, shops in town. It mainly sells donated clothes, but a lot of the stuff locals donate is far from typical thrift-store fare. There are Swarovski crystal cowboy boots, which normally go for $2,000, blow darts from the Amazon and a Zulu shield and spear whose former owner is rumored to be actor Michael Douglas. Manager Rhonda Bell and her staff exhibit a mix of joy and bewilderment as they unpack donations.
Bell said she learns a lot about her town from the things donated to thrift store. For instance, she estimates 80 percent of the donated books have to do with self-help– healthful eating, parenting, psychology– which she thinks shows locals’ commitment to improving body and mind.
Defiance’s profits go to charities that help struggling families and the homeless. The store also gives vouchers to disadvantaged people to help them get clothes. The need for this program was made clear to Bell when she saw a family use vouchers to buy outfits for their young daughter, who was wearing a large coat. Before the family left the store, the little girl’s parents took off her coat to put on her new clothes – the girl hadn’t had clothes on underneath.
CHARITY IS ONE WAY to give back to the community; supporting local businesses is another. On Grand Avenue, The Grind is a local burger joint that puts the emphasis on local. All the beef comes from cattle raised just up the valley in Carbondale,and even the tables are local, made of wood reclaimed from nearby barns. It’s a new spin on the farm-to-table concept, said co-owner Mike Mercatoris, because the table is actually from the farm.
The Grind butchers its own primal cuts of beef and grinds it fresh daily. It took six months for Mercatoris and coowner Chris Heinz to concoct the perfect blend of chuck, brisket and short rib for their ground beef. During this process,they would sometimes inhale the rawmeat’s bouquet, pulling out flavors as a sommelier does with wine. They knew they were on to something when they detected hints of fresh-cut grass in the grass-fed beef.
The Grind started out a few years ago but reopened last year in its new Grand Avenue home. The Glenwood Vaudeville Revue is another business that recently relocated to Grand. While there’s always demand for a good burger, the demand for vaudeville shows, which practically went extinct with the advent of talking motion pictures, was less obvious.
But the troupe, led by showman John Goss, has thrown together original shows with comedy, singing and dancing that have won over any doubters. The Revue’s new theater has a secret weapon: a Photoplayer, an organ designed to accompany silent movies, which can produce a bizarre array of sound effects, from drums to sirens to the clatter of horse hooves. Goss and company write and perform comedic songs, sometimes lampooning people and places in Glenwood Springs.