Rick “Pup” Ascher says the mountain lifestyle in Breckenridge has shaped him as a person
January 12, 2014
Pup's Glide Shop is hard to miss. Just off of Main Street Breckenridge on Ski Hill Road, the small purple building stands out against a snowy backdrop, and in winter it sports a wooden Grinch on the top, with his one-horned dog Max towing a Christmas tree.
Fortunately, there's nothing Grinch-like about the shop, or its owner, longtime Breckenridge local Rick Ascher. In the shop, he wears a leather apron, that looks to have seen its fair share of working days, overtop jeans and a plaid shirt. His short, spiky hair frames a face always on the ready to break into a smile.
The smell of wax, well known to any winter recreation enthusiast, greets customers on entrance. Skis of all shapes and sizes fill up every corner of the shop — which is little more than entryway, counter and workspace — from floor to ceiling. Anyone can stay to watch Rick and employees at work, carefully crafting, waxing and repairing skis and snowboards. A bench made from skis at the front often serves as a post-powder day gathering place.
"It's great," Ascher said. "People come in all excited after a good day of skiing. A lot of people come in here, sit here and have a couple beers and talk about the day."
Ascher is happy to talk to anyone and everyone who walks through his door, whether it's about fixing or tuning their skis, discussing the finer points of brands and ski designs, or just what they've been up to since he's seen them last. Just about every item in the shop seems to have a story, and a customer need only point it out to hear it. Some are nostalgic, some somber, like the wall of skis belonging to friends who have passed on, and others intriguing, like the two pairs of antique wooden skis Ascher found in an old woman's garage.
Ascher and his employees have been tuning skis for decades. As a high schooler in Minnesota, Ascher was on the ski racing team and would tune his and his friends' skis. Being a craftsman also runs in the family.
"My dad was a woodworker," he said, "so I learned a lot of craftsmanship skills from my father."
When Ascher came to Summit County in 1979, he worked at a number of ski shops before finally purchasing the Glide Shop nine years ago. On top of that are the years and years of skiing experience, knowing how every little detail affects feel and performance.
Skiing was what drew Ascher to the area in the first place, mostly in the form of his old ski coach, who had moved to Breckenridge from Minnesota and opened up a ski shop, inviting his former athletes to join him. Ascher and 12 of his high school buddies complied.
"They called us 'the pups,' because we were really young … and we ran around this town like a pack of wild pups, tails wagging," he said with a laugh.
Of the pack, only Ascher remains a permanent resident, and he still bears the nickname "Pup," both for himself and his business.
When he arrived in Breckenridge, it was very different from the town today, he said. There were fewer people, for instance, and there wasn't a single stoplight.
"This town was pretty crazy; it was a fun time," he recalled. Ascher has plenty of stories about what it was like back then, from wild Ullr Fests to local characters.
"People I met in this town, when I was 18, I was in my formable years. They took me under their wing," he said. "I've maintained closeness with a lot of people I met when I was first here.
"They helped develop my personality," he added with a laugh.
Many of those friendships still hold strong today, and Ascher has developed traditions with his group of buddies, like skiing the back side of Mt. Baldy on the fourth of July every year, and trips to Lake Powell, not to mention skiing together in the winter.
"People here are really incredible," Ascher said, of what's kept him living in Summit County for 35 years. "And of course, skiing the mountains. This is my home."
Ascher married his wife, Annie Evans, in 1989. The two live in a historical house on Harris Street, built in 1885. Ascher is also quick to sing the praises of his son Levi, 17, and daughter Geneva, 13. Both, of course, are excellent skiers.
"I had my kids in ski boots when they were six months old, and had them skiing since 11 months old," he said. "The whole skiing thing is in the family's blood."
Skier at heart
In the end, skiing is what ties it all together for Ascher, from personal life to professional life and to the future generation.
When asked to describe how skiing makes him feel, the normally jovial Ascher grew thoughtful.
"It's the exhilaration, the snow — you feel the wind and snow on your face — the vistas, the speed, adrenaline. The feeling," he said. "It's good to have skis on your feet. As soon as I sit on a chairlift it's like, 'aaah,'" he sighed, "and as soon as I get off the chairlift in the snow, I feel the glide. It's kind of spiritual." A smile spread across his face at the thought.
That's also why he's not surprised Breckenridge has grown as much as it has.
"It's a little slice of paradise," he said. "This town has a lot of reasons why people come here, and skiing's just one of them."
Although Ascher doesn't get up on the hill as much as he used to, he still makes a point to play in the powder. He's already clocked in 52 days this year. And when he's not on the hill or with his family, he's at the shop, working so other people can enjoy the slopes he loves.
"It's been a good run," he said in summary, nodding and looking around his shop. "It's been a good run."
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