Summit County couple met as teens, reconnected 13 years later
February 18, 2016
Fifteen-year-old Betsy Graf was sitting in a hot tub on Peak 9 with one of her friends when she first met Orion Paiement. Raised in a suburb of Chicago, her family often vacationed at their condo in Beaver Run, which her parents had owned since 1979.
Orion, the typical 17-year-old Summit County teenager, was poaching the hot tub with his buddy when he met the dark-haired city girl. Conversation turned into dinner at Eric's, and Orion kept asking Betsy to come dog sledding with him, as his dad owned a company in Breckenridge. There was no way the teenage girl was going to follow this mystery man out to the middle of nowhere for any adventure — but she did let him kiss her.
The two teens spent the week meeting in town and going for walks, before Betsy went back home to Chicago — neither of them realizing that their one week together in 1997 had just sealed their future.
From two seperate worlds
Born at the hospital in Kremmling, Orion grew up in Breckenridge in an old mining cabin on Tiger Road. The epitome of mountain living, his father raised him without electricity or even running water, and young Orion would get snowmobiled up to the bus stop for school. His father, John, purchased a sled dog kennel in 1994, partnering with Good Times Adventures Dog Sledding in 1996. Orion grew up working with the energetic dogs and living a pioneer lifestyle with his father until he moved out after high school, living in town and then moving to Fort Collins to attend college. John lived in the backcountry cabin until a 2003 Open Space plan to purchase 1,840 acres in the Golden Horseshoe area from B&B Mines — which owned the property they lived on — forced him to move.
After attending Colorado Mountain College for his associate's degree and then Colorado State University to finish his bachelor's, Orion took over duties from his father in 2004 and worked to grow the budding sled-dog business, adding activities such as a summer scooter tour. His father passed in 2006, and Orion continued to operate and expand the family kennel.
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Even though Betsy was living in a suburban neighborhood outside of Chicago, she was forever the tomboy, growing up with two older brothers who liked to play rough and get dirty outside. Her childhood consisted of showing hunter-jumper horses at a nearby stable and skiing in Summit County on vacation. After attending college in Maine, she moved to Glenwood Springs to be a teacher, spending her free time skijoring with her two huskies.
In June 2009, at a summer barbecue she threw at her house, a couple guys from Breckenridge attended as guests of her friends. Noticing her huskies and trying to find a way to connect with her, one of the men started talking to Betsy about Orion and his sled dog business. She recognized the unique name and was astonished to find out the man they were talking about was none other than the boy she had kissed 13 years ago.
Intrigued, she let the guy call Orion — and was surprised to find out that he still remembered her as well. She drove down to Summit County, and 26-year-old Betsy let the mountain man take her ATVing up Georgia Pass. In a meadow of wildflowers in American Gulch, Orion picked a handful and gave them to the woman he had met as a teenager. Less than a year later, he was on his knees in that same meadow asking her to be his wife.
A Family of Five
The couple got married on April 2, 2010, in the mountains where they were engaged. The reception was held at Beaver Run in Breckenridge, where the two first met.
Now, sitting in their kitchen in Alma, Betsy holds 3-month-old Pearl, the couple's third child.
"I made sure not to call back for a couple of weeks," Orion says as she tells the story of how they reconnected after 13 years.
"He definitely played it cool the second time around because he acted like a stalker the first time," Betsy laughs as she rocks her daughter.
Orion admits that he had a huge crush on her from the very beginning, even naming his Jeep after her in high school — which she only found out after he introduced her to some of his old friends and they called him out on it.
"I don't think I grew out of that stalker phase until I was 20," he jokes.
Betsy said she always thought it was weird that he still remembered her after all those years, but Orion's crush had never faded. Initially, the guy who had reconnected the two was hoping to date Betsy, but Orion quickly squashed his plans.
"He asked me, 'Do you think I have a chance with her,' and I said, 'No, I'm going to steal her. … You're bringing out my future wife.'"
Every Monday when the business is closed, the family spends the day together at their property in Breckenridge where the dogs are kenneled. Penelope, 4, and Palmer, 2, are learning to ski, and the family spends the day snowmobiling or dog sledding, with little Pearl tucked snugly in a BabyBjorn. At their home in Alma, the couple keeps six dogs, two horses and a Shetland pony at their three-bedroom home right along the river. Betsy feels more at home in the country than she ever did in Chicago, and Orion says he is blessed to have a big family to share his outdoors lifestyle with.
They both feel fortunate the successful sled dog business has allowed them to raise their children in the mountains, even though it's a lot of work. With two toddlers and an infant, the couple has many of the same, sleep-deprived struggles of young parents but wouldn't trade their lives for anything.
"We love our life here," Betsy said.
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