A bar to base a life around | SummitDaily.com

A bar to base a life around

KEYSTONE – In 1973, Jim Shields walked into the Loveland Pass Lounge and Restaurant in Keystone to look for his two friends. Single, out of college and looking for work, he had heard about this new ski area called Keystone from his buds, Kurt Peoples and Bob Starekow, who filled him with stories from the mountains.

Apparently, it was better than Minnesota.

So Shields traveled the thousand miles to sit in the bar and drink beer, waiting for his friends to show.

Thirty years later, Shields visits the bar, now called the Snake River Saloon, every day. As co-owner and general manager, he’s developed a music-based pub with views of the mountain he skis every winter.

The young ski bum drove cement trucks before he finally landed a job tending bar at the saloon, and, within two years, was promoted to co-manage the place with Starekow. Along the way, he also won his first Summit County softball championship.

“Bob and I were both single at the time and we had a good time,” Shields said. “We introduced music to Keystone and to Summit County in a big way. We threw some festivals up in Peru Gulch with bands and bonfires and great stuff like that.”

Then, Jim met Jane. She came from Montezuma and found a nice watering hole which, of course, happened to be the one Jim managed. He met her again on a softball field and decided enough was enough. In 1981, they married on Pass Lake and had to kick Starekow out of their closet after the post-wedding celebration.

“He wanted to stay,” Jim joked. “But that wasn’t going to happen.”

By then, Starekow had left the business, leaving Shields and one other partner to both own and manage the Snake. Summit County had begun to boom, and outside the windows of the bar overlooking Keystone, he saw neighbors and competitors sprouting mailboxes and neon signs.

“We’ve always been able to get our share,” Shields said. “This used to be a three-stop-light town. But soon more stoplights were being built and the county was being modernized as a whole.”

Music, and softball championships (he also won county championships in the 80s and 90s), seemed to keep the place filled. Big Head Todd and the Monsters played a show in their early days as a band, and, today, live bands fill the stage every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night through August.

But first came Joey and Elizabeth, his children, both students at Summit High School. Joey’s a mogul skier and Elizabeth’s working her way to the varsity volleyball team. This year, Jane became the co-president of the parent, teacher and student organization.

But, the days of 1973 haven’t completely faded from memory. Shields speaks of his bar like an old friend, something he’s nurtured for years, despite its tendency to smell like cigarettes. His wooden walls maintain the mountain atmosphere and the six collages of photos act like a saloon yearbook. Need a funny face? Try the back of the bar. There are thousands.

“The walls of the Snake are filled with memories,” Shields said. “Dating back to 1975, we’ve got highlights of all the people living in Keystone and the people just passing through. They’re good memories.”

Even some of his staff has remained as constant as the decor. Randy Schmitt, a waiter of 18 years, along with Carol Peoples, the longtime assistant manager, receive nothing but praise from Shields.

“They’re the people I depend on and they always deliver,” Shields said.

And, Shields said, as times have become tougher on the tourist and restaurant industries, having good help is priceless.

“We’re doing our best to hang onto our necks like everyone else is doing,” he added. “We want to give the locals a place to come by. Some of them bring their parents by, and, as far as weddings and rehearsal dinners, we want them to have the same kind of memories I’ve had. I know that stuff is really important to people.”

The Snake River Saloon, located off Highway 6 in Keystone, opens the bar at 4:30 p.m. and the restaurant at 6 p.m.

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