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A river runs through her

Reid Williams
Special to the DailyWhile her first love is water, Frisco's Jessica Marsan is also a photographer and videographer - she and Fairplay resident Joan Theroux have a business taking holiday photos with reindeer.
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FRISCO – Most people who end up putting down roots in Summit County first came for the snow. But for Jessica Marsan, who packed up the car the day after Christmas in 1994 and headed west, it was the water that was calling.

A road trip with girlfriends to take a rafting trip on Colorado’s wild rivers brought her here not once, but twice, and changed her life. It’s taken her around the world, brought her her own business, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop.

“I’ve always been a water person,” says Marsan, 30, a Frisco resident. “That first year was the best water year so far. The next summer, I learned to kayak. Right away, I just pursued it.”

After two years on Colorado’s rivers, Marsan set about to globetrotting, finding work on waterways around the world. She worked in Costa Rica, throughout the U.S. and Canada and elsewhere in Latin America. If she’d had a business card, it would have read “Adventure Travel Guide.”

Her love of kayaking grew, and Marsan began to compete professionally. She’s spent the past three years hitting the downhill and rodeo circuits.

“The whole thing was incredible,” she said. “I took kayaking to extreme levels.”

The past eight years, she said, her focus was kayaking. Her summer passion would leave her stranded – although not in bad places – in the winter. Last winter, another personal passion took her to New Zealand. A longtime photography and videography buff, Marsan had started her own business in 2001, called Rapid Image, shooting and filming river adventures. The good relationships she built with rafting company owners connected her with a Kiwi who ran a similar operation.

“I worked with him on the north island, then spent a month kayaking on the south island,” Marsan said. “We were taking helicopters in to run the rivers flowing off the Southern Alps.”

She could have stayed and worked. She could have headed off to more distant reaches. But she came back to Frisco. To Marsan, the key is remaining open to the opportunities life presents. So despite the yen in her blood for tropical places, she came back to where her friends are, where life is good.

And more opportunities have come around. Through a mutual friend, Marsan connected with Fairplay resident Joan Theroux, who owns five reindeer and an antique sleigh to go with them. Marsan and Theroux (and the reindeer) went into business and can be found at the Blue River Plaza in Breckenridge, offering pictures with the reindeer, sleigh and Santa to locals and visitors.

“I said, “Let’s give it a shot,'” Marsan said. “And it’s been really successful.”

The wanderer in her, however, isn’t likely to rest. With her business operations better established, Marsan said she’ll probably wander more once the rivers rise in the spring. There are events such as the Gore Canyon Races to photograph. There will be road trips, like the one she and her girlfriends took this fall to run rivers in Mexico.

And then she’ll be back again.

“My friends call me a gypsy, but I have roots here,” Marsan said, adding she’s enjoying spending time with her friends and getting as much time as possible on her snowboard and tele skis at Copper Mountain.

Her holiday wish for Summit County: Don’t delve too deep into life’s questions – we all analyze things too much. Just enjoy life and all the good times life presents you.

“Realize how important they are,” she said.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.


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