An unbreakable promise
Jason and Bree Thoma will be the first ones to admit that marriage is hard work. But the commitment the two have for each other is undeniable as they speak about their lives together and the family they’ve raised. Married for almost 17 years, the couple has three daughters and understands how much work it takes to raise a family in the mountains. Even when life becomes a struggle and it’s tough to hang on, they remember the unbreakable promise they made to each other.
“What makes a marriage work is the commitment,” Jason said. “I’m so blessed to have her as my wife, I love her more than when we got married.”
LOVE AT SECOND SIGHT
Bree is a New Jersey transplant that moved to Summit County “just for one season” in 1995 for the free ski pass. Two years later, at 24-years-old, she found herself working at the Keystone Stables when she first met Jason. He was 28 at the time, and had just moved up to the mountains from northeast of Denver. Coming from a line of Colorado homesteaders, Jason left his family’s wheat farm for higher ground.
Bree was actually headed out to spend a year working at a show horse farm in Boulder, and Jason was one of the ranch hands coming in to take her place. It definitely wasn’t love at first sight.
“We actually didn’t really care for each other when we first met,” Bree said.
Jason chimes in with his version of the story.
“I thought she was a snub-nosed horse woman, and I guess she probably thought I was a …” Jason trails off.
“A cocky cowboy,” Bree throws in.
About a year later, Bree returned to Summit County to visit a mutual friend of the couple who was sick, and it was there that they connected again.
“I thought, you know, she’s pretty good looking,” Jason said, and so he asked the blonde equestrian to go out for a drink at the Old Dillon Inn. They danced for the first time to a Willie Nelson song.
Jason wooed her even more on their second date at a George Straight concert.
“A year from that July, we were married,” Jason said.
“When it’s right, it’s right,” Bree said.
Jason proposed to Bree on Valentine’s Day 1999, and the couple wed on July 24 that same year.
The two were married at the back ranch in Keystone, where a horse-drawn wagon brought their guests to the site. Bree arrived in a stagecoach with her bridal party, while Jason rode in on Bree’s horse. The couple said their “I do’s” surrounded by the mountains that drew them together.
CREATING A SUMMIT COUNTY LIFE
Jason and Bree now have three daughters — the oldest, Elizabeth, is attending public school for the first time as a freshman in high school. Hannah is 13, and Esther, their “little box of chocolate from God,” turns 10 on Valentine’s Day, and the two youngest are both still home schooled. They wanted their children to have a well-rounded, Christ-based teaching they wouldn’t get in a public school, Bree said.
Raising three kids in Summit County isn’t easy, and the Thomas had to sacrifice to make it work. It was important to the couple that the children grew up with one parent at home, and because of that, Jason has always kept more than one job, with Bree pitching in where she can. Jason is a co-manager at Two Below Zero dinner sleigh rides in Frisco, and the operations manager for landfill, recycling and compost for the county. Now that the children are older, Bree is able to spend more time working on the ranch, as well as driving sleighs and wagons for Two Below.
“It takes a lot of money to live here. … I’ve always said you’ve got to have a lot of jobs or a lot of roommates, but I’ve always said I’ve had a lot of roommates without jobs,” Jason laughed. “That’s why I have so many jobs. But it’s worth it, you make those sacrifices for your family and we still find a lot of time to have family time.”
Although the two are no strangers to hard work, there have been times they’ve thought about leaving the county. Not only does living in the mountains require more money than other areas, but the transient community is also hard on the whole family.
“People don’t stay, and your neighbors change,” Bree said. “… The kids’ classmates change, your church family changes. It seems to happen quickly.”
Jason adds that they’ve had close friends over the years that have all moved away.
“It’s tough on the kids, it’s tough on her — I’m not very social so it doesn’t really hurt me at all,” Jason jokes.
The family makes sure to remember what is important in life — making time for each other, working hard and playing hard. Sitting down to dinner as a family is a must, and they spend quality time hunting together. The girls are in 4-H with their horses, and they show pigs and sheep. It’s a busy life, the couple says, but they get to do the things they are passionate about, and they couldn’t be more satisfied with they way their lives turned out.
“I think it’s by the grace of God that we came together,” Jason said. “We were young, we didn’t know what we were doing. The reasons we decided to start dating … at that time, I had no idea what I was getting into, and neither did she for the most part. And it’s been a blessing from God.”
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