Bob Girvin of Beaver Run Resort bids farewell after 40 years
Bob Girvin remembers a brief stint in the 1970s when Aspen owned Breckenridge. And it was a budding developer’s dream.
“When Aspen bought the ski area, they only wanted skiing,” Girvin recalls over coffee on Ridge Street, just a few blocks down from his home of more than four decades. “They weren’t in the development business — they never have been. But they still took over a lot of land at the base of the mountain, everything except for Beaver Run.”
Girvin takes a break from his story to sip a small coffee at Cuppa Joe. It’s a typically cloudy April morning in his adopted hometown and the first coffee shop we tried was closed for mud season. But no matter. The longtime real estate agent and hawk-eyed investor knows this town like the back of his hand, even if it’s morphed and evolved countless times since he first came from the Midwest.
Ski season may be over, but Cuppa Joe is bustling: tables across from the coffee bar are filled with twenty-somethings behind MacBooks, while a steady stream of brightly dressed yogis swing by after finishing class at the studio next door. It’s a local’s spot, the sort of place where a cup is $1.50 with unlimited refills, frequented by folks who don’t have the luxury — or the time — to take off a few weeks between closing day and Memorial Day.
“You’re talking to a guy who works seven days a week for as long as he’s lived here,” Girvin says during the break in his story. “The way we ran this real estate business, we didn’t have time to go to Tahiti or disappear to the other side of the world. But now it’s time to get out and explore. I’m getting too old to still be working.”
But it’s not as though Girvin is ready to leave Breckenridge altogether. No, he’s just ready for a change of pace, specifically a slower, more relaxing pace. He might even take up a hobby — golf seems like a natural choice, he says — and luckily, as of last week he’ll now have the time. He officially stepped down after more than 30 years on the board of directors at Beaver Run Resort, one of the oldest and most recognizable properties in town. When he left the board, he also officially left the hotel he co-founded more than 40 years ago, shortly after arriving in Colorado.
And after bidding his baby adieu, Girvin has no intention of looking back.
“After 31 years, I thought I might want to get out of it,” Girvin says. “I’m close to 80 and there are a lot of things I want to do with my life before I get too old to do them. I’ve started running into people who were here 30 or 40 years ago, putting in their dues as bartenders and lifties just to get that ski pass for the season. Now, they come back to visit and they’re bankers or something else in a big city, and that was never for me. I’ve just always wanted to be here.”
BIRTH OF BEAVER RUN
It was 1971 and Girvin had just moved to Colorado from his hometown of Chicago, where he spent more than a decade fitting F-4 Phantoms with landing gear. He rode two trains through the heart of the city’s industrial district to get from his home to the factory — not his ideal commute, but the first of many welcome changes for a boy who grew up on a small, historic farm building in the nearby suburb of Northfield.
“It’s fun to go down to Tucson and go through the airplane graveyard down there,” says Girvin, referring to the Pima Air and Space Museum where retired jets are laid to rest. “You can get up close to some of the planes we made parts for. I can see the parts I put on there — an axle, a strut, the powered steering units. It’s so cool to see them still around.”
But the daily grind in a hot, bustling factory wasn’t Girvin’s calling. He needed another change of pace and Colorado was on his mind. He’d taken a few ski trips to Aspen, where sometime in the late ’60s a headline almost randomly caught his attention: Aspen had bought Breckenridge for a whopping $1.8 million.
“I was going through a job change and said, ‘You know what, I’m going to have a big change — I’m going to move 1,000 miles,’” Girving says with a laugh.
And so he did. Girvin arrived shortly after Aspen bought Breckenridge and announced plans for a new, state-of-the-art lift near the heart of a then-quiet downtown. The lift, now known as the Beaver Run SuperChair, butted up against one of the few properties Aspen didn’t purchase when it came to Breck.
Girvin had a stake in the property and soon began working with developers to build one of the town’s first modern hotels, complete with a conference facility some three decades before mountain conferences were in vogue.
“I thought there might be an abrupt social or cultural change coming out here, meeting a bunch of miners when I showed up,” Girvin says. “Truth is, there were a lot of people with the same background as us, people who came from everywhere — the ranches, the construction industry, managerial positions, lawyers and brokers. It was a little microcosm of the world.”
Over the next decade or so, Girvin built Beaver Run with the help of a few committed partners. But they didn’t just build a hotel, Girvin says.
“Luckily we got in at a time when there was room for more brokers around here,” Girvin says. “I think we got in at a good time — maybe we had some kind of pizzazz, but pizzazz only gets you so far. It was still a hell of a lot of work.”
Despite a rash of bank sales and Aspen’s eventual departure in the mid-’70s, Girvin and fellow developers set the stage for a ski resort on the rise, working with the local town council, Summit County planners, utility providers and just about every other municipal entity to give Breck a floor plan for the next 50 years.
“The county was totally out of control,” Girvin says of the early ’70s development scene. “They didn’t have the planning regulations or the zoning regulations when we first came, but when all of a sudden it hit them between the eyes, they had to get that plan going to make sure everything would work as it kept growing. People needed to be controlled for the long run.”
Today, as construction at Peak 8 and across the county ramps up following the 2008 recession, Girvin is looking forward to the next 50 years for Summit and his adopted hometown. He believes development is a good thing: county officials have a plan, he says, and that plan will sustain the area while still attracting new locals — even as development nears its capacity.
‘The towns and the county have developed a very mature style of management,” Girvin says. “They’re very sharp and know their business. They have a plan for handling growth, and with the amount of available land we have, with the need for resources, I just don’t think this county will be developed to a greater extent. We’re nearing maturity.”
Yet Girvin couldn’t have asked for a better property than the Beaver Run plot. Over the years, it’s undergone several renovations and expansions, all while maintaining a core group of managers. Current general manager Bob Barto started in 1991 and hasn’t left since.
“To have the stability of someone who’s been there since the beginning, that’s not something you see all the time,” Barto says of Girvin. “Developers can walk away when time gets tough, but he’s been there since the start. The employees and homeowners are appreciative of that dedication.”
But for now, with his decades-old board position a week in the past, Girvin is more concerned with pinning down a hobby. He needs that change of pace.
“I’m trying to learn to play golf, but I can’t get the hang of it,” says Girvin, who had a stake in property near the Breck golf course some 20 years before the course was built. “That’s my par — 95 or 105. But we’re really lucky to have a golf course now, and that’s been part of the development that’s a major boon for us. You get all this recreation outside of skiing.”
Then there are the people who keep him here, folks like Barto and Alden Spillman, the original Ullr.
“There’s a large base of really good people in this town who have stayed here,” Girvin says, looking around the coffee shop and nodding to a fellow local of 30-plus years. “To see them socially, still being active and getting out on the skis, it’s a lot of fun. I just know a hell of a lot of people I can talk to or kibitz with on the street corner. It’s my community.”
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