Meet the locals of Summit County, CO
We’ve all seen the green and white Colorado “Native” bumper stickers displayed proudly on the backs of mud-caked Subarus. And while being born in this majestic state is certainly an honor, perhaps a Colorado “Local” sticker would be more telling, pointing out individuals who have chosen to live here. The call of the wild mountains beckoned, and they answered. We spoke with four such Summit County residents who have chosen call this place home. These individuals span across differing generations — an educator, an outdoorsman, a storyteller and our youngest local, a skier who was born here, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
AT THE AGE OF 15, having 13 season ski passes in your collection is a pretty impressive feat. But simply loving the mountains isn’t where it ends for Jaxin Hoerter. “Go big or go home,” rolls easily off the tongue of this local slasher. Born in Breckenridge, Hoerter began Alpine skiing at the age of 2 under the guidance of his mom, Amy Hoerter. By the age of 4, he was ready to follow in his father’s footsteps and learn to telemark ski. But when there were no telemark skis small enough for him, he didn’t let that stop him. His father, Dusty Hoerter, created custom telemark skis by combining a pair of Alpine and Nordic skis. Eleven years later, Jaxin still finds time to occasionally telemark, but his true passion lies in the terrain park. With his mom Amy as his coach, he recently made the U.S. Freeski rookie team. As one of eight on the rookie halfpipe team, he’s ready to face the season with courage and dedication. Winter is, of course, his favorite season, and the Freeway Terrain Park at Breckenridge is his go-to spot on the hill. With his tips in the air, his heart is firmly grounded in Summit County. When I inquire if he’ll stay here forever, he brightly responds, “Yes! I love it here!”
MARY ANN JOHNSTON
NESTLED AWAY 10 MILES NORTH of Silverthorne, Mary Anne Johnston watches the snow fall around her cabin. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, she and her husband, Richard, began visiting Summit County in 1977. They immediately fell in love with the natural beauty and the outdoor adventures, and built their home here in 1995. The home served as a family gathering place where they spent vacations and holidays along with their three children. Two decades later, it’s become Mary Anne’s full-time residence where she and her husband continue to host family gatherings for their children and their families — seven grandchildren in total. As a lifelong educator, even in retirement, Mary Anne continues to dedicate her time towards education. With an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Vanderbilt University and a PhD in education from CU Boulder, literacy has always been her passion. She found a way to put this passion to work and give back to the community when she joined the Summit County Rotary Club. “I found a great community within the Rotary Club. The people are extraordinary—there’s a wide range of ages and professions. It serves as a connection and tie to the community,” she explains. She now serves as the president of the Rotary Club and chair of the Literacy Committee, helping to organize some of the incredible programs for the local youth. When she’s not volunteering her time, you’ll find her hiking up the Gore Range to Boulder Lake, cross-country skiing out her front door or traveling with her family. The entire 14-person family, kids and grandkids included, recently travelled to Turkey to celebrate her and Richard’s 55th wedding anniversary. When I ask her the key to a long-lasting marriage, she smiles and says, “Being able to lovingly support each other’s passions.”
IT’S A RARE OCCASION that’d you’d catch John “Jay” DeBaggis on a cell phone. In fact, the one he’s speaking to me on was only recently charged after lying dormant for six months. He doesn’t have an email address. “I prefer face-to-face interactions,” he explains. It’s a notion that’s served him well since moving to Summit County from Ohio in the mid-1980s. What brought him here? “The skiing, the skiing, the skiing, period,” he laughs. Decades later, he happily resides in Breckenridge with lovely wife Leslie and two sweet beagles, Naval and Killer. I inquire almost rhetorically about his favorite season in Summit County, to which he quips, “Ski season, followed closely by biking season.” In his 55th year, he’s only recently taken up mountain bike racing. For years, he rode a bike that his father won in a 1988 oyster shucking and eating contest. When his longtime friend and boss, Matt Fackler, gifted him with a recent model 29er for his birthday, his interest peaked. He enjoys the similarities between skiing and biking — the speed and body awareness needed for conquering a ski run or maneuvering a singletrack bike trail. The agility he speaks of is apparent in his annual fundraiser for the Mountain Mentors, a program that partners responsible adults with local youth. In a custom-made straight jacket, he hits the slopes to accomplish a feat of balance and speed. This year, he’ll attempt to ski the 6 Senses on Peak 6 at Breckenridge. He raised $3,000 the first year, $5,000 in the second and hopes to raise $10,000 this year through donations. As passionate as he is about being an outdoorsman, the people are his favorite part of being a Summit local: “happy, healthy, active people who are here because they want to be.” Catch Jay on the slopes or in town to engage in a bit of real-life face time. His recognizable smile and charismatic nature make him easy to spot.
A STORYTELLER BY TRADE, Amy Kemp’s personal story simply didn’t work in any other setting; Summit County had to be her backdrop. Lured by the sweet siren of skiing, she left her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and headed west in 1998. Her journalism background landed her roles at Ten Mile Times and the Summit Daily News. Her public relations and marketing experience took her to Keystone Resort and eventually on to Vail Resorts. But when a move to Denver was required to work in the corporate office, leaving Summit County was tough. She and her husband, Chris, knew that they wanted to raise their daughter, Sienna, in the mountains. “This is where my family belongs. We love to ski, mountain bike and hike. And, more importantly, I love this community. This is my home,” she said. Upon her return she launched her own digital storytelling agency, Mountaintop Media. After doing what she lovingly refers to as the “coffee shop shuffle,” she saw the need in the community for an affordable professional office space, a communal space where she could work, interact and be inspired by like-minded professionals. She partnered with fellow locals, Wendy Basey and Julia Landon, and ELEVATE coSPACE was born. In the year since its opening, the shared office space has been home to more than 100 community events, meetings and performances and aided in the launch of seven new businesses. Amy has been overwhelmed by the support and involvement of the community. Between running a successful business and skiing the back bowls at Breck, her story seems destined for a happy ending.
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