Summit Old-Timer: Tor Brunvand
Tor Brunvand was born in Norway and raised in Michigan, but after a college ski trip to Aspen in the ’50s, he knew he wanted to live in Colorado. “It was just heaven,” he said in a Friday interview. “I knew I wanted to be here.”Brunvand was born on April 20, 1935, to Ruth and Harold Brunvand in Khristiansand, Norway. His parents both immigrated to America, met in New York City, married in Canada and eventually moved to Michigan. His father became the chief engineer for the Michigan Highway Department, and his mother was a housewife and a stay-at-home mom to Brunvand and his brothers Jan and Dick.He was raised in Lansing, Mich., and – being born to Norwegians – was taught to ski at an early age.”My dad was a great skier,” said Brunvand. “We learned how to both cross-country ski and downhill ski.”
Though Michigan in not exactly known for its big mountains, they found about 500 vertical feet at Caberfae near Cadillac, Mich. – one of the state’s first ski areas.Eventually, Brunvand said, his father would help build the Lansing Ski Club.He graduated from Sexton High School in 1953 – playing football and tennis – but primarily working after-school jobs (paper routes and working in a camera store).”I pretty much put myself through college selling cameras at Sears Roebuck,” said Brunvand, thinking back to his teenage years.He enrolled at Michigan State (one of the first land-grant colleges) and studied a business administration curriculum.”What I really wanted to do was go into the army,” he said. “I was in ROTC, so I graduated with a commission.”In 1958, he went to Fort Rucker, Ala., and went into the army’s flight school.Though he never left the country during his military service, he moved from Alabama to Texas to Virginia and eventually the state of Washington, primarily flying L-19s (observation planes), and single-engine Otters (a fixed-wing plane that carried 11 passengers).
“I was in the transportation corps, mostly test flying (planes),” he said. “It sounds more important than it is.”After leaving the military in 1961, he drove southeast from the state of Washington to Denver. He landed a job with Texaco, where he spent four years in Denver, four years in Durango and four more years in Denver handling service stations and doing marketing.In 1971, developer Steve Naraws built the Frisco Holiday Inn and Brunvand, who had never ran a hotel, decided to move to Summit County and run the hotel.Brunvand, who was then married to his high school sweetheart Sandra, moved his family to Dillon where all of his four boys – Mark, Scott, Eric and Jay – received their educations. “At the time we opened the hotel, it was the only place to work,” said Brunvand. “Everyone who came here to be a ski bum, came through there.””There really wasn’t much up here,” he continued. “The closest place to buy groceries was in Idaho Springs and you had to drive over the pass to get there.”Eventually, he partnered to build the Best Western in Frisco, served a full term on Dillon’s town council, then two terms as a Summit County Commissioner.
He said some of his proud achievements as a commissioner were starting the extensive trail system (the rec paths that snake around the county), starting the Summit Stage and building the Summit County Justice Center.”I think the Summit Stage is the best bus system in any ski community in the country,” said Brunvand. “We started that with eight buses. In the morning two would start at Copper, two at Keystone, two at Breckenridge (and two in reserve), and all would converge on Frisco.”With that and the trail system, I really feel proud to be a part of it,” he added. He also said he was on stage with Govenor Richard Lamb when he opened the Eisenhower Tunnel.After not being re-elected to a third term as commissioner (“No politician should be in office more than eight years,” he said) and a divorce from Sandra, Brunvand moved back east to Sugarloaf, Maine, where he ran a small inn.Eventually he met his current wife, Susan, who was working as a chef for her father in Rangely, Maine. The couple married and bought a 32-room Inn in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.They try to return to Summit County at least once a year to visit family and friends. Three of his boys have remained in Colorado: Mark is an oncologist in Denver; Scott manages the Best Western in Frisco; Eric is a middle school teacher in Burlington, Vt; and Jay is the treasurer of the town of Minturn and president of the Summit County School Board (his former wife Cheri is Summit County’s Clerk and Recorder). His oldest grandson, Brady, (he has six grandchildren) graduated from Summit High yesterday.”Though this place has grown beyond what anyone envisioned way back when,” said Brunvand, “I can still go into the grocery store or walk around town and see people that I have known for years. It’s really a special place.”
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