Who’s There – Mark Whitney
SUMMIT COUNTY – Mark Whitney says when he first started skiing in Colorado, driving nonstop with friends from Minneapolis to Aspen, the safest way to cross Loveland Pass was to tailgate a truck.”If it was a white-out, we used to wait for an 18-wheeler and then follow his tail lights,” he recounts. “Once we made it across the pass, we’d stop in at the Snake River Saloon and count our blessings.” These days, Whitney doesn’t even have to get into his car to get to the slopes. With his wife, Ruth, he lives in River Run Village at Keystone, where he’s been teaching skiing for 30 years.”I can still ski turn for turn with Krainzy,” he says, referring to Austrian ski instructor Peter Krainz. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 30 years driving Austrians crazy,” Whitney says, breaking into a crinkly, trademark smile.
Along with that lifelong passion for skiing, Whitney has a strong entrepreneurial streak, expressed most recently in his newest venture, Maple Goods.That means he’s been spending most weekends manning a booth at the farmer’s markets in Dillon, Breckenridge and Minturn, purveying some of the finest maple syrup – along with a variety of other maple-based products – this side of the Continental Divide.”You gotta keep it going up here, and if you can find a niche … and besides, we needed something to do on the weekends,” Whitney says.Other ventures, all with his wife, include the Purple Sunset line of high-end, technical, fleece garments that has garnered an excellent reputation among local pros. And some Summit County residents may remember Whitney’s Blue River Fleece Co., located inside City Market in Dillon for a couple of years.Ski trivia fans take note: Whitney also was the regional representative for Hansen boots for the entire life of that company, from 1970-81.
In a way, the maple syrup business is bringing Whitney back to his New England roots. He was born in Athol, in the Berkshires of western Maine, “where colonials are colonials,” he says.”My father is still there, darn near the last of the clan and a Yankee through and through,” Whitney says. “Everything is so traditional there. I’m a little too far out there.”Whitney worked his way West, first ending up in Newport Beach, Calif., then moving to Summit County in the mid-1980s to start up a bicycle helmet division for the Helmet House. “It kept growing like crazy, so I stayed,” Whitney says. “I don’t think I’m that different from a lot of other people up here. But I sure didn’t come with a trust fund,” he says with a laugh. “But that’s OK. I have a lot of energy. And I love being an entrepreneur. I love the new ideas. Besides, what else am I going to do – retire? “My favorite thing is to get in the car at 7:30 in the morning and drive down the highway. I look at the lake, I look at the mountains. I’m in pretty good shape when I pull in the office. No matter which way you look, it’s exquisite.”
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