Third-generation Breckenridge family celebrates 89th birthday of town legend Sigurd Rockne
The family’s local roots started in 1960, when Sigurd Rockne moved from Aspen to Breckenridge to begin building the ski resort
Sigurd Rockne and his wife, Carol, know Breckenridge like the back of their hands. Sigurd moved to the town in 1960, and Carol moved three years later. Since then, they have become a familiar name to many community members and ski enthusiasts.
Sigurd was one of the co-founders of Breckenridge Ski Resort, which opened 60 years ago in December 1961. When he and Carol married in 1964, they began planting roots in the community and raised their family in Breckenridge.
Today, the entire family, including the Rocknes’ three children and four grandchildren, continue to live in town. The couple and their children are bewildered at just how much the town has changed through the years.
“We had one sheriff for the whole county and one town marshal, and that was it, so it was a pretty wild place on weekends,” Carol said. “Everybody looked after everybody else, but it was really wild. I have good stories, so does Sigurd. Crazy stories with shootings going on, fightings, killings.”
“It was the Wild West,” Sigurd agreed.
The two met when Carol and her friend were passing through town. The friends enjoyed archery as a hobby and found a bale of hay at the end of Main Street that they used to prop up their target. Nearby, Sigurd and a friend were working on the roof of a restaurant that overlooked the field where Carol and her friend were practicing. The two men challenged the women to a duel.
About a year later, Carol and Sigurd were married. In the years to come, the town slowly evolved, and the Rockne family got a firsthand look at history in the making. The couple’s daughter, Signe Rockne-Stimson, who was named Ullr queen this winter, said it had a small-town charm that can still be felt today.
“We didn’t realize how great it was, obviously, at the time, because it was so small and everybody knew everybody,” Signe said. “It felt like everybody knew you were going to sneeze before you actually sneezed.”
Growing up, she said there were dirt roads and no stoplights, and there weren’t as many activities as there are now. Summers used to be dead, and winter was when the town came alive.
Over the years, the family witnessed many milestones of the ski resort, including when the Alpine slide was built to add to summer activities, a memory that sticks out in Signe’s mind.
“The marketing team for Breckenridge did a great job,” Signe said. “They tried to amp up our summers so much, and now it’s off-the-charts busy. Back when they put the Alpine slide in … that was like a huge deal. It was two slides in the ground at the base of Peak 8. Like, are you kidding me? That’s so cool.”
Like some adolescents who grew up in small towns, Signe said she occasionally thought about leaving and meeting new people, and she did spend a few summers exploring other areas. But at the end of the season, she couldn’t wait to get back to Breckenridge.
In some ways, the town has stayed the same. Though the early days of Breckenridge were unruly, locals still had to put in the work to enjoy the town’s natural splendor, much like the community does today.
“We feel fortunate to be here,” Signe said. “Back in the day … everyone worked two, three jobs trying to make ends meet. But they also had a lot of fun here, too, and so we were just lucky to be a part of that and grow up with it.”
One of those fun memories for Sigurd was in 1961, when The Gold Pan had just been remodeled. The restaurant was going to host a grand reopening on the Fourth of July, and three paratroopers were going to try to land on its roof to celebrate. The windy day caused a couple of them to veer off course.
“The first one landed in a tree behind the courthouse,” Sigurd said. “The second guy landed in the alleyway behind Main and Ridge (streets) and missed the power line by 6 feet. And the last one, he landed in the street about 50 feet from The Gold Pan. He was the closest.”
The family celebrated years worth of memories on Sigurd’s 89th birthday Tuesday, Jan. 4, at Legends Steaks & Seafood in Breckenridge. In the restaurant is a framed portrait of Sigurd skiing.
Looking back on the early days of the town, Signe said it used to be much quieter than it is today. But even with the influx of visitors, it still doesn’t deter her and her family’s love for the area.
“The amount of out-of-state plates I see here just blows my mind,” Signe said. “You used to see out-of-state plates back when we were younger. … And now you see them from everywhere. It’s just so busy, and I don’t blame people, because it’s a little piece of paradise that we were so lucky to be raised in.”
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