For Pelletier, Aspen’s about the outdoors |

For Pelletier, Aspen’s about the outdoors

Eben Harrell
"Growing up in Aspen you're either going to be a barfly or a life-long athlete," says Pierre Pelletier. He chose the latter. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

Pierre Pelletier lives a life in motion. Jogging, skiing, cycling – he’s not happy unless his body is fluid, in transition, on its way to a destination. This is strange, because for most of his life, Pelletier has broken from family, expectation, and the constraints of rising property costs to stay put here, in Aspen, the place of his birth.Pelletier is a longtime local, but you’ll rarely see him around town. To him, Aspen is a place to grab an occasional meal, maybe a beer or two. He’s one of a host of locals who hold no allegiance to the town of Aspen. “It’s the mountains that have kept me in Aspen, not the town,” he says. “Thankfully, the mountains don’t change.”

Pelletier currently co-manages the Aspen Cross-Country Center at the Aspen Golf Course. But he’s spent most of his 38 years competing as a professional athlete. First it was cycling. More recently, nordic skiing. The son of a professional ski racer and the brother of an Olympian (his sister, Monique, was also a ski racer), mountain sports seem to be in the blood.For Pelletier, it started in the ’60s as a child growing up at the base of Tiehack mountain. His family owned Romeo’s restaurant there, a local’s favorite, and when little Pierre wasn’t helping out, or in school, he was left to explore the surrounding snow. “It was our playground,” Pelletier says. “My friends and I were always doing something outdoors. Growing up in Aspen you’re either going to be a barfly or a life-long athlete. That’s just the lifestyle.”After graduating from Aspen High School in 1984, Pelletier left Aspen and traveled as a free-agent bicyclist, hooking up with professional teams when he could. After only 11 years on the road, so much had changed when he returned to Aspen. The family restaurant had closed; massive townhomes had taken its place. His family had moved to Mount Hood, Ore., to a town Pelletier describes “as very much like Aspen 40 years ago.”

With his family and the family home gone, Pelletier took out a lease on a condo at the Aspen Business Center. Property ownership in Aspen suddenly seemed like a pipe dream.”I’ll never own a piece of rock here, unless I change my profession,” he says. “I know it’s very fashionable to get pissed off about how things have changed, but I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world and now I live in the place I love. How can I complain?”After a brief stint as an alpine ski instructor, Pelletier now teaches cross country. He’s also part of the Fisher Nordic Ski Team, competing on marathon-length trails almost every week. There’s an unpretentiousness to cross-country skiing, a solitude, that Pelletier finds appealing.”People are so tied up with image in this town,” Pelletier says. “I see people running along Highway 82, just so they can be seen running. That element doesn’t exist with cross country. You’re not going to see a nordic event at X Games, put it that way.”

These days, Pelletier is far more likely to skate up Buttermilk as part of his nordic training than to ski down Tiehack. Even so, when he gets to the top of the mountain, he rarely resists the temptation to telemark down on his nordic skis.”I mostly cross country now,” he says. “But every now and then I’ll hook up with the old crew from high school and we’ll tear it up together.”With only a short-term lease holding him here, Pelletier says he’s not sure he’ll spend the rest of his life in Aspen. He hopes to help start an athletic training center in town that offers nutrition, weight training, chiropractics – a complete approach to treating the body as an engine. If that doesn’t work out, will this longtime local remain?”Will I be in Aspen for the rest of my life? I don’t know, but Aspen will always be in me. So I’m sure I’ll be back if I ever leave,” he says.

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