Local guide helps clients catch their breath, too | AspenTimes.com

Local guide helps clients catch their breath, too

Allyn Harvey

If there is one product that has been long time coming to Aspen, it’s conveniently packaged, easy-to-use oxygen.

That’s right. Oxygen.

It’s the perfect salve for visitors from the lowlands who have trouble acclimating to life at 7,908 feet. At least that’s what Jon Hollinger says.

Hollinger, who owns the Aspen Outfitting Co. at the St. Regis hotel, has found a lot of people who stay at the hotel who are grateful for the kits, which retail for $165 and include two canisters filled with oxygen, a regulator and nose mask. The canisters, which contain between 10 and 12 minutes of oxygen, can be purchased individually for $35 apiece.

“I’d almost say they’re selling briskly,” says Hollinger.

“Of course, it depends on the groups that are staying in the hotel at any given time. A middle-age group from New Orleans that’s partying hard will come flooding in once they know it’s available. A younger set of techies who spend a couple of hours a day in the gym are more likely to come in and make fun of it,” he adds.

But the fact is, a lot of the people visiting Aspen these days probably can use a blast of oxygen every now and then to cope with the effects of altitude sickness.

Hollinger always carries a canister when he takes clients on fishing or hunting trips, and has found them useful at times.

A few weeks ago, for instance, two fisherman who were out with Hollinger were clearly having more trouble with the altitude than they were with the early spring fishing on the Roaring Fork River. “I could tell they weren’t enjoying themselves,” Hollinger recalls.

So he says he sat his customers down and gave them the oxygen bottle. By the time Hollinger had landed a couple of Roaring Fork rainbows, the visitors were able to return to the task at hand – fishing. “They were delighted I had it with me. I’m going to make all my guides start carrying it with them this summer,” he said.

Hollinger has been outfitting and guiding locals and visitors in Aspen since the late 1960s. His shop at the St. Regis is the latest in a a long string of businesses he’s owned since moving here.

He was the original owner of the Sub Shoppe, which today is known as the In and Out House.

In 1970, he opened Red Mountain Horse Center on a 600-plus-acre ranch owned by Elizabeth Paepcke and began his career in outfitting and guiding.

Red Mountain eventually became Aspen Rod and Gun, a shop that featured high-end guns and rods from 1984 through 1986. Although Hollinger stepped out of the retail end of the business, he continued to work as a guide and a specialty outfitter under the moniker Aspen Outfitting Co. until opening his shop in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (now the St. Regis) in 1994.

Even now, Hollinger’s love affair with the hands-on work of guiding both fishing and hunting trips is apparent. He has arranged exclusive access to several sections of the Roaring Fork River, has arrangements to hunt on hundreds of acres of central Colorado ranch land, and is willing to take anyone anywhere in the world to partake of either activity.

The actual retail space filled by his shop at the hotel is quite small. He’s got a small selection of books, decorative (though functional) decoys, and several shotguns that range in price from just under $2,000 to just over $5,000.

If you’re willing to spend more than a few dollars on a shotgun – say between $10,000 and $60,000 – Hollinger will spend weeks working out your measurements and needs for a shotgun, and then have it custom made in Spain or England.

“My main business isn’t selling oxygen – it’s outfitting,” Hollinger says.

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