Longtime local finally owns piece of Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Longtime local finally owns piece of Aspen

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN Jere Rood is finally getting his piece of Aspen.While the 69-year-old has called this city home for 34 years, his move to Centennial on May 30 is his first Aspen real-estate purchase.”Welcome to my abode,” Rood said, opening the door to his 600-square-foot, one-bedroom condo he bought for $114,000. “What will I do with all this space?”Rood beat out 68 people in the April 30 affordable housing lottery for the category-four unit. He keeps a framed copy of the lottery results in the condo entryway.”I literally lucked out. … I was totally surprised and pleased.”Born in Leadville, Rood graduated from college in Greeley, taught high school in Illinois, and earned a master’s degree before becoming a counselor in California.But when the father of three divorced at 35, he looked for something better; he hitchhiked to Aspen in 1973 with $150 in his pocket. He liked it so much, he decided to stay.It hasn’t always been easy, but Rood said he doesn’t want to be anywhere else.

He worked for $3.50 an hour at the Main Street Conoco (now the Aspen Store). That led to a succession of more than 20 jobs – from bumping chairs to cleaning hotel rooms and clerking – until, in 1986, Rood cleaned up his act a bit, he said, and took a job at the local detox center.For the last 20 years, Rood has run LIFT-UP, an aid agency that helps people in need get back on their feet, and today he is also the secretary and property manager of the Community Church.

Rood’s couch-surfing résumé is as extensive as his list of jobs.Life in Aspen for Rood started in a dormitory at Cortina, then he moved to a record shop on Monarch Street before living at the Independence Lodge (across from Cooper Street Pier) and then the Mine Dump Apartments at the base of Lift 1A.He spent a few summers illegally camping behind Red Butte, then two summers in the ghost town of Independence, among other places, before he finally landed a shared space in Phillips Trailer Court in Snowmass Canyon – a 200-square-foot room where he’s lived for the past 10 years.”It is absolutely delightful to be able to afford my own place,” Rood said. “What more could I ask for?”Rood’s work puts him in touch with many who say they can’t make it in Aspen. But though he said housing is tough, and sticking it out might mean having lots of roommates or commuting upvalley, he said jobs are plentiful and anyone can make it if they try hard.When he used to counsel he even had a sign on his wall that read, “If you deserve Aspen, you’ll make it.”

“Basically anyone who wants to make it in Aspen can,” Rood said. “You live where you have to.”With the panoply of cultural activities and outdoor adventures, there are plenty of reasons to make it. And though he has traveled to Alaska, Europe and Central America, Rood always finds his way back to Aspen, he said.”I’ve done the adventures,” Rood said. “Aspen is still the most wonderful place to live.” An attempt at retirement in Central America left him feeling useless and missing his mountain home, he said.”I’ll probably never enjoy retirement,” Rood said.

And he smiles as he surveys his sunny backyard, where he can sit on the deck and have a view of Aspen Mountain.”I can stand here and see if the gondola is running,” said the avid skier, and he is pleased he’ll be able to walk, bike or ride the bus to town.”I love the small-town part of Aspen,” Rood said, and while carrying boxes he was happy to see some of his new neighbors, many he’s already known for years.”We need to continue to make it grow,” Rood said of the affordable housing program, and said that despite the expense, Aspen still has a way to turn a summer job or a season of ski-bumming into a lifetime.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com

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