Missing adventurer a fixture in Beaver Creek
Vail correspondentBEAVER CREEK – Again and again, Steve Fossett would have his eyes set on another adventure, said Harry Frampton, a longtime acquaintance of the Beaver Creek aviator.”He would always have just finished some incredible adventure,” Frampton said. “I’d ask him, ‘What’s next?’ and he’s always have another one.”When Frampton saw Fossett at a fundraiser in Gypsum last month, Fossett spoke of his next quest: setting the land speed record.The millionaire adventurer Fossett was apparently scouting locations for that feat when he disappeared Monday. The 63-year-old was last seen taking off in a single-engine airplane from a ranch in western Nevada.Fossett and his wife, Peggy, have a home on Elk Track Court in Beaver Creek, on the same street as the former home of Gerald and Betty Ford.Fossett – renowned as an airplane pilot, balloonist, sailor, mountain climber, race-car driver and swimmer – has been involved in philanthropic efforts in the Vail Valley as a supporter of the Vail Valley Foundation, the Vilar Center and the Youth Foundation. Fossett also has been a celebrity participant in the American Ski Classic.”He’s just a good person who cares about Beaver Creek and the Vail Valley,” said Frampton, a local developer and president of the Vail Valley Foundation.’A big teddy bear’Fossett was in Beaver Creek throughout this summer, friends said, and was in town as recently as last week.Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Co., said Fossett is very popular within the community. He never played up the persona of a brash adventurer, O’Rourke said.”If you didn’t know what he’d accomplished, he’s the most soft-spoken, down-to-earth person you’d ever meet,” O’Rourke said. “Like a big teddy bear.”The Fossetts would spend much of the winter and summer here, O’Rourke said. The Fossetts bought their Beaver Creek home in 1989, county records show.Fossett has certainly taken on much more risky endeavors than simply scouting locations in a plane, O’Rourke said.”I hope that this is going to turn out for the best,” he said.Mark Smith, an owner of Slifer Smith and Frampton real estate, said he has been friends with Fossett for more than a decade.”He’s a guy who does everything,” Smith said. “He did the Iditarod, swam the English Channel, ballooned around the world. He’s a very accomplished, committed guy who does things that people are surprised anyone can do.”New challengesFossett was looking for a greater challenge after finding success in the business world, Smith said.”I think he wanted to do something different and wanted to do something more,” Smith said. “And for whatever reason, this was where he gravitated.”Fossett has been in some pretty precarious situations before, Smith said.”This is a guy who went around the world in a balloon,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t give up on him yet. Hopefully he’s fine, and my thoughts are with him and Peggy, and his family.”Fossett was very committed to starting the Youth Foundation, said Chupa Nelson, a local businessman who worked with Fossett through the foundation.”He cares about people, he cares about kids,” Fossett said.Nelson said he would always have brief conversations with Fossett about his exploits.”Steve is Steve,” Nelson said. “He is a very interesting guy and a very confident person that loves adventure. An adrenaline junkie.”He’s survived a lot of other things, and hopefully he’ll survive this.”
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