The Marolts: From mining to mountaineering
Aspen Times Staff Writer
One floor above an upscale Aspen boutique, brothers Roger, Steve and Mike Marolt, fifth-generation Aspenites, share an office on South Mill Street.
Visitors who enter past a simple sign, “Marolt LLP, Certified Public Accountants,” must often navigate through or over mountain bikes and broken skis in the stairwell. The office itself, however, is tidy. The decor is dominated by poster-sized Himalayan and Andean mountainscapes with tiny mountaineers clinging somewhere in the frame.
In most cases, those little mountaineers are identical twins Steve and Mike. Last spring, the twins led an expedition to Mount Everest. They failed to reach the summit, but the brothers and some of their teammates did become the first Americans to ski from 25,000 feet on Everest. A few years earlier, they became the first Americans to ski from an 8,000-meter peak (the central peak of Shishapangma in Tibet).
In a very real sense, the Marolts are carrying on a legacy that their forefathers began in the 1880s, but it’s a little unclear exactly where the family’s Aspen history begins.
“It’s pretty hazy for me, going back,” Steve admitted over breakfast at the Wienerstube. “In fact, my sister [Marlis] just told me that Franz Marolt was the first one to move here.”
The other half of the Marolt lineage belongs to the Tekoucich family, of Slovenian descent. Like other early settlers, the Marolts and Tekoucichs came to Aspen “chasing silver,” as Steve put it.
“Then there was the silver bust and they did what they had to do to survive,” he said. “They became ranchers and potato farmers; literally, whatever they could do to make it happen.”
Steve, who lives in a house at the North 40 development near the Aspen Airport, says Franz’s original homestead sits “about exactly” where his house stands today.
According to Steve, however, historical accounts of the family are sketchy, because the Marolts have always been extremely private.
Siblings Steve, Mike, Roger and Marlis, who lives in California, recently lost their dad, Max, a lifelong Aspenite and one-time Olympic skier. Their mother, Betty, still lives in Aspen, along with a growing flock of sixth-generation grandchildren, courtesy of Roger (three) and Mike (one).
“The family history is a bit like my dad,” Steve said. “I just found out that he actually won several World Cup races and was on the podium a few times. I never even knew it; he never told me. … This is what one of his teammates just told me.”
The Marolts’ grandfather owned Midland Ranch, a spread that stretched from Red Butte to Meadowood, including the present-day municipal golf course and the Roaring Fork River bottom between Castle and Maroon creeks.
Still, those former land holdings haven’t made Roger, Mike and Steve rich.
“All the descendants are living in employee housing,” Steve said with a chuckle. “Now that is pretty ironic, isn’t it?”
“My granddad was the first Marolt to frequent Moab,” he picked up again. “He loved Moab ” even back then. He’d go to Moab and he’d collect copper wire and copper from the railroad and he’d haul it all the way to Denver to sell it and make money.”
“I love Moab, too,” Steve grinned, “but I’m not going there to collect copper.”
Steve describes the Marolts and Tekoucichs as big and burly people, a class that doesn’t really include the three Marolt boys.
“But the Marolts, historically, have always been out doing stuff: hunting, fishing, hiking around the mountains. Pete Luhn likes to take credit for being the first to ski Highland Bowl, but he wasn’t even wet behind the ears when my relatives were first skiing the Highland Bowl. … And maybe that’s where we fit in to this legacy.”
Steve has a picture of his uncle, George Tekoucich, standing at the bottom of Highland Bowl, ski tracks above him, three days before he departed for World War II. The Tekoucich side is where the crazy streak comes from, he believes.
“Just tough, crazy, fun-loving, unbelievably wacky people,” Steve said. “The Marolts are more conservative, but with the Tekoucichs, it’s just story after story that’s just crazy but always in the best fun-loving spirit.”
Many of the Marolts’ childhood friends have moved away from Aspen, but Steve says he, Mike and Roger have stayed put for the incomparable mountains.
“The face of Aspen has changed pretty drastically,” Steve continued. “But the reason we stay here ” that hasn’t changed for millions of years.”
Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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