Vroom, original ski instructor and entrepreneur, dies at 79
Roy Vroom, who helped define the shape of the valley through his real estate dealings and played a prominent role in Aspen’s ski history, died last Sunday. He was 79 years old.Realtor, developer, ski instructor and entrepreneur, Vroom was a pioneer in many ways. He was one of the original ski instructors on Aspen Mountain, and was part of the team that developed the world’s first metal skis before Head sued and won the patent.An avid tennis player, Vroom installed the country’s first inflatable tennis bubble at the Aspen Racquet Club, which he had developed and owned, and that would later become the Maroon Creek Club.
Vroom developed the Brush Creek and Cemetery Lane neighborhoods – he bought the Cemetery Lane land in a handshake deal from the original ranch family and paid them back as lots were sold. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Vroom tried to develop what is now Wildcat, the valley between Snowmass Village and Old Snowmass, into a ski area, going so far as to install a lift there. That venture failed when investors got cold feet and pulled out – it was during Pitkin County’s infamous growth control heyday.But because Vroom went ahead with these kinds of ventures, “he was the kind of visionary that saw the potential for things and was ahead of the game,” said Bill Stirling, a longtime friend and business acquaintance. “A lot of things didn’t work out, but he paved the way for people to do things that would eventually pan out,” said his son, Jeff Vroom.Disappointed with the direction the county was taking, Vroom ran for county commissioner in 1976, on the opposite platform of the then formidable team of Dwight Shellman and Joe Edwards, but lost.
Stirling served as Vroom’s unofficial campaign manager, though the friends were on opposite ends of the political spectrum. “He just had the best time doing it – I don’t know if he was disappointed that he didn’t win, but he didn’t show it. I was just in awe of his having the courage to run.”Vroom began to retire from his real estate ventures in the late 1980s, though his tenure at the Aspen Mountain ski school lasted into the 1990s, totaling 40 years. After retirement, he remained an avid outdoorsman, enjoying skiing, golf, hiking and water skiing, among other recreational pursuits.”He was the quintessential independent businessman; he could never work for another man, and he always had positive a attitude,” said Jeff Vroom. “He was a true free enterpriser; he was my hero.”
An Aspen pioneerVroom was born and raised in New Jersey, but was an avid skier before coming to Aspen in 1950. That winter, he became a ski instructor and part-time bellhop at the Hotel Jerome. Within two years, Vroom went back East to get his wife and came back to settle permanently in Aspen. In 1956 he opened Roy Vroom Realty on Main Street – the tiny office is now the cosmetics section at Carl’s Pharmacy. He quickly moved forward on several real estate ventures in town and eventually settled with his family on Mountain View Drive. “Roy was a totally self-made guy,” said Stirling. “He didn’t have all that wherewithal before he came out here, but he was visionary.”
Vroom liked to fly his airplane and tell jokes, according to friends and family. He was also the original gear-head, collecting skis, boots and all sorts of outdoor paraphernalia. According to Jeff Vroom, his innovation was at times ridiculed. He was among the first players to use yellow tennis balls, instead of white, and was teased mercilessly for it.His passion for tennis led to a 20-year set of once-a-week matches with his best friend, Roy Reid, a founding broker at Coates, Reid and Waldron. The two shared more than a first name – they were “two peas in a pod,” according to Vroom’s daughter, Holly Vroom-Roberts – enjoying skiing, tennis and witty conversation.Vroom’s business acumen stayed sharp into retirement – he structured his retirement around regular payments from the sale of the Star Bank building, which held his office for several years. Later in life he succumbed to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.”I’m just grateful he came out here and raised us in this great place,” said Jeff Vroom.
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