How Hyrup’s got its name |

How Hyrup’s got its name

Tony Vagneur
Aspen CO, Colorado

He was a rough talkin’ SOB, who wasn’t afraid to get in your face with an idea, although he never really cussed out anyone in particular ” except politicians.

Johnny was the kind of a guy who could get a lot of people stirred up over something, just through the energy he expended talking about it. If you took the long view and left the filigree and frills off the edges of the argument, you had to admit that he was usually right.

He used to clean the Salvation Ditch for my family every spring, using a behemoth, yellow D7 Caterpillar bulldozer, and it didn’t take me long to figure out he was a soft touch for a ride. And we took a lot of rides together.

He built the existing road up the face of Larkspur Mountain, above Lenado, and all the logging roads on top, as well. Occasionally, he’d stop by the ranch on his way to work and pick me up. We’d ride in silence, ’cause who wants to talk much at 5 a.m.? A 10-year-old kid, I’d sit in the dozer seat with him all day long, figuring that cat skinning was my destiny.

I’d learned enough by watching, I thought, to run that monstrous machine, and one day when he’d parked the big D7 across the road from our Woody Creek house (and everyone was gone), I got to tinkering with the thing, and before long, had the diesel engine purring like the big Cat she was. Johnny happened down the road about then, giving me his blessing.

Being ranch-raised, the operation of machinery came naturally, and before my folks got home, I’d filled in the pond across from the house and widened half the road up the draw behind our house. About then, the cable that lifted the blade broke, and I was forced to give it up. At 11 years old then, I figured the punishment would be severe, but all Johnny did when he came back was to laugh and have me help him fix the damned thing.

When I was in junior high, blue suede shoes were the “in” thing, stemming from Carl Perkins’ song of the same name, and I’ll never forget the day, in front of Matthew Drug (Carl’s Pharmacy now), when I spotted Johnny coming down the walk. “Hey, look at my new shoes, man.” They didn’t impress Johnny all that much, and he held me tight with a big arm while he totally scuffed up my shoes with his dirty work boots. “Does your dad know you’re wearing crap like that around town?” It was the only time he really pissed me off, teaching me that heroes are only human, no matter what we think.

He worked 14 winters for the Ski Corp., running the snow cat crew and then after dark, hauling water up the Midnight Mine road for the Sundeck. One inauspicious day, while plowing the Midnight Mine road, disaster struck, burying Johnny in an avalanche. When the spray settled, he was totally buried but for one hand and through very fortunate circumstances, managed to dig himself out. There weren’t enough employees in those days to provide a spotter for him on the back side, but then, Johnny was usually a one-man show anyway, and too damned tough to be taken out by an avalanche.

Another winter, he was asked to pick up the ski patrol at the bottom of Walsh’s, after they’d bombed it. The scratchy radio in his snow cat blared, “All clear,” and he rolled down Loushin’s Road just in time to see the then-unnamed Hyrup’s slide in front of his cat, nearly rolling him over the side.

There’s no doubt he singled out the culprit.

So, the next time you ski Hyrup’s on Aspen Mountain, you’ll know a little bit of the history, for it was named after the tough cat driver with a soft spot for kids, Johnny Hyrup. Johnny ended up a cattle rancher around Parachute until his death in 2006.