David Krause: This is my stop, Aspen, so I’m going to step off this wild ride

David Krause, editor The Aspen Times

For the past five-plus years I have sat in a big chair in a small office on Hyman Avenue watching life in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley play out in front of me.

I walked into The Aspen Times office on Feb. 13, 2017, as the new editor fresh from two decades on the Front Range. From the 2017 World Championships to the 2018 Lake Christine Fire, the crazy avalanche cycle in 2019 and this two-year pandemic we can’t seem to shake, the view from here has always been exciting, challenging and rewarding.

What this role has afforded me has been nothing short of amazing and exhausting: a full immersion in the events that make Aspen and Snowmass unique, a front-row seat to about a half-dozen candidate “Squirm Nights,” bylines on a few tens-of-thousands of words in features and columns, countless Facebook Lives and videos.

But there are a few things that have come up in the past few months professionally and personally that makes this a good time for me to let someone else take the reins and grow what we’ve built since I started in 2017. Tuesday will be my last day as editor of The Aspen Times.

Earlier this year, we were acquired by Ogden Newspapers, a family-owned company based out East. Any ownership change in any business is tough, but I’ve been through a few in my nearly 40 years as a newspaper journalist, and I’m not up for another one at this point in my career. There have been some bumps along the way the past four months, enough so that I am ready to take a different path.

I don’t have that “next job” lined up yet, but I have a few promising leads that I’m confident will pan out.

Less than a month into the transition with Odgen, I had a serious health scare in January and had to have a stent put in my heart after doctors found a 95% blockage in my main artery. I was incredibly blessed to avoid what is known as the “widowmaker” heart attack. Both my dad and his dad died from cardiac events when they were in their mid-50s. Luckily, I made it to 55 in March.

I’ve been diligent about my heart health since my dad’s death nearly 25 years ago. Still, I was told by two cardiologists that I should consider myself lucky to be alive and that I likely would have had a serious/fatal heart attack in the coming weeks had they not found the blockage after a stress test Jan. 27. “You were a ticking time bomb,” one said.

I cannot give enough thanks Dr. Gerson and Dr. Howell and to the cardiac teams at Aspen Valley and Valley View hospitals where I had my stent procedure. The AVH cardiac rehab team (Tara, Jeanne, Julie and Katie) and the support staff (Kate and Lauren) could not have been more compassionate and motivating for me these past three months.

During those rehab sessions, I’ve been focused on avoiding the same fate as my father. He had his first heart attack at 38 while on a business trip in Wichita Falls, Texas. He died inside his corporate office after another one when he was 56.

It’s a sobering feeling when you realize the job and career you’ve been passionate about for nearly four decades is the same thing that had a role in nearly killing you. The long days, crazy schedule, constant attention to breaking news and community events and reader comments takes its toll mentally, and I’ve learned a lot about mental stress the past three months. I crave that pace, but I’m also one to internalize that stress and tell myself it’s not a thing. Now I know it is. It really is.

For those wondering, here are my answers to the questions people have had the past few weeks:

If you didn’t have this heart thing would you be leaving? Yes, I wasn’t feeling the vibe with our new group before the docs found my condition. (I did write a column after the sale was announced that I would remain cautiously optimistic; I wanted to give it a few months, first.)

If you had the old ownership and this heart thing came up, would you be leaving? Hard to say, but probably not.

All that said, we have no intention of leaving the area, and I’m excited to live here with a new lease on life and go to events and not be constantly thinking/wondering/worrying about how our coverage of said event will turn out.

It took my wife and me nearly 25 years to find a good opening to leave the Front Range and move to the mountains, and we’re not ready to leave our 1,000-square-foot slice of Heaven in Snowmass Village. I look forward to being here with just the identity of a full-time, worker-bee resident.

Cheers, Aspen and the Valley. Thanks for your story tips and insights, your criticisms and passion and, mostly, your support and those words of praise when I told people where I work and what I do. I am immensely proud to be a small but hopefully important and respected part of the 141-year history of The Aspen Times.