Local Spotlight: Dick Moebius, Snowmass pioneer
For this month’s Local Spotlight, the Snowmass Sun talked with Dick Moebius, one of the Snowmass pioneers who helped start the village from nothing, spearheading several key town developments and selling local real estate for decades.
Moebius, 91, now lives part-time in one of these Snowmass developments — a Homestead townhome off Brush Creek Road — and says a lot has changed since he first moved to the village:
Snowmass Sun: Where are you from originally and how did you first hear about Snowmass Village?
Dick Moebius: We’re from San Diego. We moved here on Aug. 1 of ’67. A friend of mine from San Diego worked for the Janss Corporation and he was sent to Aspen four years before Snowmass started to acquire property and set up the sales and the whole thing of Snowmass. His name was Roland Herberg. Our family and his family were close friends in San Diego.
And so when “Rolly” came to Aspen we came and visited during the wintertime for the four years he was here and I said, “Rolly, I’d sure like to get involved in the development here.”
He said, “Well, I’ve had you in mind for a lodge,’”and I said, “A lodge? I don’t know anything about a lodge.” (Laughs.) But actually that’s what happened, we acquired a site from the Snowmass Corporation and developed the Silvertree (Hotel).
After talking to Rolly and wanting to get involved, I went to an attorney in San Diego, a friend of mine, and in talking to him he said, “Well I know another fella in Newport Beach who is also interested in starting up a lodge. I’ll put you in touch with Ralph Clock.” So Ralph and I decided together to go ahead and form a partnership and raise capital and buy a site at Snowmass and develop a lodge. So that’s how it got started.
SS: And what was your first impression of Snowmass when you came out here?
DM: I was quite impressed. The point was though you just didn’t know whether (Snowmass) was going to be a success or not until after we opened, and it started off with a bang. … It was thrilling. But first of all let me back up just a little bit. To gain some experience I came a year before during the wintertime and I worked at the Aspen Alps … so I spent a month there at the front desk and that was my experience (laughs.)
Between Ralph and myself, Ralph did not want to be hands-on here, so together we decided I would be the manager of the Silvertree.
SS: What did you learn when you were managing the Silvertree that you know you didn’t realize about running a lodge before or that you didn’t realize about ski resorts?
DM: You really learn all the aspects of it. Night service, how you assign rooms, reservations, you know everything that’s involved with a hotel operation. I was fortunate when we opened, I had hired a fella that had a lot of experience in hotels, he worked in hotels up in Canada, and so through him we were able to put everything together.
SS: What did you like most about working as the manager at the Silvertree?
DM: I think the people coming in. It was interesting to me to meet everyone that was coming from all areas of the country. John Cooley, who was in charge of the real estate office and sales of the commercial properties at Snowmass, he invited I think 140 press to come and stay at Snowmass for the opening of it, so we got great notoriety and the word went out throughout the country what a great place this was. So that was a really good experience.
SS: What was it like to see Snowmass go from being just this kind of empty area to the village that it is today?
DM: Well, it was neat because it was a nice development, it was small. I think we only had five lifts in the beginning. The mall area was not paved or anything, it was just gravel walking through the mall itself. Part of the idea of the development through Rolly was that everything would be at right angles to the ski slopes so that you can walk out from where you were staying and go straight out to the ski lifts. … Overall, I thought it was a quaint area, really nice. Today there’s too much development. And when I say too much, I mean you can’t see the slope when you’re driving up to Snowmass itself anymore.
SS: How long did you manage the Silvertree?
DM: I managed it until ’69 I think it was. And then the same group or part of the same group (that developed the Silvertree) wanted to develop a site on the other side of the ski slope, nothing was over there yet. And so we developed the Crestwoods. … I managed it, help set up the management association and all that but I did retire from the Silvertree at that time. That was about three years later.
I was on the Crestwood board for about 10 years and turned the management over to other people.
Meadow Ranch was another project I did of single-family homes and duplexes and four-plexes and it was kind of a unique development just off Owl Creek of all circles. … We were the first ones to do a development over there and because we were the first ones, everyone else had followed what we had done to try to keep it so that everything looked the same.
Later, I bought a site right off Brush Creek and developed 14 units there, and I live in one right now.
SS: What made you want to continue to develop in Snowmass and to be a part of the growth of the village?
DM: When Snowmass first began, they set up a “board of governors,” which ended up becoming the resort association but I was on the first board of governors, … and I got involved on other boards and ultimately the chamber of commerce in Aspen. Turns out I was on a lot of little boards and committees to a point of where I was spending more than half of my time doing that.
But my point is, from the time that we moved here this has been our home and it was going to be my future, so to answer your question there wasn’t any question about if I was going to get involved and continue on here.
SS: Do you feel like the village is as successful as you guys had originally had hoped when you were first starting out?
DM: Oh yes, after that first year we knew Snowmass was going to go, everyone who came thoroughly enjoyed it. So yes it’s definitely been very successful.
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“We’ve got all of these great things going on in (Base Village),” Andy Gunion, managing partner of East West Partners, said to council. “But it is not sustainable if we don’t get the rest of this village built and we’re not going to build it under a plan that makes no sense.”