John Fetcher

  • John Fetcher

    Kent Meireis/The Denver Post

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Saving the ranch.

John Fetcher started his working life as an engineer in Philadelphia before buying a ranch with his brother in the Elk River Valley in 1949. In the 1950s he and three partners began developing the Steamboat Ski Area, which they sold in 1962. Today, Fetcher is one of Routt County's leaders and a proponent of preserving family ranches from the forces of resort sprawl.

"Frankly, when we moved here, neither of us knew which end of the cow got up first.

"We were gradually going down the drain financially. The ranch simply wasn't big enough to support two families.

"I felt that there was more opportunity with the people business than with the cow business, although I prefer the cows, quite frankly. They don't talk back.

"So we got into the ski business. We didn't make any millions, I can tell you that. But you don't look back.

"I suppose I would (build the ski area again), because it was a way for us to save the ranch.

"The recreation industry has created opportunity for local people. If you can visualize what it was like here in 1950s, the offspring of our friends had no opportunity. They had to move away.

"The bad side is it's attracted deep pockets who buy 35 acres, put one house on it. They don't take care of it, they let it go to weeds, they complain when our cows get into their 35 acres. Of course, we had no idea what was going to happen when we started the ski area.

"One day (in 1977, Jay) came up to me and said, "Pop, I can run this ranch better than you can, so get out." We have a pretty good partnership. Now, the ranch is really holding its own. It's making a good living for Jay. The ranch is actually in the black.

"Being an engineer, I like to see things that are produced, instead of everybody in the service business. My dad once said to me the important person in this world is the person with a shovel in his hands. I mean that figuratively speaking; he's doing something physically. Nothing happens in this world until somebody does something with his hands."

High Country News Classifieds