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Travel
Mountain Life, Feb 2005

Dressed in her trademark Austrian scarf, crisp white blouse,

gabardine pants and a pair of enormous sunglasses, Elli Iselin drove her little red Camaro every day to her upscale ski boutique, Elli's of Aspen, until she was well into her 90s. She eventually lost her license due to failing eyesight-a turn of events that led only to back roads and bigger sunglasses-but she never lost her style.

A framed 1930s poster of Elli, painted when she was an Austrian ski-racing star, now hangs above a fireplace in Jeff and Molly Gorsuch's Aspen home. "She was like a grandmother to me," Jeff says. Indeed, the Gorsuches' home, a Tyrolean chalet on Elli's former property at the edge of town, and everything in it, celebrates a woman who brought style to American skiing-whether her customers liked it or not. "She'd definitely let you know if your pants were too tight, and she wouldn't let you buy them," Jeff says.

Jeff's mother, Renie, first walked into Elli's store when she was a 15-year-old junior ski racer training in Aspen. Elli, a tremendous athlete in a male-dominated sport, immediately impressed Renie-as did her shop's chic European skiwear, which had yet to catch on in America. "Elli brought in Emilio Pucci. She brought in Bogner. She definitely was a forerunner who helped establish the Aspen aesthetic," Jeff says. Eventually Renie and her husband, David, became close friends with Elli and her husband, Fred, who directed the Aspen Ski School until he died in the '70s.

In 1960, Renie and David Gorsuch, who was also a ski racer, competed in the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley and decided to move to Gunnison, Colo., a small town outside of Crested Butte. Inspired by Elli and enlightened by her innate sense of style, they started the first Gorsuch Ltd. boutique, now recognized as one of the nation's premier ski shops. The Gorsuches now own seven stores in Vail, Aspen and Summit County, as well as a certain little store they bought in the 1970s, called Elli's of Aspen, which Jeff and his two brothers manage today.

Jeff helped run the family store in Vail before moving to Aspen with his wife, Molly, after Elli died in 1991. They spent their first few years in her old ski chalet, which consisted of a couple of eclectic cabins that had been remodeled repeatedly during Elli's life. The Gorsuches loved the warm feel, but the cabins posed problems for a growing family. "We grappled with the whole idea. It just wasn't going to take us where we needed to be," Jeff says. To make room for three children-Brooks, 8, Mariel, 4, and, of course, Elli, 6-they tore the original buildings down, but used them as a design template for their new home, which was completed two years ago. "Elli and Fred were in tune with the alpine feel, and we wanted to do something with integrity that celebrated them," Jeff says.

Walking up the driveway, it becomes immediately clear that they succeeded. The home's gabled roofs and traditional craftsmanship not only invite you in, but also draw you, inexorably, to a cozy spot near the fire. Indeed, comfort is the first thought that comes to mind as you pass through the front door, framed in wood reclaimed from an antique winepress. The home's unconventional 5,800-square-foot floor plan places the family's bedrooms and three bathrooms on the ground floor and creates a foyer that casually welcomes guests into the heart of the home. A mahogany staircase covered in a runner of dense, rose-colored wool carpet rises to the main living area on the second floor. Architect Gordon Pierce, of Resort Designs in San Francisco, designed the home to be "upside down" to allow the main living spaces to take advantage of views of Aspen Mountain and Highland Bowl to the south.

Pierce, who has worked with the Gorsuch family for nearly 25 years designing many of their stores and homes, worked closely with Jeff and Molly to ensure their home would accommodate the specific-and constantly changing-needs of their familyf five. And, having designed many of the original village buildings at Vail and Beaver Creek, Pierce was in his element as he worked with the ski-chalet style. "You have a young family growing up in a dwelling, and if it can work for many years, that's a great success for any house," Pierce says. "You try to see to it that there are spaces and amenities that make sense to a family."

For example, the children have their own retreat in the home's 1,800-square-foot finished basement. Throw rugs cover the durable concrete floor, which is warmed by radiant heat. At one end of the grand room sits a couch and chairs appropriate for kid-style romping. At the other end, ropes and swings hang from the 10-foot ceiling above a heavily padded floor. Jeff says that with snow nearly eight months of the year, an indoor playground is a necessity. "The house with three kids wouldn't have worked without this," he says. And when the children grow older, the room will easily morph into an entertainment center or game room.

The painstaking details aren't immediately apparent on their own, but together they dramatically add to the home's Old World feel. The plaster walls are infused with flecks of mica, then hand-rubbed with beeswax to give them the subtle glow and depth typically found only in natural materials. Brushed wood floors, distressed Canadian-maple cabinets and black-walnut trim lend the handcrafted feel of a home that's been passed down through generations. The kitchen's three countertop materials-white granite, rose marble and gray marble-create the impression that the home has been remodeled over the years. "It doesn't look like something that just appeared," Jeff says.

Despite the luxury of these high-end finishes, the home is ultimately unpretentious. "We wanted a place that was intimate and lived-in. There's an eclectic, free-form feel," Molly says. Indeed, the chalet clearly houses an active family. In a hearth room adjacent to the kitchen, Molly spreads out study materials for her master's degree in natural health. As she talks about her family's lifestyle, she points out a few odd-colored spots on the white-granite island countertop. "This is Play-Doh, and this is Play-Doh, and I think this is Play-Doh, too," she says, laughing.

Though the upstairs floor plan is open, architectural features, colors and natural light distinguish individual living spaces. The dining room, for example, is set apart by a vaulted ceiling smoothed in brick-red plaster that changes hue as the sun arcs across the sky. Paintings hanging on the wall depict sunlight streaming through snowy trees, and they, too, appear to wax and wane according to the light of day. "You can sit and watch the sun go down, and it's different every time," Jeff says.

Rustic antiques mix with comfortable contemporary furniture and make even the formal living room an inviting hangout. The great room is dominated by a six-foot-long stone fireplace capped by a mantel made from the same winepress that graces the front doorway. Towering windows on either side offer a view of Aspen Highlands, so Jeff and Molly can check the ski conditions before they set out with their family, which they try to do at least once or twice a week.

Winter and skiing motifs are in nearly every room-a wealth of memorabilia that starts with photos of Jeff's grandfather, Jack, who built the first lighted ski area in Colorado, in Climax, which landed him in the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. Photos from Elli's racing days, and pictures of Jeff's parents and Jeff himself, who competed in the Europa Cup, imbue the walls with rich history. Though Jeff's racing career ended long ago after a back injury in Mirabelle, France, he and his family remain heavily involved with the sport. They donate time and money to the Aspen, Summit County and Vail ski clubs, as well as to various youth groups that get kids of all backgrounds on the slopes. "You've got to give back when you get so much," he says.

The Gorsuches keep the history of skiing alive, and also pass along Elli's legacy-her timeless style, fiery spirit and passion for all things skiing-to every person who walks into one of their stores. They treasure the home she inspired, and they plan to spend the rest of their lives there before passing it on to their own children. "A life in the mountains is a dream to live. We just love it," Jeff says. "Skiing is a way of life for my family, and it always will be.

FEBRUARY 2005

says.

The Gorsuches keep the history of skiing alive, and also pass along Elli's legacy-her timeless style, fiery spirit and passion for all things skiing-to every person who walks into one of their stores. They treasure the home she inspired, and they plan to spend the rest of their lives there before passing it on to their own children. "A life in the mountains is a dream to live. We just love it," Jeff says. "Skiing is a way of life for my family, and it always will be.

FEBRUARY 2005