Gretchen Sehler-Looking for adventure

Whether she's biking, skiing or gardening, Sehler goes all out

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If you follow the meandering roads of the Fairview subdivision, there is an outside chance you will stumble into Gretchen Sehler's back yard. It's a small piece of land just past the long, dirt driveway that leads to a home that seems to be perfectly suited for Sehler, Marc, her husband of more than 15 years, and their Australian shepherd, Mica.
The yard itself is not unlike any other in Steamboat, but what lies beyond inspired the name Emerald Mountain and is one of the many reasons Sehler is so happy living in the Yampa Valley.
"This is my back yard," Sehler said with a wide grin as she pointed out across the snow-covered landscape that begins with her yard and stretches as far as the eye can see. Her property is actually a small part of the view, but the bike trails that begin there lead to open space and a land filled with opportunity -- at least for a woman who says she can't stand being trapped indoors.
" I love the change of seasons. I love skiing everyday, and the summer is just as nice," Sehler said. " I hate being indoors even on a nasty day. I think the weather always looks a lot worse through a window."
No matter if it's summer, winter, spring or fall, the Sehlers spend most of their time outside and a great deal of that time exploring the rolling terrain behind their home.
Sehler said Emerald Mountain makes the perfect playground to enjoy the things she loves -- mountain biking and hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
It was skiing that first brought Sehler to Steamboat Springs in November 1983.
She had been working as a ski instructor in Crested Butte, but didn't like the ski school director there. She was seeking a new job and was offered the opportunity to teach in Steamboat.
"It has been awesome," Sehler said. "I loved Crested Butte, but I've never been disappointed here in Steamboat -- I love it."
Sehler has been teaching skiing for more than 35 years. Her love of the sport developed early while growing up in Santa Fe, N.M., as part of a family of nine children.
One day she convinced her mom to let her tag along with her brother on a ski trip. At the time Sehler was 9 years old, but she instantly fell in love with the feeling of sliding down the slopes on a pair of skis.
"I went home and told my mom all I wanted to do was ski," Sehler said. "I love the freedom of being able to go wherever you want to go. Skiing lets you do that."
These days, Sehler might spend six or seven days a week on the mountain teaching during the winter. But she doesn't mind because she truly loves her job.
"No two days on the mountain are exactly the same," Sehler said. "I don't mind working that much because I really enjoy what I'm doing."
She is often rewarded with smiles on her students' faces when they are learning to ski and by relationships that have consumed decades.
"I've been teaching some of my clients for more than 15 years," Sehler said. "I like to think they come back because they are learning and having a great time."
Her greatest challenge as a ski instructor is teaching someone who really doesn't want to ski.
"Sometimes people will tell me they are learning to ski for their husband or for their wife," Sehler said. "It's hard to teach someone that doesn't really want to learn, but hopefully at the end of the day they've had fun -- even if they don't want to admit it."
While skiing has become a major part of her life, Sehler also has learned to branch out as an adult.
She has worked as a landscaper for Routt County Landscaping and still loves gardening in the summer, she was a lifeguard at the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center for about 12 years and has been the coordinator of the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series for more than a decade.
"She just has a passion for mountain biking, and the series, that has been a big part of its growth over the years," said Christina Freeman, sports coordinator for the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreational Services Department and Sehler's immediate supervisor.
Sehler, who had to be convinced she was right for the job, said she is most excited about the growing number of women and juniors taking part in the eight-race summer series. Last year, the series averaged 200 riders per event and 800 different participants throughout the summer.
"These days, it's not just about racing," Sehler said. "It's kind of a social event. We've had riders who have met each other at a race and are now engaged to be married."
Freeman said Sehler's knowledge of mountain biking and her attention to detail are big reasons for the events' success. When she took it over the series was averaging between 50 and 100 riders per event. Since she has taken over, Freeman said there has been a tremendous growth.
The only downside for Sehler is the hours she has to spend behind a computer, figuring out results or future race schedules.
"I think her worst nightmare would be to have my job," Freeman said. "We meet a couple of times a year in my office and she is always asking me how I can work in (the enclosed walls of an office)."
Sehler has always loved riding bikes, but her interest in mountain bike racing was piqued by Marc.
The two met as ski instructors but soon discovered they shared a common interest in biking. Sehler estimates she rode her bikes, both mountain and road, close to 1,500 miles last summer.
Sehler, who enjoyed biking on the rugged trails around Steamboat but has never been a racer, would show up at the Steamboat Town Challenge races to cheer for her husband. Soon, she was volunteering and learning the ins and outs of racings while traveling around the Western region to watch Marc.
The experience gave her an insight to the sport that makes her excellent at designing courses and managing the details of riding.
She said one of the best things about being the course designer for the Town Challenge is using the huge network of trails behind her home to challenge area riders.
Sehler, and friends Katie Lindquist and Brad Cusenbary will take local competitive mountain biking to a new level this summer.
The trio has formed a company called Rocky Peak Productions LLC that will bring the first 24-hour mountain bike race ever held in Steamboat to the ski area on June 12 and 13.
Sehler said if that goes well, Rocky Peak will branch out to offer more events in the future.
Until then, she will be happy to pass on her love of skiing as a teacher in the winter, continue to make the Town Challenge one of the best race series in the Colorado Rockies and find the adventures and beauty that can be found in her own back yard.

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