All it took for Wayne Westphale to make Routt County his home for life was driving down Rabbit Ears Pass and seeing the Yampa Valley for the first time.
Westphale came to Steamboat Springs for “the white stuff” as a reward for putting himself through law school back East, which he paid for by running a construction company that built pools. Arriving in 1973, he’s been practicing law here ever since.
As with his thoroughness in the courtroom, he didn’t cut any corners in deciding where to live. He had subscriptions to Ski and Skiing magazines, each issue detailing a ski town out West. So he got in his car and drove, visiting the regular suspects like Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Alta, Snowbird, Aspen and Vail. Then he made the drive over Rabbit Ears.
Westphale started by teaching ski school during the day and doing audit work at night. After returning to Baltimore for two summers for his construction job, he stayed in Steamboat one summer. And we all know about the summers here.
“I realized I didn’t want to wear a suit and tie and work in the city,” he says.
That’s all it took for him to settle in Steamboat for good, eventually marrying his wife, Nancy, and raising son, Michael, now 31 and living in Denver. Only in his case, “settle” doesn’t mean being idle. Like the water trickling off Mount Werner, Westphale’s life is one of constant movement, and he’s always doing something. As if raising a family, practicing law and enjoying Steamboat’s outdoor pursuits weren’t enough, still wanting to stay busy and with an itch to use his hands, he started toying around with wooden, geared clocks after seeing one in a magazine. He later purchased an Eli Terry wooden clock and promised himself that he eventually would make one.
“I knew I could simplify it,” he says. “I wanted to magnify it in size and make it a skeleton clock.”
So began a second business. Westphale built his first clock in nine months. Now, the master woodworker can build one in two months, the precision of each piece and craftsmanship readily evident. He even wrote a two-part story for Fine Woodworking magazine, where one of his pieces was featured on the cover.
“I like the idea of making something mechanical that tells its own story and is functional,” he says. “It’s a functional, kinetic sculpture.”
Even with all of this, he still gets 40 to 50 days skiing in each year and loves to bike in the summer — almost as much as he loves the view of the Yampa Valley every time he returns home.
“I still get goosebumps whenever I drive into the valley,” he says. “Just like I did the first time.”