Tom Ross: 1 of North Routt’s favorites heads south for winter
January 2, 2010
Steamboat Springs — After more than 30 years of savoring and enduring the profound North Routt winters from her ridge-top home overlooking Seedhouse Road, Christie Kinney, 89, has reluctantly surrendered her snow shovel.
Her hardy neighbors up north are going to miss Christie's pluck this winter. They feted her a couple of weeks ago during the North Routt Fire District board dinner at the Home Ranch. Some even call her the matron of North Routt.
"It only seems fitting that this living legend of a Kansas farm girl, who loves the mountains like no other, should be mentioned prior to her departure," North Routt resident Rich Landon said. "Though she is nearly 90 years old, Christie continues to express her youthful outlook and her ability to continue to do hard work. Many mornings, she can still be seen shoveling out her house before 7 a.m."
Kinney may have grown a little weary of the way Old Man Winter disrespects her arthritis, but that doesn't mean she's gone for good.
Kinney is going to spend three or four months of the winter at a community for senior citizens in Grand Junction, friends say, but her arrangement allows her to return to her home in the Elk Ridge neighborhood when the snow finally melts.
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"Christie is one little spitfire," Joni Moss said this week. "She's like my second mom — sparky, opinionated, but honest and loving."
She still drives her 1985 GMC Jimmy — the white one with red stripes — down to the Clark Store and, occasionally, all the way in to Steamboat.
More often, when it's time to go to Steamboat for provisions, Moss drives her.
"She loves her frappuccino in town, and she loves the Village Inn," Moss said.
Kinney and her late husband, Harold, built their cabin, one of the first on Elk Ridge. As soon as he retired from his longtime position as a machinist for Ball Brothers Research (now Ball Aerospace) in 1980, they set out to find the ideal location for their retirement home. They selected their lot on Elk Ridge after a thorough exploration of the Colorado Rockies in an old Jeep.
Chuck Vale, who has lived in North Routt "too damn long," said the Kinneys always have been the kind of people who brought a dispersed community together.
"Christie is the kind of woman who leaves cookies in the mailbox for the mailman," Vale said.
He described Harold as an invaluable member of the Fire Board, helping to shepherd the transition from the old Clark Fire Department to the modern taxing entity known as the North Routt Fire Protection District, which has been able to build fire stations and modernize its equipment.
Harold died in 1989, but Christie Kinney has continued to live the Rocky Mountain lifestyle.
She is a familiar sight to her neighbors, snowshoeing through the deep snow that falls above 8,000 feet elevation in North Routt, a pair of ski poles steadying her along the way.
Moss' husband, Dave, said he would never forget the courage Kinney showed when the Hinman fire of 2002 threatened property along the upper Elk River.
"Christie was out there with one of those pruning saws (on a long pole) sawing the limbs off her trees," Dave Moss recalled.
Vale said the anecdote about the Hinman blaze is evidence of the self-help approach the Kinneys brought to their lives together.
"They brought that farming mentality of, 'Just git 'er done,'" Vale said. "The work ethic they brought to the community was just fabulous — if you've got something to do, just go out and do it."
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