I entered my favorite door off Galena Street and climbed the stairs to meet Terry Butler, the owner of Aspen’s boutique hotel, The Residence Hotel. Having already stayed at the hotel with Baddy, it felt as though I was entering the home of an old best friend.
In the office located at the top of the stairs, I noticed a stash of bulging shopping bags. Terry’s assistant smiled, “Terry has been shopping for her staff again.”
To ensure privacy with my interview with Terry, I was led to one of their seven suites. As I waited in the room with Persian Rugs, Ralph Lauren linens and antique furnishings, I looked down onto the street below and watched as locals in the latest Sorrels clunked by bejeweled windows alongside visiting tourists packed into tight leggings and knee high stiletto boots.
Terry came in followed by her great love Max, an eleven year old “Powderpuff” Chinese Crested. She sat with me on her great floral coach and I asked her to tell me about the artifacts that filled every room. Her story unfolded beginning with, “I’m surrounded by arts and antiques that are all friends of mine and I love them all.”
When she was seventeen her father who had been in the oil business passed away and her mother gave each child a present to help them work through their sadness. Terry’s mom was a school teacher and world class duplicate bridge player who taught Terry how to play at the age of four. Terry’s gift was a chance to move back to her roots are in Mexico and live with her Grandfather who owned a Cantina on the border. She chose to take that gift and moved to Mexico City to study Spanish, and with her blond hair and big blue eyes she quickly landed a job as a model and a host on a popular Mexican television series.
I marveled at Terry’s strength, her sense of adventure and her independence. In her childhood years she was a tomboy, a runner and a hurdler with ambitions to go to the Olympics, until she was succeeded by Wilma Rudolph, a gold medal winner. “That made me feel better. At least I got beat by the best person in the world,” she said in her fading Texan drawl.
Terry’s athleticism led her to traipse back and forth between her two greatest loves, the Himalayas and Ajax Mountain. “We are a very materialistic society and that’s what I grew up in. Living in third world countries I learned that standards of happiness had little to do with how much people had in their bank accounts. It is a more spiritual way of how they get along with one another, and how they love their god. It taught me a lot on how you can be quiet. I probably would have been more of a successful business person if I hadn’t gone to India. When I came home my values had changed. The condition of my bank account has nothing to do with who I am. Who I am and my values are the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met. Thats who I am.”
When I mentioned that she didn’t seem to have a whole lot of fear she looked at me and quickly agreed quoting one of her favorite lines from the film Out of Africa, “I don’t want to wake up at the end of my life and find out that I’ve lived somebody else’s, she said. I’ve made my own choices, good and bad. We’ve all made mistakes and there are things I would certainly change, but not a lot. I’m a master of my own soul, if I want to go climb a mountain top I don’t need to report to anybody.
As Terry spoke she looked around the room, “People are welcome here, where there is no pomp and circumstance. As a person I am not about the glitz and the glamor, but my hotel is different. It’s never looked prettier and I love my base camp,” so dubbed by local author Scott Lasser in an article he wrote for Sojourner Magazine about Terry. “I don’t want it to be the best kept secret anymore and so I am entering the new age of social media. I’ve reinvented myself so many times, I can do it again,” Terry says to me.
Perhaps she was referring to her life in Mexico or perhaps to her horrible accident she had ski racing eight years ago, “I have a steel leg but it’s still a great leg,” she said after telling me about her passion for biking in the summers to Glenwood Springs. “Who can keep up with you?” I asked, and she told me about her three past fabulous relationships in Mexico. What I discovered was that the man closest to her heart was the Fiance she lost when he was killed in his own airplane, Carlos Trouyet. “I think it may have been a great success if we had had that chance to live together,” she said in her matter of fact way.
As the interview came to a close Terry left me with her philosophy, “I believe in karma and that the more you give, the more it comes back. I don’t want to waste today, or lose a good thought or not be appreciative of all that I’ve been given. I have the most beautiful hotel in the world, just a block away from the foot of the mountain that I have had a forty-two year relationship with. People come stay with me that I adore and they pay when they stay. How lucky could I be? I’ve designed my life and I am thankful for it.”