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Charlie Hopton

Everyone who is anyone in Aspen knows Charlie Hopton. He’s one of those people who landed in Aspen in the early 60’s with little more than enough loose change for a beer at the Jerome Bar in his pocket. It just so happened that Aspen’s intrepid Dutchman, Jack de Pagter was the bartender. The next thing you know, Jack took Charlie under his wing and introduced him to the likes of Fred Braun and Ralph Melville among others. It was among this band of mountaineers, skiers, family men and entrepreneurs that Mountain Rescue Aspen was conceived. But that’s not all that Charlie Hopton was involved in over his nearly 70 years in Aspen. He is a renowned conservationist and has been involved with Wilderness Workshop and the Independence Pass Foundation since their inception. He also helped establish the management plan for North Star Nature Preserve. Charlie has long been an avid outdoorsman and he regularly leads trips to Kazakhstan with his business there called Kazakh Trading Company/ Kazakh Adventures.

Charlie was born in Pennsylvania in 1937. His humble beginnings, during which his family struggled during the Great Depression to provide for him and his 3 siblings, instilled in Charlie the urge to become independent as soon as he possibly could. After completing the 8th grade in 1952 Charlie enlisted in the Army and was quickly deployed to fight in the Korean war. After serving in Korea and five years in the military, Charlie decided not to make the military a career. His military experience did inspire him to help create Aspen’s first Veteran’s services organization and then help found the valley-wide Western Slope Veterans Association in Glenwood Springs. He and other local Vets can be found proudly marching in 4th of July parades and attending Veterans and Memorial Day events. Charlie will tell you that helping Vets navigate the red tape for medical, psychological and other services is an endeavor very near and dear to his heart.

Finding employment in Aspen in the early 60s wasn’t difficult, according to Charlie. He worked as a carpenter, electrician, and plumber. One thing led to another and his hard work evolved into real estate. He was among the developers of the Meadowood subdivision and helped build the Prince of Peace chapel.

Between hammering nails, rock climbing and mountaineering and generally enjoying the hamlet of Aspen, Charlie met the love of his life Heather who was a waitress at the Wienerstube in 1971. Their love story took them on adventures to every state in the union with Charlie piloting his single engine airplane. They became partners in local efforts to help preserve Aspen’s wild places. They teamed up with the Aspen Chapter of the American Red Cross which was then under the auspices of lifelong Red Cross volunteer Claire Sanderson. Charlie was the director of the American Red Cross Safety Program from 1968 to 1975, and the Pitkin County Emergency Services Coordinator from 1968 to 1974; he was a founding director of the Aspen Ambulance Association and a member and pilot of Aspen Air Search and Rescue. Charlie and Heather opened an art gallery in Aspen and Heather, with Charlie’s support, opened one of Aspen’s first mental health clinics called “Touchstone.” They adored their Golden Retrievers and through the years made it a point to adopt Goldens from Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies. They were a team for their 30 plus years of marriage until Heather’s untimely passing at the age of 63.

Not one to sit still, Charlie became involved in many local causes including the wilderness designation of the Maroon Bells, the preservation of the Buttermilk back bowls, and the “Save Hunter Creek” effort in the early 1980’s. A vocal group of local activists, with the help of newly arrived attorney Tim McFlynn, who worked pro bono, worked tirelessly to keep the road open but promised to limit travel on it. Their solution prevailed in court and our access to the Hunter Creek Valley remains today thanks to the likes of Charlie Hopton and others.
Another cause near and dear to Charlie’s heart is the Aspen Buddy Program. Charlie has shared his gift of integrity, dedication, hard work, and love with a Little Buddy that he has mentored from the age of 7 to age 22.

One of Charlie’s favorite pastimes is having dinner with friends. Until recently, Charlie could be found nearly every night at the popular local restaurant L’hostaria. Until it closed in 2021, L’hostaria was a gathering place for locals, especially Mountain Rescue Aspen members. From his perch at the bar or at a group table Charlie would regale his friends with stories of his time in Korea, his worldly adventures, and endear everyone in his orbit with his unique combination of vulnerability and positive outlook. Not one to lament the loss of yet another favorite local restaurant, if you want to spend time with Charlie you can now find him at another much loved local haunt – Mezzaluna or you just might find him walking along a mountain trail with his beloved companion Kate, a Golden Retriever of course, who appreciates a romp in the great outdoors as much as Charlie does.