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Sweetwater Homes

When Paul and Janet Testwuide arrived in Vail, he in ’63, she in ’73, Vail was a small ski town. Both athletic and from the Midwest they each craved an outdoor lifestyle—in every season.

“In 1962, Jim Clark, who was on the ski patrol in Vail, but lived with Testwuide in Breckenridge, talked him into visiting Vail,” wrote Dick Hauserman, about Paul, in his book, The Inventors of Vail.

“I remember standing on top of Milt’s Face,” Testwuide told Hauserman. “There was a foot of new snow, no wind, and it was warm. I was used to Breckenridge and thought I might be in the wrong ski area.” The next year, Testwuide was on Vail’s trail crew.”

When Janet arrived in Vail, it was love at first ski for the Testwuides, you might say.

The couple first lived in a house that Paul had built in Sandstone where they raised their two sons, both outstanding hockey players: Jon Paul,now married, had a career as a professional hockey player and Mike, played in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

In the mid-nineties, the couple began to miss the quiet feel of the Midwest. They missed being in the country and being around water. And, so they decided to look for a ranch. At the time, Janet remembers thinking, “I don’t care if it’s on a creek or the ocean, a lake or a river. I just want water.”


And so their search began. “At first we started doing concentric circles around Vail,” explains Janet. “When we didn’t find anything, we started looking five- and six-hours away, which put us into Wyoming and New Mexico.” It was a fluke, Paul says, that they found a place in Sweetwater: 58 acres and pond; two bedrooms, a loft and a boathouse. The family’s retreat.

“It’s in the flat tops. It’s alive with game. There are birds and beautiful trees and, at night, you cannot see a light from any direction. You’re really alone,” muses Paul, who grew up on a little farm on Lake Michigan. “I love the serenity of it, and I love being out in the woods by myself.


That place reflects me. I love the outdoors. I’m enthralled by migration. I love sunrises and sunsets. I love the energy that the sun gives us. The beautiful landscapes. And I live to be part of all of that.

“I watch the eagles and the hawks and the baby ducks grow up to be mature ducks. And I’m able to watch the migration of
birds throughout the summer, both coming and going. So you feel like part of a bigger world than just looking at skyscrapers
and asphalt.”

Most of the Testwuide cabin is furnished with pieces that Janet bought at consignment store, Nest. “So many people are getting rid of their Western ‘stuff,’ like antiques and nice, big wooden pieces. It’s perfect for decorating a ranch,” she says. “It’s a place where the dogs come and go, the kids come and go. It’s nice, but not precious. And all of Paul’s ‘trophies’ are pretty much what he’s collected right on the property or next to the property. Sweetwater is a hidden gem. It’s like a world away.” “It’s an hour, door to door,” adds Paul. “In the winter, I go up there to plow it out and take care of things like the compressors.

We usually spend one winter weekend up there and Janet sometimes goes up there in the winter to cross-country ski or snowshoe with some girlfriends. But, it’s pretty much a summer place.


“We have stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, inner tubes. No motors. And everyone fishes because the fishing is really good. It’s especially wonderful for little kids to come up and catch their first fish.”

Although Janet, like Paul, loves the serenity of the country—there’s a side of this energetic, creative lady that was raring to let go. So, when they began looking for a new “city” home, Janet knew exactly what she wanted: it had to be light and bright just like her personality—and somewhat contemporary. Most importantly, it had to have a view of the mountains. And she certainly hit the jackpot with a home that she found in Wildridge. It wasn’t an easy task. But this lady was determined.

For a number of years, she had her eye on a home which was in a small complex—and when it finally came on the market they bought it. “The interior ‘said’ that it was a guy’s house,” Janet points out. “But I knew it had real potential.”

Potential is not the word. The home has views of Beaver Creek and New York Mountain. Views that never quit. Since the Testwuides moved in, the home’s décor makes the most of the panorama. And just as the cabin embodies Paul’s roots, this place feeds Janet’s, light, artistic personality.


“Slifer Designs had done the staging of the house and used a lot of mirrors. There was a huge mirror over the dining table and everybody would sit there and say, ‘It doesn’t matter what direction you’re in, you can see the mountain.’ So I decided to mirror the wall,” says Janet, with a smile.


And then Janet continued to add her own voice. She had frosted glass, framed with LED lights, installed so that all that can be seen from any angle are the spectacular views of Beaver Creek and New York Mountain. There are other mirrored and beveled glass pieces, including a chest, that complete the dazzling look of the room.

And as only Janet can do, she found something at Nest, the consignment store, that she just couldn’t resist. “These were bought for the Arrabelle and came from Hong Kong,” she says, as she points to her gorgeous, white dining room chairs. “Apparently, they weren’t right and I probably got all of them for the price of one chair! They used to be turquoise.” The living area is filled with pops of color and pieces that Janet relishes. “I like color. I like mirrored tables, yet I’ve tried to keep things soft and rounded so when we do have grandchildren come over, we’ll be able to make that transition,” she says. “We don’t really have anything important that can be broken.”


The home’s kitchen is characterized by the Testwuide’s warmth and filled with light from windows that they had installed which, too, encompass the mountain views. In the corner of the room is a large round table and leather chairs, where people can just hang out and watch television, play games or enjoy a taco night—which is a family favorite.

“Now, when we stand at the kitchen windows and look out to Beaver Creek, we can see ‘In the Wuides,’ and Earl’s lift going up the mountain. Who knew that we would ever have a home that looked out to ‘In the Wuides’?” Janet asks. “What’s more, to wake up to this view is just insane!” The home has two master and two guest bedrooms, all with large windows. Big closets are also a treat for the lady of the house. “In our old house, I had three drawers,” Janet says with a laugh. “So now I’m having a lot of fun buying ‘girly things.’ I have a store room and an office which, right now, I’m using for my summer closet until I get totally organized. Hopefully, it will one day be a grandchild’s nursery.” By all standards, the Testwuides are considered to be a modern day, Vail pioneer family. So, this article cannot be complete without writing a bit about Paul and getting him to tell one of his favorite stories relating to the beginning of Vail.


By 1974, Paul was the Vail Ski Patrol director and worked todevelop procedure for lift and gondola evacuation, avalanche routes, explosives handling, communications and medical procedures which are still used today. He ultimately became Senior Vice President and CEO for Vail and Beaver Creek and was responsible for the planning and development of Vail, Beaver Creek and Arrowhead. And, in 2012, he was inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum’s Hall of Fame.


Needless to say, Paul has many stories about those early days. It was a time when everybody knew everyone else in town. When life here was lived in abandon and everyone thought they had landed in paradise.


“In the early days, in the ’60s, we had the gondola out of the village, a chair out of Mid-Vail up to patrol headquarters, and the chair down in the back bowls. That was it. And the old bell gondola that came out of the village was pretty easy to hot wire,” Paul begins. “So, because I was head of the ski patrol. I liked to frequent the Copper Bar and I also loved to entertain my friends.


On occasion, on a night that, maybe, there was a great snowstorm, powder, I would let the word out—quietly—so we didn’t get over run, that if people could get ready, the gondola might be starting up. And lo and behold, a lot of our friends would show up at the gondola and I’d hotwire it, unbeknownst to the heads of Vail Associates, and up we’d go. And as soon as the last person was up, we’d shut the gondola off so nobody could see it running anymore. And then I’d fire up old Chair 4 and get everybody up to the top patrol headquarters.


“Of course there were a few libations and girlfriends and boyfriends and maybe a few bratwursts—and then I’d go over and hot wire Chair 5. And many times, we’d ski all night and come back inthe morning. “On one occasion, Bob Parker, unbeknownst to me, had lined up some photographers to get some powder shots, because it was a gorgeous powder day. But, when he got up to the top, the bowls were tracked out and I was caught. And the word I got from both Pete (Seibert) and Parker, was ‘If we’d had a chance, we’d probably have done it ourselves, Paul.’” Life has moved on for the Testwuides and it’s been a very good ride for these two genuine people. It’s certainly reflected in their warm personalities, loving family and their two gracious homes.