Archive for September, 2008

  • CU’s Family Ties Run Strong

    • CU-Boulder

      Feature article, fall 2008

    Third Generation of Koelbel Family Attending Leeds

    Portfolio magazinePublished in Portfolio (magazine of the Leeds School of Business at CU-Boulder)

    THE BLOOD TIES on the CU campus this year run surprisingly deep. You already knew about our football team’s heralded father/son combo at coach and quarterback. You probably even knew that a pairing of uncle and nephew each scored touchdowns in the season opener against CSU. Did you know, however, that the Koelbel family has its third generation—and counting—on campus this year? Walt (BS ’47 Marketing) & Gene Koelbel (BS ’47 Marketing) have a granddaughter who is a CU-Boulder undergrad and a grandson in Leeds’ MBA program. Portfolio cornered the Koelbels’ second generation (Walter A. “Buz” Koelbel, BS ’74 Finance) to find out why family trees like his take root at Leeds.

    Portfolio: The football team has family ties at coach/QB and receiver/tailback—and now a third generation of Koelbels graces the business school. Why do you think CU attracts such strong family legacies?
    Buz Koelbel: Two things: one is the physical setting and the beauty around Boulder, tucked up against the Flatirons, which make it such a unique place. But there are a lot of nice places around the country, so I think it really boils down to the people. It’s the professors, the students, the administration, and ultimately the support from the business community and alumni.

    “Business is personal and it’s emotional.”

    P: Did business school—your finance degree from CU—prepare you for life after graduation?
    B: Real estate is all about finance. I came out with a good understanding and it certainly helped me accelerate what I needed to know in the practical world.

    P: Once you graduate, are you done learning?
    B: The learning just begins when you finish schooling! School can only give you that knowledge base you’ll utilize when you get out into the world. Real estate is ever-changing and always demanding; that means we’ve got to be forever learning.

    P: If that’s the case—if most of our practical knowledge comes from “the school of hard knocks”—why go to business school at all?
    B: Schooling, whether it’s undergraduate or graduate, gives you that foundation with which you begin to build a career. If you don’t have that foundation, you may not get out of the starting blocks to build your career. You need that knowledge base with which to sell your skills, talent, and personality… Then you can be successful in the school of hard knocks!

    P: But aren’t there some people out there who make it big in business without a formal background?
    B: It’s not to say that you can’t find success the other way, I just think it gives you that foundation and a jump-start that is necessary in this competitive world.

    P: A few years back, Koelbel & Company purchased some land near Winter Park that had some personal significance to your family, specifically the old Ski Idlewild resort where you had grown up skiing with your family. How important is it to keep a personal touch like that in business?
    B: Business is personal and it’s emotional. Our family had a 60-year history up in Grand County, having been one of the places where I learned how to ski. Part of that emotion was there when we made that deal: going back to a place where we had fond childhood memories. But if the intrinsic long-term business opportunities weren’t there, honestly that personal side wouldn’t matter as much.

    P: It wouldn’t be business if there weren’t practical, profitable motives as well. Is it possible in a profit-driven world to make space for ecological, sustainable decisions as well?
    B: Absolutely. Real estate development starts with a philosophical foundation… One of ours is: “Under all lies the land.” We try to balance the economics with doing the right thing for the right reasons. What we’ve learned over time—and I learned this from my dad—is that by focusing more on doing the right thing, the economics will be there in the end.

    P: What was it like to witness the ribbon cutting on the Koelbel building last fall?
    B: It was a very special day because virtually the entire family, down to the youngest grandchild, was there. It was a day of great pride, particularly for my folks and myself; but it was also an opportunity for the grandchildren to see that our success has allowed us the ability to give back. It was a good lesson for them. In my mind, legacy is a big deal: we wanted to leave a physical legacy of our thoughts about how important the University of Colorado—and particularly its business school—is to the fabric of the state. In a business where physical land and structures are important, being a part of that building was a great opportunity for us.

    P: Sometimes legacies are rigid, unchanging things, like a museum display behind glass or a bronze statue… It seems like legacy to you—say, a building with your name on it—is more a living, breathing, ongoing thing.
    B: It is. It may be a stationary physical legacy, but that building will be very effective in nurturing the ever-evolving way we learn. As a family, we have a big focus on giving back to education because it is so important to the future of the state. Also, at the end of the day, if in any small way we can inspire other people to leave a productive legacy like that, then our entire family can take pride in that, too.

  • Warren’s Wisdom

    • Magazine of Frontier Airlines

      Published in the Frontier Airlines magazine

    Published in Wild Blue Yonder, magazine of Frontier Airlines


    Warren Miller, now 83, is arguably the world’s foremost action sports filmmaker. His wry wit and scintillating cinematography have graced hundreds of winter sports films, influencing countless fans to follow his lead as the original ski bum

    IN THE SPRING OF 1947 when Aspen was on its way to boasting two of the world’s 15 chairlifts, Warren Miller rolled into town with a sputtering station wagon towing a weathered trailer. His friend, ski school director Friedl Pfeiffer, told him to hide that ugly thing and buy some real estate. Pfeiffer explained that one year earlier he had bought 10 lots, with houses, for just $100—exactly $10 dollars apiece. Miller said he couldn’t afford it. When retelling this story, Miller pauses a moment (timing his trademark dry wit) and then says, “A recent headline in The Aspen Times says the $5.5 million Aspen house is a thing of the past. So, naturally, I missed the real estate opportunity of the century.”

    Miller chose a different path, and millions of fans worldwide will never hold that against him. Nearly 70 years after he first strapped on skis, the godfather of ski films has lost no momentum. He heads an entrepreneurship foundation, has finished a new book on aging and remains perennially obsessed with the concept of freedom.

    Wild Blue Yonder: Do you still encourage today’s generations to quit their city jobs and head for the hills?
    Warren Miller: I recently wrote a draft of a commencement speech where I would have said, “First, give your father back the keys to his car. Then give back your mother’s credit card. Then go out and get a job.” Then I was to walk off the stage. Funny, I never got a call back on that one.

    WBY: Warren Miller, the original ski bum, says, “Get a job?”
    WM: You only get out of life whatever it is you go after. It’s the same with skiing. Jean-Claude Killy once told me that a mountain is like a beautiful woman. You can go to her as often as you want and she will only give you what she wants.

    WBY: What is it you wanted from that mountain?
    WM: Freedom—that’s what skiing is all about. Ask people about their first day of skiing and they remember the weather, what they had for lunch, what kind of car they rode in. Anything that memorable is the first taste of total freedom. Total freedom is man’s basic instinct.

    “The thing with skiing is you can’t think negative thoughts while you’re making turns on snow.”

    WBY: At 83 you’re still going back to that mountain?
    WM: Yes, but I’ve slowed down. If Steve Stunning thinks he’s as good a skier at 50 as he was at 25, then he must have been pretty crummy at 25. It’s all relative. I used to feel the wind in my hair. And then I didn’t have any hair, and now I have a helmet and can’t feel the wind anyway. So what difference does it make? The only thing that matters is the size of your smile.

    WBY: Is skiing a Fountain of Youth?
    WM: Researching and writing my book on aging has been a big help. As you get older, you’ll realize stress is the number one killer of people. You’ve got to lower your physical expectations and get rid of a lot of stress. The thing with skiing is you can’t think negative thoughts while you’re making turns on snow. Every time you get to the bottom of a hill, you experience what I call—and you probably can’t print this—a wonderful psychological enema.

    WBY: Ever ski with those competitive types who count runs and have to beat you to the bottom?
    WM: I’ll never go in front of them because they spend the whole run trying to pass me. It’s like golf; I never keep score. Life is so competitive, why bring that to your day off? Unfortunately, keeping score is what the world’s about for many people, but we can change that. When I was raising money to build a skate park near my home in Washington, I made the pitch really simple: In any Little League baseball game, nine children always lose. In the skate park, no one loses. I don’t keep score in skiing, either.

    Q&A with Warren MillerWBY: How do you build a 59-year tradition of ski movies without one-upmanship?
    WM: You have to tell the story of what you’re filming. I think that was the reason we were as successful as we were. Instead of showing Nearly Normal Norman going off this Nearly Vertical Cliff, tell me about Norman—where he’s from, how he got there—and then I can relate. All these years, I think that’s all I’ve really done.

    “A mountain is like a beautiful woman. You can go to her as often as you want and she will only give you what she wants.”

    WBY: So it’s not ultimately just about freedom, but also what you do with your freedom? It’s about the stories we make once we’re free?
    WM: I have a poster on my wall that’s a picture from the bow of a sailboat. It says, “When all that holds you is the horizon, that’s real freedom.” Most people are afraid to look over the horizon, but that’s where freedom begins.