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Telluride Style Winter/Spring 1999

The following is an article that was published in the Winter/Spring 1999 issue of the Telluride Style Magazine about the Aldasoro Family and Aldasoro Ranch: 

In a time when the traditional definition of family is continually being reworked to fit the parameters of changing times, the Aldasoro sisters, twins Pam Bennett and Angie Petersen, and younger sister Cristine Mitchell - have become examples of the powerful bonds that can form when siblings unite.

They are the daughters of Albert Aldasoro of Montrose and Yula Mae Anderson of Grand Junction. The original sheep ranching operation on Deep Creek Mesa, which was started by the girls' paternal grandfather and relatives, laid a lasting agricultural legacy in the Telluride region. And, while many adults recall childhood's of a tamer sort, the Aldasoros remember with their trademark enthusiasm days spent exploring their 4,500-acre mesa ranch "playground" on foot and on motorcycles, pitching bales of hay for their herds, climbing mountains, spending weekends in the town of Telluride (there were five houses on Oak Street alone that belonged to relatives on Yula Mae's side of the family, so the sisters had no shortage of accommodations when they drove into town for a change of scenery and pace), and attending school in the nearby town of Montrose. It was a rich and colorful life for the sisters, and today they say that one of their collective goals in raising their own children is to provide them with similar senses of adventure. Says Pam, "We had such wonderful childhood's. There were animals around us all the time. We knew the mountains and the mesas. We had playhouses. We had bonfires and told stories. Our days were so full of wonder, and we all want to impart that wonder to our children."

The sisters have bucked tradition through their individual decisions to put down roots in Telluride rather than shift their attention elsewhere. Nonetheless, such a decision required that each of them move away for a period of time so that she could discover what it was about Telluride that held such a magnetic pull. When Angie left, it was to study business at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado. From there, she went to work for the Mountain Bell phone company (now U.S. West) in sales and service. Her job took her first to Flagstaff, Arizona, and then to Phoenix. In 1990, she began to think about returning to Telluride and to a continuation of the history her family had begun to write near the turn-of-the-century. Cristine enrolled in Fort Lewis College in Durango to study business and marketing, and save for that experience and a summer in Arizona, she has spent her entire life in Telluride. Pam also attended college in Grand Junction, where she focused on business with an emphasis on agriculture. After graduation, she moved to Durango and then to Denver to work in banking in the realm of accounting and bookkeeping. She returned to Telluride in 1984, moving back onto the ranch that had been her childhood haven. Cristine summarizes the feelings of all three sisters by saying, "The thing about Telluride is that I realize I always want to come back here whenever I leave. That tells me I'm meant to be here."

The presence of the Aldasoros in the Telluride region dates back to when grandfather Juaquin and his cousin discovered the expanse of Deep Creek Mesa, located under the stunning vista of the San Sophia Ridge. The land evoked vivid memories and emotions. To family, the San Juan Mountains and their accompanying mesas and deeply cut valleys were wonderfully similar in appearance and feel to the Pyrenees mountains of their native Basque country in Spain. The high-altitude land also happened to be well-suited to sheep ranching.

Juaquin's son, Albert, married Yula Mae Anderson, a Telluride-bred local whose family had a solid presence in the community. Cristine recalls that Yula Mae's grandmother "used to do the laundry for the girls on the line. They'd drop it off at night, she'd wash it and leave it on the step, and they would return to retrieve it in the morning. That's just an example of how far we go back." Also Yula Mae's father was the assayer for the Telluride mill for more than 30 years.

Angie adds that at one time, the Aldasoros owned one of the largest private parcels of land in San Miguel County, and she notes with a laugh that when property tax day rolled around, the county office would close early to celebrate the large infusion of cash. Today, some 1,500 acres of the ranch are set aside for a subdivision of high-end custom homes and also deed-restricted properties. "We wanted others to be able to wake up every morning to the same beauty we have been able to grow up with," Angie says.

One of the most instrumental events in the sisters' lives recently was the shifting of the development side of the Aldasoro business away from outside management and into their own hands. With the help of business consultant Dr. Susannah Smith, the sisters began to investigate how they could merge their talents to direct the development of their land in the way they all desired and with the vision they had forged together. Their mission statement expresses their values and philosophy: As Telluride grew and ranching became less profitable, we realized development was an inevitable part of owning this large piece of land," Pam explains. "But, it was very difficult for our family to come to that realization. We all had to do a lot of soul searching to decide whether we would sell the land to another entity or keep it in our hands. Around 1990, Albert and his sister, Mary Louise Leonard, started to meet with people in the development world and then began the process of creating the subdivision. It was tough, but we believe we have successfully achieved our vision."

Angie agrees: "It was very important to us that our family have a say in how the subdivision was formed. We wanted everyone to stay involved, and to feel good about the results."

One of the things the sisters are most proud of is their decision to down-zone the density of the subdivision in order to help preserve the look and integrity of the land, and also to protect the wildlife of the area. Says Pam, "The original density was based on 1,620 people living in the subdivision. But, we began to think about what this would mean to the land, and we decided it would be too much. So, instead we opted for a down-zoning to 166 single-family homes, which translates into a relative density of about 664 people."

Currently, Angie acts as director of sales for the development division of Aldasoro Ltd. (the family business is divided between that entity and Aldasoro Brothers, the agricultural and ranching division of the business). Pam is the chief executive officer of Aldasoro Ltd., and Cristine helped set up the homeowner's company and now joins the other sisters as a board member. Outside of the office, the three are devoted to their families. Angie, whose husband was tragically killed in an automobile accident six years ago, is a single parent to six-year-old Shanna Mae; Pam, who is married to landscape designer Scott Bennett, has ten-year-old Ashley, seven-year-old Luke, and infant son Chandler; and Cristine, married to Matt Mitchell (the manager of the Aldasoro homeowner's company), has four-year-old Molly and two-and-a-half-year-old Ian.

Says Pam, "We are very proud of what we've accomplished. Our efforts have not only allowed us to afford our parents a very comfortable lifestyle, but have also given us the opportunity to make a difference in the community."

Cristine adds, "And, it hasn't been easy. Sometimes we wish people could see how painstakingly we go over every single detail, so that we're sure we're doing everything with the greatest care."

In describing the commitment the sisters have made to working together, Angie perhaps sums it up best. She says, "The family and the love of siblings come first, and the business comes second. Of course we have a great deal of respect for the business, but we realize that family is the most important aspect of what we do. The main thing is that all three of us know we come first in each other's eyes."

The Aldasoro Family and Development Company transferred governing control of The Aldasoro Ranch subdivision to the Aldasoro Ranch Homeowners Company in 2008.

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