Visitors booking a tour with “Aspire Tours”, to see Denver or to explore the Rocky Mountains, will be accompanied by a guide who will instantly feel like a local friend. But, interestingly, the tour company’s CEO is not American: Zurich native Kathrin Troxler came to Colorado by chance. She fell in love with the land and the people – and wants to pass on that love and enthusiasm by way of her tour company.

Why she called her company “Aspire Tours”? Kathrin Troxler thinks for a second. “‘To aspire’ means to achieve something. For me that is synonymous with continuously developing, moving forward, not standing still.”

That definitely applies to Kathrin herself as well. The fact that she and her partner Brian Erdner have created a successful business in Colorado can be put down to hard work, determination and sheer dedication – but also to chance. Several years ago, Kathrin spent a holiday in Costa Rica where she met a group of travellers from Colorado. “They raved about their home state. So I thought I had to see it.” No sooner said than done: Kathrin booked a trip to Denver. And then the inevitable happened. She fell in love with a man and with Colorado, and decided to enrol in the University of Colorado. “Studying is a great way to become integrated,” says Kathrin. Still, there were several occasions when she was on the brink of packing up and returning to Switzerland. One such occasion was when her relationship broke up. Or when finishing her studies. “But it was precisely in those moments that other things happened that made me stay,” Kathrin explains. A case in point is when, on completing university, she got a job as a tour guide.

Photos: Edelweiss | Loren Bedeli

Open and progressive

“When I first arrived here, Denver was really just a ‘Cow Town’,” Kathrin Troxler says. “And that is why I liked it. Everyone here loves outdoor activities, skiing, river rafting, fly fishing, etc. That is still true today, but there have been considerable changes in recent years. These days, a growing number of high-tech companies from Silicon Valley are moving to Denver because California is so expensive. Amazon and Google are just two examples of firms that have opened offices here.” This has consequences: “Ten years ago, Denver was a hippie town. Today, it is very stylish – which is not least due to the newcomers.”

Kathrin set up “Aspire Tours” in 2015. Her timing could not have been better. “For a long time, Denver was not really a ‘Destination City’, in other words, not a place for visitors to spend any real time in. They would arrive here in transit to the mountains,” she explains. “But that has changed in recent years. People come from Chicago or New York, to spend the weekend here.” Another factor contributing to Colorado’s popularity: in 2012, the state legalised the use of marijuana. As a result, Colorado made global news headlines – and sparked widespread curiosity for this special US state. “But it also shows how progressive Colorado is,” Katrin adds. “The government is very open to new things.” Another example is the fact that the Governor of Colorado has just sent a delegation to Switzerland, to learn more about Switzerland’s vocational education and training system – something that does not yet exist in the US.

In the right place at the right time

In her first job as a tour guide, Kathrin Troxler travelled across the entire western US. At some point she realised there were hardly any tours on offer for private groups. Kathrin put all her eggs in one basket – meaning a Mercedes SUV that she invested in. “My risk investment,” she explains with a laugh. The first “Aspire Tours” were conducted in that vehicle. And things worked out well. “A year later we could afford to buy our first van.” Today the small company has three vans – and the old Mercedes SUV! “When I set up my business I believe I simply happened to be in the right place at the right time,” says Kathrin.

Nowadays, “Aspire Tours” offer tours in and around Denver. The “City Overview Tour” and the “Craft Beer Tour” are within Denver, and the summer and winter tours outside of town. The latter tours take visitors to Colorado’s renowned ski resorts. “Almost all of Colorado’s resorts are at a slightly higher altitude than the ones in Switzerland, which is why the snow is very different: much drier,” Kathrin explains. “Vail has magnificent powder snow and Aspen is quite simply a fabulous place to ski.”

Blown away by moments of sheer happiness

Perhaps the reason why Swiss-born Kathrin immediately felt at home in Colorado is because she has always loved the mountains. “I was instantly captivated by the Rocky Mountains. The expanses, the wilderness. You can retreat for days without ever encountering another soul. I am always blown away by such moments of deep solitude –in the positive sense- and of sheer happiness.” Kathrin wants to share those happy feelings with other folks: “I want to touch people the way that nature here touches me.”

What is more, Colorado is not inundated with laws. Wild camping is allowed for instance – a touch of the Wild West. That being said, some rules must be observed. Kathrin Troxler’s most important tips: “Take plenty of water with you, wear weatherproof clothing and shoes – and never store food in your tent. You are best advised to store it in a tree as otherwise you will attract bears and elks.”

On top of the world

Kathrin’s favourite tours are: the all-day Rocky Mountain National Park tour –in summer and in winter- and the tour up Mount Evans with an altitude of 14,100 feet (> 4260 m). A “must-see”, according to Kathrin, is the Trail Ridge Road at approximately 11,400 feet (3500 m): “This is where you will feel on top of the world!”

A feeling Kathrin Troxler never wants to miss again. Colorado’s impressive nature and relaxed lifestyle are what characterise her choice place of residence. And the people. “The people here are friendly because they are happy and content with the lifestyle here.” Denver and Colorado will continue to grow and develop, Kathrin Troxler is convinced of that. “But I truly hope the city and the state will hold on to a slice of their wild side.” Meaning that special slice that Kathrin Troxler fell in love with and makes her want to stay in the Wild West for good.

Aspire Tours;;; 6275 W 38th Ave;;; Wheatridge, CO, 80033;;; USA;;;;;;

Text: Adrienne Knüsli