Chris Klug’s new reality: realty
The Aspen Times
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado – Perpetual optimism, determination and resilience have been the hallmarks of Chris Klug’s nearly 20-year competitive snowboarding career.
The Aspen Olympian is hoping those traits serve him well as he transitions into a full-time broker for Morris and Fyrwald Sotheby’s International Realty.
“I’ve been a competitor since I was a kid … and I’ve certainly had some adversity throughout my life,” Klug said last week. “That’s a great analogy for getting involved in business. There have been a lot of challenges at times the last few years.”
Despite failing to make U.S. Snowboarding’s A squad and being denied funding for the 2009-10 season, Klug refused to abandon his bid to compete in his third – and likely final – Winter Olympics. He started his own squad, America’s Snowboarding Team, and worked to secure sponsors and coaches.
The 37-year-old, regularly one of the oldest competitors on the circuit, entered last season’s qualifying period having finished in the Top 10 once in 48 previous World Cup starts. Klug overcame the odds, however, logging a fifth- and an eighth-place finish in January to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic squad.
In February, at Cypress Mountain outside Vancouver, Klug took seventh in the parallel giant slalom. It was his first appearance on winter sports’ biggest stage since 2002 when, 18 months after receiving a liver transplant, he won a bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Games.
Buoyed by those experiences, Klug is now ready to take on a different test.
“I was chatting with one of my buddies and told him, ‘Boy, I picked a heck of a time to get into the real-estate market. This is one of the most challenging economic times of our lives,'” he said. “My friend looked at me and said, ‘No, you picked the best time.’
“This has really forced me to learn the business the right way, to really sharpen my skills at a difficult time. Hopefully, I’m positioned when things do turn around to take advantage.”
Klug obtained his realtor’s license two years ago. He figured the business would be an ideal fit considering his experience traveling to ski towns across the globe and his 20 years spent living in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Real estate also could afford him some flexibility to continue working with his foundation, which promotes organ donation, and provide some stability for the future, he said.
“I’ve seen a lot of fellow competitors and teammates retire from professional sports, then scratch their heads and say, ‘What do I do now?’ It feels great to have had a game plan in place,” Klug added.
“In some ways, [Morris and Fyrwald] was better than having a sponsor. They weren’t just helping me accomplish my Olympic dreams, they were helping me learn a trade that could sustain me for years to come.”
Klug worked sparingly for Morris and Fyrwald in 2008 and last year as he juggled a demanding training and competition schedule.
That will change now.
“When I do things, I like to do them right and jump in with both feet. It’s been hard trying to focus all my energies on real estate, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t dedicate as much time as I wanted to it. … Now I can.”
Ernie Fyrwald said he was excited to have Klug on board.
“His personality, sense of humor and energy is magnetic,” the company’s co-owner wrote in a recent e-mail to The Aspen Times. “When he enters the office the energy level and the conversation decibels rise substantially. He knows Aspen, its people, its energy, its lifestyle and its aura as well as anyone.”
The initial returns have been positive. Klug closed on his first property in August – “It was like being on the podium,” he joked – and said he has seen increased interest from potential clients of late.
There are indications that the market is recovering, albeit slowly, Klug said.
“It’s a tough landscape right now, there’s no question about it. But racing against those Austrians and Swiss the last few years has toughened me up.”
As for his snowboarding career? Klug shies away from talk of retirement, saying only that he will not participate in a full World Cup season this winter. He plans to get his sports fix in other ways; he has signed up for August’s Leadville 100 mountain bike race, and hopes to soon embark on a project to become the world’s first transplant recipient to climb the Seven Summits.
For now, though, he is looking forward to being home for an extended stretch, starting a family with wife Missy and selling homes.