Vail Family Christmas
Known for their mountain retail brand, the Gorsuch family shares their holiday traditions
Photography by Brent Bingham
Christmas in the Gorsuch household starts with strapping on snowshoes (after buying a tree-cutting permit) and walking into the White River National Forest to find the perfect tree. It is a family activity, with each member scouting for a tree that’s tall, full, bushy—and absolutely gorgeous. Spontaneous snowball fights break out while the best tree is chosen, cut and taken home.
Sparkling lights—both inside and out—welcome family and friends.
Ornaments—some antique, some handmade, but all precious because of the memories they evoke—are unwrapped from their tissue paper. Yards and yards of sparkly white lights are untangled and tested. “Christmas lasts a long time at our house,” says Renie Gorsuch. “We put up our tree at Thanksgiving and leave it up until the middle of January.”
A vintage wagon is filled with presents—wrapped in white tissue and tied with gold metallic ribbon.
Renie and David Gorsuch, former Olympic skiers, opened their first eponymous ski, fashion and home store (inspired by Swiss and Austrian ski lodges) in Vail’s Clock Tower Building in 1966. “We had no idea how busy our little store was going to be,” says Renie. Now married for 59 years, they have three sons, 10 grandchildren and five family-run stores—in Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek/Avon and Park City. “Because we are in the retail business … we are busiest during Christmas holidays, and family celebrations take a little bit more planning,” she says.
Every table in the house is set with china, crystal and antique silver for a traditional Christmas dinner of stuffed turkey, honey ham and dozens of desserts.
Son Jeff Gorsuch remembers his childhood Christmases fondly. “Because my brothers and I are so close in age, we grew up really close,” he says. In his memory, there is always lots of snow at Christmas. “We built snow forts until our fingers were numb, then came in for marsh-mallows in front of a crackling fire.” There were ginger-bread houses and the smells of “great food” and waking up Christmas morning to discover new skis or a toy train that really worked.
The master bedroom is decorated in a warm and congenial mix of restful blue and white and includes walls upholstered in oversized gingham.
The toy train now delights a new generation as it chugs through a small Bavarian village at the base of the tall Christmas tree. A second, smaller tree is decorated by the children with paper chains, strings of popcorn and cranberries, cotton-ball Santa Clauses and small plaster handprints brought home from school. Another kid favorite is a hand-carved crèche that, although it holds precious memories for Renie, is put on a low table so it can be arranged and rearranged by grandchildren.
The eat-in kitchen is inspired by the décor of Tyrolean mountain lodges. Pillow-adorned bench seating adds to the room’s Old World charm.
Tradition rules when it comes to Gorsuch holiday meals. Christmas Eve features shrimp salad and oyster stew. Christmas Day breakfast is scrambled eggs with cheese, homemade bread and maple syrup “on everything,” says Renie. For dinner, turkey and ham take center stage, along with a frozen fruit salad that Renie’s mother made “for 100 years” and dozens of desserts, because “everyone in the house loves to bake.”
“We live in a family home, and our lives have always revolved around our family,” says Renie. “Gorsuch is a mountain family. … We belong in the mountains,” she adds. Christmas is always a bit chaotic, but in a happy way. “You’re always thinking you’ll be more organized next year,” she says with a smile and a bit of a sigh.