Colorado's Western Slope:
An Incubator for Awesome
Colorado’s Western Slope seems to be an incubator for awesome.
Boasting some of the most beautiful sites in the state, the mesas west of central Colorado’s continental divide are also home to amazing people and businesses at the heart of mountain biking.
Jen Zeuner & Anne Keller of Fruita, CO have cemented their place on the slope with their decade's long commitment to community building, trail advocacy, and pure deliciousness.
These two founders of Hot Tomato, featured in Patagonia’s short film “Life of Pie,” recently van-camped in Pivot’s HQ parking lot to ride their Mach 6’s at South Mountain. Every interaction with Jen and Anne is a treat and we were excited to talk with them about what makes their community so special. They were quick to acknowledge that they have great neighbors; DT Swiss. DT Swiss has been in Grand Junction since 1996, anchoring the mountain biking community and advocating for trails since arriving to the area. In 2021 DT Swiss expanded their Grand Junction location with modernized infrastructure, creating a plethora of new jobs in the area.
For Jen, Anne & DT Swiss, making such a recognizable impact on the Western Slope hasn’t been an intentional objective, per say, but just an amazingly unexpected outcome of doing what they love.
When speaking about this amazingly unexpected outcome, Jen and Anne say “The results we see are never the direct product of some intentional goal discussed from the outset. It’s only after time, reflection, and feedback from others that our main contribution has come to light for us.”
“On second thought,” they say, “We did have one concrete, openly discussed objective from the start, and that was to create a welcoming space for everyone.”
Much has changed since Jen & Anne made their way to the Western Slope in 2002, and even more so since DT Swiss moved in back in 1996. Many of the words used to describe the area now might not have seemed authentic at that time.
“Traditional. Hardworking. Rooted and reserved but accepting.”
These were some of the words the couple used to describe the Western Slope vibe when they first moved to Fruita. Now, they say, while those values remain, they have been enhanced by words like “Open. Inviting. Vibrant and welcoming.” That’s an evolution they and DT Swiss were no doubt at the heart of.
Some might say their biggest impact on the community was opening a pizza joint called Hot Tomato.
Though they have since sold the restaurant to a long-time employee, they still meet regularly with management and staff and remain Hot Tomato’s biggest fans.
“It took deliberate and consistent staff training to make sure we didn’t fall into the trap of catering only to the biker crowd. It was just as important to cater to the crowd who lived in our local community. This was not just a ‘dollars and cents’ proposition: it reflected our sincere desire to create what a welcoming space felt like to us.” – Jen & Anne
DT Swiss shares this sentiment, which is a large reason why the couple respects the brand so much.
Anne went on to say, “A shared common value that Jen and I both appreciate about DT Swiss is their commitment to long-term relationships. We were taking the same approach to our staff, our vendors, our customers, and our local community in general. When the DT crowd orders up post-ride pies at Hot Tomato, everyone speaks the same language about the quality of long-term relationships in the Western Slope community.”
In Pivot Cycles’ experience riding regularly in the region, it is not merely a function of the terrain and trails that draws riders from around the world; it is the qualities of the community nurtured by the quiet and consistent work of DT, Jen, Anne, and their supporters. They don’t feel their work is done. The couple would like to address the issue of affordable housing and housing inequalities in the area, noting a “severe shortage of accessible housing for service workers in our town.”
As for their post Hot Tomato life, the duo would like to just do more of what they love.
Anne is getting back to her roots of photography in the cycling industry, and Jen is exploring possible business and consulting ventures. However, the couple did say, “No more food-based businesses! Although they do still hold a certain romance.” Our taste buds can only hope they rekindle that romance.
And as for DT Swiss, we are confident they will keep things rolling.
Such as their support for the local Dirt Mermaids group, a ladies only group of mountain bikers whose focus is allowing riders of all skill levels a chance to get on the trails, as well as support for local youth cycling organizations.
October is prime time on the Western Slope.
From Palisade to Loma, riders will spill across the region’s trail systems, and into Hot Tomato. The days are warm but not blazing, and the nights are cool but not freezing; the perfect temperature of incubating more of the awesomeness founded by DT Swiss and Hot Tomato Pizza.