2 former locals release books about Summit County life, adventures and fond memories

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“The Little Camper That Could” is Ashlie Weisel’s first book. It was inspired by a trip she took with her family before moving to Summit County.
Ashlie Weisel/Courtesy photo

As an artist, Ashlie Weisel is used to making personal work available to the public. However, she initially did not plan to write a children’s book for sale.

“The Little Camper That Could,” Weisel’s first picture book, started as a project for her daughter Rhein over five years ago. Before ending up in Summit County and launching The Sunny Side Up Studio in Frisco, Weisel and her husband Dan refurbished a 1964 camper trailer and went on a six-month excursion around the country.

Weisel wanted to capture the journey as a memento since their newborn wouldn’t be able to remember it. She wrote the text of the book on pieces of scratch paper, jotting down everything she could while it was fresh. Her husband then convinced her to turn it into a children’s book, yet Weisel found herself getting stuck on illustrations.



Along with struggling to figure out how to make certain scenes come to life, Weisel’s art style changed over the years. Her scanning methods, knowledge of Adobe programs and more changed. This led to cleaner work and crisper lines that weren’t present in earlier work, and it took effort to make the book look cohesive.

Every year her husband would ask when “The Little Camper That Could” would be done, and Weisel made it a goal to get it completed in 2022. Weisel also had to change the text of the story into rhyming, and she scraped some parts that simply wouldn’t work.



“Overall, the structure of it was almost a night and day difference from when I first wrote it originally as the memoir for my daughter,” Weisel said.

Weisel said the book embodies the free spirit of Summit County families, as well as the adventures they took. Weisel recalled driving in San Francisco and the trailer got stuck on the hilly, narrow roads.

“We had to do like this 14-point turn to get out,” Weisel said, laughing.

The book was launched at The Pad hotel and hostel at the end of July, and since then Weisel has donated copies to local elementary schools. Now, Weisel is focusing on life in St. Augustine, Florida. The family moved there in August after falling in love with the community over spring break.

Nothing is happening to the Frisco shop, and Weisel’s brand Stay Sunny Goods is expanding into products with nautical imagery.

“That’s what the Summit County community inspired me to do: always say yes to the adventure,” Weisel said. “… We’re just so thankful that the sunshine shines on in Frisco. We worked really hard over the last five years to get her going and shining. We’re not going anywhere. You better believe I’ll be pouring my heart into it as much as I can from now on.

Weisel said she does want to eventually make another book, maybe turn it into a series, but there is no time frame in mind. If she does, she said she might change the mode of transportation into something like a sailboat to symbolize the new chapter.

A new look at history

This photo of Trapper George as he rides to the Gold Pan Saloon in 1976 is just one of many photos in Kent Gunnufson’s “Rocky Mountains: A Self-Portrait.” The book is part memoir, part collection of High Country history.
Kent Gunnufson/Courtesy photo

For Kent Gunnufson, his new book “Rocky Mountains: A Self-Portrait” is also a type of memoir. The former Summit County resident has been passionate about photography since his grandparents gave him a Kodak Brownie camera when he was around 6 years old. Born in Long Beach, Gunnufson grew up in Orange County and was surrounded by the nature of California.

“We could go fishing, surfing or skiing, all within an hour of our house,” Gunnufson said. “That’s pretty amazing. But, you can’t see the mountains all the time because of the air pollution.”

At 8, Gunnufson photographed Lower Yosemite Falls with his father’s manual camera and he fell further in love with landscapes and mountain photography. He liked photographing the vacations and creating pictures in which he could relieve his mountain experience. He eventually realized his photos could improve, and he found a Kodak brochure about composition that taught him various tips and tricks. Later on, he broke the rule for less structured, instinctual composition.

He went to school at the University of Colorado in Boulder before moving to Breckenridge in 1972. Amenities were different then, such as less streetlights and sidewalks. Gunnufson remembered a lack of success in trying to take his daughter trick-or-treating, but then he witnessed a rapid change about a decade later.

Gunnufson’s photography goal was to capture the unique and changing culture of the High Country, and his first book came out in 1981. He eventually got into film, producing and hosting “Photo-Talk” for Denver Community Television in 1993 and worked as a segment producer for CBS4. He also made documentaries, like 2006’s “A Woman Ranching the Rockies,” and 2013’s “Bumming Colorado’s Ski Country,” which was shown at the Breckenridge Film Festival.

Despite filming in color, taking photos in black and white is what Gunnufson did for decades.

“At the time, you weren’t considered an artist unless you shot black and white,” Gunnufson said. “Color was not the artist’s medium.”

The book’s black-and-white photographs show a range of subjects like skiing at Loveland, rugby in Breckenridge, rustic cabins, the Dillon Reservoir, historic mining sites, speed skier CJ Mueller, Silverthorne resident Boot Gordon and even former President Gerald Ford in Beaver Creek.

Gunnufson said some of the most difficult photographs to get were ones in the remote mountains during the winter, as getting the right angle can involve treacherous trips.

“It is so easy to not pay attention and almost freeze to death out there,” Gunnufson said, adding that one time he could hear the snow break beneath his feet while walking in an avalanche area.

Gunnufson, now a Grand County resident, was inspired to publish “Rocky Mountains: A Self-Portrait” because of the Grand County Community of Writers’ workshops he attended. Gunnufson is dyslexic and writing the text to the book took a lot of rewriting, but he is happy with how it flows.

In telling the story of the High Country, Gunnufson also told his own personal story.

“The photographs are as much a self-portrait about the photographer as they are about the subject they’re taking pictures of,” Gunnufson said.

The Grandby Library will be hosting Gunnufson for a discussion and book signing at 5:30 pm, Friday Aug. 26.

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