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ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH

Dr. Robert and Catie Briggs each fell in love with Colorado and the Rocky Mountains before they knew each other. Bob, as he likes to be called, spent four years in the Air Force in Colorado Springs and Catie worked as a nurse in Boulder. After they married and settled in Sarasota, Florida, in 1993, […]
by Ronda Mollica
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Dr. Robert and Catie Briggs each fell in love with Colorado and the Rocky Mountains before they knew each other. Bob, as he likes to be called, spent four years in the Air Force in Colorado Springs and Catie worked as a nurse in Boulder.

After they married and settled in Sarasota, Florida, in 1993, the dentist and his new bride took a two-week Harley cruise through Colorado. Their ulterior motive was to find an area to build an old-fashioned log home among the mountains — a distinct change of scenery from the stucco homes and sandy beaches of Florida.

They met a developer in Breckenridge who was promoting a subdivision that was one of the highest in the world and had world-class views to match. The Briggs quickly found a lot, purchased it in 1994, and began visualizing their home that would look over the Keystone Ski Resort and Goose Prairie Tarn Lake — 11,400 feet above sea level!

An even better view was available from the lot just above theirs. The undeveloped land, however, wasn’t for sale until an enterprising realtor approached with an offer to buy the Briggs’ lot. The only way Bob and Catie would sell, however, was if they could buy the lot just above them. In short time, the deal was complete, and the dream moved up a few dozen yards.

The Briggs decided they wanted an affordable, complete log home package. After years of paging through log home magazines and talking with log home companies, they chose Wisconsin Log Homes of Green Bay, Wisconsin, which offered an all-inclusive log home with a wall system featuring added insulation needed to keep them warm at their high altitude.

Down the block from the Briggs’ site, Ian Alexander Construction was erecting a log home, and Bob and Catie recruited the firm to take on their project. Greg Sleep’s team from Ian Alexander — all of whom were from the area (Greg himself lived right down the block) — had not only the experience to build in high altitudes, but also was familiar with constructing a high-quality log home.

The crew began assembly of the 3,400-square-foot structure in 2002, when five trucks of logs and material rumbled up the mountainside. To obtain the views they wanted, Bob tailored the Wisconsin plan to fit the small footprint. Normally rectangular in shape, the plan morphed into one with a staggered wall on the one side. The garage was also tucked inside the center of the home to make it less obtrusive.

One particular challenge was the nature of the lot itself — pie-shaped, with the larger end pointing toward the valley. “We maxed out the building envelope with all the setbacks from the lot lines, while still trying to get the best position for the home,” Greg says. Placing the septic tank in relation to the home was also another piece to the puzzle, but they were able to wrap up the project in less than a year.

Other adaptations were made because of the high altitude, including the heating system. A forced air system that requires plenty of oxygen unavailable at 11,000+ wasn’t an option, so the Briggs decided on electric radiant heat with 12 controlled zones. Another concern was shipping the large, argon gas-filled Semco windows to the site — they were fitted with breather tubes to allow for the change in pressure and prevent them from bursting.

Greg, who has worked on handcrafted, milled, log-sided, and cedar shake homes, found the Wisconsin Log Home package easy to work with. “There are fewer worries about the settling of the logs, and the options on the inside are very flexible for decorating and finishing,” he says.
The home was made of eight- to 10-inch pine logs with saddle-notch corners. Most windows faced the valley; ambient light from the large quarter-round living room windows illuminates the 20-foot hand-framed cathedral ceiling, which is finished with large round hand-peeled collar ties. Outside, a 34-foot-long deck offers visitors a breathtaking view above an 80-degree drop-off.

More of this story and additional photos ran in the magazine.

Published in Ronda Mollica
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