Dancin ‘Dan Downing – The Crested Butte News
[ By Dawne Belloise ]
Dancin ‘Dan’s nickname doesn’t come from the big smile he usually has, or because he runs through life, hits the ski slopes, or because he’s just the carefree type. Its origins can be traced back to his childhood when, at age six, he decided he wanted to jog and take dance lessons. The name, Dancin ‘Dan, has stuck with him all these years.
“My sister was taking dance lessons and was a curious six year old girl, and I wondered what was going on behind the curtain on stage. I took tap and jazz lessons for 10 years of my childhood. It was a bit more expensive than hockey, so it didn’t go very well with my parents, but they were encouraging. Dan quit school at the age of 16 because, laughing, “Turns out when your name is Dancin ‘when you’re a young kid, it’s not that cool. Imagine being in a hockey locker at 10 and being called Dancin ‘Dan and how other kids handled that.
Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, Dan’s entire extended family played a lot of hockey and baseball. “We have a big family, like 30 cousins. Regarding growing up in a metropolitan area, Dan says, “In the world of cities, it’s not a city at all, maybe half a million people. School was not his favorite thing, he admits. “I would have preferred to play hockey and hang out with my friends. He graduated in 2001 with no clue what he wanted to do, but enrolled in Des Moines Area Community College, which lasted six months before moving to Boulder. “I had friends there and wanted to be out west and was ready for a change. I was very good at university life, ”he smiles and confirms,“ but school was not my favorite. I was 19 and reckless.
Dan wanted access to the mountains so he could snowboard. “I started boarding in high school at random little resorts in Iowa.” Meanwhile, back in Boulder, he served tables at the Cheesecake Factory during the winter of 2002.
One day, he and a childhood hockey friend, who now played for Western State College (now Western Colorado University), crossed paths in Denver. “We loaded up and had a great time. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t like the city, ”Dan says of his brief move to Denver. When his boyfriend told him that a roommate was moving in a month, Dan jumped at Gunnison’s opportunity, exclaiming, “I’ll be there in two weeks!”
“I moved to Gunnison with a box, backpack and light,” Dan recalls. The next day he walked up the valley to Crested Butte where, he says, “It clicked for me, it made sense. He got a summer job at The Trough in Gunnison and that winter he started working as a cook for CBMR at Paradise Warming House. “The goal was to get the pass. I hitchhiked to work, back and forth to Gunnison, for three years. He moved to CB on July 5, 2005.
One summer Dan traveled to Alaska, citing the high wages he was receiving working in the fishing industry there. “I lived on Prince of Wales Island, where you have to take a seaplane or a boat to get there. It’s definitely isolated. Dan worked in shore operations at a charter fishing lodge. “Process and ship a lot of fish for tourist fishermen. They pay well, feed you and house you, but it was a lot of work every day, so I didn’t do a lot of things outside, ”he explains.
Dan returned to BC in the fall, working at the Grand Lodge. It was in the fall of 2008 that he joined Soupçon, first as a waiter. Dan has since become a waiter and now he is the wine manager. “I developed the position of Wine Director in 2015 because I had started to take wine very seriously in my life and I knew I was interested in trying to make a career in wine.”
Dan notes that working with longtime staff, then owner Jason Vernon at Suspicion, has taught him a lot. “Studying wine itself is something that you have to take responsibility for. You read a lot of books and taste a lot of wine. There are tests you have to pass to become a sommelier and there is a court of master sommeliers who give the tests. It is about learning the rules of wine and the geography of where and why wines come from where they come from. As the wine director of Soupçon, he jokes, “I’m a well-dressed bus boy who sells wine.
With his love and knowledge of wines, Dan started his business Elevated Wine Source (elevatedwinesource.com) five years ago, offering his services to others as a wine cellar consultant. “I store and manage private wine collections in Colorado,” he says of his clients in Denver, Telluride and various other locations, although most of his clients are in the Crested Butte and Gunnison area. Valley. “I saw it as an educational situation because it was an opportunity to see different wines and producers that I did not know.
He realized with his first clients that there were probably more people who could benefit from this service. “Taking care of a wine collection means organizing, making an inventory and developing a short-term to long-term storage plan. Most of my clientele’s wines are intended for consumption. Each wine collection is so different because each person wants their collection based on what they like. I learn about a customer’s flavor profile, the wines they like, and then you can develop and teach them different parts of the world when it comes to wine. I feel very lucky to be passionate about what I do every day. Dan is also at Soupçon five evenings a week to share his expertise in food and wine pairing.
Like most locals, Dan works long and hard, but can definitely do the things he loves. “The year before COVID hit, I caught the travel bug and spent six weeks in South America, mainly Peru and Chile. Peru stole my heart, the people were amazing, the food is world class, and the mountains are forever. You can reach up to 20,000 feet quickly in the Andes. He then traveled to the Philippines to dive for six weeks. “That’s all I did. I was certified there for open water, advanced and enriched air. I was diving 100 feet and seeing turtles, sharks and corals, ”he says of his island hopping adventure. When he can travel again, Dan plans a trip to Italy and France for wine and, hopefully, in the future, New Zealand. “I would love to go back to South America and ski in Canada. I want to go all over the world, it’s a huge place, ”he smiles. He recently completed his fifth Grand Canyon run and, as he puts it, “I’m a whitewater enthusiast.
“Crested Butte is home, there’s no question about it,” Dan says. “I am an avid ski enthusiast who has understood that wine can enable me to do the things I love,” he says, and he was fortunate enough to have recently found an affordable rental home on the infamous Bad Girl Alley in town. “I was in my last house on Third Street for a decade. It was a dump but the owner put it on the market so I had to move out. But everything is fine. It sucked having to move in July, but it highlighted some changes I think I need in my life. My current owners were my wine clients and I met them at Soupçon and then they became friends, ”he says of the second owners who decided that renting to a local would benefit the community. “When I moved to the valley, I definitely met the best friends in my life. The core group of friends, we’ve all found our niche, you understand what you need to do to make it work. Life is made up of costume changes. I’m a CB citizen, a dirty bag who loves living in the woods and having fun with my friends, but I put on a costume and aspire to be the best at what I love. We all wear many different costumes in this city.