"In the beginning, there was M. As her eldest grandson, I had the good fortune of meeting M, as all the grandchildren call Mary, on my first day of life. She’s been teaching me the finer points ever since."
"M" is longtime Aspen resident Mary Dominick-Coomer. Her grandson Christopher wrote that in the foreword to her new memoir, "Eighty Years of Life, Resilience and Love."
In it, she details taking forty-five minute chairlift rides up Aspen Mountain and leading hiking groups into the White River National Forest. The book offers a deeply personal account of her life. It also offers a glimpse into how Aspen itself has changed. Dominick-Coomer moved to Aspen with her family in 1952, when she was 16.
"Within the city limits, the population was 700," she said. "It was mostly ranchers, but what was really different was people from every walk of life all did things together. There were no seperate groups."
Dominick-Coomer says that writing the book, which she did in collaboration with her niece, Nancy Shohet West, helped her see "threads" that have run throughout her life.
"Family, travel, my experiences in the outdoors," she said.
Dominick-Coomer was an avid skier, hiker and horsewoman, even in her youth. Despite growing up in a time when adventure wasn't always encouraged for young women, she never received any pushback.
"I don’t think anyone ever said that I was putting myself in any particular danger. I think I was viewed as someone who was able to do this. And I’m glad," she said.
The book also delves into some of the most painful parts of life, including two divorces and an abortion when she was in college. Dominick-Coomer says she wrestled with the decision to include this into the book.
"I was hesitant to talk about the pregnancy because I never had," she said.
Ultimately, she asked her grandson Christopher, who wrote the forward to her book, if she could tell him about that time in her life. He pushed her to include it in the published draft.
"There were experiences like this, even though painful, that truly made me who I am today," she said.
Now, Dominick-Coomer lives with her husband Sven Coomer. She says, looking back, she can see how she's been shaped by both her relationships, her passion for nature and her desire to explore.
"I’ve been fortunate enough I’ve had many, many adventures that are quite different from other people my age, especially women," she said.