ASPN 40th Anniversary : Page 62
Linda Hayes And Kelly J. Hayes
HIGHLIGHTS OF AN ICONIC SKI TOWN
On these pages we toast the extraordinary individuals who created a ski town no marketing plan could have ever devised. Then there are the memories of one’s first time skiing Aspen from some of the town’s most interesting residents and longtime visitors. And, finally, a celebrity scrapbook, as Hollywood is part of our town’s history. We may take our stars in stride, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know who they are.
What a hard list to make! There were so many people we wanted to include. But in keeping with our anniversary theme, we kept this one to 40. By luck, by design and by accident, these individuals helped to create a ski town in their own image, with their own vision.
REBIRTH AS A SKI AND CULTURAL RESORT
From its beginnings in the 1930s and on as a modern ski town, Aspen has had a remarkable talent for being whatever anyone wanted it to be. Even back in the ’30s, when the Quiet Years had just about reached their quietest, the town inspired visions, but left the specifics of those visions to each observer. Aspen was then a work-in-progress.
In 1936, when The New Yorker wag Robert Benchley was hired to dash off a pamphlet to promote the Highland Bavarian Lodge and the town, there really wasn’t much to promote. “This little brochure is intended to help clear up the subject of Aspen, Colo.,” Benchley wrote, to help readers who had been “hearing people talk about ‘Aspen’ without having the slightest idea of what ‘Aspen’ might be.” If Benchley seemed to be making it up as he went along, who could fault him? The people who invented the about-to-be-reinvented town made it up as they went along too.
The site that would be reinvented as modern-day Aspen provided a heartbreakingly beautiful platform to build upon (as it still does), but everyone who arrived in town on the brink of its revival seemed to have an opinion and a different idea of how to improve it (as they still do). Some things don’t change! Some looked at the town and saw ski mountains to rival the Alps, when, at the time, one could slide down the steep slopes only if he or she hiked up first. Some saw a beacon of culture, idea, art and music surrounded by natural splendor, “an American Salzburg,” where a down-at-the-heel mining camp once stood. Others imagined an enclave of hedonism in a then near ghost town where thousands had watched their dreams fade.
No matter what they pictured, they all proved willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work building the set they had imagined, and Aspen proved a big enough stage to accommodate them all, even when their plans seemed to clash. Passion and dreams shaped Aspen, not marketing surveys and focus groups. Olympians, artists, skiers, bon vivants, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, clowns, and, later, hippies and other mavericks—they all had a vision. (Some, we like to joke, even had double vision!) Probably few of these pioneers got exactly the town they had foreseen. But the Aspen of today came to be only because many facets of it first existed in their minds and ideals. They left their fingerprints all over town.
THE MINING YEARS
The first outsiders to arrive looked at the Roaring Fork Valley and saw riches. Jerome B. Wheeler opened a smelter in 1884, and, that summer, more than 500 silver miners went to work. In 1887, the railroad arrived and the Crystal City of the Rockies—as Aspen was named—flourished. Some miners emerged from underground as millionaires almost overnight. Within a few years, Aspen (today with 6,600 full-time residents) boasted the third-largest population in Colorado. You’ll recognize some of these names: the Molly Gibson (there is a hotel named after it) became one of the nation’s richest silver mines. The Silver Bell (a ski run on Aspen Mountain) sent down 13 tons of ore in a day. One nugget taken from the Smuggler weighed 2,350 pounds; 93 percent of it, pure silver. Striking gingerbread Victorians (vestiges of which can still be seen in renovated preserved homes around town, but most are concentrated in the West End).
In 1893, the bubble burst when Congress discarded the silver standard. Within weeks, 80 percent of Aspen’s mines failed, ruining owners and throwing miners out of work. The town settled in to decades of slumber, not knowing it was waiting for a new cast of characters to come along and reinvent it.
Harley Baldwin saw Aspen, and downtown Aspen, in an entirely different way. “Aspen is the No. 1 center in America for the world’s elite,” Baldwin told Vanity Fair in 2001. “Aspen is for the most successful people in the world. It so happens that they like to wear Gucci. Where’s the problem?”
It was that pragmatism, coupled with a divine sense of design and taste, that made Baldwin one of the most influential change artists in Aspen’s history. His ownership and development of two blocks of the most significant historic real estate in Aspen—the Brand Building and Collins Block—provided the canvas to create environments that resonated with the global jet set. At the time, historic preservation was of little interest to most Aspenites, but it was crucial to Baldwin. The exclusive member-only Caribou Club and the Baldwin Gallery were significant factors in the sophistication of modern Aspen.
Baldwin first came to Aspen in 1968 and began his empire by selling crepes out of the Red Popcorn Wagon sitting across from the Wheeler Opera House today. Just four years later, he was in business, taking a loan from Robert O. Anderson, then chairman of The Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies and legendary oilman, for $170,000 to purchase the Brand Building. When he passed suddenly in 2005, The New York Times headlined their obituary, “Harley Baldwin, an entrepreneur who gave Aspen cachet.”
While well-known as a developer, his donation of a 10-acre mining claim as open space may be less well-known. Today, the claim is home to the Smuggler Mountain viewing platform.
Officially, Austrian born Bauhaus artist and graphic designer Herbert Bayer came to Aspen in 1946 to consult for Aspen visionary Walter Paepcke’s Container Corporation of America and the Aspen Company. Unofficially, he was the man Paepcke selected to change the face of the town.
Bayer set about remaking the Hotel Jerome, renovating the Wheeler Opera House, designing the Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain and putting a clean brand, as they call it today, on the Aspen Skiing Corporation’s brochures and posters. All the while, he influenced and mentored a generation of eager designers and architects with his vision and charisma.
The Bayer legacy that lingers to this day is the 40-acre The Aspen Institute/Aspen Meadows complex designed in the Bauhaus style. Considered by many to be the first project on record of landscape architecture, the campus features modernist earthworks, including the “Marble Garden,” “Earth Mound” and a series of meandering pathways through geometric rings. It is an only-in-Aspen place.
The 1990s belonged to John Bennett.
A Yale grad who came to Aspen in a bus in the hippie era of the early 1970s, Bennett was elected mayor in 1991 and presided over the city for four terms. He was both progressive and pragmatic in his years at the helm, focusing his authority on affordable housing, the environment and support for the arts and humanities.
Following his tenure in office, where he managed a city budget that had grown to more then $40 million, Bennett became a vice president of The Aspen Institute, where he was instrumental in the organization of the 50th Anniversary Symposium that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the initial gathering for the Goethe Bicentennial celebration.
In recent years, Bennett has served as an executive director of For The Forest, an organization dedicated to promoting the health and long-term sustainability of the forests of the Rocky Mountains.
In one of the most photographed places in the world, Ferenc Berko was a peerless photographer.
Born in Hungary, but raised in Germany, Berko was influenced as a young man by the Bauhaus school of architects, designers and artists. He left for England during the Nazi’s rise to power and began a career as a self-taught photographer. Following the war, which he spent in India making documentary films for the British army, he emigrated to Chicago, reconnecting with the Bauhaus designers who had set up shop at the Chicago Institute of Design.
That is where he met Walter Paepcke, who invited him to come to the little ski town of Aspen to document the 1949 Goethe Festival. Berko’s photographs of dignitaries, including Dr. Albert Schweitzer, were sent around the world and appeared in Life magazine, bringing publicity to Aspen at a critical time in its evolution.
Though he was the official photographer for The Aspen Institute for many years, Berko’s most important contributions may be the honest, black-and-white photos he took of Aspen in the late 1940s and early 1950s documenting the growth and change from sleepy town to worldclass destination.
LEE KEATING AND TOM BowERS
In a town filled with so-called “style mavens,” Lee Keating stands out. Since opening Performance Ski with her husband, Tom Bowers, in a high-profile storefront on Hunter Street in 1987, she has managed to exemplify the statement “Where Aspen goes, so goes the world” (at least when it comes to what the who’s who of skiers are wearing on the slopes).
Most recently, in addition to running three shops (Snowmass and Vail) and sourcing ski and mountain-activewear that’s both singularly stylish and, well, performs, Keating has gone the designer route. Together with Gustavo Sangiorgi, she relaunched the iconic, Italy-based Authier ski manufacturer and clothing company. This winter, the Performance Ski shop will expand and move to the former Pomeroy’s space across from the gondola.
In the recent history of Aspen, no man has been recognized by as many as the sheriff.
Former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis is a bear of a man and, with his gap-toothed grin and unruly hair, he cuts a figure unlike any other. For 24 years, he ran the department with a deft hand, letting the town and its citizens be what they would be while maintaining the peace.
Braudis believed that good law enforcement meant being fair, taking problems off the street and working with people for the greater good. While his stature and presence are intimidating at first sight, most of the good guys (and the bad guys) recognized that Braudis was all about doing the right thing. Throughout his tenure, there were trials and tribulations working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the federal authorities, but Braudis knew that Aspen was a special place and that cookie-cutter enforcement wouldn’t work here.
A Boston boy with a Jesuit education, Braudis made Aspen a safer place.
DARCY D.R.C. BROwN JR.
If a skiing company ever needed a leader it was Aspen in the late 1950s. It didn’t have to look far, as Ski Co hired Aspen native D.R.C. Brown Jr., better known as “Darcy.”
Darcy’s father came to Aspen in 1880 and became one of the boomtown’s wealthiest citizens as he mined and built the town’s first water and electrical facilities. The Brown Jr. Went away to Yale, where he was a boxer and a skier, until the war broke out. Joining the Navy, he was a PT boat captain in the South Pacific. The hand on the tiller was great training for what was to come.
In 1957, after a term as a Colorado state senator, Brown Jr. Became CEO of the Aspen Skiing Corporation, which, at the time, managed three lifts on Aspen Mountain. Over the next 22 years, he looked over a company that added Buttermilk, Snowmass and Breckenridge, as well as international holdings. The name Aspen had become internationally recognized as one of the finest ski resorts ever to be built.
The homegrown Brown Jr. Had done well.
FABI AND FRITZ BENEDICT
Perhaps no honor is more appropriate for two of the modern-day pioneers of Aspen than the pair of 10th Mountain Division huts that bear the names of Fabi and Fritz Benedict.
After all, Fritz, a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, was the father of the hut system that brings so many in contact with nature each year. And that was in 1980, years after he began making contributions as an architect to the community that survives to this day.
Fritz’s importance to the growth of Aspen and the ski industry is impossible to overemphasize. An architect who studied for three years under Frank Lloyd Wright at Wisconsin’s Taliesin, he had a hand in nearly every significant structure built in Aspen between 1945 and 1980. More than 200 homes and buildings in this small town were conceived or renovated by Fritz. He was the first chairman of Aspen’s Planning and Zoning Commission and played a significant role in the founding of The Aspen Institute and the International Design Conference at Aspen. He also served on the board of the Music Associates of Aspen for 35 years. Oh, and he designed the master plans for the Snowmass, Vail and Breckenridge ski resorts.
Keeping it all together was his wife, Fabi, who ensured he was on track and on time—at least occasionally. A solid figure in the charitable community herself, Fabi was instrumental in the donation the pair made of more than 250 acres of land in Pitkin County for open space.
The pair remains together forever in the well-placed huts of the 10th Mountain Division.
MATT AND KAY BUCKSBAUM
Though originally from Des Moines, Iowa, and later Chicago, no Aspen couple has duplicated the dream of the Paepcke’s Aspen Idea as well as Matthew and Kay Bucksbaum.
A first family of the arts in Aspen, Matthew and Kay have both served as chairs of The Aspen Music Festival and School board and they are recognized as influential collectors in America. Their sphere of influence in the music and arts components of the community cannot be understated.
While diminutive in stature, Kay stands tall as a pillar of the Aspen scene and Matthew has been a rock as well. In 2010, the couple pledged $25 million—the largest donation ever received by the Music School—to renovate the new campus opened in the summer of 2013, a fitting tribute from a first family of Aspen philanthropists and one that would have resonated with the Paepckes vision as well.
In today’s ski industry, corporations hold sway and private ownership is an anomaly. But here in Aspen, members of the Crown family of Chicago privately hold the Aspen Skiing Company. Managing partner Jim Crown has seen to it that Aspen, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk remain, no pun intended, the crown jewels of American skiing.
Fifty percent partners from 1985 until 1993—when they took full control—the Crown family has made the quality skiing experience a priority, while simultaneously positioning the company at the forefront of the environmental movement, the arts and employee relations.
For the past two years, Outside magazine lauded Ski Co, as locals know it, as one of America’s Best Places to Work. This year, they were honored by Americans for the Arts as one of the nation’s 10 Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America. And for the past decade, the Crowns have shown their commitment to the local environment through a series of energy initiatives that are designed to decrease the footprint of skiing on the Rocky Mountain environment.
He changed his last name from Deutschendorf to Denver, but he was Aspen through and through. Like so many of us, he came from elsewhere to this valley where “he was born in the summer of his 27th year.” Denver brought attention to Aspen as a troubadour, actor and media superstar in the 1970s and ’80s, often flying his own lear jet from Sardy Field to a distant gig.
He personified the Aspen lifestyle—skiing, fishing, playing golf and hanging out with beloved friends. “Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high.” An avid environmentalist, Denver invested money in the things he believed in, starting the Windstar Foundation and purchasing nearly a thousand acres of land in Old Snowmass with hopes of leaving a legacy. Access to the piece of paradise he left behind is now threatened. He sang then, and would still question today, “why they try and tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more, more people more scars upon the land.”
Denver was taken from us too early when, at just 53 years of age, his experimental plane crashed into the Pacific. “And they say that he got crazy once and he tried to touch the sun.” His music and lyrics live on, as a walk through the John Denver Sanctuary on the banks of the Roaring Fork will attest.
DICK AND MARGARET “MIGGS” DURRANCE
If the definition of the Aspen Idea emphasizes the marriage of the physical, the intellectual and the artistic, then there are few examples greater than Dick and Margaret (Miggs, for short) Durrance.
Both were United States Olympic skiers in 1936. Both helped pioneer the growth of Aspen as a ski resort (Dick was general manager of the Aspen Ski Co in 1947 and brought the FIS World Skiing Championships to Aspen in 1950) and a world-class cultural center. And both contributed their considerable photographic talents to document its passage into history. “I decided to go all out. We were going to put Aspen on the map,” Dick claimed.
Beyond Aspen, the Durrances captured the world on film. Through their eyes, readers of publications such as National Geographic, Life and Sports Illustrated—not to mention this magazine—and viewers of film and the golden age of television, experienced a society that was changing as fast as they could capture it.
Their legacy lives on in the ski mountains they pioneered and documented, as well as in their extended family, including their son, Aspen artist Dick Durrance Jr., whose work continues to enhance our town.
Stein Eriksen was a golden god from a Norse heaven when he first came to Aspen to teach skiing. He took gold and silver on the slopes in the 1952 Olympic Games in his native Oslo and became the most famous skier in the world.
But beyond medals it was his impeccable style that made him so admired. To steal a phrase from Warren Zevon, his hair was perfect. The first director of the Ski School at Whip Jones’ Aspen Highlands, Eriksen taught first his illustrious staff, and then the American skiing public, the elegant reverse shoulder technique that became the standard for great skiers of that generation. He also drew oohs and ahhs as he vaulted, and then somersaulted, on skis over the ski patrol shack that is now Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro.
Though Eriksen moved to Utah to become director of skiing at Deer Valley, former Aspenite Edgar Stern’s groundbreaking resort, he returned to Aspen for years. Each year, he could be seen leading his cadre of former instructors down the mountain and then stopping to put them through their paces once again. Each time an instructor would get a drill right, all would take a drink from their bota bags.
When Merrill Ford passed away in 2010, The Aspen Times described her as a “force” for the arts in the community, which is like saying that a hurricane is a little windy.
Ford came to Aspen in 1951 for the initial gathering of the International Design Conference, the organization that she would head in later years. Her arrival coincided with the tremendous growth of the community and the influence of people like the Paepckes, Bayer and Friedl Pfeifer. A stunning figure on skis (she was at one time married to Stein Eriksen), Ford was also a determined fundraiser for the arts and humanities. Her contributions to The Aspen Institute led to her being honored as a lifetime trustee in 2009.
Ford was a touchstone to a time when all seemed possible and Aspen’s mind, body, spirit credo was an attainable goal. Her gift was sharing that time and history with those who followed.
Belly Up. The name alone would be “enough said,” if one were to mention the significant influence that Michael Goldberg has had on Aspen.
He took an empty space, a hole in the soul of the community that was once occupied by the Double Diamond, resurrected it and made it better. Yes, the aviation entrepreneur had the means to create the best club anywhere, but he also invested his intellect and passion to make it not just a must-experience venue, but, for musicians, a must-play venue.
And let’s not forget Matsuhisa. Goldberg brought the best of the oceans to this mountain hamlet, giving us big city sophistication and a place for favorite friends from out of town to take us. And he keeps the energy open year-round— offseason be damned.
Speaking of friends, Goldberg has many, including high-profile former presidents and vice presidents, all of whom regularly come calling when they jet into town. GORSUCH FAMILY
Over the past half century, Gorsuch has come to define the mountain lifestyle and those who live it.
Founded in a Gunnison Garage in 1952 by Dave and Renie Gorsuch, the stores, the catalogs, the website, even the simple sound of the word “Gorsuch” have come to evoke the soul of Rocky Mountain living. While many brands attempt to create an aura of authenticity, Gorsuch is the real deal.
In 1976, they purchased the now closed Elli’s clothing shop and partnered with both John Oakes and Gale Spence in the Aspen operation. They since have opened stores on the Cooper Avenue Mall and in The Little Nell. A key to the continuing success and growth of the company has been the contributions made by Dave and Renie’s three sons, John, Jeff and Davy. Each has “grown up in the brand,” and each plays a significant role today.
Still family-owned and operated, the Vail-based Gorsuch has become both an Aspen institution and inspired a corporate culture that transcends business to become a touchstone for a way of life.
When he died suddenly in 2004 at just 47 years of age, the obituaries labeled him as the “man who ran Carnegie Hall.” But to those at The Aspen Music Festival and School, he was simply a dear friend.
Harth first came to Aspen as a young man with his parents, both of whom were musicians. Though he played violin and the flute, he made his mark by managing orchestras and music venues, ranging from the Hollywood Bowl to Carnegie Hall. He spent 12 glorious and productive years in Aspen, from 1989 to 2001, as the president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School.
During his tenure, Harth made a multitude of friends and changed the community forever. Under his direction, $7 million was raised to construct an underground concert facility, Harris Hall, and $11 million was invested in the Benedict Music Tent. He established the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen and boldly hired David Zinman away from the Baltimore Symphony to come to Aspen. Zinman would say, following the death of Harth, “Robert was the catalyst for everything that happened here.”
Harth’s spirit lives on under the tent.
She is perhaps the most generous person in Aspen.
Lita Heller has been a fixture at events that have helped make Aspen one of the most philanthropically successful communities in the nation. She was instrumental on Aspen’s social scene for decades.
The daughter of Sam Warner, one of the original Warner brothers of cinema fame, Heller came to Aspen and set the standard for both entertaining and generosity in town.
He is the man who brought Dylan to Aspen, and And the Eagles’ Don Henley (back to town) and Joe Walsh, as well as Kanye West, Tony Bennett, Sheryl Crow and on and on and...
After attending the Marciac Jazz Festival in France, a young Horowitz had a dream. Why couldn’t there be a world-class jazz and rock Festival in Aspen? In 1991, he launched the nonprofit Jazz Aspen Snowmass and, through the power of personality and persuasion, has presented the world’s best performers to Aspen audiences ever since. For many, JAS is the highlight of the summer.
Along the way, JAS has created the renowned JAS Academy for gifted young professional artists and contributed upward of $5.5 million to music-education programs. Over the years, Horowitz’s dream has become a song on the lips of hundreds of young musicians and thousands of festivalgoers.
In some ways, he’s cut from the cloth originally tailored by The Aspen Institute’s founder Paepcke—the visionary who created the Aspen Idea of “mind, body, spirit.” The New Orleans born and bred Isaacson—a former managing editor and CEO of Time magazine, and CEO of CNN—has reinvented this new-world think tank, bringing the Paepckes’ original Aspen Idea into the 21st century.
As the charismatic president and CEO of The Aspen Institute, Isaacson brought the learned, the powerful and the rich to the Aspen campus. He revitalized the entire campus, especially by launching the Aspen Ideas Festival, now a must-stop for many of the world’s best and most influential minds.
In his spare time (when does Isaacson find spare time?), he has become one of the most respected biographers in the nation, with tomes on Franklin, Einstein, Kissinger and Jobs. In 2012, his former employer named him to the Time 100 list. The only question is: Who will write Isaacson’s biography?
“The greatest sensation in skiing is the feeling of floating,” wrote Fred Iselin in 1971, not long before his passing. And Iselin floated as easily through his charmed life as he did on his wooden skis. Born and raised in Switzerland, he was a savant on skis, taming the Alps as a boy.
Iselin came to America, first to Averell Harriman’s Sun Valley, in 1940, before finding his permanent home in Aspen in 1947, shortly after the Aspen Skiing Company’s first lifts began operation. As a director of both the Aspen and Aspen Highland Ski Schools, he was known for being a taskmaster with his instructors and a charmer to his clients. The Hollywood crowd loved Iselin, and he was never alone sitting at the bar in the Hotel Jerome.
As smooth and well-liked as Iselin was, his dog, Bingo, a Saint Bernard of enormous proportions, may have been even more loved. “There was one chairlift passenger who wasn’t an employee, but who always rode free. That was Bingo,” remembered one local.
He dubbed himself “king of the ski bums,” and no one argued.
Ralph Jackson came to Aspen in the winter of ’46 and began living a lifestyle that became the envy of thousands of young men who longed for a life in the ski towns of Colorado. Supporting himself with a ski instructor gig and various odd jobs around town, Jackson would ski in the winter and then when the lifts closed, he set off on his bike for jaunts around the country. Sound familiar?
But it was Jackson’s attire and style that set him apart. A long cigarette holder and a top hat, combined with a long, shaggy, bearskin coat gave the “clown prince of Aspen” an unmistakable and unforgettable look. A 1976 documentary, When a Town Thought Snow, captures his poise—and poses—on snow.
In 1940, Bill Janss made the U.S. Olympic Ski Team. He never made it to the slopes, as the games were canceled by World War II.
Perhaps that disappointment sparked him to try to create the world’s greatest ski village out of a cobbled-together patchwork of ranches up the Brush Creek Valley. Janss, who first visited Aspen in 1940, had a dream to build a carless, European-style ski resort modeled after Zermatt, Switzerland, in the Rockies.
In the late 1950s, sensing the potential of the area just west of Aspen, Janss began working with local architect Fritz Benedict and the U.S. Forest Service to create “the most carefully planned ski resort in the world.” He started purchasing ranches from the pioneers of the valley to create his vision. The first commercial skiing took place on Snowmass in the 1962-1963 ski season as snowcats took powder-seekers to the summit, introducing them to what we know today as one the most diverse and picturesque ski mountains in all the world.
By the mid-1960s, construction had begun, and, on Dec. 16, 1967, Janss’ dream became reality when Snowmass opened with three lifts, a handful of lodges and 10 homes. That first year, an astounding 100,000 people paid $6.50 for a lift ticket, and a legend was born.
STEFAN AND STASHA KAELIN
The pioneers of Aspen have always included those who were raised in the mountain hideaways of Europe and later brought their high altitude sensibilities to the Roaring Fork Valley. Longtime Aspenites Stefan and Stasha Kaelin embody that ethos and then some, sharing their design and style savvy with our community at their namesake Stefan Kaelin Ski, Golf and Sportswear shops.
Raised in Switzerland, Stefan was a member of two Swiss National Olympic ski teams before immigrating to America following the 1968 Olympics. After meeting his then ballet dancer and ski instructor wife, Stasha, also Swiss, in Vail, the couple embarked on a career in Aspen’s high-end fashion scene. Since 1974, they have shopped the world, searching for the latest and greatest in designer ski and après-skiwear and styling everyone from ski legends to ski bunnies. Stefan has also designed and manufactured special ski uniforms for the Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen.
In addition to entrepreneurial success, the Kaelins have become regulars on Aspen’s social scene. Their newest shop will open this ski season on Cooper Street.
He was the local lawman who led by using common sense.
When Dick Kienast first joined the Aspen Police Department in 1970, the former theology student (he had degrees from Duke and Notre Dame) and bartender and carpenter was ready to ride hard on the emerging hippie class. But within three years, he had discovered that Aspen required a different, gentler tack.
Elected Pitkin County sheriff in 1976 (supported by former sheriff candidate Hunter S. Thompson), he began to change the tone of law enforcement within the community. He banned all undercover work in the department, told the DEA to take a hike and began taking time off to inmates for good behavior. Tellingly, he also replaced the caffeinated coffee at the Pitkin County Jail with herbal tea, eliminated the ranks in the sheriff’s department and made Saab the car of choice for the department.
His approach to keeping the peace was to be peaceful. In 1980, 60 Minutes profiled Kienast in a piece called “Walking Small in Pitkin County.” It was a good pun, but to those who knew and worked with Kienast, there was no doubt who stood tallest and who has lasted as an exemplar in Aspen’s collective memory.
Timing, they say, is everything, and, for Steve Knowlton, who ran the much-loved Golden Horn restaurant on the corner of Cooper and Mill streets, the right time was 1949. “I opened in December,” he reminisced to The Aspen Times 30 years ago, “just in time for the FIS World Championships in 1950.” The championships brought the ski world to Aspen, and Knowlton knew that he had the only game in town when it came to entertainment.
For just under a decade, Aspen’s legendary nightlife consisted of three bawdy, slapstick shows a night at the Horn. Songs ranged from “Moonlight in Vermont” to “Cigarettes and Whiskey.” Players like Walt Smith and Mead Metcalf kept the tunes coming.
But Knowlton was the true star. A vet who served with the 10th Mountain Division, before making the 1948 U.S. Olympic Ski Team, he became an entertainer out of necessity. “I made some good money in the winter,” he recalled, “but after August, there was no money at all.”
Mythical. That may be the best way to describe the persona of Stuart Mace, who, along with his wife, Isabel, cared for and shepherded the Castle Creek Valley for a generation.
Asked by Paepcke to relocate his world-class dog sled operation from Boulder to Aspen in 1949, Mace cut a deal with ski pioneer Ted Ryan to care for Ashcroft and the Valley in exchange for 2.7 acres of land—hardly a better mutual deal has ever been struck.
“I wanted to give my kids a place to build their mind, body, imagination and artistic sense,” said Mace in an episode of Bill Moyers’ Journal, an acclaimed public television series. “You can’t appreciate your fellow man until you appreciate nature; without that, you can’t feel any wholeness.”
The Mace family built the Toklat Lodge themselves and, over the years, ran a bed and breakfast, sled dog operation, restaurant and art gallery. But it was the self-sufficient lifestyle that captured national attention. Mace and his family were the subject of stories in Look and Redbook magazines, and were featured in a number of films. The publicity helped to define an Aspen lifestyle that was, well, mythical.
In the early 1960s, there were some fast ski racers on Aspen Mountain, but none were quicker down the slope than a good-looking wise-guy named Andy Mill.
Called wilde hund, or wild dog, by the European racers for his long hair, beard and animal tenacity, Mill was a dominant, though often injured, American downhiller. He made two Olympic teams and finished sixth on a gimpy ankle in the 1976 Olympic Downhill that was won by Franz Klammer on his home hill in Austria, with one of the great rides in Olympic history.
Mill returned to Aspen, where he was a mentor to a number of young Aspen skiers, as well as a network television commentator for ski programs.
It was the early 1980s, and if you were anyone in the world of film, music or culture, you came to Aspen to party and eat at Gordon’s.
It is hard to remember back when Aspen bordered on being a culinary wasteland—back before the Food & Wine Classic brought top chefs and soldout crowds; back when there were no sommeliers, not to mention Masters. It was the same time that L.A. was bragging about Wolfgang Puck, and Berkeley was boasting about Alice Waters, that a bright young chef brought haute cuisine with a farm-to-table ethos to the high country. “We gathered wild slippery jack mushrooms, with the staff four-wheeling near the ghost town of Ashcroft, and pungent wild Juniper berries to perfume the duck marinade alongside the ice caves at the Grottos up Independence Pass,” he recalls. “We even found stubborn wild raspberries growing between cracks in the granite.”
A refugee from Michael’s in Santa Monica, Naccarato was backed financially by television producer Bruce Paltrow (yes, Gwyneth’s dad) and made the space that Jimmy’s occupies today a destination on the map for any culinary jet-setter with an appetite.
Simply say the name Klaus in Aspen, and everyone knows who you’re talking about. Klaus Obermeyer is not only Aspen’s most legendary skier, he is also our most successful homegrown businessman.
Obermeyer’s life parallels the history of Aspen skiing. Consider when he first came to Aspen in the late 1940s: His skiing friends were filmmaker Warren Miller and ski instructor Pfeifer. An instructor himself, Obermeyer noticed that when it was too cold for skiers to head out, he had no business, so he designed and created the first down jackets to keep his customers warm. His eponymous skiwear company has been an industry leader ever since. It not only creates new and innovative products, but also sets standards in employee relations and business practices. It grosses millions of dollars a year, but manages to maintain a small-town, small-company feel, largely because Obermeyer likes it that way.
Now in his 90s, Obermeyer has recovered from the broken femur he suffered at Buttermilk a couple of seasons back, but, unfortunately, he can no longer ski his age. In fact, the last time he was able to do so was on the 24 Hours of Aspen course when, just days after his 82nd birthday, he was clocked at 82 miles per hour. Yodelayheehoo!
He may be the most important person in the modern-day history of Aspen.
Walter Paepcke was president of Chicago’s Container Corporation of America. He was also an intellectual, a patron of the arts and a man with a dream to create a utopia “for man’s complete life... where he can profit by healthy, physical recreation, with facilities at hand for his enjoyment of art, music and education.” It was the basis for the Aspen Idea, built on the pillars of mind, body and spirit.
Paepcke first came to Aspen on Memorial Day weekend in 1945 and quickly discovered it was the perfect place to create his dream. He began buying up local properties and remaking the community in his own image. Paepcke was instrumental in founding the Aspen Skiing Company, and, in 1949, his bold experiment to hold the Goethe Bicentennial Convocation in a tent designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, and with Schweitzer as guest lecturer, was the stroke of genius that put Aspen on the cultural map and was the birth of The Aspen Institute.
Paepcke’s contributions cannot be overstated. He not only provided the financial resources to help Aspen grow, he also brought individuals like Bayer, Fritz Benedict, Mace and Berko together, and encouraged them to create and build a community with the Aspen Idea as its bedrock.
It is Paepcke’s contributions as a visionary, an organizer, a promoter and an investor that make him the most significant member of the Aspen Pantheon.
As important as Walter Paepcke was to Aspen, let us not forget that it was Elizabeth who brought him here, and it was Elizabeth who maintained decorum in the community for 34 years following his death in 1960.
Elizabeth Paepcke was born in Baltimore, but developed her love of the arts in Chicago, where she had studied at The Art Institute and designed windows for famed department store Marshall Field’s. She had enormous sway on her husband and was instrumental in exposing him to the Bauhaus design practice that became a cornerstone of their efforts to create an Aspen Renaissance.
First coming to Aspen in 1936, she fell in love with the small town and brought Walter back 10 years later, changing the course of both their lives and this town. Among the myriad of institutions Elizabeth is credited with helping to shape are The Aspen Institute, the International Design Conference at Aspen, the Aspen Music Festival and School and her beloved Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which occupied the open space just below her living room window.
As much a part of the fabric of the Community as anyone, Elizabeth (nicknamed Pussy) was never afraid of pointing out what she perceived to be its flaws. Late in life, she expressed her disappointment in the excesses of wealth that had become a hallmark of the community. “Aspen,” she proclaimed, “can’t be swallowed by the avariciousness of those who don’t understand the reason for its existence.”
There is a bronze statue in the Gondola Plaza of Friedl Pfeifer, skis on his shoulder, looking toward the hill. It is the closest thing to immortality in skiing.
Pfeifer first eyed the mountain that is now forever in his statue’s gaze while on summer maneuvers with the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. “I want to start a ski school here,” he told the city council, “and I’ll give the local children free lessons so we can develop a real skiing community. … The war won’t last forever.”
True to his word, he left the Sun Valley Ski School following the war and came to Aspen, where he collaborated with Paepcke, finding investors and launching the Aspen Skiing Company. It was Pfeifer who established the ski school, teaching visitors how to ski as he had done in St. Anton, where he grew up. He was instrumental in the construction of Lift One, on the site of Tom Ryan’s old “Boat Tow,” and he drew up the trail plan for the mountain.
While there are many pioneers in Aspen’s history, only one is deserving of a place forever at the base of the mountain.
Roch’s Run. The Roch Cup. Who was this Roch guy?
André Roch was a Swiss mountaineer hired by the partners of the Highland Bavarian Corporation to come to Aspen and help devise a mountain plan for a ski resort in the mid-1930s. Roch stayed for 18 months and scoured the hills surrounding the valley before recommending a site above Ashcroft as the site for a world-class ski area.
While here, he cut the first run on Aspen Mountain—Roch’s Run—and also encouraged the formation of what eventually became the Aspen Ski Club. The Roch Cup, named in his honor, has been awarded in numerous races on Aspen Mountain to many of the world’s top skiers.
While he never lived here, his contributions to Aspen merited induction into the first class of the Aspen Hall of Fame in 1987.
Don’t know the name Ted Ryan? You should. Because, if not for Ryan and his “Boat Tow,” you might not be skiing in this valley.
A young heir to a tobacco fortune, Ryan met the dashing Billy Fiske, captain of the U.S. Bobsled team, in the mid-1930s. The two became fast friends and were determined to build a ski resort in America that rivaled the best of Europe. Seeing Aspen’s potential, they partnered and built the first ski resort lodge in Colorado, the Highland Bavarian Lodge on Castle Creek, which opened in the winter of 1936.
Needing to get skiers up the mountain, Ryan cobbled together parts from an abandoned mine to construct a lift powered by an engine from a Model A Ford. The lift, located roughly where Lift 1A sits today, towed four wooden sleds, or “boats,” 600 feet up the mountain. The cost? A dime per ride, or 50 cents a day.
While Ryan and Fiske had plans to build an aerial tram on Hayden Peak, World War II intervened, and Fiske was killed while flying for the RAF. Ryan returned to Aspen, where he owned Ashcroft Ski Touring, before selling it in 1986 to John Wilcox.
In 1956, George Stranahan discovered Aspen, and the community gained a champion. The irony is that Stranahan, an heir to the Champion Spark Plug fortune, has always considered himself to be more of a spark plug than a champion. “Challenge authority” is the mantra on the bottles of the Flying Dog beer that Stranahan founded in the 1990s. And that is exactly what he has been doing for nearly 60 years. That, and making dreams come true.
Consider a few of his contributions and successes: Stranahan, a physicist by education (he studied at Cal Tech), founded the Aspen Center for Physics, a place that hosts Nobel laureates. A drinker by passion, he founded both the Flying Dog Brewery and Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, both extraordinarily successful brands. A rancher by avocation, he once owned a bull that was a grand champion at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. Oh, and he founded a little place called the Woody Creek Tavern.
Beyond those accomplishments, Stranahan is best known for his innovative photography, philanthropy, generosity and ability to “spark” others—a life well spent.
Reflecting recently at a local arts discussion, Harry Teague shared, “I got out of the Yale School of Architecture in 1972, and I had a choice: Do I go to New York; put on a tie; get in a cubical; and draw schematics of bathrooms in an A+ firm. Or do I go to Aspen and work with my hands building things?” Teague made the right choice for both himself and us.
Consider the spaces he has contributed to the community: Aspen Center for Physics, Harris Concert Hall, the Aspen Music Tent, Edgar Boyle’s House. It is an impressive list, and that isn’t half of it.
Even more impressive are the contributions made by his curiosity and wonder. Teague always looks for new ways of doing things and for new challenges. A true Aspenite, his leadership of the International Design Conference at Aspen was an inspiration for many, and, just now, he is on the verge of unearthing the Design Conference time capsule that was buried and lost so many years ago. Dig it, Teague.
HUNTER S. THOMpSON
Say the word “gonzo” and everyone knows you’re talking about Thompson.
Thompson, a journalist by trade, but force of nature by avocation, may be the man most identified with Aspen throughout the world. Maybe it’s because he ran (unsuccessfully) for Pitkin County sheriff in 1970, or maybe it is because he was, upon his death by his own hand, shot into the skies and into immortality above Woody Creek on the tip of an exploding rocket financed by his dear friend Johnny Depp.
Both of those deeds were quintessential Thompson.
A resident of a place he called Owl Farm, which has since become a mecca of sorts for sycophants and fans, Thompson was one of the most unique characters ever to grace this or any other valley. His creativity and intellect were showcased in books like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the political epic Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in 1972. But his impact extended far beyond what he put on paper.
Thompson was well-known for his excesses, and that included his devotion to his friends. Many Aspenites will recall, in detail, days and nights spent at the farm.
If there had been no Thompson, Aspen would have had to invent him.
WHIppLE “wHIp” vAN NESS JONES
Today it’s a no-brainer. Of course Aspen Highlands is a great ski mountain. But back in 1956, it took vision for Whip Jones to see that Highlands had the potential to become one of the highest and steepest ski hills in the world.
Jones, a Harvard graduate and former stockbroker, owned a ranch at the base of Highlands and began to conjure a way to get into the business. After being turned down by the Aspen Skiing Company for a partnership, he pioneered on his own. Hiring Durrance to do the feasibility study and Eriksen to run the ski school, he began clearing trails, using profits from the fallen trees to finance the dream.
In 1958, Highlands opened with three lifts and fostered a reputation as America’s affordable, fun mountain. It maintained a renegade image until Jones, with characteristic panache, donated his shares in Highlands to his alma mater in 1992. His 34-year run made him the longest continuous owner of a single ski resort in Colorado.
LEONARD BOOGIE wEINGLASS
His story is the stuff of legend. Raised on the gritty streets of Baltimore, Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass took a single outlet clothing store in suburban Atlanta and built it into a billion-dollar powerhouse that deftly catered to the consuming habits of young America. The Merry-Go-Round once had 1,000 stores and was one of the most successful chains ever built.
But his decision to build and open Boogie’s Diner in downtown Aspen has brought him to this list. In 1987, the entrepreneur placed Boogie’s Diner on top of his clothing shop, making it one of the tallest buildings in Aspen. Not only was he decried for the “Boogification” of Aspen, but, also, the diner was like nothing else this town had ever seen.
Alas, not only has Boogie’s Diner endured, it has become a local institution, as has the man himself, who has been a selfless supporter and fundraiser for the Aspen Buddy Program, which provides mentors for youth.
A somewhat selective, hardly inclusive and more than arbitrary ledger of noteworthy moments in Aspen’s illustrious history:
1873… Geological survey of Roaring Fork Valley locates bountiful mineral deposits in mountains. If it hadn’t, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. 1879… First silver miners settle. European immigrants frolic about hills attached to 12-foot planks. In one episode—eerily prophetic of how important la dolce vita would become in town during the next century or so—two miners traverse the Continental Divide to Leadville, looking for oysters to serve at a mining-camp Christmas party. 1880… Town of 300 residents changes name from Ute City to Aspen. Women described as “mighty scarce article.” 1889… Hotel Jerome, billed as “Handsomest hotel on the Western slope,” built for more than $100,000; Wheeler Opera House opens. 1890… Population reaches 8,000; cable tramway from town to Aspen Mountain’s Tourtelotte Park offers round-trip rides in uncomfortable ore buckets for $1.25. 1892… Harold Ross, future The New Yorker founder and editor, born in house on Bleeker Street. 1893… Just as Aspen’s early prosperity peaks—population 10,000, supplying one-sixth of the U.S.’s silver—repeal of Sherman Silver demonetizes silver, sends market and town into long decline. 1912… Wheeler Opera House, suspiciously, catches fire twice in two weeks. 1919… Brrrrrr. Lowest recorded February temperature, 36 below. 1930s… Population falls to 700. 1936… Highland Bavarian Lodge opens in Castle Creek Valley, for skiers willing to hike up. Co-owner and Olympic bobsledder Billy Friske hires The New Yorker humorist Robert Benchley to write brochure entitled “How to Aspen.” “You can have just as good a time falling down there,” Benchley writes, “as you can on any of the European slopes.” 1937… After Swiss mountaineer André Roch recommends locals cut a ski trail on Aspen Mountain, volunteer crews spend summer days clearing a 6,600-foot swath known as Roch’s Run with axes. Ski club builds “boat tow”—two wooden sleds hooked to a cable driven by a Studebaker engine, 10 cents per ride; house in town, furnished, with three lots, $450; 4-mile aerial tramway from Ashcroft to top of Mount Hayden planned by Fiske and Flynn’s Highland Bavarian Corporation 1939… Bursting pipes force Elizabeth Paepcke, wife of Chicago industrialist, to move guests from family’s ranch near Denver to Aspen. Charmed, she begins yearslong process of urging husband, Walter, to visit town. 1939… Broadcaster Lowell Thomas skis Aspen for the first time. Subsequently, he broadcasts several radio shows from the Wheeler Opera House. 1941-1945… Laurence Elisha, owner of Hotel Jerome, provides overnight lodging and steak for $1 to 10th Mountain Division soldiers from Camp Hale, who visit on weekends to ski. Serves Aspen crud, a milkshake with unholy amounts of bourbon. 1945… Paepcke family finally visits Aspen, envisions it as site of a community based on cultural ideas; on second day of visit, buys wife $3,500 birthday gift, an eight-room Victorian; Walter offers any resident free house paint on condition that his friend, Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer, pick the color; not many accept; 10th Mountain veteran and former Sun Valley Ski School director Friedl Pfeifer opens ski school on Aspen Mountain; no one enrolls. Next day, offers free lessons for housewives; 30 sign up. 1946… Paepcke, Pfeifer, others form Aspen Skiing Corporation. First chairlifts installed—two sections, single chairs—at almost three miles, world’s longest at the time. Lift tickets $3.75; Sundeck restaurant, conceived by architect Herbert Bayer, opens; Jerome rooms start at $4, half of what it would cost to park in slopeside lot at Snowmass four decades later. Aspen Company buys half-block of downtown land for $50; $30 million The Little Nell would open there 43 years later; housewives ski team challenges businessmen’s team to race. Results lost to history. 1947… January: first ski lift grand opening, attended by Harold Ross and 2,000 others. Jumping exhibitions, fireworks, parades, black-tie dinner at the Armory; Jerome breakfast of ham and eggs, 75 cents; postwar fashion on slopes: long, white ski-troop parka trimmed with wolverine fur; Bingo, St. Bernard belonging to ski school co-director Fred Iselin, rides chairlift alone frequents ski hill. “If he stood on your ski while you waited in the lift line,” early visitor remembers, “you waited until he wanted to move before you could go ahead.” 1948… Gary Cooper appears in film Aspen in Winter, made by Aspenite and former Olympian Dick Durrance. Cooper is spotted at The Four Seasons Club wearing pompom tie designed by ski instructor and recent Bavarian arrival Klaus Obermeyer; Stuart and Isabel Mace open Toklat Lodge at Ashcroft; start husky dogsled operation; D & RG trains arrive daily from Glenwood; engineers walk up Mill Street to lunch at Jerome. 1949… Celebration of 200th anniversary of Goethe’s birth features pianist Artur Rubinstein, author Thornton Wilder, Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, who begins each day playing piano at Paepckes’, delights audience on his only U.S. visit by gargling a pint of Aspen crud. (Just kidding.) Unaccustomed to altitude, Schweitzer later describes Aspen as “a little too near heaven for me.” Also during Goethe bicentennial, Ortega y Gasset carries leftover ham slices from buffet in Pioneer Park back to his room at Jerome on his bald head, under hat. (Honestly.) Influx of movie stars: Gary Cooper and wife build house on Pitkin Green, unwittingly paving way for opening of Planet Hollywood decades later; sheep still being driven to pasture down Highway 82, paying no heed to movie stars or visiting great thinkers; gross revenue, Aspen Ski Corporation, is $4,173. 1950… FIS World Championships draw skiers from 14 countries, establish Aspen as world-class mountain. Italian Zeno Colo wins two golds and a silver, smokes cigarettes in starting gate; young Norwegian Stein Eriksen finishes third in FIS slalom; house in West End with three lots, $2,000; lift ticket skyrockets to $4; Klaus Obermeyer makes first quilted goose-down parka out of bed comforter; lift three built on Aspen Mountain, with no mention of environmental impact. “We just went out and built one,” said Brown, later Ski Corp president, “and never thought about asking anyone.” West End house and three lots, $2,000. 1951… Lift closes in January for lack of skiers; First International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA); First Aspen Music Festival; Aspen Music School opens. 1952… Novelist John Marquand, whose wife, Adelaide, owned a house here, grouses in a letter to a friend about the “rarefied intellectual atmosphere of Aspen” and refers to the town as “Ass-pain.” First annual Cockroach Cup race on Little Nell. First prize: empty liquor bottle from Louie’s liquor store; R. Buckmister Fuller, Alfred Knopf attend IDCA; Lana Turner and husband No. 4, Lex “Tarzan” Barker, attend Wintersköl. 1954… Gourmet dinner at Hotel Jerome, $9, wine included; Aspen Laundry, 25 cents per dress shirt, 5 cents for pillowcases and bath towels 1955… 226 people arrested for fishing without license 1956… Feb. 19: Record number of skiers—977—invade Aspen Mountain; mortician Tom Sardy, honoring Harold Ross’ request made before death five years earlier, takes airplane ride and scatters the editor’s ashes over mountains. 1958… Buttermilk (lift ticket $3) and Aspen Highlands open. Stein Eriksen heads ski school, does many backflips on skis. 1959… D.R.C. Brown becomes Ski Corp president; editorial in The Aspen Times criticizes dump: “A pall of odoriferous smoke obscures the view of Pyramid Peak.” Singer Katie Lee performs at Limelight, features “spicy songs for cool knights.” Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black speaks at The Aspen Institute; furnished studio apartment, mountain view, First and Hyman, $90 a month. 1960… Walter Paepcke dies; number of out-of-state skiers jumps from 75,000 in 1959 to 140,000; movie ticket at the Isis, 50 cents; one way, Aspen/Denver on Aspen Airways, $22.50. 1961… Species clash: 200-pound pig, small and cute when won in greased pig contest, terrorizes town of Redstone. Aspen police shoot skunk in West End; another at large near Fifth and Main; West End six-bedroom, $9,500. 1962… Christmas dinner at Hotel Jerome, $4.50; end of an era: streets paved in center of downtown. 1963… Aspen Skiing Corporation buys Buttermilk from Pfeifer; Ruthie’s Run double chair opens; First Starwood lots go on market, $6,000-$7,000. 1964… Billy Kidd Wins Roch Cup race for third time. 1966… One-acre lot on Red Mountain, $17,000; Cooper Street Mall okayed by City Council. 1967… Janss Investment Company and Ski Corp open Snowmass-at-Aspen designed by architect Fritz Benedict. Lift ticket, $6.50. Stein Eriksen marks occasion with more backflips. 1968… Aspen Center for Environmental Studies founded. 1969… Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson runs for Pitkin County sheriff. Antique dealer/carpenter/furniture repairman Billy Noonan runs for county coroner; campaign posters show Noonan posing with a shovel by a tombstone, with the caption “Let Noonan do it.” Neither candidate wins. 1970… D.R.C. Brown warns against overdevelopment in impassioned speech to operators of Colorado ski areas; Ski Corp buys Breckenridge. No record of Eriksen commemorating with backflips. 1972… End of another era: leash law passed, dogcatcher hired; three-bedroom West End Victorian, $50,000. 1974… West End three-bedroom mentioned two years ago, now $100,000; narcs nab 15 locals in marijuana bust. 1975… Ski Corp official bemoans growing problem: “We pay the highest wages in the ski industry, from $3.65 to $5.60 an hour, and supply good benefits too, but over 70 percent of our employees live downvalley.” Ski Corp president Brown causes near-revolt by bumping lift ticket price from $10 to $12 and season pass to $550 for next season. Benefit concert to fight legal battles against increases features Jimmy Ibbotson, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. 1976… That same West End three-bedroom, $165,000. 1976-1977… Worst drought in 30 years slashes skier visits and causes panic in town. 1977… Media invasion: Claudine Longet tried for killing Spider Sabich; sentence of community service includes painting her jail cell. Longet’s ex-husband, Andy Williams, enjoys last great burst of publicity. Cost of living in Aspen estimated at 137 percent of U.S. average; first Ski Co snowmaking on Buttermilk Mountain; future Ski Co owner Marvin Davis hosts a birthday party for himself with old-South theme, including miniature steamboat in swimming pool and, reportedly, black people paid to sit on cotton bales and eat watermelon. Aspen Valley Hospital opens. 1978… Five-bedroom with two fireplaces in Snowmass, $328,000; 1-acre lot, Aspen Highlands, $85,000; 20th Century Fox buys Aspen Ski Corporation for $47 million. 1979… Item in Aspen Magazine: “The Shah of Iran allegedly planned to buy $1 million palatial estate in Aspen. Someone must have clued him in by now that a million might put him in a fairly nice two-bedroom condo with a partial view.” Cost of living reported to be higher in Aspen than any other city in the nation; Aspen Art Museum opens as Aspen Center for Visual Arts. 1980… 10th Mountain trail system, a personal mission and dream of Fritz Benedict, opens, connecting more than 300 miles of alpine trails and huts between Aspen, Vail and Leadville; average airborne particulates—the brown cloud—exceed EPA standards; Woody Creek Tavern opens; Bonnie’s Restaurant opens on Aspen Mountain. 1981… Publicly held Ski Corp becomes privately held Aspen Skiing Company when Marvin Davis buys 20th Century Fox for $725 million; Ralph Jackson, the ski bum’s ski bum, dies; Playboy photographers shoot “Girls of Aspen” pictorial. Bartender Cass Cleverly poses seminude in snow cave wearing knee-high moccasins. 1982… With regard to local controlled-substance arrest, officer Leon Murray reportedly testifies: “I heard a snuffling sound and saw six pairs of feet behind the stall door.” Muppets film ABC holiday special in Aspen with resident lifelike cuddly guy John Denver; former Playboy and Hee Haw star Barbie Benton buys house in town; Ruthie’s Restaurant opens on Aspen Mountain, Dec. 22. 1984… Dogsled rides at Krabloonik, $70 per adult, $55 per child; Roaring Fork Transit Authority was founded, providing free bus transportation to and around Aspen. 1985… Crown family of Chicago and partnership buy remaining 50 percent of Ski Co from Davis; Hotel Jerome, now “$4,500,000 museum piece,” reopens after renovation. Switzerland’s Peter Müeller captures essence of successful trip to Aspen after winning World Cup downhill. “I get the race on the last four turns. I make a fantastic line. Tonight I go disco dancing.” First snowboarders spotted; Aspen is one of the first cities to ban smoking in restaurants; former mortuary opens as Sardy House Hotel on Main Street. 1986… Former bordello opens as Independence Square Hotel; Silver Queen gondola cuts ride to top of Aspen Mountain to under 15 minutes; first high-speed quad follows close behind; Robert Maynard named head of Ski Co; Bob Braudis elected sheriff; first snowcat tours on Aspen Mountain. 1988… Ski Co sells Breckenridge to Japanese investors for $66 million; Highway Department announces allocation of $21 million for four-lane Highway 82. (Project estimated at eight to 10 years.) 1989… Ski Co’s luxury The Little Nell opens; fur flies in local no-fur-sales controversy; T-shirt seen around town: “Just because I slept with you last night doesn’t mean I’ll ski with you today.” Woman loses finger to tiger at Floyd Watkins’s Woody Creek ranch;Landings and takeoffs at Sardy Field top 51,000 a year, half involving private aircraft; Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith host Christmas/engagement party in Jerome ballroom; Denver-based Good Deed Land Company buys 10-acre mining claim on Aspen Mountain, offers to resell for $10 per square inch; T-shirt, for $12.50 more, identifies wearer as “Aspen landowner.”; 24 Hours of Aspen canceled due to lack of snow. 1990… 24 Hours of Aspen canceled due to excess of snow; George Bush and Margaret Thatcher give speeches, receive awards at 40th anniversary of The Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. 1991… Cellular phones appear on gondolas; John Bennett is elected mayor; Canadian Chris Kent sets world record at 24 Hours of Aspen for most vertical feet skied in one day (271,161 or 83 laps); “Take Vail. Lately a place that ‘serious’ skiers have ditched for the cooler, steeper, more exclusive slopes of Telluride and Aspen.” Outside. 1992… Kent, attempting to repeat victory at 24 Hours of Aspen, claims to see 6-foot-tall rabbit on race course; after years of sound and fury, The Ritz-Carlton opens at the base of Aspen Mountain on former site of Ed’s Beds; Colorado voters pass politically incorrect Amendment Two, prompting temporary holiday boycott of Aspen led by noted civil-rights activist Barbra Streisand; “New people are coming:” James Salter writes in Outside, “the terrifying young splendid in their clothes, men in their 20s with their hair gathered tight in back, girls like addicts, Vogue on the outside, vague on the inside, as they say.” 1993… Crown family announces the buyout Davis’ remaining 50 percent share of Ski Co; silicone breast implants reported to burst due to high altitude; locals Katie Harvey and Katie McBride set women’s record at 24 Hours of Aspen for total time on skis, seven hours, one minute, nine seconds. 1994… Officer Leon Murray pulls over Aspen resident Scott Writer for skiing down Ute Avenue on a powder day; Elizabeth Paepcke dies; Ajax Tavern’s silver spoon takes over Shlomos’ greasy spoon. 1995… Johnson and Griffith don’t bother to reserve ballroom at Jerome to announce second divorce from each other; Elizabeth Paepcke featured on cover of The New York Times Magazine issue on “Lives Well Lived.” End of yet another era: parking meters installed in downtown core; lift ticket, $52; Snowmass launches ill-fated and short-lived experiment with assigning armed patrol officers to ski slopes; Wild America’s Marty Stouffer sued for cutting a trail on Aspen Center for Environmental Studies property; founding fathers Friedl Pfeifer and Fritz Benedict die. 1996… Pat O’Donnell replaces Bob Maynard as Ski Co president; Keystone announces it will allow snowboards, leaving Aspen Mountain as Colorado’s only remaining ski area to prohibit them; Ski Co says no to World Cup, announces that for the 1996-1997 season single-day lift tickets will be $33 for skiers under 17, $39 for ages 18 to 27, and $55 for all others; dogsled rides at Krabloonik, $185 adult, $120 child; Aspen realtor offers site near Hunter Creek—no limits on house size, no restrictions on accessory buildings, one wood-burning fireplace allowed, ready to build—for $6 million; May: Club 81611, Aspen’s first strip joint of the ’90s, opens; September: Club 81611 closes, managers and strippers pack bags. The Aspen Times headline: “Aspen not a good nudes town;” Aspen Skiing Company marks its 50th anniversary. 1997… The first sliver of the Highland Bowl opens with the Y Zones, Whip’s Veneration and Filip’s Leap. 1997-1998… Snowmass celebrates 30 years of skiing 1998… Construction begins on the new Highlands Village; on Snowmass, the nation’s highest lift-served ski run is renamed Rocky Mountain High, in tribute to the late John Denver. Cloud Nine Bistro debuts on Highlands with Andreas Fischbacher manning the stoves. 1999… The new Sundeck restaurant debuts on Ajax and receives LEED certification. 2000… Aspen/Snowmass voted No. 1 Resort in the U.S. by Skiing Magazine; new bowl terrain (accessed by free snowcat service) opens at Aspen Highlands; The Aspen Institute celebrates its 50th Anniversary. 2001… After 54 years as a skiers-only mountain, the trails permanently open to snowboarders as well; Ski Co is awarded the 2001 Golden Eagle Award for Overall Environmental Excellence in the Ski Industry; Highland Bowl opens all the way to the 12,300-foot summit. Roughly 18,300 people made the hike in the inaugural season; nighttime dining via snowcats begins at Gwyn’s on Snowmass and Cloud Nine on Aspen Highlands; The Ritz-Carlton Club opens at Aspen Highlands 2002… Snowmass celebrates its 35th season; Aspen Skiing Company ownership announces a partnership with Intrawest to develop a new base village at Snowmass; the ESPN Winter X Games roll into town, drawing the largest event crowds in the history of Aspen/Snowmass; local snowboarder Chris Klug captures Olympic bronze in the parallel giant slalom. 2005… The new Village Express lift and Sky Cab Gondola open in Snowmass; Hunter S. Thompson dies as dramatically as he lived in his home in Woody Creek; City Confidential’s “Aspen: Murder on the Slopes” airs featuring gads of locals, including Bob Braudis, Harley Baldwin and Claudine Longet; The Aspen Institute’s Aspen Ideas Festival debuts, gathers brainiacs from around the world. 2006… Mike Kaplan is named CEO of Aspen Ski Co 2007… Aspen/Snowmass becomes 100 percent wind-powered, new Elk Camp Gondola opens. 2008… Aspen/Snowmass receives record snowfall of more than 500 inches during the 2007-2008 season, mountains open for skiing/riding mid-June; Aspen/Snowmass named one of the top ten Best Places to Work, by Outside; the $9 million Sam’s Smokehouse opens on Snowmass Mountain; $17 million kids’ Treehouse opens at Snowmass Base Village. 2009… Viceroy Snowmass opens in the new Base Village with interior design by Jean-Michel Gathy and Kelly Wearstler. 2010… The bones of a 43,500-year-old Columbian mammoth are unearthed at Snowmass. In seven weeks, crews unearthed more than 4,500 fossils and identified 20 different vertebrate animals. The Ice Age Discovery Center opens in the Village; Aspen Ski Co goes high-tech with hands-free, radio frequencyactivated lift ticket and gate system. 2011… Tiehack Express opens on Buttermilk; artist Walter Niedermayr’s large-scale photographs entitled The Aspen Series appear around the resorts as part of a partnership with Aspen Art Museum; bottles of Veuve Clicquot pop at The Oasis, the world’s highest champagne bar; American Airlines adds nonstop flights from L.A. and Dallas. 2012… Element 47, Prospect and Chefs Club raise the bar on local hotel dining. New LEED-certified Elk Camp restaurant opens on Snowmass. Snowmass adds 230 acres of new terrain on Burnt Mountain. Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama spend President’s Day on Aspen slopes, leave the prez home. Construction begins downtown on the new 30,000-square-foot Shigeru Ban-designed Aspen Art Museum; The new Westin Snowmass and Wildwood Snowmass open after a $55 million renovation. What recession? Saudi Prince Bandar’s 96-acre compound famously sells for $49 million to Wall Street billionaire John Paulson. The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen celebrates 30 years of decadence. Whole Foods opens in El Jebel. (Aspenites venture past the roundabout for the first time.) 2013… Aspen/Snowmass once again named one of the top 10 Best Places to Work by Outside. Aspen Historical Society celebrates 50 years of chronicling our town’s colorful history. The Buddy Program celebrates 40 years of inspiring, empowering and mentoring youths. Aspen Magazine celebrates its 40th anniversary as chronicler of all things Aspen.
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