A heart of gold lies beneath Aspen’s glittery exterior, but most people are too busy celebrity watching to notice. The story of Aspen is a story of the dreams of two men fulfilled: Walter Paepcke and Friedl Pfeifer. Working together, these innovators took a small Colorado town and turned it into a destination not only for winter sports, but for year-round culture as well.
In 1945, industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth envisioned a cultural center in a mountain environment. His wife, Elizabeth, was an avid skier, and suggested the heart of the Aspen Valley. The mountain setting was perfect, and so was the existing architecture. During the 1880s, Jerome Wheeler, a former Macy’s executive, had built the Jerome Wheeler Opera House and the Wheeler Hotel. The Paepckes saw the obvious potential of a theater, an existing culture-oriented group of locals and vistors, and a hotel within a spectacular mountain environment. They began purchasing real estate in the area, with hopes of fulfilling their dreams.
During World War II, Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division helped fight the Germans. Their skis were their only form of transport. Ski instructor Friedl Pfeifer went against his Austrian heritage and fought along with the 10th Mountain Division. When the war ended, he decided that he wanted to stay in the US and open his own ski resort. He hoped to finance the resort with the help of mining engineer Harold Klock, but when they were unable to raise funds, Pfeifer arranged a meeting with Paepcke.
These two ambitious men met in 1945 and struck a deal. In exchange for his help in raising $300,000 in start-up funds, Pfeifer agreed to let Paepck run the resort. The Aspen Skiing Corporation was founded in January of 1946. Today, Aspen is a playground for both the mind and the body. Make the most of your Aspen vacation and participate in both aspects of the Aspen experience. Here are some of the ideas that developed.
Many bartenders are also part time writers (though they probably think of themselves as part-time bartenders…), but few have the advantages of Aspen bartender Kurt Brown. Brown used his elite connections to create the the first Aspen Writer’s Workshop. He convinced Aspen locals to put literati mentors up in their elegant homes, and he persuaded local restaurants to donate free meals to these stars of the literary world. People arrived from all parts of the globe to spend two weeks studying with their favorite authors. If you are not ready to make a full, two-week commitment, consider Winter Words, known as “Apres Ski for the Mind.”
The event takes place every winter season, and features a series of lectures by well-known authors. This year’s line-up includes Ann Patchett, Kathryn Stockett, Geraldine Brooks, Michael Chabon and others. The Wheeler Opera House, in its splendid Victorian glory, hosts the readings.
Who says you have to choose between a skiing and theater on vacation? You can have both at Aspen. The Wheeler Opera House, established in 1892 by Macy’s Department Store magnate Jerome Wheeler, hosts theatrical, dance and musical performances. Events for 2012 include performances by Judy Collins, Kim Carnes and the David Bromberg Quartet.
Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke founded the Aspen Institute in the 1950s, as a means of promoting intelligent discourse about political and social issues. Panel members use the Socratic Method of dialectics to analyze issues of importance to humankind. Participants receive a discount lift ticket.The program administrators describe their program as being geared toward “emerging leaders ages 28 to 45.” The program is open to anyone interested in the subject matter, and the Institute arranges special activities for children. The Aspen Institute is located at 1000 North Third Street in Aspen.
The Anderson Ranch features an artist in residence program, along with an eclectic variety of painting, drawing, sculpting and crafts workshops. The Ranch holds special exhibitions throughout the season.
Not every Aspen restaurant requires expensive evening attire. Boogie’s Diner is a classic 50s diner, with photos of Elvis and other 50s icons on the wall. They serve the best hot open turkey sandwiches, milk shakes and burgers. Fun fact: Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass,” the character portrayed by Mickey Rourke in the movie Diner, owns Boogie’s Diner!
Plato spoke of a sound body and a sound mind. These words describe the Aspen experience in a nutshell.