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Yearly Archives: 2012

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.

Walter Paepcke
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.

Friedl Pfeifer
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.

The Meeting
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.

Winter Words

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.

Wheeler Opera House

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.

Socrates Goes Skiing

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.

Anderson Ranch

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.

Boogie’s Diner

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.

Growing up, at least one long weekend every winter, and sometimes two – if I was lucky – my father would pack up me and my sisters and brother and take us skiing in Ludlow, Vermont. My mother hated skiing, but she was all for ski school for the four of us. Soon, though, my siblings slid over to her side on the exerting-oneself-in-the-cold front, and after an old football injury of my father’s made it impossible for him to grace the slopes with me, my skiing vacations came to a halt.

Luckily, my mother’s younger sister had moved from Princeton, New Jersey to Stowe, Vermont, and I started going up, alone, to ski the much larger mountain with my aunt and uncle. Instead of a bunk bed in a rented condominium, I got a spot on the floor next to the fire, with three large labradors for warmth. Peppermint tea thawed my hands as I waited for my aunt to put dinner together, and we would sit by the huge windows overlooking the white-covered mountains and watch it snow.

During the day, we skiied all morning and all afternoon. I relished a mountain large enough to get lost on, where all the runs were different, where we could suddenly end up somewhere completely unfamiliar. My aunt greeted lift operators by name; I felt like we were celebrities, or at the very least, part of some secret club. For lunch, we stopped at the cafeteria-style restaurant, or we drove into town to a restaurant, where I ordered buffalo chicken wings and ate with relish. Afterwards, we wandered as long as we were able in the cold, and I took in the small-town atmosphere that was so foreign to me.

My mini-vacations in Stowe always ended with an errand: picking up local maple syrup to bring home with me. I never opened it until I got home – in the mornings, we started early and had no time for pancakes before hitting the slopes – but as soon as I arrived back in New York, safe and sound, the little bottle of local syrup reminded me of afternoons skiing with my aunt and evenings playing with the dogs and watching movies under a warm blanket, while snow fell softly outside.

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