ASPEN - Longtime Aspen-area resident Peter Greene, who moved to town after training as a U.S. Army ski trooper at Camp Hale in the mid-1950s, died Monday after an incident on Aspen Mountain on Sunday.
Greene, 77, was skiing with family members shortly before 12:30 p.m. Sunday when he fell on the flats just above the bottom terminal of the Ajax Express chairlift, Mark Williams, his son-in-law, said Tuesday. Greene suffered fractures in his neck and succumbed to his injuries at Swedish Medical Center in Denver on Monday afternoon.
It is uncertain if Greene fell while skiing or if he collapsed for an unknown reason before hitting the snow, according to Williams. "It's possible he took a header in the flats," he said.
The Aspen Skiing Co. said in a statement that eyewitnesses saw Greene collapse while skiing. Two nearby ski instructors started administering CPR.
"Ski patrol responded immediately and took over advanced life-saving measures," the Skico statement said. "Greene had no pulse and no respiration when they arrived. Patrol continued the measures as they transported Greene down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. They were able to establish a pulse by the time they reached the ambulance. Greene was then loaded and transported to Aspen Valley Hospital."
Tests at AVH found no evidence of a heart attack or stroke but discovered the neck fractures, Williams said. An ambulance transported Greene from Aspen to the Eagle County Airport late Sunday or early Monday, Williams said, then he was flown to the Denver hospital.
Greene was remembered Tuesday for making numerous contributions to Aspen - including making a lot of people laugh.
"It's really hard to lose a friend like that," said Jack Brendlinger, who met Greene in the early 1960s. "He was fun to be around all the time."
Brendlinger recalled Greene and Dr. Jay Baxter making a late-night visit on their motorcycles to the new house he built years ago at West Buttermilk. The visitors rode their motorcycles into the house, to the chagrin of Brendlinger and his wife, Marsha. Greene peeled out at one point and tore a hole in the new carpet and rammed a wall.
The next morning Greene called Brendlinger and asked, "Did I really do what I think I did?" Brendlinger responded that he did, indeed. Greene's response was, "How am I going to explain this to my insurance agent?" Brendlinger recalled with a chuckle.
Greene's circle of friends included the late Ken Sterling, who was "the master at practical jokes," Brendlinger said. "Everybody had to get even."
Greene was among the best at getting even. Brendlinger recalled that once, while he and Marsha were living in Aspen, he left his Jeep running while he went into his house to collect the baby-sitter and give her a ride home. Greene commandeered his Jeep and hid it down the street a ways. Brendlinger eventually found it and retaliated by plowing 8 feet of snow in front of the door of the house of Peter and his wife, Mary Ann.
Greene delighted in being "mischievous," Brendlinger said, and he had a distinctive "giggle" when his merry-making was at its best.
"I never met anyone who didn't like Peter Greene," Brendlinger said.
Greene was married to Mary Ann for 49 years. They have two children, Jon-Eric and Katy Greene-Williams.
Mark Williams confirmed his father-in-law's love of a good prank. He reveled in disrupting the honeymoons of his family members, Williams recalled.
Greene was born in Holland on May 15, 1933, and moved with his family as a baby to the United States. Greene was raised in New York and Connecticut.
Greene trained at Camp Hale near Leadville during winters in 1956-58 with the Mountain Cold Weather Training Command, which was known as the second generation of U.S. ski troops after the famed 10th Mountain Division. Greene was proud of serving with the outfit and organized a 50th reunion for the troops in Aspen in March 2007.
Charlie Paterson, a longtime Aspenite, was leaving the Mountain Cold Weather Training Command as Greene was entering. They had lots of mutual friends and became good friends themselves. Greene was always happy and optimistic, he said.
Paterson and Greene wore uniforms from their ski trooper days while riding in the back of a pickup during Aspen's Fourth of July parade this year.
After his military service, Greene moved to Aspen in 1958 and worked as a maître d' at The Red Onion. He was also a ski instructor at Aspen Highlands during his first years in town. In 1961, he bought the Golden Horn restaurant, one of Aspen's legendary hangouts.
In a December 2007 Aspen Times article by Christin Cooper on the history of the Roch Cup ski race, Greene recalled the community spirit behind putting on the races and supporting the U.S. team.
"If it snowed, the whole town showed up," Greene told Cooper. "It was a super community effort. We didn't have grooming equipment or a paid race department. We just went and did it. Then we all gave $25 or $50 at the end of the week to send kids to Europe."
Brendlinger said Greene was a leader rather than a follower, so he got involved in lots of efforts to promote Aspen. He called Greene one of modern Aspen's "true pioneers" even though he didn't arrive in town until 1958. He helped build a successful resort.
Greene expanded his entrepreneurial spirit in 1964 by co-founding and operating the Cork and Cleaver national steakhouse chain. They opened 70-some restaurants across the country, and Greene, a pilot, regularly flew to sites and potential sites as part of his job. The chain was sold to Chart House Inc. in the late 1970s, Brendlinger recalled.
The Greenes also helped their friend, the late Bonnie Brucker Rayburn, establish and operate Bonnie's restaurant on Aspen Mountain after they secured the lease from the Skico in 1980.
Greene also owned a building in Boulder and ran a restaurant there called Pedro Verde for a time.
Greene entered into real estate later in his career, working with Mason Morse from 1993-2003 and developing a Carbondale-area subdivision called Los Adobes, where he and Mary Ann made their home. Brendlinger said he believes his friend's true passion remained in the restaurant business. He was a "restaurateur's restaurateur," he said.
Outside of business, Greene was an avid skier and bicyclist. He regularly participated in fun rides and races throughout his life. Williams said his father-in-law loved the outdoors and everything Aspen had to offer.
"The community really became his family," Williams said.
The Skico extended its condolences to Greene's friends and family in its statement. "His spirit and love of the sport will be missed," the statement said.