SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Shortly after local author Paul Andersen was hired to research and write a book about the history of Snowmass, he told a friend in Aspen what he was working on and received the following tongue in cheek reply: Snowmass has a history?
Well, it does. And thanks to the Herculean effort of a small team of locals, that Snowmass history springs to life in a new coffee-table book with plenty of never released photos and an amazing array of local stories, people and characters.
Britta Gustafson was born at Aspen Valley Hospital and grew up in Snowmass Village, the oldest daughter of three girls from Mary and Jim Gustafson. She attended Little Red Schoolhouse and worked as a graphics art and page layout designer for the Snowmass Sun.
Gustafson was working for the Snowmass Sun when she got the idea for a book on the history of Snowmass.
"I was working on all of these great Sun stories," she explained, "and I saw that it was great to have historical facts to go along with these stories. That's what gave me the idea for the book."
Enter Andersen, an Aspen Times columnist and historical book author. Gustafson got the town of Snowmass Village involved, and they put up some seed money to get the project off the ground by hiring Andersen to begin researching Snowmass' history.
"People love the stories about a place," said Andersen. "It gives them a connection and a depth of experience."
The author of several books on the natural history of the Roaring Fork Valley and many local individuals, Andersen likes his research to be experiential and exhaustive. But a problem with a book about Snowmass was the fact that there weren't any published books on the resort or town. By using the Aspen Historical Society archives, researching old newspapers, and conducting more than 60 interviews, Andersen has found a treasure load of Snowmass history told by the friends and families of the original homesteaders, ranchers, developers, skiers and many others.
The local team of Gustafson, Andersen, Catherine Lutz and Randy Woods have created a book that will be about 256 pages. In addition to Andersen's writing and Gustafson's layout and design, Lutz has served as editor and assisted with photo researching, and Woods has been organizing captain and fundraiser. Photos comprise approximately 40 percent of the book, while 60 percent is text and stories. The book will utilize the latest in green technology, and they will be printed on recycled paper with water-based coatings and soy-based ink. The team expects to have the book published in Colorado sometime in 2013.
While the historical photos are amazing (with many of them never seen by the general public), the stories are equally entertaining.
You will learn about the immigrant ranching families like the Christensens, the Kearns, and the Andersons, who lived here in isolation during the '40s and '50s. You will read how Bill Janss discovered Snowmass, silently bought up many of the ranches in the area through an agent, and then built the Snowmass ski area and its base of operations at the Snowmass Mall in one unbelievable year. You will hear how Stein Eriksen skied down Fanny Hill, flew through the air and smashed through a hoop covered with paper to open the Snowmass ski area in 1967. And you will learn about the establishment of Anderson Ranch Arts Center and the growing development of Snowmass Village as a town.
The story of Snowmass begins with history, and it still continues to make history. A favorite story of Andersen's has to do with the discovery of the mammoth bones.
Peter Ziegler bought his ranch from Art Roberts, one of the old homestead ranching offspring. Riding the property on horses, Roberts pointed out a small slope on the property and suggested to Ziegler that he have Johnny Hyrup bulldoze it out to make a little pond. The Zieglers followed that advice and that eventually led to the Snowmass Water and Sanitation deciding that the Ziegler Pond would be a good place for additional raw water storage and a reservoir in Snowmass. The bones were discovered during that excavation and the rest is ... history.
"You have to know where to dig to find real treasures," said Andersen. "For me, those treasures are a human connection to the past. That is the real value for me."
The Snowmass book project is still raising final funds for printing. If you wish to donate any amount, please contact Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-379-5356. Advance sales will be available at the Thanksgiving Community Potluck dinner on Nov. 18.