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Longevity Project: Aspen panelists highlight what longevity means to them at soldout event

The noun “longevity” has two definitions: The first is “a long duration of individual life” or “length of life”; the second is “long continuance.”

But for five Aspen locals, the definition of longevity is more nuanced than what a dictionary implies.

Alex Ferreira, X Games and 2018 Winter Olympics freeskier and medalist, said longevity for him means being able to ski until he’s 100.

Christy Mahon, one of the most accomplished ski mountaineers in the state, said the word means taking care of herself and morphing her lifestyle to what gives back to her heart, soul and body. And orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tomas Pevny said it means knowing his limitations and embracing the wisdom that comes with living a long, prosperous life.

For the five panelists who talked about their life experiences in Aspen and beyond Tuesday night for The Aspen Times’ Longevity Project event, chasing longevity had its nuances for each and some universal ties.

“It’s so exciting to be in a town that’s constantly active,” Mahon said of how living in Aspen impacts her lifestyle. “We motivate each other and seeing what’s being done by others is just contagious.”

On the fifth floor of the Mountain Chalet, a sold-out crowd of roughly 125 people listened as moderator Penn Newhard, founder of the Carbondale-based Backbone Media company, asked the panelists about what motivates and challenges each of them in their everyday lives.

Most of the panelists expressed their love of the mountains and the Aspen area’s active, adventurous culture as empowering and difficult. All highlighted camaraderie and community as their keys to success.

“Connection is so vital to our longevity and when we don’t have it, we struggle,” panelist and mental health professional Christina King said. “There is a lot of individualism and competition in this valley. I think we get distracted by that sometimes and forget to wrap our arms around each other, too.”

Mountain Rescue Aspen member and avalanche educator Greg Shaffran expressed similar thoughts, noting that the backcountry rescue and mountain safety nonprofit couldn’t operate without its dedicated team.

“As individuals we’re OK,” Shaffran said, “but as a group we can combine and do some really amazing things.”

After roughly 45 minutes of discussion and an inspiring video featuring 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer — the German native and longtime Aspen local known for his positive spirit and for helping revolutionize the ski industry — the panel concluded and National Geographic adventurer Mike Libecki took the stage. Overall, the speakers highlighted the importance of self-care and creating meaningful connections with others as key determinants of a long, prosperous life.

“We all want to be like Klaus. It’s a good way to live,” Shaffran said of chasing longevity. “I think finding diversity in your life sets you up for success down the road … but I also think longevity is about what you are able to leave and what kind of effect you can have on other people.”


Having your ‘Klaus Obermeyer moment’ is an experience of a lifetime (VIDEO)

When you live in Aspen, eventually you get to have your Klaus moment. Mine came two years, seven months and five days after moving to this gem of a place.

Putting together our monthlong series on life and living in the mountains — Longevity Project: Elevate Your Life ­— it is a no-brainer, I said, that we have to ask Klaus Obermeyer his take.

I was fortunate in my 30-year sports journalism career (before moving to the news side and an editor role) to interview a number of all-stars, hall of famers and Olympians. I covered all the major all-star games as well as Super Bowls, World Series, Stanley Cups and NCAA tournaments of every kind.

But I have to admit the days before when I was working on my list of Klaus questions, I was a little anxious.

Wanting to be respectful of his time, and knowing he’s done just short of a gazillion interviews about “how do you stay so young,” I was really trying to keep my questions concise, on point and as fresh as possible.

As soon as we set up in his office and got the camera and questions rolling, Klaus answered each query with his trademark gusto and energy. His thoughtful responses on a range of topics kept us going for nearly an hour.

We wrapped up with Klaus showing me the focus needed in aikido, a Japanese martial arts he practices every day. Never would I have thought when I walked into his office that before I left the 99-year-old Klaus would be trying to pull down on my arm while I was putting my energy and focus into keeping it taunt.

Part of my interview with Klaus will be shown at Tuesday night’s Longevity Project event at the Mountain Chalet. After that, we’ll post the video online.

The rest of the interview, which includes Klaus’ life growing up in southern Germany near Austria before moving to the U.S. in the late 1940s and how he started Obermeyer with $10,000 he borrowed from a Basalt potato farmer, we’ll use for stories as Klaus celebrates his 100th birthday in December.

Now that we’ve meet in his office, I can only hope that we meet up on the mountain and I get to follow him down the hill. I know there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with him, but it will be a privilege to try.


WineInk: Charles Bieler’s Rosé Road Trip

Wine entrepreneur Charles Bieler planned on making a final left turn in his pink 1966 Cadillac de Ville onto Aspen’s Main Street on the eve of the Food & Wine Classic. The turn would complete his grueling 60-day, 3,000-plus mile “Rosé Road Trip” across America and coincide with the Classic’s opening.

Alas, while Charles will still make that turn, it took a sad early-June twist in Detroit when the beloved drop-top Caddy went up in flames in the town of its birth over a half-century ago. A faulty fuel filter totaled the car.

Despite the carnage, Bieler will still be celebrating the culmination of his trip as well as the first two decades of a career as one of America’s most innovative wine producers and marketers. He will simply make the turn into Aspen in a Winnebago rather than the pink Cadillac.

The 43-year-old Bieler has masterfully ridden a 21st-century wave that has been marked by enormous changes in the way consumers — especially younger consumers — think about and purchase wines. As a “value warrior” he has put fine wines in jugs, pioneered the use of “to-go” box wines with his Bandit brand and showcased the beauty of Washington wines with winemaker Charles Smith and their Charles & Charles label. He has also created a mezcal brand, Sombra, with former Aspen Master Sommelier Richard Betts, and been a force in the “Wine on Tap” movement as a co-founder of the Gotham Project.

A pretty full glass indeed.

But his greatest contribution to wine in America undoubtedly has come as a passionate pioneer of the rosé movement. Long before the now-ubiquitous pink wines came into fashion, Bieler was on the road selling — from the back of a pink Cadillac — rosé to an industry and a public that was simply not buying the notion that pink was cool. Or delicious for that matter. An argument can be made that Bieler, and the rosé wines that he has spawned, have been the catalyst for what has become the fastest growing category of wine sales among American consumers.

We are live from an opening party at the #fwclassic with Aspen Times wine guru Kelly Hayes and OG rosé wrangler Charles Bieler. They are talking Bieler’s Rosé Road Trip (https://www.bielerwines.com/rose-tour-20th-anniversary/), the growing popularity of rosé and more!

Posted by The Aspen Times on Thursday, June 13, 2019

“In 1998 I was a Nordic skier at CU, trying to make a decision whether to stay on that path,” Bieler said in a phone interview as he cruised down a highway somewhere between Schenectady and Rochester, New York. “I had some injuries and was not sure it was possible. I was a senior and I got a call from my father, Philippe, asking for some help. He had purchased a winery in Provence, France (Chateau Routas), that made this exceptional dry rosé but no one was buying the wine.”

At the time, the only experience most American wine drinkers had with frowned-upon pink wines was the insipid pink zinfandel that was sold in bulk.

“So I thought about it a bit, put on my P.T. Barnum hat, went on eBay and found a ’65 de Ville. I bought three vintage pink suits, put some Routas in the car and hit the road. I had no idea about the wine business and had no idea how hard it would be to sell these wines,” he recalled with a laugh. With no distributor or wholesaler, most of Bieler’s calls were cold. “I would sell a case and it was a huge deal, but I would tell the buyer, ‘If it doesn’t sell I’ll buy it back.’ And we did have to buy some cases back.”

For three years, and with many breakdowns, Bieler plied the roadways of America selling rosé. But he was also learning about the business and discovered that he could have a go at the wine world. Perhaps because his inexperience offered him a blank slate, he began to formulate ideas that were outside the norm for what had previously been a pretty staid industry.

The Bielers sold Chateau Routas in 2005, but launched a new Provence rosé that year under the Bieler Pere et Fils (father and son) moniker that has been a sensational success. Beiler also makes rosé in America under the Charles & Charles and Bieler Family wines labels.

This year on April 15, Beiler filled up a new-to-him pink Cadillac de Ville in Seattle and hit the road for a 20th anniversary tour to pour wines for a country that has now embraced his pink vision. This odyssey has been quite different than the one he undertook two decades ago.

“This time we are booked everywhere we stopped,” he said. “We average five appointments per day and get started at 7:30 and don’t end up until after 8 or so each night. I haven’t spent more than five hours a night sleeping this whole trip.” And at each stop he finds those who have been converted to the Church of Rosé.

The trip began with a cruise down the West Coast, took a left turn across the southland through Texas and Louisiana and eventually Florida, before heading up the eastern seaboard. Highlights include a number of Stanley Cup playoff tilts (he’s a huge hockey fan) and a 7:30 a.m. gathering in the heat of the morning at Sam’s Po’ Boys in Metairie, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans.

“We met three big restaurant owners for breakfast and ended up breaking out the Sombra,” he recalled with a laugh.

The final leg in the de Ville, before the calamitous fire, was scheduled to run west across America to Aspen, a place where the New York City resident once lived and now spends a month or more each year. “I went to the CRMS as a senior in high school and Aspen is still my favorite place. I have rented a house here and will be in Aspen for most of the summer.”

Bieler’s sojourn left him with strong impressions of the land he traversed, largely top-down. “You know there is so much negative press out there but I feel great about America. I felt this car (the Caddy) just made people so happy everywhere we went. And when people are happy they let their guard down and just open up.”

RIP, pink Cadillac.

A month after closing day, party returns to Aspen Mountain for weekend

Despite June standing on the doorstep, it remains very much winter at the top of Aspen Mountain. Between hidden powder stashes and the raging Sundeck party that was Saturday, it’s like closing day never ended even if it took place more than a month ago.

“There were a lot of people up there,” Aspen’s Jack Belcaster said. “The upper mountain is still very nice. Bit of a line, but you get through it pretty quickly and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves. Can’t go better for Memorial Day.”

With conditions still so prime — the reported 66-inch base is actually larger than the 60-inch base that existed on the April 21 closing day — Aspen Skiing Co. opened the upper portion of Ajax for skiing and riding for three days this weekend, beginning Saturday and going through Memorial Day on Monday.

The last time Aspen Mountain was open for Memorial Day weekend was 2017 — with around 130 acres available — that being the sixth time since 2008 it was possible. Lack of snow and warm spring weather made that impossible in 2018.

The mountain received 16 inches of new snow over roughly this past week, with a few more snowflakes still possible, leading to more winter-like skiing conditions than the spring slush usually found this time of year.

“We had snow, what, two days ago? And you can feel that,” Aspen’s Alex Swecker said. “It gets a little sticky, but it’s great. It was a beautiful day.”

According to www.onthesnow.com, Aspen Mountain is one of four ski areas open this weekend in Colorado, the others being Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge and Purgatory. Breckenridge recently announced it had extended its season to weekends through June 9, while A-Basin will remain open until at least the weekend of June 14-16.

THE DROP-IN: Aspen Mountain Bonus Days

It's not over yet! Skiing continues on Aspen mountain as temperatures and spirits soar. Check out Saturday's Drop-In to get the scoop on conditions, crowds, and fun.

Posted by The Aspen Times on Saturday, May 25, 2019

There are 130 acres available for play this weekend in Aspen, centered on the Ajax Express chairlift. Officially speaking, there is no top-to-bottom skiing and everyone is asked to download on the Silver Queen Gondola.

However, ski town culture wasn’t necessarily created by people following the rules. Swecker was among more than a handful of diehards who opted to take the hard way down, which included a bit of hiking and rock hopping as they took Aspen Mountain’s full 3,200-foot, top-to-bottom route to the base.

“Saw a bunch of other people doing it from the gondola on my way up and I just don’t like taking the gondola down,” Swecker said. “It’s a little muddy. I tried to ride through the grass with my board, but that didn’t work out as well as I hoped.”

Saturday was a warm, sunny bluebird day on the mountain, and Sunday is expected to be the same. However, rain and snow could return to the area on Monday.

“You can definitely tell it’s getting a little patchy in places, but for the most part it’s still really good skiing this late in the season,” Belcaster said.

Ajax Express will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and Monday. The gondola will operate until 4 p.m. for downloading and non-skiers. The Sundeck Restaurant will be open for food and beverages from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Summer operations also are underway on Aspen Mountain so sightseeing tickets will be available for $27 per day or $32 for the entire weekend.

For skiing and riding, anyone who had a premier pass last season can ski free. Any child 3 and younger gets a free ticket. Children 6 and younger who were passholders last season also ski free.

LIVE: Reopening day at Aspen Mountain for skiing on top of Ajax for #MemorialDayWeekend . We are hanging out at Silver Queen Gondola for first chairs!

Posted by The Aspen Times on Saturday, May 25, 2019

Other passholders from the 2018-19 season will pay $27 for a lift ticket for skiing.

The ticket price is $54 for people who weren’t passholders last season.

Anyone wanting to attend the celebration of life memorial Monday for Aspen’s Sam Coffey can ride the gondola for free. Coffey, a well-known local skier, died last week while vacationing in Mexico. The event is expected to start at 11 a.m. Monday on Richmond Ridge, just up from the gondola building.


Blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer tackles Aspen’s Highland Bowl

A visiting skier from Golden hoofed it up Highland Bowl in about 40 minutes on a partly cloudy April afternoon, took a breather at the 12,393-foot summit, clicked into his skis and then carefully picked his way down the steep slope.

Nothing about the hike or descent was remarkable — until you factor in that the skier is blind.

Erik Weihenmayer is world-renowned for his adventures. Tackling the Bowl is far from his most audacious feat. He captured international attention in May 2001 when he became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He has an impressive climbing resume including the Seven Summits. He has solo kayaked the Grand Canyon, an accomplishment depicted in the documentary “The Weight of Water,” screening at 5Point Adventure Film Festival in Carbondale on April 28.

“People think that because I do things and I’m blind, I’m a daredevil and I’m really not,” Weihenmayer said. “I’m not a daredevil at all.”

For many people he is an inspiration, whether they have sight or not. There weren’t a lot of people hiking the Bowl when Weihenmayer tackled it April 9. But when they realized they were passing a blind dude, nearly all of them spoke words of encouragement or praise, took a photo with their smartphones or both.

Weihenmayer, who lost his vision to retinoschisis as a teenager, is an avid skier at Colorado resorts. He first hiked and skied the Bowl about five years ago at the suggestion — insistence really — of his friend and guide Rob Leavitt of Basalt. Leavitt has been an instructor for Aspen Skiing Co. for 30 years and guides regularly for Challenge Aspen, which works to get handicapped people on the slopes and into the outdoors. The two men were paired 20-some years ago at Snowmass through a Challenge Aspen program and have skied together ever since.

Leavitt said he used to be wiped out by their skiing sessions because guiding a blind person can be extremely stressful.

“But now we work fairly well together so it’s really more of a normal ski day for me rather than a grueling work day with the blind guy,” Leavitt said. “We’ve gotten into a really nice rhythm.”

As Weihenmayer tells it, Leavitt suddenly and surprisingly decided five seasons ago it was time they tackled the Bowl. “He said, ‘I think you’re ready.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready, let’s talk about this more.’ And (Rob) was like, ‘No, you’re ready.’”

The hike features a 782-foot vertical rise with nearly constant exposure on steep ski slopes to the hiker’s left and a couple of sheer drop-offs to out-of-bounds terrain to the right. Skiers and snowboarders take off their boards, attach them to packs or slings and trudge their way up the slope. Footholds are typically kicked into the ridge’s snow for all but the trailblazers to utilize.

Imagine finding those footholds and not straying off course with your eyes closed. It’s a frightening prospect. Then consider reaching the summit in a very respectable 40 minutes while doing so.

“I was cautious because it’s so narrow there,” Weihenmayer said, referring to nearly all of the ascent terrain. “It’s good to know the consequences. On the left, I kept tapping my pole to know where the edge is.

“I wouldn’t say I was nervous but a fall would be a bad consequence there, I keep hearing.”

A reporter along for the trip was recruited into service as “Tinkerbell” — strapping a bear bell around a hand and constantly shaking it so Weihenmayer knew which direction he was headed. Weihenmayer was second in line. Leavitt was behind, providing guidance such as, “You really want to avoid the left side right now.”

Skyler Williams, the business manager for Touch the Top, Weihenmayer’s business venture, shot video of the journey along with Aspen Times photographer Anna Stonehouse.

Blind skier and adventurer Erik Weihenmayer hikes Highland Bowl with blind skier guide Rob Leavitt assisting with direction on April 9.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times
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Weihenmayer shaved about 5 minutes off his Bowl hike time compared with the previous day.

“Yesterday I was huffing a little bit — a lot, actually,” he said. Acclimating for a day and night worked wonders.

Once at the summit, Weihenmayer soaked in the experience almost like a sighted person — feeling the wind in his hair, feeling the sunlight hit his face, shooting the breeze with others at the summit. After a quick breather, it was time to ski down.

“He’s climbed Everest so I knew hiking up wasn’t going to be a problem, so my job is to get him down,” Leavitt said.

They have skied enough together that Leavitt doesn’t have to worry so much about Erik spilling and sliding down the wickedly steep slope. They can focus on making his style look “pretty and efficient,” Leavitt said.

They have developed a unique system. Most visually impaired skiers are guided from behind. That way, the guide can keep an eye on the student and the terrain ahead. Leavitt, however, stays ahead of Weihenmayer.

“By guiding from the front, the skier is skiing toward the voice,” Leavitt explained. “It just puts them in a more forward, athletic position better for skiing.”

It’s also more challenging for the guide because they must swivel their head, constantly looking at the terrain in front, the skier behind and approaching skiers. The nice thing about the Bowl, Leavitt said, is there are no trees and relatively few other skiers.

Leavitt has a microphone with a speaker in a pack around his waist. He constantly provides commands so Weihenmayer knows where he is and knows what to do. Erik links several turns at a time until they take a breather.

Weihenmayer said he listens to the sound Leavitt’s skis make to get a feel for the terrain.

“I can hear him kind of drop off into space and go, oh, he’s in a steep spot,” Weihenmayer said.

Speaking of space, skiing the steep slopes of the Bowl gives Weihenmayer a celestial sensation.

“On groomers, you don’t get that feeling of dropping into space on every turn,” he said. “So for me, I’d say it’s a pretty unique experience. That’s kind of a hard thing as a blind guy, that when you let go into space, you’re going to come around, ya know?”

Weihenmayer tackled the steep part of the Bowl like the true athlete he is. Leavitt guided him down the ridge to the North Woods then curled into the terrain at the G4 and G5 paths in Highland Bowl. The steepest pitch in that terrain is 40 degrees. The average pitches are 36 to 37 degrees. The snow texture was delightfully chalky on the steep slopes, more slushy down below.

Blind skier and adventurer Erik Weihenmayer skis down Highland Bowl with blind skier guide Rob Leavitt assisting with direction on April 9.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times
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The mogul fields on the run-out to the Deep Temerity chairlift provided more of a challenge because of their unpredictable peaks and troughs. Weihenmayer had a couple of minor spills. The only time he had any physical contact with a guide on the hike or descent was when he was locating his skis at the summit.

It was an awe-inspiring accomplishment to witness.

Weihenmayer has an interesting perspective on his quests for adventure.

“Look, life’s about what you choose to pursue,” he said. “This is what I choose to pursue. I have friends that are blind and they’re head of procurement for Sam’s Club. I look at that and say, ‘How in the world do you do that? How do you look at a spreadsheet when you’re blind?’

“It’s just sort of what you commit to and what you spend a lot of your time pursuing.”

Weihenmayer isn’t solely an adrenaline junkie. He is an author, co-producer of films, and a highly sought motivational speaker. He also is a husband and a father to two children. His income from his speaking engagements and other business ventures goes to No Barriers, a nonprofit he co-founded in 2005. No Barriers works with people with physical and emotional challenges — everyone from U.S. military veterans to kids in the foster care system.

“Sometimes traumatic things can either put a crust around you or kind of remove you in a way from life where you’re looking at your life through a window; you’re experiencing it and it’s once removed,” Weihenmayer said. “Fear kind of holds you back, too — kind of gets you in that window where you’re looking at your life and say, ‘How do I break through all the stuff and sort of make an attempt to live in some way?’”


Shining Mountains Powwow

The Shining Mountains Powwow was something not to be missed last night at the Aspen High School. The Ute Foundation held Aspen’s first-ever powwow which was a nine-hour affair, complete with intertribal dancers, dignitaries and royalty from regional tribes, contest dancing and drumming, as well as cultural booths, arts and crafts, storytelling and indigenous vendors. Here is a short video recap created by Anna Stonehouse for you to enjoy.

Former Marine, amputee finds new life, skiing career at sports clinic in Snowmass (video)

George Kellogg had a choice. He could easily have let his injury get the best of him, part of a string of unlucky and self-inflicted issues he was dealing with.

Instead, he decided to climb that mountain — at times, literally — and make the most of his situation.

“This chairlift is going to keep on going without me or with me,” Kellogg said. “I can either sit at the bottom of the mountain and cry over a beer, or I can ski down it.”

Nearly seven years after his accident, the Texas native has gotten pretty good at the skiing down part. This is especially impressive considering he only has one good leg to do it on.

Kellogg, who now lives in Granby, is a former Marine and fourth-year participant in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, held the past 18 years in Snowmass Village. Hosted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans, it’s the largest rehabilitation program of its kind in the world. More than 400 disabled veterans took part in this year’s programming, which wraps up Friday.

“This is the best thing, I think, the VA has to offer,” Kellogg said Wednesday from Snowmass. “If you do this right and you take this program as it’s suppose to come, it will change your life. And it can be used as a spring board, a launching, to go somewhere else.”

As unique as Kellogg’s journey has been, it’s also similar to so many of the veterans who have spent the past week skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, scuba diving and taking archery lessons as part of the sports clinic. Currently 28, Kellogg had two stints in the military and was awarded two Purple Hearts during his service. During his first tour as part of the Afghanistan War, he was in a tactical vehicle that ran into an explosive that left him thankful to be alive.

This experience, and the rehab required, led to an opioid addiction. After turning to marijuana to help the pain, he was tested positive for THC less than two months into his second deployment and was discharged from the Marine Corps.

He left the military in June 2012. In September of that same year, while riding his motorcycle on a highway in Houston, he was hit by a vehicle. The accident took his left leg and forever changed his life.

“The tagline for the Winter Sports Clinic is ‘Miracles on the Mountain,’ and that’s absolutely true,” said Paul Dowsett, a ski and snowboard instructor from Canada. “We’ve seen so many transformative moments for so many veterans. George is just kind of the poster child.”

Dowsett has worked with Kellogg all four of his years at the sports clinic in Snowmass. A passionate skateboarder before losing his leg, Kellogg first found snowboarding as a suitable replacement, but didn’t enjoy using his prosthetic leg in that fashion. So, Dowsett suggested three-track skiing, which is essentially one-legged skiing with the aid of two outriggers for stabilization and turning. As it turned out, Kellogg had a hidden talent he was unaware of.

“It’s great therapy. It’s really hard, and that’s what makes it great,” Kellogg said of three-track skiing. “I skateboarded throughout the Marine Corp. I even took a skateboard to Afghanistan. Once I lost that, there was a big hole in my life.”

Skiing has filled that void, and it’s become more than a hobby. Somewhat coincidentally, Dowsett also instructed three-time Paralympian Melanie Schwartz back in the day. Schwartz, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, also is a three-track skier. She currently lives in Aspen and has trained with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.

Kellogg blames her for much of his newfound hunger to become a Paralympian himself. He now trains with the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, where he is making a push as a professional skier.

“She is the one who kind of sent me on the path, said it is not impossible,” Kellogg said of Schwartz. “I was living on a sailboat. I was planning on doing a circumnavigation. My boat hasn’t left the dock since the last Winter Sports Clinic. In fact, I’ve only been back to Texas for seven days since then.”

Kellogg said, in some ways, losing his leg also saved his life. He was headed down a dark road, but was forced to confront his own personal demons and now has a quickly evolving career as a ski racer ahead of him.

Dowsett and Kellogg stay in touch after the clinic ends each year. Kellogg credits his instructor as much as Schwartz, if not more so, for steering him toward a professional skiing career. And Dowsett believes Kellogg has a chance at success, simply because of his positive attitude and willingness to push on.

“George is one of the most coachable people I’ve ever met,” Dowsett said. “When you give George clear instructions of what you want him to do, when George trusts you he will do exactly what you’ve asked him to do. As a coach, there is nothing better.”


Evidence represents Ted Bundy’s time in the Roaring Fork Valley

For a guy who never lived here, Ted Bundy certainly made a mark on Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.

He kidnapped and brutally murdered a Michigan nurse from a Snowmass Village hotel in January 1975, then jumped out of a second-story window at the Pitkin County Courthouse in July 1977 during a court recess after he’d been extradited to Aspen to face charges in the woman’s death, and was on the lam for eight days.

Finally, Bundy escaped from the Garfield County Jail in Glenwood Springs on Dec. 31, 1977, after removing a light fixture from the roof of his cell, squeezing through the small hole and vanishing into the night. He never returned to Colorado.

During his months in Glenwood Springs and Aspen in 1977, Bundy — who acted as his own attorney — and prosecutors with the 9th Judicial District were preparing to go to trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell, who was abducted from the Wildwood Inn in Snowmass Village. The trial never happened because of his Glenwood escape and subsequent execution in Florida in January 1989 for three murders he committed in that state.

Ever since Bundy escaped Colorado for good, however, the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has been holding on to nine boxes of evidence and other documents related to the Bundy trial that never was. The boxes have been sitting in a closet in the DA offices at the Garfield County Courthouse and are occasionally perused by journalists and others interested in the notorious serial killer, who confessed to killing more than 50 women.

“There’s been a significant amount of interest (in Bundy) recently because of the (30th) anniversary of his death,” said Jeff Fain, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.

The DA’s Office is in the process of digitizing all of the materials, most of which are mundane legal documents or minutia related to the investigation into Campbell’s death. But there are several items tucked in among the boxes — including physical evidence that may at some point be returned to authorities in Salt Lake City — that stick out as particularly interesting artifacts of Bundy’s time in the Roaring Fork Valley and the murder he committed here.

Included in those artifacts is a crowbar later found to contain blood and a Colorado Ski Country guide from the 1974-75 ski season that was found in Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment that tied him directly to the Snowmass Village murder.


Campbell, 24, disappeared Jan. 12 after going to her room at the Wildwood Inn to retrieve a magazine she was going to read in the lobby with her fiancé and friends. A witness reported seeing her get off the elevator on the hotel’s second floor, but she was never seen alive again. The magazine and all her belongings were later found in her room.

Campbell’s nude body was discovered five weeks later Feb. 17 along Owl Creek Road as it drops down from Sinclair Divide into Snowmass Village. Her body had been buried under snow for much of that period and had been disfigured by animals. She suffered blows to the back of the head, appeared to have had her hands bound behind her and was likely thrown from a car, according to an Aspen Times article from Nov. 6, 1975. Examiners could find no evidence that she was sexually assaulted, according to a letter in the boxes of Bundy documents from then-Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast to Campbell’s brother.

Meanwhile, Bundy was convicted of aggravated kidnapping in March 1976 in Salt Lake City for trying to handcuff and abduct a woman there in November 1974. He was sentenced to between one and 15 years in the Utah Penitentiary for the crime, then was extradited to Aspen to face charges connected to Campbell’s murder.

Bundy denied killing Campbell and told The Aspen Times in an Aug. 4, 1977, feature headlined “Who is Ted Bundy?” that: “I’m extremely confident and firmly believe in my own innocence.”

Bundy also worked his notorious charm on reporters, law enforcement personnel and others at the courthouse, reportedly referring to his leap from the courthouse as “The Great Escape,” and telling a reporter he enjoyed reading an account of it, according to the same article.

“Talking with reporters during a court break, he once corrected one’s use of language,” the August 1977 article continues. “’I wish you would stop calling me an ‘accused murderer,’ he said, “and say ‘accused of murder.’”

One of his cellmates also was quoted in the piece. “He’s a hell of a nice guy,” the man reportedly said.

During his stay in the Roaring Fork Valley, Bundy was housed in the old Garfield County Jail, which has since been torn down, because Kienast worried he might try to escape from “the antiquated conditions” at Pitkin County’s jail, according to a June 9, 1977, Aspen Times story about his courthouse escape.

Bundy was transported to Aspen from Glenwood Springs for court appearances.

Before he was executed in Florida in January 1989, Bundy admitted to killing Campbell. He told a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office investigator that he went to the Wildwood Inn on crutches in hopes of luring a young woman to help him carry his ski boots to his car, according to a January 1989 Aspen Times article.

Bundy said he posted himself near the hotel’s pool and hoped another woman would help him, though she ignored him. Instead, Campbell offered to help, and once he got her to the parking lot, Bundy told the detective, he hit her over the head with his ski boots and “stuffed” her in his Volkswagen Bug, according to the article.


Among the items in storage at the DA’s Office in Glenwood Springs are the booties Bundy wore while incarcerated at the Garfield County Jail. The navy blue, knitted booties have been sitting in a plastic bag since Bundy last used them in December 1977.

Also found in the boxes of documents is a detailed report about Bundy’s escape from the jail in Glenwood Springs.

Included is a lengthy inventory of the stuff he left behind in his cell after he broke out. Among the legal documents and texts, food items like vegetable protein powder and clothing was a large collection of books.

They included “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72” by Hunter S. Thompson, the Woody Creek writer who lost the 1970 Pitkin County sheriff’s race to Carroll Whitmire, the man who occupied the Sheriff’s Office when Bundy committed the Snowmass Village murder.

Other titles found in his cell included “Tai Pan” and “Shogun” by James Clavell, “The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown, “The Good Earth” and “Sons” by Pearl S. Buck, “Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story” by Carlos Baker, “The Word” by Irving Wallace, “The Two Towers” and “Return of the King” by J.R.R. Tolkien and “Quite Early One Morning” by Dylan Thomas, according to the inventory.

The lengthy inventory also included Penthouse and Playboy magazines, a K-Mart radio and Christmas tree decorations, according to the report.

Bundy apparently received several Christmas cards during the winter of 1977, including one, oddly enough, from Sheriff Dick Kienast and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The cards were saved as evidence in a manila envelope and tucked in among the boxes of evidence.

“Dear Ted,” one of Bundy’s Christmas well-wishers begins. “Am I delinquent or what about writing? I’ve been pretty busy. The past month has brought me two flat tires, a dead battery, a burglarized apartment, a boring trip to L.A., a broken thumb and much more. What’s happening there (I don’t see the news much anymore)? Write. Love (someone whose first name starts with an A)”

Another saved artifact in the boxes documents the sale of Bundy’s notorious VW Bug.

The plain sheet of yellow paper is titled “Bill of Sale” and dated Sept. 17, 1975. It is hand-written in red ink and states that on that date, Bryan Severson “has bought and paid for in full the sum of $800 (eight hundred dollars) my beige 1968 Volkswagen sedan.” It is signed Theodore R. Bundy.

Hairs from three of Bundy’s victims were later found in the car, according to reports.

After Bundy was arrested by Salt Lake City police in August 1975 ­— when they found a pry bar, a ski mask, a pair of pantyhose with eye and nose holes cut into them, an ice pick, nylon rope, gloves and handcuffs in the trunk of his VW — police also searched his apartment.

In his home, police also found a satchel containing a crow bar, a tire iron, a small pocket knife, a serrated kitchen knife in a cardboard sheath and a flashlight. The woman who narrowly escaped Bundy’s clutches in Salt Lake City in 1974 reported that he had a crowbar in his hand while she struggled to get away from him, according to an Aspen Times article from Aug. 4, 1977.

The contents of the satchel are among the items stored in the Bundy boxes at the DA’s Office. The crow bar was examined by experts, who found blood on it, though it was not enough to trace back to a victim, according to documents in the boxes.

Finally, the most interesting item in the Bundy evidence boxes is a “1974-75 guide to Colorado Ski Country.”

The guide was found in Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment after he was arrested for the attempted kidnapping, and proved to be a particularly damning, though circumstantial, piece of evidence against him, Fain said recently.

That’s because on the page detailing lodging options in Snowmass that season, there is an “X” made with black ink next to the entry for the Wildwood Inn.

“That was a big one,” Fain said.

When the Salt Lake detective relayed the information about the ski guide, the Pitkin County detective investigating the murder couldn’t believe it, said Fain, who has spoken with a representative of the detective.

The DA’s Office plans to eventually ship the items taken from Bundy’s Salt Lake City apartment back to police there, Fain said. The documents related to his case will be kept digitally for the numerous journalists and others who frequently request permission to look through them, he said.

Most of the documents will be destroyed once they’ve been digitized, though some items like the ski guide likely will be retained, Fain said.

“We have really limited storage for evidence,” Fain said. “Things with historical significance … shouldn’t be destroyed.”

Avalanche expert says Conundrum slide likely a 300-year event

A massive slide that swept down from Highlands Ridge into Conundrum Creek Valley last weekend was probably a 300-year event, a leading avalanche consultant said Tuesday while touring the site.

“This is definitely a big one for Colorado,” said Art Mears while surveying the volume of snow and debris the avalanche deposited. The only comparable slide he has seen in Colorado struck the Gothic area near Crested Butte in 1995, he said.

Mears is an engineer from Gunnison who consults with governments and individuals to locate infrastructure and buildings where they will avoid avalanches. When structures are built in avalanche-prone areas, he helps create designs to mitigate the risk. He has worked on 1,100 projects in nine states and eight countries. He has designed several avalanche mitigation systems for homes in Pitkin County, including a “splitting wedge” concrete wall that probably saved a house at 1053 Conundrum Creek Road from getting flattened by last weekend’s slide.

The wall suffered no visible damage and it deflected most of the high-density lower layer of snow and debris in the avalanche. Some damage was sustained on the west end of the house. Reinforced glass held but an entire window frame was dislodged. Part of an upper-story wall was punched in but the house apparently didn’t suffer any structural damage.

The splitting wedge was designed to protect the house from a 100-year avalanche, per Pitkin County’s requirements. That means there is a 1 percent risk of an avalanche that size happening every year. With a 300-year event, there is a three-tenths of a percent annual probability of an avalanche that size occurring.

The concrete wedge is 21 feet at the top and tapered down to 17 feet on the lower ends. The south leg is 110 feet long and the west leg is 90 feet.

Tons of snow, trees and rock fell from the Five Fingers and K-Chutes on the west side of the valley. The avalanche fell with such force that debris shot more than 200 feet up the east side, wiping out additional trees. Then the debris spilled downvalley or to the north, where it buried the Conundrum Creek Trailhead and U.S. Forest Service facilities there. Much of the debris wrapped around the house to the east.

However, it was clear from broken aspen and conifer trees surrounding the house that debris also ran into the wedge. Mears said there was likely enough material flowing that it bent the trees and caused some of them to break. Smaller aspen trees were smashed flat.

Mears said the house would have been in a red or high hazard area if it didn’t have the splitting wedge. The special wall dropped it to a blue or moderate hazard area. Without the wall, the house probably would have been heavily damaged by last weekend’s slide, he said. The house was unoccupied at the time of the slide.

The house was built in 1987, according to records in the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office. An avalanche damaged it in 1996.

The current owner, listed as MW III Aspen LLC, bought the house and 25.8 acres in December 1998. The new owner applied to Pitkin County in 2001 to build the splitting wedge to protect the 5-bedroom, 5½-bath structure of nearly 5,000 square feet.

In a report prepared for that application, Mears described the potential destructive force of a 100-year avalanche in that area.

“The Five Fingers path produces a major avalanche which can involve more than 100 acres of snow during (a 100-year event) and falls about 3,500 feet to the Conundrum Creek Valley floor,” his 2001 report said. “Maximum velocities on the steep slope will exceed 110 mph.”

He accurately predicted that the blast from the avalanche would ascend roughly 300 feet up the east wall of the valley.

Mears said Tuesday that despite its size, the avalanche probably only lasted about one minute. The powder cloud kicked into the air probably settled within another 30 seconds or so, he said.

There are additional avalanche chutes downvalley or north from the house. A slide in what’s known as the Teepee Chute killed a man living in a teepee on adjacent property in February 1995.

Mears said Pitkin County has a lot of areas of high avalanche hazard because of its numerous valleys with steep slopes. The risk of damage to property is high because of the amount of development in the prone areas.

While Pitkin County has a design standard for a 100-year avalanche event, Gunnison County has a 300-year standard, he noted.

“I believe, in my opinion, Pitkin County should (do) that,” he said.

Pitkin County is a leader in land-issues in a lot of ways, Mears said, and avalanche mitigation should be another.

The latest Conundrum avalanche demonstrates why a great design standard may be needed. The width of the crown was estimated at 5,000 feet by investigators from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

“Highlands Ridge released naturally. Not a path or two off the ridge but everything from the Five Fingers to the K-Chutes,” CAIC’s report said.

Multiple feeder paths share a common run-out, making the avalanche particularly destructive.

CAIC rated the slide a 4.5 out of 5 on the avalanche destruction scale. Mears said the destructive potential is difficult to assess. One way would be to return when the snow melts and date the age of the large conifers the avalanche took out, he said.

While many avalanche experts don’t feel it’s possible to have a D5 avalanche in the Continental U.S., Mears said the Conundrum slide could well qualify.


Aspen local’s video captures Loge Bowl avalanche, gets engulfed in snow cloud

Video credit: Jesse Deane

This avalanche was set off on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. by a helicopter working with Aspen Ski Patrol doing avalanche mitigation. The helicopter dropped charges into Loge Bowl on the back side of Loge Peak near Aspen Highlands. Jesse Deane and his dad were asked to help make sure the Maroon Creek Road was clear of pedestrians before the charges were dropped. He captured this video of the avalanche that occurred.