Aspen Historical Society raids the ski-film archives for Time Travel Tuesdays

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
A young Klaus Obermeyer in a scene from Dick Durrance's "Until We Meet in Aspen," among the films screening at the Aspen Historical Society's Time Travely Tuesdays.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Skiing and Aspen: Films from the ‘40s,’ presented by the Aspen Historical Society

Where: Isis Theatre

When: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 5:30 p.m.

How much: $10; free for AHS members

Tickets:; 970-925-3721

More info: The Time Travel Tuesdays series continues weekly through March 1 and includes films from the ‘50s (Feb. 9), ‘60s (Feb. 16), ‘70s (Feb. 23) and ‘Skiing Everest” (March 1, Wheeler Opera House).

The Aspen Historical Society recently dug into its film archives and is bringing rare footage from the 1940s through the 1970s to its Time Travel Tuesdays series.

In the series, opening Tuesday night at the Isis Theater, you can glimpse an Aspen of days of yore and scenes with such local legends as Pete Seibert, Walter Paepcke and a young Klaus Obermeyer.

The opening entry features three films from the 1940s. “Aspen Before Lifts” showcases local legends Friedl Pfeifer, Johnny Litchfield and Percy Rideout filmed in 1946. “Until We Meet Again” is a promotional film made by Aspen-based Olympian Dick Durrance to promote the early ski resort. They showcase skiing Little Annie Basin, Montezuma Basin and other slopes, along with the boat tow on Aspen Mountain. Also in the lineup is an untitled film of local scenes captured by photographer Joan Lane.

The films include quaint scenes of Aspen at the tail end of the Quiet Years and the birth of the ski industry here before Lift One’s opening in 1947. There are quaint scenes of Aspen life back then and many, many empty lots downtown.

“What’s most distinct is seeing how empty town looks in comparison to today,” said Aspen Historical Society archivist Anna Scott.

Tuesday’s screening is the first of four weeks of presentations of recently digitized films from the Aspen Historical Society archives. The nonprofit is showing these little-seen films weekly, concentrating on a new decade each week through the 1970s.

Not shown in years, the film stock itself of some of these prints was beginning to shrink and decay before the Historical Society converted them to a digital format.

The 1950s movies, screening Feb. 9, include scenes of Obermeyer on the hill at Winterskol, skiing footage and the short film “Little Skiers Big Day” by industry pioneer Fred Iselin about Susie Wirth living atop Aspen Mountain. Iselin sold the 1959 film to Walt Disney, who based 1963’s “Fantasy on Skis” on it.

In those films, you’ll see the early Winterskol ski-costume race, the Red Brick when it was a school and other local scenes that still echo through today’s Aspen.

A film about what would become the Snowmass Ski Area, before lifts were installed in 1967, includes snowcat tours there and footage of Stein Eriksen and his cadre of Norwegian instructors on the mountain.

While the series chronicles rapid change in the Roaring Fork Valley over four decades, it also highlights some aspects of the community that have remained the same since the ’40s.

“You see how the town changes, but there’s still a fun aspect to Aspen — you sense that the people don’t necessarily change,” Scott said. “Everybody here is still having fun.”