Art and World War II dog-sledding artifacts on display at Ashcroft Ski Touring
Stuart Mace-designed dog sleds, parachute equipment and uniforms from his air rescue service during World War II are now on view in the upper reaches of the Castle Creek Valley, where Mace settled his family during modern Aspen’s dawn in the late 1940s and operated the Toklat Wilderness Lodge.
The wartime artifacts, never before publicly displayed, are being exhibited this summer at Ashcroft Ski Touring’s King Cabin along with Castle Creek Valley-related art curated by Lynne Mace. She runs the Toklat Gallery, now located in Basalt and celebrating its 70th anniversary, and is keeping her father’s legacy alive.
The display includes a parachute that Stuart Mace used in the Arctic during the war, along with a harness he used to parachute huskies into remote rescue sites. The sleds include one he used for wartime rescues, carrying Mace along with doctors, support crew and dog managers who parachuted to remote plane crash sites.
The second sled was too heavy for wartime use, but the Mace family used it recreationally for dog sled rides after the Maces settled in Ashcroft. Lynne Mace recalled riding it down Pearl Pass as her father led 13 dogs pulling it. Stuart Mace’s service pants (called “blumpers,” as his daughter recalled) and a fur coat with wolverine collar, also are on view.
The artifacts had been stored away for decades and have never before been publicly exhibited.
The concept for the display came to Lynne Mace this winter, when she was preparing for 70th anniversary festivities at Toklat, which unearthed an oral history her father recorded about his wartime dog sled rescues.
“It was really gripping,” Mace recalled on a walk through the satellite gallery. “That inspired me to talk to John (Wilcox of Ashcroft Ski Touring) and try to share this. … I said, ‘I’d love to borrow this building, because we could hang the parachute here.’”
The artifacts are complemented by new artworks that reflect the history of the Mace family’s dog-sledding business at Ashcroft and the area’s idyllic scenery. Among the works on view are paintings of the Castle Creek Valley by Doug Graybeal and Michael Kinsley, marquetry works by Ellen Kinsler of Stuart Mace’s sled dogs Yukon King and Rustic, jewelry by Kathy Hansel and wood sculptures of wildlife by Nick Eason. It also includes Veryl Goodnight’s painting “Ghosts of Ashcroft,” depicting Stuart and his dogs in action, which was unveiled earlier this year at Toklat.
The gallery fills an open section of the airy 2014-built cabin that, in the tour operator’s busy winter season, is filled with ski racks, boots and poles.
Wilcox, and his son Johnny — the resort manager for Ashcroft Ski Touring and the Pine Creek Cookhouse — saw it as an amenity for people visiting the remote area for the Ashcroft ghost town, a hike to the Pinecreek Cookhouse for a meal, or to take one of their biking and fishing tours.
“We wanted a summer use and we thought it’d be great to have art that reflects the valley and a sense of history,” John Wilcox recalled.
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