25-50-100 Years Ago | AspenTimes.com

25-50-100 Years Ago

Compiled by John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Courtesy Aspen Historical SocietyBuilt in the first year of the ski area's operation, the Buttermilk Mountain Restaurant was a marvel of futuristic design at the base of the ski slopes.

With the looming changeover in county officers, elected as well as appointed, the thoughts of Aspen Democrat Editor Charles “Cap” Dailey turned to the investigation of the outgoing county commissioners and their role in what the editor saw as graft and corruption over the publication of county public notices, in particular the prior year’s delinquent tax notice. Publication of that notice, which represented a significant portion of the income of Aspen’s newspapers, had gone to The Aspen Times, allegedly at twice the rate that the Democrat had charged for an earlier year’s batch of notices.

In a talk over the long distance telephone with [District Attorney] James C. Gentry … [Gentry stated] “I will be in Aspen [soon] and will investigate the tax list transaction. It looks fierce to me.” The Democrat believes the investigation … will result in the filing of charges against Commissioners Powell and Smulling for allowing the tax list graft bill, and B. Clark Wheeler [publisher of The Aspen Times] for [swearing] that the statutes had been followed … and the bill rendered by him was just and according to law.

In the next edition, the Democrat’s prediction was borne out, and Gentry accused The Aspen Times of gouging the county and the county commissioners of “collusion” in accepting the bill.

District Attorney James C. Gentry [announced] that he had examined into the matters … and found the charges made by the Democrat well founded; that today he would recommend to the new board of county commissioners that the county attorney … begin action against [the accused commissioners]. “It is about time the people were receiving some protection from such very flagrant fraud,” said Mr. Gentry.

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Along similar lines, a letter writer, Fred S. Cooper, pointed out that the county’s roads were in bad shape because of poor oversight by the county commissioners, and recommended that the new BOCC make some changes.

Since the toll roads were abandoned the taxpayers of Pitkin County have had $200,000 of their money squandered on roads and today they are in the same old condition or worse. Why, you ask? Because we have not had competent service. Road overseers have been selected because of personal friendships ” not qualifications … it would be pleasing to have the present board of commissioners appoint a good road man with the understanding that he must … see that the work is done in workmanlike manner.

Turning aside from the controversy surrounding the county commissioners, the paper took up a familiar theme ” optimism over ongoing work in the mines around Aspen as a harbinger of better times to come.

The Democrat is pleased to state that work has been resumed on West Aspen Mountain. Felix Kinney and associates have taken a three years’ lease on the Pride of Aspen [mining claim] and are putting the property in shape for systematic development work. This mine has, in the past, yielded considerable wealth and without doubt will again be a good shipper. Should this lease prove successful work will be resumed on the adjoining properties and all this will mean the employment of several hundred men.

A train wreck near Dotsero, on the Rio Grande line between Glenwood Springs and Eagle, occupied considerable space on the front page for several days.

The worst railroad wreck in the history of this section of the state occurred at 10:30 tonight, in which perhaps 25 persons lost their lives and a greater number more or less injured. The only detail so far received is that the eastbound freight was taking the siding at Dotsero when it was struck by westbound Rio Grande passenger train No. 5. It cannot be learned if there were any Aspen people on the ill-fated train.

For two more days, the paper regaled its readers with the disastrous news, although it appeared that none of those killed were from Aspen.

The cause of the wreck is ascribed to the failure of the engineer, Gus Olson, of the passenger train, to regard an order which directed him to wait for the freight train at Dotsero until 9:55. The wreck occurred at 9:47 … the freight train was running to make the siding on time that the passenger [train] would not be delayed … the tourist sleeper … telescoped through the entire length of the chair car [where passengers were seated] smashing it to flinders. Nineteen were killed outright and one, a woman, was so seriously injured that she died before reaching Glenwood.

(Microfilm of The Aspen Times 1904-1909 is missing from the Colorado Historical Society’s archives. These excerpts are from The Aspen Democrat.)

The Aspen Times announced that the Norwegian and German national alpine ski teams might train under local ski racing legend Stein Eriksen, director of the ski school at Aspen Highlands, if Eriksen could arrange it with the national ski associations.

Eriksen, who is one of the world’s most successful racers, said that members of both teams and officials from both countries wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to train here, but first had to raise the necessary funds for transportation.

Buttermilk Mountain was in its first year of operation, and one of the first orders of business for its owners, Art Pfister and Friedl Pfeifer, was to open a startlingly modern restaurant at the base of the ski slopes.

Another architecturally interesting ski slope restaurant began operation last week when the floating-roofed, glass-sided Buttermilk Mountain ski area restaurant opened. Designed by Jack Walls, the new restaurant and lounge has a hyperbolic paraboloid roof which rises to a peak on two sides and has only two points of suspension.

As plans were finalized for the 1959 Winterskol festival, organizers announced the name of that year’s celebrity guest.

Film star Robert Stack will come to Aspen for Winterskol to crown the queen at the Silver and Gold Coronation Ball on Saturday. He will play the role filled in other years by such actors as Jeffrey Hunter, Dan Dailey and Lana Turner.

Aspen learned it would finally be getting regular passenger airline service to and from Denver.

Under an order issued by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission last week, Aspen Airways, Inc. will begin regularly scheduled passenger service in light aircraft between Denver and Aspen on Feb. 2. The commission stated that the company can “experiment with scheduled service” for one year to evaluate the passenger demand. Aspen Airways has, for some time, operated a non-scheduled air taxi service from Aspen.

Thanks to heavy snows at the end of the year, Aspen set a record for snowfall.

As might be expected from the heavy snows of November and December, calendar year 1983 turned out to have the most snowfall ever recorded in the Aspen area. According to the annual report compiled by Water Department Director Jim Markalunas, 295 inches of snow fell during the year.

A federal drug investigation resulted in the seizure of $1.4 million dollars in cash and property from suspected drug dealers in Aspen, but not much in the way of drugs.

Targets of a federal drug investigation apparently had more advance warning of Monday’s operation than did Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast. Sources … say that at least one of the five targets of the … operation was aware that he was being followed for several weeks … and that he and others had more than enough time to remove drugs and other incriminating evidence from their homes. [Those targeted included] Aspen resident Steven Grabow … David Foster …John Maynard Torchiana … Charles David Rauch and David Glen Word.

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