25-50-100 years ago… | AspenTimes.com

25-50-100 years ago…

Devon Meyers/Aspen Times fileJim Fitzgerald of Aspen was killed Dec. 31, 1984 in an avalanche near the top of Taylor Pass, when a cornice broke loose above the Jeep road he and a friend were skiing.

Locals came to the rescue of a horse and may well have prevented a train crash as well, according to the Dec. 27, 1909 Aspen Times-Democrat. The newspaper reported:Last evening just before 7 o’clock, two men driving in a cutter mistook the Midland trestle over Castle Creek for the state bridge and attempted to drive over it. When they found their mistake, they abandoned the horse and cutter on the trestle. Some children who witnessed the gallant performance aroused the neighborhood and the people, knowing the train was due in a few minutes, phoned into the depot office asking that the train be held until the horse could be released. The cutter was backed off the trestle and down the embankment. It took some little time to get the horse out as every time he attempted to take a step, his legs would go down between the bridge ties. The timely action of the people living near the trestle undoubtedly averted a serious railroad accident, as the train would have been thrown from the trestle and a number of lives lost, as well as the destruction of train and trestle. Under the headline “Aspen to enter new era of prosperity,” The Aspen Times-Democrat offered an update on various area mining prospects on the final day of the year, a century ago. Included in the report was this: For Aspen, it might be said that the shipments of silver-lead ore has exceeded that of last year 40 percent. There has been unusual activity in the district during the year, not only in the older properties but in the prospecting for gold in the Roaring Fork and Hunter Creek districts. While nothing of great importance resulted from these efforts up to date, the work done disclosed an immense mineral-bearing zone which will receive much attention in the future, and what has been learned this season will aid greatly in the development of the gold belt.

Local ski schools were bustling in late December 1959. The Jan. 1, 1960 Aspen Times reported: Record numbers of pupils were reported this week by both of Aspen’s ski schools.[The] biggest day in its 12-year history was recorded by the Aspen Ski School on Monday, Dec. 28. According to co-director Fred Iselin, the school had 577 pupils enrolled and used 79 instructors. At the Aspen Highlands, Stein Eriksen reported that his two-year-old organization also had a record week with 17 instructors at work. A new backcountry ski hut near Aspen was dedicated in late 1959. The Aspen Times reported: This area’s newest and most comfortable mountain cabin, the Lindley Hut, was officially opened at an informal dedication ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 30. Originally scheduled for last September, the dedication and official opening ceremony was postponed when early snows delayed completion. Wednesday’s informal ceremony was witnessed by Mrs. Grace Lindley McKnight and Clarkson Lindley, widow and son of Al Lindley, to whom the hut is dedicated. For the dedication, a temporary commemorative sign was affixed to the building. It will be replaced by a permanent metal plaque by the National Ski Association at a future time. … Lindley was a well-known skier and ski official. A member of the 1932 and ’36 Olympic Ski Teams, he was killed in a light plane accident in Nebraska in 1950 while flying to Aspen to help select a training squad for the 1952 Olympic Games.

An avalanche on Taylor Pass, south of Aspen, claimed the life of a local man on the final day of 1984. On Jan. 3, 1985, The Aspen Times reported: Experienced backcountry skier though he was – veteran of avalanche training courses though he was – Aspenite Jim Fitzgerald’s expertise didn’t help him on the afternoon of Dec. 31. Fitzgerald, 55, died in an avalanche on the Taylor Pass Road above Ashcroft, where he was cross-country ski touring with a friend, Bonnie Golde, also of Aspen. Risking the danger of further avalanches, a party of 10 Aspen Mountain Rescue members recovered Fitzgerald’s body from the slide late that evening after sighting a ski tip protruding from the snow. … According to Aspen Mountain Rescue chief Greg Mace, the avalanche occurred about five miles up the Taylor Pass Road, with half a mile remaining to the top. … According to Golde, she and Fitzgerald were out for a day tour up the pass, and had paused on the road because they noticed a cornice above them and “because we were a little nervous about it.” She said they were discussing turning back when they heard a noise above and Fitzgerald said “here it comes.” A cowboy tradition bit the dust 25 years ago. The Aspen Times reported: An end has come to an Aspen tradition. There will be no more Lions Club W/J Stampede Rodeos. For the past 20 years, the rodeo has been held in the arena at Wink Jaffee’s W/J Ranch on McLain Flats. From 2,000 to 3,000 people always attended the rodeo. Some 250 cowboys would come from all over the Rocky Mountain West to vie for the purses of cash and the silver trophy belt buckles. There was always a wonderful barbecue cooked by the Lions and their wives.Several times, the cowboys voted the Aspen rodeo as the best in Colorado. Peter Maines, president of the Aspen Lions Club, said the Lions are dropping the rodeo because they didn’t make any money on it for the past two years. “Rodeo is on its way out in this area,” he observed. – compiled by Janet Urquhart

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