A night at Aspen’s ‘mystery’ prom
April 21, 2003
Most knew the minute their transport turned onto Castle Creek Road.”It’s the Elk Mountain Lodge,” whispered one Aspen High School senior to his date. Though the surprise was spoiled, the effect was the same – awe and, for the AHS prom committee, a round of congratulations.The high school’s inaugural “surprise prom” was held Saturday night at the Elk Mountain Lodge, the posh retreat nestled in the upper Castle Creek Valley. The lodge’s expansive ballroom and balconies were ideal for the event, providing the event’s nearly 300 attendees ample dance space – and, considering the venue’s location, a breathtaking view of the valley below.Just as breathtaking was the rumored price the prom committee paid for an evening at the lodge. When one adult chaperone reported that a friend paid a few thousand dollars to rent the building for a wedding, a school administrator giddily quoted their prom price – a mere $500 for the entire evening.”This place is usually very, very expensive,” said Patty Hua, a member of the prom committee. “He [lodge owner Michael Owen] did us such a great favor.”But Owen did have one request for the organizing committee, stipulating that students be barred from driving the curvy and occasionally icy road to the lodge. The prom committee granted his request, commandeering three school district buses and four 15-passenger vans to transport prom-goers.Party guests and chaperones were greeted at the lodge by only a few decorations – balloons and streamers scattered carefully, so as not to hide the building’s natural decorations. Instead, intricate wood carvings and other lodge features were allowed to peek through.”We really didn’t do much of a theme this year, because we wanted to play off the lodge,” said prom committee member Jenny Luu.The lodge rental wasn’t the prom committee’s only gift. After crowning Prom King Patrick Olsen and Queen Sara Stotts, students were presented with a carved, wooden memory box, fixed with a photo of the Elk Mountain Lodge, and a small “memory book” for photos and other mementos.