Andy Warhol’s Aspen New Year’s Eves
Skiing poorly on Buttermilk, celebrity-spotting, party-hunting and altitude sickness are time-honored elements of a classic New Year’s Eve visit to Aspen for the international jet set.
Andy Warhol checked all those boxes – and of course had some fun, too – during his visits to Aspen to ring in three New Years during the 1980s. Warhol’s local history went back to the 1950s for art exhibitions and visits with his Carbondale-based patrons and friends John and Kimiko Powers. These glitzier holiday trips put Warhol on snow with his boyfriend Jon Gould, an athlete more prone to mountain snowsports than the artist, and at A-list gatherings here with everybody from John Denver and Jack Nicholson to Elizabeth Paepcke and John Oates, Barbi Benton and Buzz Aldrin, Bob Rafelson and Baby Jane Holzer, Cornelia Guest and Tab Hunter and Jimmy Buffett. His camera and journal in tow, Warhol documented the scene and the scenery.
As the Aspen Art Museum celebrates its monumental career survey “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes,” here a are some high points from the artist New Year’s Eves in Aspen.
Warhol and artist Christopher Makos ventured to Buttermilk Ski Area for a Powder Pandas lesson with instructor Gary Bonn.
“We did about two hours of zig-zagging and going up on the handrail and you just sort of sit on the thing and go up the whole hill, and it was really fun,” he wrote in his journal on Dec. 30. “It was easy, all the two-year-olds skiing with me, and if you start when you’re two you can really go with the waves and relax and become a good skier, but I was so tense. I fell three times.”
Warhol also had an “altitude problem” during this stay, and popped into Aspen Valley Hospital to check if he’d broken his wrist in his many falls on Panda Peak (he hadn’t).
He also soaked up the local enthusiasm for fresh powder – “the best snow they ever had,” he reported – and enjoyed seeing people outside of his New York element: “Met all these people who were surprised seeing me and I didn’t recognize them in their ski clothes,” he wrote.
Warhol rang in 1983 at Jimmy Buffett’s “all country-western” party, though the journal doesn’t specify whether the bash was at Buffett’s legendary Old Snowmass home or off-site somewhere else. The guest list included that included Jack Nicholson (“Jack’s got a big fat belly now,” Warhol wrote) with Anjelica Huston, Barry Diller and Diana Ross.
He also noted he was invited to – but apparently didn’t attend – Sonny Bono’s wedding at the Aspen Chapel and went out with TV actress Cathy Lee Crosby and a group to Aspen’s era-defining disco Andre’s.
“It was like trying to get into Studio 54,” he wrote.
On New Year’s Day, a group including Makos, Gould and Denver-based photographer Mark Sink went snowmobiling in the Maroon Creek Valley from T-Lazy-7 ranch.
“Something strange happened,” Warhol wrote of the experience. “I though Jon was trying to kill me. We were on a snowmobile and he pushed me over a cliff. I thought he did it on purpose. But somehow there were trees there and I fell off into a deep snow. We rode to the house, that was fun, but I didn’t realize till I get back how scary going off the cliff was.”
Sink, in an interview this fall, explained that he had sprayed snow in Gould’s face on the joyride, which caused Gould to veer off-course. The good-time spirit of the incident is captured in Sink’s photos of Warhol giddily smiling as he dug out from the crash.
It should be no surprise that Warhol sought out Elizabeth Paepcke, the co-founder of the Aspen Skiing Co. and progenitor of Aspen as a utopia, wife to the late Walter Paepcke. He went to her West End home (since demolished, it sat on the property above Hallam Lake where the Lewis family compound was recently completed).
“Met the Dowager of Aspen, the Grand Dame,” Warhol write on Dec. 31 with un-ironic appreciation.
Warhol noted with glee her nickname (“Pussy”), her “immaculate house” and her indomitable spirit.
“She’s 82 and she’s very beautiful,” Warhol wrote, “she looks like Katharine Hepburn. … An immaculate house and she runs up and down the stairs to get ginseng tea, she’s spry.”
Read more of The Aspen Times coverage of this winter’s exhibitions and Andy Warhol’s history in Aspen:
* “In Aspen with Andy Warhol,” Dec. 2, Aspen Times Weekly
* “Warhol exhibition begins winter-long run at Aspen Art Museum,” Dec. 4, The Aspen Times
* “Why another Warhol show?” Dec. 9, Aspen Times Weekly
* “Finding Warhol in ‘After and Before,’“ Dec. 16, Aspen Times Weekly
* “The Day Andy Warhol Visited the Times,” Dec. 23, Aspen Times Weekly
* “Inside the ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’ at the Aspen Art Museum,” Dec. 23, Aspen Times Weekly
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