Aspen ski gangs to share tales at open mic
ASPEN – The Aspen Historical Society scored a coup recently by getting members of the various “ski gangs” of Aspen to agree to talk about their groups for the Time Travel Tuesday program.
The Dogs, Aspen Flyers, Bell Mountain Buckaroos, the Bobs and Chicks on Sticks are traditionally tight-lipped folks when it comes to talking to outsiders about their clubs. You’re either on the bus or you aren’t.
So AHS staffers were delighted and mildly surprised when ski gang members enthusiastically agreed to share their thoughts in a presentation that’s part of the historical society’s current exhibit and programs called, “Out of Your Mind, Body and Spirit: Voices of Aspen, 1975.” The presentation on the ski gangs is at 5:40 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15 downstairs in the Mountain Chalet Aspen, 333 E. Durant St.
“As word got around, we started getting inundated with calls from ski gang members who wanted to speak,” said Tom Egan, AHS communications director. There were so many volunteers, in fact, that AHS made the event an “open mic” format. The usual $8 fee for Time Travel Tuesday events will be waived, but the historical society will gladly accept donations.
Despite the semi-closed society of ski gangs, Egan said it’s perhaps no surprise that members stepped up to speak up. “The gangs are inherently social,” he said. “It’s almost funny that we refer to ourselves as ‘gangs.'”
“While they are not gangs in the urban ‘Bloods’ and ‘Crips’ mold, the ski gangs of Aspen nonetheless think of themselves as unofficial ‘keepers’ of the ski flame,” the AHS promotion for the event says. “They don’t terrorize or fight or even ‘tag’ their territory and many gang members freely ski with other gangs when the situation permits.”
The ski gangs are part of the 1970s exhibit because that’s when most of them formed. Loose confederations of friends started consistently hanging together on the slopes, and soon informal gangs were born, said Egan. He is a ski gang member himself, one of the original Bobs. (Egan or other members of The Bobs will share the story of the gang’s formation.)
Egan is hopeful the various gangs will share their special talents at the Tuesday gathering. The Bell Mountain Buckaroos, for example, are known to break out in song on the Silver Queen Gondola, with four or five part harmony. “They took it beyond skiing, they sing,” Egan said. “And the Dogs bark. Some of them are really good at it.”
Speaking from experience with The Bobs, Egan said membership in most of the ski gangs has changed over the years. Some members moved away. Some died. Some had kids and didn’t ski as much. But core members remain in all the gangs.
“They’ve weathered years and stuck together,” Egan said.
“Out of Your Mind, Body and Spirit: Voices of Aspen, 1975” has proven popular this winter. The screening of a documentary and a panel discussion of Hunter Thompson’s bid for sheriff drew a crowd in excess of 100 a few weeks ago. About 50 people last week attended a chat among well-known musicians at the center of Aspen’s music scene in the 1970s.
Egan said remembering Aspen’s roots from the mining, ranching and early skiing days is obviously important, but so is remembering the more recent history.
“We’re trying to make sure a scene that existed in Aspen in the ’70s isn’t forgotten,” Egan said. “The ski gangs are a classic example of what I think Aspen’s always had – great community.”
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