Book shares secrets of Aspen’s ski area shrines
November 25, 2011
ASPEN – David Wood likes to share his passion for all the funky, interesting and heart-warming shrines tucked into various nooks and crannies of the forests at the four ski areas of Aspen and Snowmass. He just doesn’t like to share too much detail.
Wood, who splits time between West Des Moines, Iowa, and Snowmass Village, has a website and a Facebook page dedicated to the Aspen shrines. Now he’s added a book to the collection.
“Sanctuaries in the Snow: The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass” came out about one year ago, but Wood couldn’t really capitalize on the holiday season with his marketing effort. He is promoting the book this ski season and giving all the profits to a good cause – the Roaring Fork Valley Scholarship Fund.
Wood’s friend and the scholarship founder Boone Schweitzer convinced him to write the book, so Wood dedicated everything beyond expenses to the cause. The Roaring Fork Valley Scholarship Fund has awarded $1.4 million to help valley students attend college.
The book highlights 51 of the shrines and memorials tucked into the trees on the ski slopes. He catalogs another 73 shrines, memorials and plaques.
“I tried to put in what I felt were the major shrines and what I felt would be of interest to readers,” he said of the 51 he highlighted.
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His narrative describes some of the items he found at a shrine (realizing that wearing and weathering take their toll on the contents and items are always being added to the most popular shrines). Wood gives a little background about the significance of the person or place honored. He includes some photos and usually throws in some interesting trivia.
In a description of the Marilyn Monroe Shrine, for example, he wrote: “Up until March 2008 the Marilyn Monroe Shrine had been somewhat neglected. There was only one photograph of her there and her shrine was in danger of disappearing. However in that month, Dr. Curtis Broek, of Urbandale, Iowa, took it upon himself to resurrect and restore the shrine, with the help of some of his friends.”
What you won’t read on the Aspen Shrines website, Facebook page or in the book are specific directions. Wood gives a general location. The Fenway Park Shrine, for example, is located near Back of Bell Number 2 on Aspen Mountain, he wrote in his book.
There is a local code that prohibits giving specific directions to shrines, Wood said. He wasn’t about to break that code.
Giving general locations makes looking for the shrines all the more interesting. “That kind of intrigued me and made me want to see them even more,” Wood said. “Half the fun is finding them.”
He is an avid skier who has been coming to Aspen for more than 20 years. He ran across a few of the shrines in his first few years and heard about a lot more, so he started doing research. He created the website to share the fruits of his digging.
One of his personal favorites is the Michael Houser Shrine on Aspen Mountain. “I am a big fan of his musical style and his band, Widespread Panic,” Wood said.
His other favorite is the Golf Shrine at Snowmass. A picture of Jerry Garcia, late of the Grateful Dead, is the profile picture of the Aspen Shrines Facebook page.
Wood said he has skied extensively throughout North America and, as near as he can tell, the shrines are unique to Aspen-Snowmass, at least at that scale.
“Every place has a panty tree and stuff like that,” Wood said, referring to the ski area tradition of having a tree decorated with women’s undergarments.
The publicity of the sites is a sensitive thing, he acknowledged. He doesn’t want to offend anyone by shedding light the shrine, but on the other hand, it’s part of Aspen’s skiing history, he said.
His Facebook page has proved popular, with 1,637 “friends.”
“Sanctuaries in the Snow” is sold at Explore Booksellers, Pomeroy Sports, Aspen Eclectic and the Aspen Historical Society in Aspen; and Snowmass Sports, The Stew Pot, Sundance Liquor and Gifts and The Village Market in Snowmass Village. The suggested retail price is $22.95.