Final blast at the ol’ Sundeck draws sellout crowd |

Final blast at the ol’ Sundeck draws sellout crowd

Tim Mutrie

A reception and dinner to commemorate the Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain will be held this Saturday night to benefit the Aspen Historical Society.

The “Sundown at the Sundeck” farewell party, beginning with rides up the gondola at 5 p.m., will feature an evening of nostalgia and entertainment presented by the Aspen Historical Society.

The event is sold out, with more than 250 attendees expected, but the historical society has begun a waiting list for those still hoping to go.

“This special farewell party will give the community a chance to gather together and celebrate our heritage,” said Mary Beth Pepper, interim director of the historical society. “It is an opportunity for everyone to share their memories and really be a part of the spirit which makes Aspen so special.”

Following a cafeteria-style dinner at 6:30 p.m., master of ceremonies Willard Clapper will give a presentation, “Tales from the Top.” Clapper will relay stories as told to him by local personalities who were instrumental in the Sundeck’s 53-year history. Sources of Sundeck stories include: Howard Awrey, the first manager of the Sundeck; Dick Durrance, longtime local and ski legend; and Paul Wirth, who managed the Sundeck and lived there with his wife, Hanna, and their five children from 1952 to 1966.

The Wirth family became forever linked to the Sundeck in the mid-1950s, when Hanna went into labor in the middle of the night one April. Hearty volunteers immediately fired up the then “world’s longest chairlift” to provide Hanna with safe passage down to Aspen from 11,212 feet. Hanna gave birth to Heidi later that day and the whole event came to be known as “Operation Heidi.”

Clapper will also highlight other memorable events associated with the Sundeck, such as the shooting of the Dave Garroway television show in the late 1950s, which featured notable local Freddie Fisher on clarinet.

When the Sundeck first opened in November 1946, the 30-minute ride up Lift 1 cost $2 for Aspen visitors. Locals, on the other hand, could catch the same ride to the top for 75 cents. Locals received a similar discount for a one-day lift ticket in ’46. While out-of-towners had to shell out $3.75 for a day’s skiing on Ajax, locals paid for a mere $1.50.

The Sundeck is slated for demolition April 5 to make way for a new restaurant and private club atop Ajax.

For additional information and/or to get on the waiting list, call 925-3721.

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