Good Doctor enshrined at Snowmass
February 20, 2006
The occasional avalanche blast Monday at Snowmass Ski Area was a forceful reminder of a gunshot that shook Woody Creek, Aspen and the literary world one year before.To mark the anniversary of Hunter S. Thompson’s death, a group of fans from around the Roaring Fork Valley decided a shrine to the Good Doctor was in order.They agreed to let a reporter and photographer tag along Monday, with a couple of conditions: That no real names be used and that the location of the new sanctum be described in circumspect terms.Why no names?”Why doesn’t a bird fly upside down?” retorted Rusty Hematoma, one of the shrine’s creators.Also, why Snowmass? Aren’t most of the shrines – to Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix and John Denver, for example – on Aspen Mountain?Snowmass actually has a few shrines of its own, including one to Bob Marley and another to Eric Smith, a beloved ski instructor who died a few years back from a rare form of cancer, said Mr. Quick, another organizer.
Plus, the Thompson spot is near a trail with the perfect name: Gunner’s View, off Elk Camp. It’s hidden, but not too concealed, as a good shrine should be.Hooting and hollering, the group descended through a half-foot of fresh snow before ducking into a stand of trees on skier’s left, following a short path to a couple of cornices on the right.The terrain is best left to moderate to expert skiers, or those willing to take a chance to see the tribute. The shrine had the blessing of Anita Thompson, Hunter’s widow, and she donated a few items to the effort, Hematoma said.”She was all for it. She said, ‘I think it’d be great to have a spot to go and smoke a joint, and read something about Hunter, think about him,'” he said.At the prescribed area, two nail guns, a power screwgun and bailing wire emerged from backpacks. Hematoma had with him about 30 photos and articles, laminated to fend off the elements, as well as a plastic arm. The items were passed among the group to install as the members saw fit.A marijuana pipe was also passed around. One man spoke of how he planned to bring a typewriter to the site this summer and use it for target practice, an act Thompson surely would have approved.Then the group got down to the business at hand. Branches were torn and chopped to make way for the adornments. Fastened to towering pines and aspens were the Rolling Stone cover after his suicide, a lizard adorned with multicolored jewels, and the front pages from both Aspen papers the day after his death and after his funeral.
A Mountain Gazette cover hung on another tree, and a multitude of pictures of Thompson was fastened all over the site.”Should we set off some explosives?” someone asked. An air horn sufficed for the time being.An American flag was strung between two trunks, as were Tibetan prayer flags. Nearby, a man hooked up a solar panel to power an “eternal blinking light,” he said (an eternal flame in the woods not being a good idea). More marijuana was smoked. The long-term batteries for the light were lost, but the man made do with standard ones that will have to be replaced more often.Some in the group quietly wondered if what they were doing was legal. But the work proceeded. These are, after all, our mountains. One person lamented the loss of such a character as Hunter.”We need more people with more character, more guts, more individual attitudes,” he said.Stories were told of brushes with the author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Great Shark Hunt” and “Hell’s Angels.”One said he was putting bracelets on people in the VIP section at a Jazz Aspen concert when up walked Thompson, with a large glass of bourbon, and his entourage. Concert authorities said, “just let him through, just let him through.”
Another who visited Thompson’s home told of seeing a colored light display above his television that repeated the message, “At the top of the mountain, we are all snow leopards.”Before the cold and beckoning powder drew the enshrinement ensemble back onto the nearby trail, a Newcastle beer was passed around to fete the new shrine, and a series of fireworks exploded.The group decided it would make the first run through the shrine. They followed the now-familiar path, dashing between the trees, with glimpses of Hunter all around them.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is email@example.com