Gretl gets a trail
April 5, 2002
“Gretl’s” is the new name of a trail on Aspen Mountain in honor of the late Gretl Uhl, who passed away in February at age 78.
A competitive ski racer and stylish instructor, Uhl was also the charming force behind Gretl’s restaurant, which flourished on Ajax from 1966 to 1980, in the small wooden building in Tourtelotte Park where Bonnie’s restaurant is today.
“Gretl’s” is now the name of the little bump run behind Bonnie’s restaurant that leads to Lift 3. Many an Aspen Mountain skier has bounced down that trail after lunch, suddenly aware of just how much lunch they really had.
And it’s the same trail that Gretl skied down every winter evening after the restaurant closed, usually alone and long after the ski patrol sweep had gone by.
“What better trail could there be?” said Anton Uhl, Gretl’s son. “It’s wonderful. It is a greater honor than anything in her modest way she would have ever expected.”
The new Gretl’s run is for now, technically, lower Little Percy, an intermediate blue run.
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The upper section of Little Percy is steep and bumpy, a black-diamond run that leads directly to Bonnie’s. It will stay “Little Percy.”
So starting Sunday, after an informal dedication ceremony at 11 a.m., the route from Ruthie’s to Lift 3 will be known as “Little Percy to Gretl’s (past Bonnie’s).”
“Little Percy” was not named for Percy Rideout, one of the original investors in the the Aspen Skiing Corp., but was the name of a mining claim near the run.
Several other runs on Aspen Mountain are already named for influential skiers from Aspen’s early ski days.
Knowlton’s is named for Steve Knowlton, 1946 Roch Cup winner and founder of the raucous Golden Horn restaurant. Siebert’s is named for Pete Siebert, who patrolled on Ajax before founding Vail. And Red’s Run is named for an early Aspen Mountain manager, rancher Red Rowland.
Gretl Uhl takes her place on the trail map after recently being inducted into Aspen’s Hall of Fame.
“I think she embodied the true spirit of Aspen,” said Jeanette Darnauer, founder and board vice president of the Aspen Hall of Fame. “She was passionate about skiing. Her personality was effervescent. She welcomed people. She was famous. And her spirit touched everybody she came in contact with.”
The suggestion to name a run for Gretl came from Greg Poschman, an Aspen native whose mother, Jony Larrowe, was one of Gretl’s best friends.
“The very last thing Gretl said to be me was ‘Take a ski run for me,'” Poschman said. “And then it occurred to me.”
Poschman sent out e-mails asking people if they would support the idea of a “Gretl’s trail.” He got hundreds of supportive responses, which he forwarded to the Aspen Skiing Co.
“Gretl was my ski instructor in 1959, and I still think of her love of the mountains,” wrote Martha Madsen in a typical response to Poschman’s query.
Looking back, it seems Gretl was destined to be a part of Aspen Mountain.
When she was 12, the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Winter Olympics in Germany literally came to her family’s house, which was taken down to make way for a ski jumping stadium.
Her family’s nearby restaurant, however, ended up perfectly positioned just outside the stadium and served huge crowds during the games. Gretl was a proud and glamorous member of the Partenkirchen Ski Club as a teenager. A strong racer, she was later a member of the German national ski team.
In 1948, she married Sepp Uhl of Garmisch. Their best man, Tony Woerndle, would become a ski instructor on Aspen Mountain.
In 1951, Dick Durrance, the first mountain manager of Aspen Mountain, showed Sepp and Gretl the movie he had made of the 1950 FIS World Championships in Aspen.
“We saw the movie and said, ‘We wish we could ski there once,'” Gretl said in an interview last fall.
They did more than wish, arriving in Aspen in 1953. Sepp became a ski school supervisor on Ajax, and Gretl started teaching in 1955.
In 1966, Gretl asked to serve food in a warming hut the Ski Corp. was to build that summer in Tourtelotte Park. She got her chance and stared serving freshly made meals, from one skier to another.
“I would serve light meals on hot days and heavy meals on cold days,” Gretl said. “I listened to the weather forecast and watched the barometer and did things accordingly.”
And when Aspen started to rock with thousands of young skiers and celebrities in the 1970s, Gretl’s became the hot spot on Aspen Mountain.
She became famous for her delicious hand-rolled strudel with fresh whipped cream and revered by her employees for both her dedication and her two-days-on, two-days-off employee policy.
“Because I am a skier and I know that two days you can work if you know the next two days are yours,” Gretl said.
“She made such a contribution to this mountain,” said Steve Sewell, Aspen Mountain manager. “And she employed a lot of ski bums that went on to become members of the community.”