In search of shrines on Snowmass

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

This is my fourth winter living in Aspen, but until yesterday, I had only visited three of our on-mountain shrines — one honoring Jerry Garcia, which I stumbled on before even knowing what the shrines were, and those dedicated to Elvis and Marilyn.

In this week’s edition of the Snowmass Sun, I ran a column about a ski day on Snowmass last weekend when my friends and I combed the trees off Gunner’s View in search of the Hunter S. Thompson Shrine. Commenting that I was unsuccessful, Snowmass Village resident David Wood, who literally wrote the book on the shrines, decided it was time for us to take a tour and reached out to me.

Created by skiers and snowboarders who tack up memorabilia on trees on Aspen’s four ski areas, the shrines celebrate everything from celebrities to deceased locals to pets and favorite sports. On Friday, a particularly glorious bluebird day, Wood took me to six in the Elk Camp area.

And so I finally made it to the Hunter S. Thompson Shrine, which sort of feels like you’re in someone’s den: it’s a cozy cove in the trees covered with snowboard boots, magazine clippings, golf shoes, a bottle of whiskey and a mannequin arm — probably still not weird enough for Hunter. I was pleasantly surprised to also see some photos of our late beloved Aspen Times colleague Stewart Oksenhorn, as well, a recent addition.

David, who wears a 100-day pin he earned last season, visits these shrines often enough to know when something has been added or changed, and his enthusiasm is apparent in his reaction to each new piece. When we arrived at our last stop, the humorous Kitty Cat Shrine, a girl he had helped find it last winter had clearly returned to post a photo of herself and her pet, an example of the connections that these special places have helped build.