‘The best run’: Gwyn’s High Alpine family donates food to community to cap final season
Outside of the Snowmass Village Housing Office on Tuesday night, residents were invited to pick up free food boxes in an effort to support individuals and families affected by the local COVID-19 related closures.
The food pickup was originally slated to start around 5:15 p.m. By 5:10 p.m., a group of at least 20 people spaced themselves around the parking lot in front of the housing building, waiting to grab tall, cardboard boxes full of items such as celery, sugar, bread, cheese, tea, apple cider mix, oranges, chips, buckets of chili and more.
Some people took the food items out of need and a desire not to let it go to waste. Others left without food, stopping by just to thank Gwyn Knowlton, George Gordon, and their daughter Whitney Gordon who donated the food from their family-run Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant.
“You guys are angels,” one man said, clutching a box filled to the brim with food. “This really is community right here.”
Within about 30 minutes, all of the food Gwyn, George and Whitney didn’t want to go to waste was on its way to residents’ homes, including a few packages slated for delivery to older locals in need.
This was the family’s last winter season operating Gwyn’s High Alpine, the longtime mid-mountain mainstay at the top of the Alpine Springs Lift at Snowmass. And given the recently issued state public health order to shut down dine-in restaurants until mid-April to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the family said it is unlikely they’ll open Gwyn’s doors again.
“We were all so blindsided by all of this and really hoped to end our last season with a lot of celebrations,” said Whitney, who has headed the restaurant in recent years. “Every day we’ve had to say goodbyes and haven’t had that point of closure, which has been hard for all of us, I think.”
Despite their disappointment of not being able to celebrate the beloved restaurant’s final season the way they envisioned, the family felt it important to end on as positive a note as possible by portioning out its leftover food for its employees and the village community.
Gwyn, Whitney and George said the restaurant’s food also is being dispersed to other Aspen-Snowmass area pickup locations, and that they were more than happy to donate their food to the community they love so much.
“Forty-one years was a great run and we felt this was the most positive thing we could do to end and to help our own,” George said.
In 1979, Gwyn and George opened their on-mountain restaurant at the top of the Alpine Springs lift, which is well known for its fine dining and multitude of options “for all palates,” according to its website.
At the time, the couple worked to turn the existing, below-average eatery into a dining experience centered on many of Gwyn’s family recipes, soon creating a Snowmass Ski Area staple with favorites like seafood puffs and homemade chili.
When the family announced on its restaurant’s Facebook page Saturday evening that it would likely not reopen again this winter season due to the state’s COVID-19 outbreak, more than 30 people commented to share personal anecdotes, praise and gratitude for the family’s longtime on-mountain dining legacy.
“Three generations of our family have enjoyed Gwyn’s High Alpine. … We all appreciate the love with which the food was prepared and the welcoming atmosphere Gwyn and George provided,” one person wrote.
“Your fantastic restaurant was the most memorable with fantastic food and great people that worked there,” another person commented.
“You are awesome. You will be forever in people’s memories for generations!” another posted.
Aspen Skiing Co. made the decision not to renew its lease contract with the Gordon family in fall 2018 — which the family said in November they’ve made peace with — Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan recognizes this widespread, multi-generational impact Gwyn’s has had on locals and visitors over the past four decades.
“Gwyn’s will always be an important part of the legacy of Snowmass. They touched so many of us with their hospitality and warmth and we will all miss them,” Kaplan said Tuesday evening via email.
“Obviously none of us expected this year to end so suddenly and in such a dramatic fashion, so it’s disappointing not to have the opportunity to spend one more sunny day on the deck there and celebrate that legacy. We wish Gwyn, George and Whitney and their team all the best in their future endeavors.”
When asked how they felt the last season went, Gwyn, George and Whitney said that before Saturday, it was the best season they could have hoped for.
The family plans to throw a big BBQ over the summer to celebrate their more than 40 years of on-mountain dining, and said they’re not going far.
“We’ve cried a lot over the past few days,” Whitney said, looking at her mom and dad, smiling. “But we’ll still be here in the village and will see everyone around.”
“We really have had the best run,” Gwyn added.
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