A West End wonderland | AspenTimes.com

A West End wonderland

Tony Vagneur

Aspen, CO ColoradoSnow’s a kind of funny thing, when you think about it. Kids love it, a lot of adults don’t like it, and then there’s some of us (miscreants, the rest of the world thinks), that can’t get enough of the stuff.Back in the ’50s, we had a record-breaking year for snow, and for some reason, it just stands out in my mind as a great winter. I wasn’t old enough to put on my own galoshes, I don’t think, but I certainly remember climbing into those snow caves the older kids made, which for the most part, were stuck in the sides of humongous snowbanks. That was the year people in town started putting rags and bandanas on their car radio antennae so they could be seen as they approached intersections. Darkness always came too soon on those days, and for some reason, I’ve always wished for more snow.Of course, we skied the mountain religiously and with great fervor, but that still left a lot of daylight to do other things in the chill of the winter season. It wasn’t unusual to get most of the West End kids together for a big snowball fight somewhere, usually in the front yard of the log house on the corner of Third and Main. We’d build two large snow forts about 10 yards apart, and they’d usually last all winter, with a little maintenance here and there. Each new snowstorm provided fresh ammunition for the next big neighborhood battle. Some of the cabin’s renters used to wonder where all the kids came from, but nobody ever really seemed to object.Spook James and I used to ski all day and then spend the rest of the afternoon doing flips, rolls and jumps off the huge piles of snow the city left along the streets. We did it mostly without skis, and our attire usually included tennis shoes, for their light weight. Cold feet were the norm. If the snow banks got tall enough, we’d keep our skis on and really put ourselves to the test. Spook and I also used to like to ski the trees over in the area of Gaard’s Gulch, usually ending up near Stillwater, but then, that’s a skiing story for another day.Tom Stapleton, our great-uncle, used to pull Don Stapleton and me all over the West End (on one of those round, metal saucers that used to be popular) with his Jeep. We’d tie about 35-40 feet of rope between the Jeep and the saucer – talk about “crack the whip.”Tom’d drive side to side down the street, whipping us back and forth, or go around a 90-degree corner, really applying an aerial send-off. We used streets like Bleeker and Francis much like kids today use halfpipes, only on saucers. Not very many cars. Tom never looked back and knew little about using mirrors, so one of us would ride in the Jeep as a spotter (always trying to get Tom to speed it up) while the other guy got to ride. It’s probably true that Uncle Tom didn’t realize how dangerous it was until one particularly fast day when his Jeep tossed the saucer way up, way too high. Don landed totally upside down, in the middle of a vacant lot, his head buried so deep in the snow we thought maybe he would suffocate before we could pry him loose. Since I needed Tom’s help to get Don unstuck, the jig was kind of up, and Uncle Tom finally decided he no longer wanted any part of it – just as well, I reckon.For a long time, we only had one mountain to ski, didn’t have any terrain parks and long thongs were as “tech” as bindings could get. But we skied hard, and when the day was over, we had all of the West End as our playground.Tony Vagneur isn’t sure if things are better now, but he thinks he’s finally adjusted. Read him here every Saturday and send comments to ajv@sopris.net.