Aspen’s season of 1976-77
December 19, 2017
History is a good thing, but thinking back on the season of 1977-78, I tremor. All entered this season with much optimism. Another season to ski and spend it in the mountains.
But Old Man Winter had a better idea.
We know what happened. No snow, the Skico did not open for Christmas and Highlands opened, but we trucked people down from Quarter Way, those who showed up. Though I taught, it was very limited. My fondest memory of that winter is a daily rock patrol on Exhibition and Onion. Nonworking instructors spent the morning throwing rocks into the trees led by Lefty Brinkman, our leader.
Without much work to be had, I decided in January to go to Winter Park to film a World Pro Skiing event. Over the pass Bob DePlachett and I rolled in a VW bus on Jan. 17. When we got to Leadville the radio announced that Independence Pass was closed.
And it snowed that winter, the Skico opened, and we thought we might recover from Christmas. Did not happen. It was apparent that the whole world thought Aspen was closed. Many businesses went belly up; most of Aspen was on food stamps. Myself, I had one job pearl diving at the Motherlode on Jackson.
The spring came and it kept snowing. The winter ended with powder, but only unemployed ski instructors were around to enjoy the snow.
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A sad but funny story from that winter: A carpenter friend of mine told me in November or the first of December, "I hope it does not snow this winter. Then I am going to get a case of beer and my lawn chair. Pluck it down next to the Castle Creek bridge and watch the feather merchants jump off the bridge." Harsh but true; even then there were those who did not like the growth that was overtaking Aspen.
And a big reset happened that winter. The Skico bought snowmaking equipment. (Whip Jones already had one gun and was able to use the bottom of Highlands at Christmas). Ski lodges began to wither away. Construction people worked through their first winter. The beginning of the end of mom-and-pop was on its way.
If we lose this Christmas I wonder what resets will be in order.
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