Tony Vagneur: Locals and Lester Crown

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

A little snow hits the ground, adding to the little we already had, and overnight it seems as though attitudes and worlds have morphed back into a more comfortable vision of winter. Mikey Wechsler, perennial local and dedicated ski bum, gruffed past me at the top of Nell the other day and I immediately knew that Lower Corkscrew must have just opened.

The crystal fire pit at Gorsuch’s new spot, across Gondola Plaza from Friedl Pfeifer’s statue, seems to be in top working order and some folks park there for long discussions about whatever. The other day, a chunkier-proportioned lady in a wife-beater T-shirt was informing a gaggle of eager listeners about her version of what it takes to be a local. Perhaps it was a dream.

By the way, is there any relationship between the crystal rocks in the Gorsuch pit and the long-ago nickname for Aspen, “Crystal City of the Rockies”? My partner Margaret says, “No, think fire and ice, Tony.” Huh? The world moves at warp speed and when did such distinctions become important, or even relevant? The discrepancy between true local and part-time gaper is so blurred anymore.

It was just last week when the Aspen Hall of Fame held its annual banquet and induction of new members at the Hotel Jerome, and it was a bash to be remembered. Chicken headlined the menu, but you didn’t have to be there to know that. The new format of honoring each inductee makes for a much shorter evening and in its most elemental form, it is a gathering of folks who have shared a lot of stories and events over the years.

Tee and Bob Child, Bobby Mason and Lester Crown were recognized. Wait a minute, did you say Lester Crown? Some sour locals objected to Crown’s induction, and a couple of my friends have serious issues with Aspen Skiing Co., something that can’t discounted, but for the moment let’s put that aside.

In the 1970s, when I worked for the Ski Corp., as it was then known, D.R.C. Brown was the vilified president. It seemed like, at least to the workforce and many locals, a lot of what he did was uncaring and totally profit motivated. After he sold the company to Marvin Davis and Twentieth Century Fox, Brown slowly began to emerge as somewhat of a hero in a euhemerist change of heart. In 1988, D.R.C. Brown was inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame.

1985 was a big year for Skico, for that was the year Crown and his family bought into the company, eventually becoming sole owners. We need to recognize and remember that Crown saved Aspen from Twentieth Century Fox, an accomplishment you can’t fully appreciate unless you were here during the tumultuous early ’80s. Crown was the gracious recipient of a well-deserved Aspen Hall of Fame honor.

Speaking of iconic locals, a longtime and mostly revered Aspenite passed into the next world almost exactly one year ago. Frank Eriksen was erudite, intelligent, caring and funny and he was the Morning Man-Program Director at KSPN for a long, very entertaining time in the 1980s. He also was part of the local music scene. Last year, he voiced a particular opinion on what it takes to be a local and in his memory, I’d like to share that with you. Herewith his definition:

“You live in Aspen (or the valley) full-time. It is your primary residence. You work full-time in the valley. You get your mail at the Post Office or, if lucky enough, delivered to your door. At least 50 to 100 people know you by name. You know that Conundrum is a hot spring not a mental condition. You know two to three cops or sheriff’s deputies by name and have played the ‘seriously, I’m going straight home’ card at least once and have been granted that favor. And although you may not know Tony personally, you wouldn’t think of starting a Saturday without reading his column along with a big cup of coffee. If you don’t meet those requirements — you ain’t a local. Loco maybe. But no local.”

Normally, in a show of unpretentiousness, I would delete the sentence about my column, but Frank wouldn’t have liked that. Frank, I will forever love you.

As some have suggested, maybe we do live in a bubble, and maybe this isn’t the real world, but whatever it is, let’s get back to it and appreciate all the extraordinary moments we have. Peace.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at