Tony Vagneur: Good or bad aside, change is inevitable in Aspen
All this talk about Lift 1A and the Lift One Corridor starts to stimulate the brain, I reckon, and memories of those days when Lifts One and Two (the Tuna Trolley) were the ultimate workhorses for the Aspen Ski Corp. come to mind.
Ruthie’s Run and Silver Queen were favorites of the kids around my age, and we skied them almost exclusively, run after run. That was in the days before grooming and corduroy. Up Lift One, down Ruthie’s or the Queen and repeat, except for lunch we’d generally stop for a burger at the Skier’s Chalet.
There’d be anywhere from four to eight of us in a group, faces changing as the day wore on. Some brought their own lunch. If we got bored, we’d ride the old single Lift Two to the top for either lunch or a simple change of scenery.
Before Lift No. 5 was built (1957), one had to ride Lift One first to get to the top. It also was the only way at the time to get to the top of Ruthie’s or the Queen, unless you skied Midway Cut-Off from the top of Tourtelotte.
Sometimes there would be a problem when ripping down the last of Fifth Avenue, we’d notice a long lift line at the bottom of One. We had a method for taking evasive action — we’d herring-bone back up the hill a way and then cut under Thunder Hill to the top of Mill Street. From there, we had a trail that angled up the steep east side of the draw, going behind what eventually would be Trudi Peet’s elevator-served house and coming out about 75 yards up Little Nell.
We’d then ski Little Nell, either using the T-Bar or Lift No. 4 (depending on the year) until we ascertained the line at One had gone down or it was lunch, whichever. Then, as now, we’d take Schuss Gulley back to the bottom of Lift One. After No. 5 was built, it provided another way to the top, and Lift No. 3 (1954) served the top, but those runs were, for the most part, too tame for us.
The top of Mill Street used to be a busy place for ski activity. Never mind that the Snow Chase Lodge was there, home to more than a few ski bums over the years (not to mention that prior to that, the Holloway family lived there in the early 1960s and tried their level best to keep me out of trouble), but it also was the practice area for the Aspen ski team.
In the midst of the Willoughby jumps, we’d have slalom courses set up, which required packing up the hill to get to the top. It was a built-in conditioning program. On Wednesday afternoons (no school), coach Gale “Spider” Spence would send Spook James and me to Midway with instructions to make a couple of nonstop laps down Ruthie’s and then head over to the slalom hill to run gates. There also were the wind sprints we did week nights — on skis. Weekends, we might have slalom races along the side of Snow Bowl.
Time wandered on and I started playing basketball in the winter, and never again hit that traverse to Little Nell from the top of Mill Street, until years later, as a member of the 1970-71 professional trail crew on Aspen Mountain. That was the best job anyone ever invented, bar none.
Anyway, the trail crew was at the bottom of Lift One around midday, ready to head up, when instructions came that we should walk over to Little Nell for some mission or other.
“Forget that,” said yours truly. “We can get there without taking our skis off.”
With quizzical and doubtful looks, the crew lined up behind me.
If you’ve been around awhile, you’ll remember the names: Ken Lindsey (Lindsey’s Loop), Jons Milnor (patrol supervisor for many years), Gary Krubsack (Krubsack’s Cliff) and that might have been it, that day. The old trail was still visible in places, but very overgrown, and we fairly well had to bushwhack our way up the hill, emerging on Little Nell like a group of conquering heroes in Napoleon’s winter army, branches and dead leaves stuck everywhere to our uniforms.
It was that Ronco guy, Ron Popeil, who bought Trudi Peet’s elevator house, or it seems. Whoever it was, they complained to the Ski Corp. about employees trespassing through their backyard and we were called on it.
If you look around, the entire neighborhood has changed immensely, giving credence to those who say “change is inevitable.”
Whether it’s good is another question. In case you haven’t noticed, more change may be blowing in the wind. Oh, and by the way, angle skier parking on South Aspen Street has disappeared, for good.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
It’s almost time to ring in the new year and if your holiday schedule is shaping up to be as packed as mine, I wish you a well-deserved rest in 2024. In the meantime, it’s our chance to party, and party we shall.