Vagneur: What’s it all about? | AspenTimes.com

Vagneur: What’s it all about?

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

It’s all about the skiing, isn’t it? For a lot of us, that’s at the top of the list, but there are other things going on, like real estate closings. And discussions about whose plane is going to get us there and back again. Not too long ago, I skied with a guy who is big in real estate on a nationwide basis. You’d recognize his name if I mentioned it, but then again, would you care? Not a bad skier, either, at least not for the first run, but after that he couldn’t keep his hands off his cellphone, and I finally had to ditch him about halfway down the Face of Bell.

Rest and relaxation can be found in several areas on the mountain, “The Couch” not to be excluded from the elite list. A friend of mine refers to it as “The Sofa,” and no one has any trouble knowing what she means. If you don’t know to what “The Couch” refers to, it is the nickname for Lift No. 7, or more recently, the Gent’s Ridge lift. With all those names, it’s a wonder anyone can find it, let alone ride it (got to ride it like you find it — think Clarence Wilson and “The Rock Island Line”), and if you’re still wondering, you’ll have to journey up the relatively slow-moving beast to truly understand how magically it can rehabilitate legs loaded with lactic acid.

Another great spot on the mountain to relax (I’m talking the Big Mountain here, not one of those other three) is Bonnie’s Restaurant, located near the bottom of Tourtelotte Park, close to the spot where Spook James and I had a kicker off a mine dump that could send a kid 100 feet or more. I don’t remember much about the landing anymore, except that it didn’t kill us.

Some of us, in our exuberance today, still holler out, “I’ll meet you at Gretl’s for lunch.” Where’s Gretl’s, some of the newcomers may ask? Gretl Uhl was the first proprietor (and namesake) of the restaurant, a woman who not only was a world-class skier, but a woman who could make a world-class apple strudel. Her recipe today is still the foundation and best-seller of the dessert bar, ably manned by Muffin Dole, a wisp of a woman who can ski the socks off most every person on the mountain. The dessert bar is at the beginning of the lunch line, not the end, allowing Muffin (or her alter-ego, Patty Spilsbury) to sometimes twist your arm into a delicious dessert, which can mess with your preordained idea of what lunch protocol should be all about.

If you do stop in at Bonnie’s Restaurant (named after Bonnie Rayburn, who operated it for years) — well, Peter Greene had a hand in it along the way, and it is now under the able management of Brigitte Birrfelder, a lovely restauranteur who grew up at the Sundeck, skiing to school every morning. If you think about it, the chain of management is kind of a family thing among locals, which is probably the reason it’s the on-mountain go-to place for those in the know. By the way, the run directly behind Bonnie’s, once referred to as Lower Percy’s, has since been renamed Gretl’s. Become immortal and you’ll get a ski run named after you.

Beware the wandering fork if you do check out Bonnie’s. Those forks, cruising the tables, looking for a delectable dessert that is not being eaten fast enough, come in all sorts of hands and are a danger to anyone who lets his guard down. Perhaps the most notorious of these forks belongs to a good friend and intellectual sparring partner of mine who also happens to be a ski professional. Several years ago, my partner Margaret and I went to lunch at Bonnie’s for the first time together, where we also selected a huge chunk of carrot cake for dessert. The aforementioned friend saw us sharing the dessert and without saying a word, swooped down for a stainless-steel forkful of cake. With mouth full, and without ever muttering an intelligible word, he wandered off toward the exit, followed by Margaret’s incredulous remark, “Who the hell was that?”

In the end, I guess it’s not all about skiing, or even real estate. It’s mostly about a bunch of local characters who call Aspen Mountain home for a good part of the year. And who like dessert.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.


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