New ‘unique’ shrine pops up at odd site at Snowmass Ski Area
Aspen-Snowmass’ mountains are no stranger to crafty shrines tucked away in the trees, paying homage to a loved one or ones who have passed.
The roughly 280 shrines, benches and other memorials across the four mountains also are a time-honored ritual, said local shrine expert David Wood, who believes the first area shrine appeared at Aspen Mountain “sometime in the 1970s.”
But a new shrine that budded off at Snowmass Ski Area this spring stands out even over four-plus decades worth of hundreds of colorful tributes, said Wood.
“Almost every shrine is dedicated to some deceased person or persons,” said Wood, a part-time Snowmass Village resident who’s followed and covered the local shrine scene for nearly 20 years. “I can’t recall anything like this one.”
Wood literally wrote the book on Aspen-Snowmass’ shrines — his self-published, 79-page, “Sanctuaries in the Snow” features history, photos and excerpts of some of the more prominent memorials.
With bright pink bras and Barbie dolls dangling from tree branches off the Naked Lady run, the breast cancer awareness shrine is unique in that it honors a cause rather than any one person or people.
When Wood first visited the shrine sometime “in late February or early March,” a laminated piece of paper with a message and photo clippings of The Aspen Times’ late publisher, Gunilla Asher, fell from the branches via a pink string. On the back, it features a print of the “G a Bear” image that Asher’s sister, Linda Isreal, painted in her memory.
Naturally, Wood presumed the shrine was dedicated to Asher, who died of breast cancer in June 2014.
Not long after, however, Wood recieved word that the shrine had expanded.
When Wood returned, he discovered a similar style tribute — a paper with photo clippings, a note and a pink ribbon — to former Aspen Police Department member Dorian Emery, who died of breast cancer in January.
Emery worked at the front desk of the department for 11 years and in 2015 was named Officer of the Year. Wood noted that another shrine wholly honoring Emery also exists at Snowmass, which was her favorite of the four mountains.
As with most shrines, the identity of its creator or creators is unknown.
Aside from the obvious “Naked Lady” connection to the cause, the site of Snowmass’ newest shrine also is somewhat of a mystery, Wood said.
Originally the location of the Max Shenk Genshaft shrine, Max’s memorial was one of five shrines off Naked Lady run that were mysteriously destroyed during the 2016-17 ski season.
The breast cancer awareness shrine popped up “almost exactly” within one year of the desecration of Max’s shine, Wood said.
“Why would (the shrine creators) pick the exact same spot?” Wood posed while riding the Elk Camp gondola April 12. “I just think it’s a little odd.”
To date, a laminated post-it note taped to a tree at the breast cancer shrine reads, “We will be back for you soon, Max!!” with a heart.
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Spend enough time on the trails and slopes of Snowmass Village and you’ll probably see Brandon Hawksley at some point — or his handiwork, anyway.