Snowmass history: High Alpine debut tracks |

Snowmass history: High Alpine debut tracks

A group of ski patrollers park a snowcat outside Gywn's High Alpine Restaurant, with the Cirque run in the background, amid a powder skiing trip at Snowmass in March of 1976.
Rick Lindner/Aspen Historical Society |

In an article published in the March/April 1977 edition of “Snowmass Affairs Magazine,” Rick Lindner describes the upper, soon-to-be open areas of Snowmass after joining the Snowmass Ski Patrol for a powder excursion.

“As I loaded my camera gear aboard the Thiokol snowcat, Fred Smith, patrol director for Snowmass, explained: ‘Most recreational skiers know that a ski patrolman’s day is usually filled with routine activities like marking obstacles, installing snow fences, and helping tourists with trail directions and equipment problems.’ He climbed in after me, shut the door, and continued talking over the growl of the cat’s cold engine, ‘But few realize that we also assist in planned area expansion, trail layout, and the multitude of details that arise during the conception stages of a new lift-served area.’ The cat driver shifted gears as if to prove Fred’s point, and we were off to sample some of the excellent powder and scenery of High Alpine, the new expansion area in Snowmass…. As the snowcat plowed through the deep snow on the way to 13,000-foot Baldy Peak, I got to know some of the crew. Fred Smith, 29 years old, had worked in the Wasatch mountain resorts of Brighton, Solitude, and Alta for most of his adult life before coming to Aspen in 1968. Gary Clark, 30 years old, gave up the beaches of Southern California for the mountains of Western Colorado after school at Fort Collins in the mid-sixties. He came to Colorado State University as a forestry recreation major, and eventually moved to Western Colorado because of skiing. Larry Rameil, 35 years old, had worked on the trail crew and as a life operator and catskinner on Aspen Mountain where he learned powder skiing before joining the Snowmass Patrol at its inception in 1966-67. Fred Smith’s cousin, Rob Clark, 26 years old, also from Utah, had spent his summers herding sheep with Fred in the Wasatch Mountains, and skiing during the winters before migrating south to Colorado in 1968. The youngest member of the group, Hal Hartman, 21 years old, was an Aspen native, and had been involved since childhood with the expansion project. His father Hal Sr., laid out the trail design for Snowmass during the mid-sixties, including most of the new runs to be opened in the winter of 1977-78. Also, assisting me by carrying some of the camera equipment was Ken McMahan, a bartender at Aspen’s Red Onion, and expert skier from Stowe, Vermont… next winter, a ride up the High Alpine lift #12 will deposit advanced skiers at an elevation of 11,700 feet, giving them a total of 3,500 vertical feet of excellent skiing to the village in Snowmass…In fact, the three-lift complex of High Alpine is sure to provide future skiers with some of the best late-spring skiing in North America, not to mention fantastic powder skiing throughout most the winter. But more important, perhaps, is the quality of the experience in these surroundings. As we churned up the last untracked snow in the lower Hanging Valley, I wondered how I was going to describe it for Snowmass Affairs and decided that the best track was to say that you have to ski it to see what I mean. And come next year, at Snowmass, you can.”


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