Snowmass on the big screen |

Snowmass on the big screen

Jill Beathard | Snowmass Sun
Stein Eriksen skis in "Grand Opening of Snowmass," a film produced by NBC in 1967. The film and others will be shown at an Aspen Historical Society event at the Isis Theatre in Aspen on Feb. 23.
Aspen Historical Society/Courtesy photo |

If you go ...

What: Time Travel Tuesdays

Films: “Dogs of Aspen” (1970s); “Snowmass: Before Lifts” (1967); “Grand Opening of Snowmass” (1967); “Highlands Fling” (1975)

When: 5:30 p.m. (doors open at 5 p.m.), Tuesday, Feb. 23

Where: Isis Theatre, Aspen

Tickets: $10, available online at

It was snowing the day Snowmass ski area opened in 1967.

The newly constructed village was a muddy mess, and contractors were dashing around laying power and telephone lines and finalizing other details to get the new ski resort fully running. But a perfectly timed storm reflected the promise of the new ski area, and NBC News caught it all on camera, including interviews with ski school founder Stein Eriksen, developer Bill Janss and scenes of visitors skiing, skibobbing and skijoring.

Aspen Ski Corp. wanted to show that Snowmass is so named because “it snows a lot, and that’s just what it was doing the big day,” said Aspen Historical Society archivist Anna Scott.

NBC’s “Grand Opening of Snowmass” is one of the films being shown at an Aspen Historical Society event on Feb. 23, part of a season-long series showcasing films that the society recently digitized. This week’s lineup includes films from the late ’60s and early ’70s, including two about the early days of Snowmass.

“Anyone who knew anything about skiing, Stein was their ski god. People would come just to see him.”Kjell VanghagenSnowmass ski instructor

The first is “Snowmass: Before Lifts,” a film shot by Dick Durrance featuring a snowcat tour of Snowmass in 1967, which the Aspen Ski Corp. commissioned to promote the new resort it was about to open, Scott said. It features individuals such as Snowmass guides Don Rayburn, Tom Marshall and Hal Hartman Sr.

“Originally they did snowcat tours, and they had the wine cabin area set up for lunch and stuff, and they skied the Burn area,” Scott said.

The Durrance film will be followed by “Grand Opening of Snowmass.” In between the interviews, it shows scenes of people recreating on the slopes, including Eriksen and his ski instructors jumping off a roller in single file, all sporting their matching custom-knit Norwegian sweaters, commissioned by Eriksen’s mother. Another clip shows the towering Amund Ekroll shadowing Eriksen’s turns down the mountain.

Remembering Stein

Ekroll was one of many European instructors, most from Eriksen’s native country of Norway, who followed the skiing idol to Snowmass after one season teaching under him at Sugar Bush, Vermont. Their team created what some would call the best ski school in the country at that time, and even took business away from Aspen because of their quality and of course the allure of Stein.

“Anyone who knew anything about skiing, Stein was their ski god,” Kjell Vanghagen told The Aspen Times in January. “People would come just to see him.”

Although Stein moved on to Park City a couple of years later, most of the members of that team remained in Snowmass, pursuing lifelong careers with the ski school. Several of them — Ekroll, Per Guldbrandsgaard, Uli Lerch, Martin Nordhagen, Henrik Brusletto, Vanghagen, Magne Nostdahl and Franz Zedlacher — were honored by the Aspen Skiing Co. with a lifetime achievement award in 2013.

A group of the men also went to Deer Valley last week for a celebration of Eriksen’s life. Eriksen died at his home in Park City on Dec. 27.

The celebration included skiing, a public tribute at the resort and a get-together at Eriksen’s home attended by what Ekroll estimates were about 80 people.

“That was a beautiful thing set up by Stein Eriksen’s family,” Ekroll said.

History comes alive

Time Travel Tuesdays is a series the Aspen Historical Society has hosted during the ski season for several years. Usually a series of lectures or presentations by special guests, this year’s series is showcasing some of the 16 millimeter films that the society was recently able to digitize with the help of grant funding.

Digitizing both preserves the films and makes them accessible to the public for viewing. Some are available for purchase, and others can be viewed at the society’s office by appointment.

“Sixteen-millimeter films … you can’t play because you’ll damage them,” Scott said. “Some of these films haven’t been seen for years for that reason.”

The series opened with a showing of “Aspen Extreme.” Director Patrick Hasburgh recorded a commentary for the Aspen Historical Society that showed before the movie.

The rest of the lineup has followed roughly chronologically, starting with early skiing films from the 1940s. The final event will showcase “Skiing Everest,” with an introduction by Mike Marolt.

“We’ve been selling out,” Scott said. “People have been having a great time.”

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on the Aspen Historical Society website at The events are every Tuesday through March 1 at the Isis Theater, except for “Skiing Everest,” which will be in the Wheeler Opera House.

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