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John Colson: Are we simply too dumb, or too numb?

Just what is wrong with us?

And by “us,” I’m referring to the more compassionate, progressive and truly populist (not the kind practiced by demagogues and political pirates) side of our national electorate — or the Democratic party, which by default is the party that espouses some version of such values.

As I watched the fallout from the most recent Democratic presidential debate, I was struck by how firmly we seem to be locked into a forever-loop of high drama and fervent hopefulness in assessing candidates for the highest office in the land, even as we insist that the candidates be perfect in every way and able to instantly come up with plans that will solve everything once they’re elected.

Such delusional insistence is a guarantee for disappointment, as we saw with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

Obama, thanks to his intelligence, his speaking abilities and his left-leaning politics seemed to many of us to be an answer to our political prayers, though in the end he failed to live up to that promise for many reasons.

Of course, it didn’t hurt his election chances that his opponent, the late Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, seemed to lose his marbles momentarily during the race and named former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

As Palin’s vacuous mental state and ignorance about nearly everything became more and more clear, the electorate went with Obama despite the racist rumblings from Republicans and the extreme right wing of our benighted country.

The resulting outburst of racist rants and acts are by now legendary, and perhaps none were more blatant and outrageous than the 2010 incident on the steps of the U.S. Capitol when a rabid Tea Party protester spat on U.S. Congressman John Lewis as he walked past an angry mob gathered to protest the proposed Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislation that was poised for adoption at that point.

Anyway, back to our delusional demands of perfection on the part of our candidates.

Throughout the aftermath of the latest Democratic debate, commentators, one after another, lamented that not one candidate had risen above the rest and “won” the debate, as if it were a competitive exercise on a reality television show.

That comparison, naturally, leads to consideration of our current president, whose popularity (if it can be called by such a moniker) stems largely from his work as a reality TV host on the show “The Apprentice.”

On that show (which I never watched on purpose, though I often caught broadcast clips of his performances of his more outrageous pronouncements), Donald Trump learned a lot of things, but mostly he realized that outrageous acts and language were not only perfectly acceptable, they were outright demanded by his viewing audience.

Once he seized on the idea of running for president, Trump naturally put his TV triumphs at the top of his strategy, presuming that what worked for “The Apprentice” would work just as well in the election campaign.

He was proven correct, of course, as the most racist, xenophobic, misogynist segment of our electorate responded wholeheartedly and loudly, probably in as much of a reaction against the Obama presidency as a validation of anything Trump might say or do.

And that is the standard by which we now, apparently, judge all candidates. If someone running for office cannot titillate us with his or her words and persona, too many of us deem them somehow a failure, or at least not worthy of trust and support — at least, not until they do come up with some leftist version of Trump’s nasty, intolerant and basically anti-human rhetoric.

The national media, unfortunately, seem to validate this kind of thinking, as they rush from one political scoop to the next and search pantingly for the same kind of vitriol and condemnation as Trump has given us.

This is a betrayal of our basic duty as voting citizens, which is to carefully examine the candidates, their proposals and philosophy on our way to deciding which of them should get our vote.

Part of the problem, of course, is the fact that our educational system has been grindingly diminished by years of government neglect, most determinedly by Republican politicians who understand that a smarter electorate would spell doom for the party, which is unabashedly in favor of destroying government and privatizing our education system.

The outcome, if not the intent, has been to reduce our schools to the level of factories cranking out docile and compliant workers rather than thoughtful, rational citizens with all the tools needed to properly exercise the electoral franchise. Not all schools have fallen prey to this systematic degradation (our schools in the valley, for instance, seem to still be pretty good).

But too many have gone down the rathole, nationally speaking, and this dumbing down of America has given us today’s political reality, under which the populace seeks emotional gratification rather than education, spectacle instead of substance, and easily digested soundbites rather than well-considered explanations of the complex and difficult questions we face as a nation.

Overcoming these obstacles is not easy, but it’s necessary, if we are to pull ourselves out of the awful tailspin that has this country in its grip.

Or are we simply too dumb, or too numb, to cope with all this?

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.

She Said, He Said: Bartender spouse’s biggest worry is threat of infidelity always on menu

Dear Lori and Jeff,

My husband is a professional bartender at a nice restaurant, makes a good living and, for the most part, really enjoys his job. Several weeks ago I went to pick him up at the restaurant but had to sit at the bar for a while, waiting for him to finish his shift. I noticed one of the cocktail servers being overtly flirtatious with him. She didn’t know I was his wife but she certainly knows he’s married. I don’t think my husband would stray but she’s young and very attractive and seems to be presenting him with an opportunity that leaves me a bit worried. Should I start a discussion about this with my husband or should I let it go, trusting that he’ll do the right thing?


Worried Wife

Dear WW,

Lori: While trust is paramount to the health of a relationship, so is not being naïve. The bar industry is built on charisma, charm and alcohol, so being passive on the sidelines of this one will only bring you worry at best and heartbreak at worst. Look, I’m not saying that every relationship in the booze slinging industry is doomed, but there are a few factors in your question that raise concern. First is your reluctance to have an honest conversation with your partner: “Hey babe, I noticed the hot cocktail waitress trying to get up on your bottle service. Are we OK? Is there anything you need from me?” Yes, as an adult in a relationship you need to have this conversation, but in an “I care about you and us” manner rather than a “you’d better not” accusatory way. What’s been the hesitation? Are you tiptoeing around other important topics too? Second, potential for straying often starts with problems in the relationship. If you’re seeing opportunity, it may be because part of you has already been noticing issues. Have you gotten into a routine? Has the business of life led you to neglect the emotional or intimate bond with him? If so, consider tying on a little apron and bringing his waitress fantasy into your relationship. (And for all my feminist friends out there, yes, I would tell the same thing to a man if the genders were reversed.)

Jeff: What you do depends on your assessment of the vibrancy of your marriage. If things are good, the connection is strong and the level of interest in each other is high, then up the game by playing into the situation. It’s a bit like claiming what’s yours and letting it be known that you aren’t going to allow someone else to move in on your territory. The attention your husband is getting from this shiny new thing is surely piquing his interest but criticizing him for having his ego stroked will only create resentment.

If you and your husband are in a rut and it feels like he may be losing interest in you (or you in him), consider the advice of relationship guru Esther Perel. She talks about the “shadow of the third,” which is the potential reality that our partners might be interested in someone else. We’re encouraged to figuratively invite the shadow into our relationships by acknowledging that our bonds are not immune to external forces. We never want our partners to be unfaithful, but knowing the possibility exists can rejuvenate our sexual interest and keep them from straying. When asked if there were any secrets to long-lasting relationships, philosopher Alain de Botton replied, “Infidelity. Not the act itself, but the threat of it. An injection of jealousy is the only thing capable of rescuing a relationship ruined by habit.”

Lori and Jeff: Take a moment to see your husband through her eyes. See how handsome, strong, talented, warm and funny he is. Remember that everyday marriage is a choice, and if you value him and the relationship, show him by giving him the same level of attention he may be getting at work.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.

Colbert’s Prep Playbook: A way too early look at RPI standings for fall sports

Without question, it’s too soon in the fall season to take the current RPI standings seriously. The Rating Percentage Index is a mathematically generated number that needs a lot of data to be accurate and there haven’t been enough games played to pay much attention to it yet.

However, the RPI standings are out there and how can you not at least glance at them? After all, it’s the RPI that will define your season and whether you make the postseason. So, let’s take a much-too-early look at the four fall sports that use the RPI rankings to see how Aspen and Basalt stand. There are a couple of Longhorn teams that should be pretty psyched.


At 8-1 overall, Basalt is No. 2 in all of Class 3A. Other than Greeley’s University, which is 12-0 and ranked No. 1, every team in 3A has at least one loss. The Longhorns have been mighty good so far, outscoring teams 103 to 39.

They started hot last season, as well, before injuries sent them into a free fall. The sky seems to be the limit for 2019 should they stay healthy. BHS plays a couple games in Meeker on Tuesday.

Aspen, 0-8 overall, is ranked 35 out of 36 teams in RPI. The Skiers have a home game against Cedaredge on Tuesday afternoon.


At 2-0, Basalt football is No. 2 in Class 2A’s RPI this week. By comparison, BHS is No. 9 this week in the media/coaches poll, which actually will factor into playoff seeding to a degree this fall. RPI No. 1 is Sterling (3-0) while Resurrection Christian (1-1) is No. 3, which isn’t too far off the other poll.

Basalt’s big jump up to No. 2 in RPI is one of the outliers. On the flip side, Rifle is only 13 in RPI this week despite being No. 1 in the media/coaches poll after former No. 1 La Junta was knocked off by Alamosa over the weekend.

The Longhorns have spent plenty of time ranked high in RPI the past few seasons, and after handling 3A Battle Mountain on Saturday that doesn’t look to change. Aspen is No. 34 out of 41 teams in RPI this week after its 0-2 start. No reason to fret quite yet, considering the strength of the Western Slope League, but the Skiers will need to start winning soon to remain in the playoff picture.

Basalt plays at Pagosa Springs on Friday, while Aspen heads to Cedaredge.


Nothing too exciting going on here for our local teams. At 0-2 overall, Aspen has an RPI of 71 out of 73 teams as of Monday afternoon. Roaring Fork (2-3) isn’t much better at 59, while Basalt (2-4) is in at 54. It could be a long season for volleyball in the valley. Cedaredge (5-0), which plays in the 3A WSL with the other three, has an RPI of 5.

AHS plays at Summit on Tuesday night, while Basalt is hosting Grand Valley. The Skiers and Longhorns will meet for the first time this season when they play Thursday in Basalt.


Again, work to be done for Aspen and Basalt. The Skiers (0-2) are No. 58 out of 59 teams in 3A. Basalt (1-3-1) is 34, at least in striking distance of a playoff spot. But, again, it’s super early in the season so these standings could change in a hurry. Of note, Roaring Fork (4-1) is No. 10 in RPI this week, paired with a No. 5 ranking in the media/coaches poll.

Aspen hosts a very good Delta team Thursday, while Basalt heads to Moffat County that same day.


The other fall sports — boys golf, boys tennis and cross country — don’t use the RPI system, for what should be obvious reasons as they are mostly individual competitions. Tennis and XC still have a good chunk of season left, but golf is quickly approaching its finish. About a week from now, on Sept. 25, the Skiers will host their regional tournament at Aspen Golf Club. State golf is Oct. 7 and 8, where I expect Aspen to once again be a title contender.


Jane Gillespie Leddy

Jane Gillespie Leddy passed away peacefully on August 12, 2019 at Heritage Park Nursing Home in Carbondale, Colorado after 95 years of an amazing life. She was Born in San Francisco May 21, 1924, but was never a city girl, joining the Sierra Club at an early age and learning to ride horses.

She attended Stanford University beginning in 1942, but interrupted her studies to join the Navy Waves in 1944. At the end of WWII she returned to Stanford where she met John Thomas Leddy, and they married shortly after her graduation. They moved to Eureka, California, where John practiced law, and they had two children. Their stay was cut short when John was killed in an automobile accident in 1954. Jane then began to really express her independence when she moved to Kitzbuhel, Austria, with two young children, where she learned to ski and loved it. When she moved back to the US, a friend said to her “if you loved Kitzbuhel, you will really love Aspen,” and she moved the family to Aspen in 1958. While in Aspen, she taught skiing at Stein Erikson’s Ski School at Aspen Highlands and modeled for Obermeyer.

In 1962, she moved to Denver where both children attended high school. She became a ski-racing Mom for both children, driving around the Rockies following the ski racing circuit. She married William Thurston in 1966, and the two divorced three years later. When the children were both away in college, she moved back to Aspen, met and married Robert Wallace Andrews, who was also a Stanford alumnus then living in Snowmass. Bob preceded her in death in 2009.

She loved family, the wilderness, and music, especially jazz piano which she played into her 90’s. She belonged to the Christian Science Church for most of her life and found great support, special friends, and spent many hours in quiet study.

She is survived by her two children, Chris Leddy Deck and her husband Brad Deck, and Tom Leddy and his wife Scottie Cooper, and her 3 grandchildren Alex Leddy, Jennifer Leddy Barnes and her husband Andrew Barnes, and Tyler Deck with his fiancé Allison Simeone. The family would like to particularly thank the great staff at Heritage Park for their wonderful care during the last 6 years of Jane’s life.

Guest commentary: Aspen mayor checks in after first 100 days in office

This week, the City Council will close its first 100 days in office. I am honored to be a part of this council, as well as excited to share with you my thoughts on where we started, what we have done and what is next as we settle into our roles as your representatives.

At the outset, I want to thank you for the great honor and responsibility of being your elected mayor. I have strived to be humble in my approach to this office, and have set my focus on the immediate tasks at hand like identifying common goals, team building, setting agendas, running meetings and providing organizational support. I am learning, and assure you that I will work to improve every day to represent this community.

It was a unique time to be elected. Aspen had an interim city manager, and an interim structure for our administration. Although this could have been challenging for our community, we are fortunate to have the dedicated Aspen city staff that helped guide us through this transitional period, and shared in the responsibilities of continuing services and operations so vital to Aspen.

In our search for our new city manager, we outlined and implemented a nationwide search that included a significant amount of input from our community. In the end, our search was a success and Sara Ott is now our new city manager. We could not ask for a more qualified, experienced and committed city manager. Working in conjunction with this council, she will facilitate and implement the policy direction that represents the best decisions for our community.

My council members are four very smart, dedicated and hardworking individuals. I am excited to work with this team. We share many common goals, and with collaborative representation and joint initiatives, we can do great things for our community. I truly believe that this collaboration includes you, the community. I ask for your input, and know that each council member feels the same. Please, reach out to us with any of your issues, ideas or comment because that is the way this works best. We want to hear from you.

The council started this term by attending a workday retreat to identify common goals, priorities and aspirations. We are still refining those identified commonalities and applying them to budget and planning processes. We are developing a values and priorities based budget process that will enhance our ability to address community concerns and implement community goals in our decision making.

On current community issues, we have hit the ground running. A top priority is enhancing communication, outreach and transparency. We have a new communications director, Tracy Truelove, who will revitalize communication with the community and internally. I am proud of the progress we have made, including providing for public comment at work sessions, setting regular office hours, refining outreach and meeting with citizens where they are. This council is dedicated to collaboration and inclusive governance. Thank you to all those who have reached out to me about their questions, comments and suggestions.

Affordable housing is a perennial item for our community. We came in at a transitional time for APCHA. The council has a trained eye on both the program development as well as achieving more community, workforce and affordable housing. In the past 100 days, we have forwarded the projects that were in motion and we have started the next projects with outreach, information gathering and planning. One area of focus is land-use code improvements to create inclusive building regulations. It is my hope that with renewed collaboration with businesses, development interests and the county, we will make great progress to keep locals living in Aspen. I encourage you to go on to the city website or attend an open house to learn more about the projects we are working on.

Our environmental commitment is as strong as ever. I am so happy to report that we have great work going in to new environmental initiatives, including reduction of energy consumption, waste management, transportation solutions, building requirements and more. Effective environmentalism requires all of us to make good choices. Our job is to make those choices available and affordable for you. We at council are dedicated to making decisions through a lens of environmental stewardship and enhancing our charge as a leader in green policymaking.

We have picked up the ball on many other community priorities, as well. We are steadfast in our pursuit of child care facilities. We continue to work on transit and traffic solutions. We are focused on helping locally owned and locally serving businesses. We are listening to our citizens and working on the issues that are important to each person. We will continue to support and enhance the history, legacy, character and quality of life in Aspen.

Please come to me with any community questions, comments or concerns. I look forward to the next 100 days.

Torre was elected mayor in a runoff in April. He can be reached at torre@cityofaspen.com.

Paul Andersen: Hiking the “real world” of wilderness

You can still find places with no human impacts … hidden places, rare and sacred havens, trail-less enclaves of remote wilderness, settings of beauty, grandeur and primeval purity, places of salvation that exist in our very backyards.

Where else can one find an antidote to the constant demands of electronic devices? Devices that not only prompt a connection, but also prompt responses with canned language and pre-processed words. Devices that make us automatons who no longer need to think about how or what we communicate.

The future of these wildernesses is imperiled by these very same electronic devices. How many of our future generations will want to preserve a personal connection with pure nature when they are addicted to the pacifying comfort of a device in their pocket? Happiness is a warm iPhone.

These wild places have no designated trailheads, no signs marking boundaries or routes. They are vague jumping off spots where elk, deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goats have beaten in faint depressions in the forest duff, the highland grasses, the alpine tundra. Here you discover that your trail eyes can be tuned to hoof prints and scat, your senses keened to the ways of wild animals.

When the trail braids across a wetlands bog, you make your best guess and go with it. You may find yourself scrambling through a maze of downed timber. And if it’s wet, the going is slow and laborious. Legs get scratched and nicked. A sense of humor is necessary, plus a good measure of humility.

Go high enough and eventually you break out into open tundra where timberline is marked by the interface of the Krummholz ecosystem, the visible boundary of stunted trees between the sub-alpine and alpine life zones where trees stop growing and the tundra begins. Here the wandering is easier, unless a storm is brewing and lightning and thunder issue crackling, rumbling warnings.

Eventually, you come upon a hidden lake, a serene reflecting mirror that shimmers in a breeze and shines in the sun. Here, the limpid water reveals cutthroat trout lazily swimming the shore, looking for the right fly, which you happen to have in your kit. With fry pan and butter — no seasonings necessary — you savor their succulent pink meat that has the flavor of lobster from feeding on a diet of high mountain lake shrimp.

My son, Tait and I, had such an experience last week where we followed faint game trails — or no trails at all. We spent nights in lake-filled cirques with no signs of human activity. No trails. No fire rings. Only jets roaring overhead.

In one deserted basin, storms pounded our tents with rain and hail. The next morning dawned blue sky and cool. Hiking out, we watched a herd of 15 mountain goats scamper up an impossible couloir while we climbed our own vertical ridge on a series of narrow ledges.

The hiking was breath-taking, not only in stark vistas, but in thin air over 12,000 feet. We filled our bottles with headache-cold spring water rushing from snow-crested boulder fields, tasting the snow from last winter.

At one timberline camp, tucked into my warm down bag and wakened in the dark of night, I unzipped the bag and the tent fly and stood out in the cool of night. My consolation for a midnight pee was a star-filled sky with the Milky Way arching overhead in a cloud of cosmic dust. I stared up and was both lost and found in the vastness of our home galaxy.

At one camp, Tait ventured off to find an overhang under which to weather the next onslaught of storms. I wandered off in another direction toward the sound of rushing water from a nearby waterfall gushing off granite slabs planed smooth by a glacier.

I perched on a boulder between stunted Krummholz trees and took in a magnificent landscape of vertical escarpments and noisy creeks, just me and the Great Mystery, a transcendent experience that is so beautiful when one steps away from the demands of devices, away from the news cycle, away from manmade stressors into the “real world” of wilderness — man’s original home.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at andersen@rof.net.

Mike Littwin: History says change is coming in Dem race, but latest debate was a lot of the same

The real news from the Houston debate was not Joe Biden’s overpraised performance. He was OK for the first hour, not so much after that and that’s not even counting the late-breaking record player reference. Or the continued benefit to Elizabeth Warren for making Bernie Sanders’ points better, and more reassuringly, than Bernie can. Or Julian Castro’s cheap shot at Biden’s memory/age. Or the Yang Gang Lottery, now officially open. What more is there to say on Andrew Yang except how did this guy make the debate stage while a U.S. senator watches on TV?

And the real news certainly wasn’t the networks’ insistence that each debate begin with an extended take on health care reform even as all the candidates — OK, with the exception of Kamala Harris, of course — continue to say exactly what they had said in previous debates. By the way, when you’re thinking about this topic and Medicare for All, you might want to read a report cited by The Colorado Sun that the Denver metro area’s 27 for-profit hospitals made more than $2 billion in pre-tax profits in 2018.

No, the real news came from the third tier. And the reaction to that news may say much about the future of the Democratic primary.

History tells us that frontrunners often fade and that someone usually emerges from the back of the pack. The frontrunner argument is obvious. Jeb Bush, Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, Ed Muskie, on and on. And Gary Hart, the 1984 phenom who went to New Hampshire to endorse Michael Bennet, makes the come-from-nowhere argument come alive. Jimmy Carter could have done the same. In 2004, John Kerry went from leader to the middle of the pack to winning. John McCain took a similar path in 2008.

It’s probably a mistake to believe the field is already narrowed to three. If you watched the debate Thursday night, it looked like three third-tier candidates won some attention.

Cory Booker had another strong debate performance, funny and passionate. And yet, he was just as good in the second debate and that didn’t matter at all. In a post-debate interview on CNN, he joined Castro in taking a swing at Biden, citing the former vice president’s tendency to meander, while questioning whether Biden can “carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling.” It was a hard shot — Booker said it wasn’t ageism, that Biden has always been this way — but it wasn’t a Castro-level cheap shot.

Amy Klobuchar had her best debate performance, meaning that for the first time anyone noticed she was on the stage. But her platform seems to be that since she’s from the middle of the country — Minnesota — she, uh, can appeal to people in the middle of the country.

But, mostly, it was Beto O’Rourke’s best day in the race since his first one. Nearly everyone on the stage praised his response to the gun massacre in El Paso, Texas, his home town. The most remembered quote of the night will almost certainly be on Beto’s mandatory buyback plan of guns designed for use on the battlefield. When asked if that means he’ll confiscate weapons, he said — and get ready for the bumper stickers and T-shirts — “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

The questions now are whether Booker, Beto or Klobuchar get any kind of bounce in the polls and whether the race at the top — among Biden, Warren and Sanders — changes at all and whether Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, both sitting in the middle, moved the needle after relatively quiet nights.

If Michael Bennet was watching the debate, he has to hope for some kind of breakthrough from the bottom tier. Bennet has been praised by any number of pundits for his campaign, but he has yet to figure out a way to make any headway in the polls. It’s one thing to complain about the DNC trying to limit the field, as Bennet does constantly, and another to complain when you can’t make 2% in the polls.

My theory on why there has been so little post-Biden movement in the race, other than Warren’s rise and Harris’ rise and fade, is two-fold.

One, that between them, Sanders and Warren have a lock on the issues that move progressives and activists while the rest of the field is basically offering more pragmatic (read: less exciting) answers to the same questions.

Two, Biden also is going for the pragmatic vote, but that’s not why he’s leading the polls. Rather, it’s his success on two fronts — creating the perception, which may be reality, that he is the best choice to win back white working-class voters and, at the same time, building a huge polling lead in the African-American community, which is why he ties himself to Barack Obama in nearly every sentence.

It’s easy enough to predict that eventually someone wins the Warren-Bernie fight, but will Biden hold up? It’s strange, but he seems to struggle most when answering questions about race. Late in the debate, he answered a question on what can be done to repair the legacy of slavery by suggesting that parents who live in segregated neighborhoods “don’t quite know what to do” and that one thing that parents in these neighborhoods can do “is make sure you have the record player on at night, make sure that kids hear words.”

Of course many parents in segregated neighborhoods are perfectly capable and don’t need parenting advice. Biden was saying that kids from disadvantaged families are often behind when they get to school because many haven’t been exposed to the level of vocabulary that kids with more advantages have been. Some modern studies question the concept of a word gap. “Record player” — at least he didn’t say 8-track — was a blip, but the rambling quote, in its entirety, will make your head hurt. It sounded a lot like paternalism to me, but that seems to have been lost in the record player discussion.

I’m still ready to believe, because the history is pretty clear, that by the time we get to Iowa, there will be unanticipated dramatic change in the race and that the Big Three of today are unlikely to finish 1-2-3 in the February caucuses. But I’m also ready to believe that this debate didn’t bring us any closer to figuring out what the dramatic change might be.

Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.

Attorney John P. Van Ness

John P. Van Ness, 79, passed away peacefully in Parker, CO, on Friday, Sept. 6. He formally lived in Aspen, Woody Creek and Carbondale. He was a defense attorney in the Roaring Fork Valley for over 40 years.

John was the oldest son of Helen and Paul Van Ness, born in Newark, NJ, the tenth generation of Dutch immigrants. He graduated from Montclair College High School, Yale University, and New York University Law School.

He was a world-class duplicate bridge player having won dozens of tournaments around the country, including the 1976 American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) NABC Amateur Pairs. He was an ACBL Diamond Life Master and Certified Bridge Instructor. He was the past President of both the Western Conference and District 17 of the ACBL. In addition, he wrote a popular bridge column for The Aspen Times for many years.

John was elected to and happily served on the Aspen City Council several times. He thoroughly enjoyed living his life in Colorado and was proud to be an Aspen Elk.

A loving husband, son, brother, uncle and friend throughout his joyful life, John most enjoyed sharing his love for the Rocky Mountains by bringing visitors to his favorite spots like the Maroon Bells, Independence Pass and the Ice Caves.

John was predeceased by his wife Kathy Sharp Van Ness in 2014. He is survived by his brothers William (Ann) of Saddle River, NJ, and Richard (Helen) of Basking Ridge, NJ, as well as nephew Will and nieces Candice and Paige.

His family would like to thank the many health care providers and friends who assisted John in recent years. A memorial service in celebration of John’s life will be held on Nov. 9, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the River Valley Ranch in Carbondale. Those interested in attending, we ask to RSVP to johnvannessmemorial@gmail.com.

Prep briefs: Basalt’s Sierra Bower wins again, Aspen tennis beats Dawson

Basalt’s Sierra Bower wins cross country meet at Gypsum Creek

Basalt High School junior Sierra Bower won yet another cross country race on Saturday when the team competed at the Eagle Valley Invitational at Gypsum Creek Golf Course. Bower won the girls’ race with a time of 18 minutes, 7.2 seconds, which according to the BHS athletic department is a new course record. The Eagle Valley duo of Samantha and Joslin Blair tied for second in 18:31.1.

Bower’s performance helped the BHS girls to a third-place team finish with 83 points. Fruita Monument and Glenwood Springs each finished tied for first with 77 points. Aspen was sixth in the girls’ race with 121 points.

Junior Kylie Kenny led the AHS girls by finishing 11th in 20:12.7. AHS junior Kendall Clark was two spots back in 13th, finishing in 20:25.3. A pair of Basalt freshmen in Sarah Levy (20:25.5) and Katelyn Maley (20:27.4) were 14th and 15th, respectively. AHS freshman Elsie Weiss also recorded a top-20 finish, coming in 19th in 20:44.5.

Neither Aspen nor Basalt recorded a team score on the boys’ side, won by Summit with 68 points. Fruita Monument was second (80) and Grandview was third (81).

Battle Mountain’s Sullivan Middaugh won the boys’ race in 16:45.2., with Summit’s Jeremiah Vaille coming in second place in a close 16:45.3. Sophomore Brenon Reed led Aspen by finishing 53rd in 19:07.9. Basalt junior Noah Allen led the Longhorns, finishing a spot back in 54th in 19:08.4.

Complete results can be found here.

Basalt volleyball beats Olathe; Aspen volleyball falls in three sets at Moffat

The Basalt High School volleyball team earned its second win of the season on Saturday by sweeping through visiting Olathe inside the BHS gymnasium. Set scores were 25-20, 25-21 and 27-25. Basalt, now 2-4 overall, next is scheduled to host Grand Valley on Tuesday.

The Aspen High School volleyball team played Saturday at Moffat County, losing in three sets. Scores were 25-13, 25-11 and 25-17. The Skiers, now 0-2, play Tuesday at Summit. Basalt will host Aspen on Thursday.

Aspen boys tennis beats Dawson to complete perfect week

The Aspen High School boys tennis team played one of its toughest matches of the season on Saturday, beating Dawson 6-1 on the Aspen city courts. The only loss came at No. 1 singles, with Dawson’s Riley Burridge beating Aspen’s Christian Kelly 6-2, 6-4. Aspen’s Alex Mosher and Liam Sunkel won at No. 2 and 3 singles, respectively.

Aspen played Vail Christian on Thursday, winning 7-0, which followed up a 7-0 win over Basalt on Tuesday. On Sept. 6, the Skiers took eighth at the Western Slope Invitational, with Mosher’s runner-up finish at No. 2 singles the best result.

Aspen is next scheduled to host Fruita on Thursday. Basalt tennis is scheduled to host Vail Christian on Wednesday at Crown Mountain Park.

Basalt softball loses for first time in make-up with Conifer

The Basalt High School softball team lost 8-7 on Saturday against Conifer, the first loss of the season for the Longhorns. It was a makeup from the Sheridan softball tournament late last month, with both teams competing in the championship game before an electrical issue forced the postponement.

BHS led that one 3-1 in the third inning before the lights went out, and lost it about two weeks later in the seventh inning.

Now 8-1 overall and ranked No. 5 in Class 3A this week, Basalt is slated to play a doubleheader at Meeker on Tuesday.

Aspen softball (0-8) did not play Saturday. The Skiers next play Tuesday at home against Cedaredge.

Basalt boys soccer plays to draw while Aspen loses in first game after long layoff

The Basalt High School boys soccer team competed Saturday at Strive Prep-Smart Academy in Denver, playing to a 2-2 tie.

The Longhorns gave up the first goal only two minutes into the first half, and allowed the second barely a minute into the second half, part of an overall slow start. BHS rallied to tie the game in the second half with each team having to settle for a draw.

Strive fell to 2-2-1 overall while Basalt moved to 1-3-1 overall with a trip to Moffat County coming up on Thursday.

The Aspen High School boys soccer team played to a 3-0 loss at Monarch on Saturday. It was Aspen’s first game since a 2-1 overtime loss to Basalt in the season opener on Aug. 22. The Skiers (0-2) host Delta on Thursday.


The Basalt High School boys golf team competed Thursday at Cedaredge Golf Club, coming away with a win after shooting a collective 242. Longhorns senior Blake Exelbert was the low medalist, shooting 76, while junior Tyler Sims was fourth after shooting 81.

Eagle Valley was second as a team, shooting 244, while Battle Mountain was third with 260. Eagle Valley’s Jake Crawford was the second individual, shooting 78. Aspen did not compete in Cedaredge.


Basalt football shuts down Battle Mountain, moves to 2-0 on season

Carl Frerichs was worried about his defense coming into the season, considering it lost so much talent. Maybe not worried, but very much aware of the physical skill sets that graduated and needed to be replaced.

Then came Saturday afternoon when the Basalt High School football coach watched the Longhorns physically dominate visiting Battle Mountain to the tune of a 28-0 win on the BHS field, and nothing seemed all that out of place.

“We lost a lot of good hitters. We lost all of our linebackers, our D-ends — I have one D-end that I moved inside — so I’m really proud of the kids for flying around and they are just playing aggressive football,” Frerichs said. “If they do their jobs we expect good things out of them and they are doing assignment football where good things are happening.”

As it’s been for a few years now, Basalt’s defense was its strength last season, recording five shutouts and holding three others to single digits en route to a 9-2 season and trip to the Class 2A state quarterfinals.

On paper, Saturday’s matchup with the Huskies looked like it would make for a competitive game. Class 3A Battle Mountain entered the game 2-0 with wins over Middle Park (27-23) and Alameda (49-0), but Basalt didn’t let them become much of a factor in the Longhorns’ home opener.

After trading a few early punts, Basalt took a 7-0 lead on a short touchdown run by sophomore Gavin Webb. The halftime score was 14-0 after another short TD run, this time by sophomore Cole Dombrowski in the second quarter.

The second half remained a heavy dose of running the ball and a stifling defense for the Longhorns. Junior quarterback Matty Gillis capped off the first drive of the half with a 1-yard TD run, while Dombrowski scored his second touchdown when he broke loose for a score in the fourth quarter.

“Cole Dombrowski, our running back, ran extremely hard today. I think there was a huge growth from Game 1 to Game 2,” Frerichs said. “The offensive line is coming together. I just feel like both our fullbacks, Gavin and Peter Zimmer, are running really hard. Again, I’m really proud of Matty — zero turnovers. I just think that’s gigantic when he’s getting zero turnovers in those games.”

Dombrowski led the way with 78 yards and two scores on 22 carries. Webb had 45 yards rushing and a score on 10 carries. Gillis was 8 of 18 passing for 108 yards, with senior receiver Jackson Rapaport catching six of those passes for 80 yards.

Battle Mountain’s best drive came late in the third quarter down 21-0 when it was stopped on fourth-and-short at Basalt’s 15-yard-line.

Sophomore Sam Sherry was credited with 12 total tackles (seven solo), while Rapaport and senior Ernesto Lopez had a sack each.

“Penalties are one thing we definitely need to work on. Our kids are definitely playing hard, though,” Frerichs said. “So we’ll look at film and see exactly what it is. But not too disappointed. But against better teams we definitely got to clean it up.”

Battle Mountain (2-1) heads to Moffat County next week, one of Basalt’s 2A Western Slope League foes. The Longhorns (2-0), who beat Olathe 29-7 in their season opener, will travel to Pagosa Springs on Friday. Pagosa is 1-2 after beating Centauri on Friday, 28-20. The Pirates have losses to Durango (47-0) and La Junta (19-7), the defending 2A state champion.

“They are going to be tough,” Frerichs said of Pagosa. “They run the triple option. Truthfully, we are really excited about this win and we’ll start thinking about Pagosa (Saturday night) and (Sunday).”

Aspen played on Friday, losing 42-20 to Meeker to fall to 0-2 overall. The Skiers next play Friday night at Class 1A Cedaredge (1-1).