| May 23, 2014 | Lifestyle
Aspen Peak has been chronicling town’s penchant for the road less traveled, the people more inspired, the adventures most intriguing. Herewith, a curated journey of 10 indelible, only-in-Aspen moments over the past decade that have forever changed and shaped our coveted community.
The Aspen Institute presented a conversation with then-Senator Barack Obama in 2005.
Considered the modern-day founder of Aspen, industrialist and philanthropist Walter Paepcke helped establish the Aspen Idea, an integration of mind, body, and spirit. Taking its cue from this heady platform, the Aspen Institute hosted the first Aspen Ideas Festival (AIF) in 2005. Cerebral and celebratory, the event lassoes top global leaders from business, media, science, the arts, government, and academia for dialogue on critical issues. In 2005 then-Senator Barack Obama had an AIF talk with Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson. “We’ve been fortunate that our work at the Aspen Institute—particularly through putting on a decade’s worth of the Aspen Ideas Festival—allows us to play host to so many remarkable people, many of whom are making a difference in their communities and in our larger world,” says Isaacson. Since 2005, the festival has grown from 122 speakers to a staggering 400 this year and has been expanded from six to seven and now 10 days. In celebration of its 10-year anniversary, AIF 2014’s theme is “Imagining 2024,” with speakers including former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair; Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce; and Virginia M. Rometty, IBM CEO and president, among others. Aspen Ideas Festival 2014, June 24–July 3
Grace Potter performs at Belly Up.
One pursuit town won’t eschew (other than skiing) is live music. In September 2003, the future of Aspen’s music scene spiraled after the iconic Double Diamond nightclub went black, ending an era of live music in the storied Galena Street building. Enter Michael Goldberg. A Miami transplant, Goldberg opened Belly Up Aspen during the X Games, staging Danger Kitty, Z-Trip, the Roots, and G. Love & Special Sauce throughout the weekend. The club has since hosted 300 shows annually, starring everyone from Jimmy Buffett and B.B. King to Jack White and Deadmau5. A 6,000-square-foot club that holds 450 guests, the venue has solidified its reputation as one of the country’s rare intimate spots for big acts. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons recalled a New Year’s Eve show for a 2012 Aspen Peak article, stating, “One private jet ride later—the last to get clearance to land in the midst of an oncoming blizzard—and we’re plugging in to loudly ring in the New One. With the room full of raucous revelers ready to rock, the night was pure year’s-end mayhem. The party’s always on at Belly Up.” This summer lineup includes national draws such as a two-night stand by Gregg Allman (June 24–25) and Thievery Corporation (June 14). Belly Up Aspen, 450 S. Galena St.
Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson on his Owl Farm ranch in Woody Creek circa 1976.
Aspen certainly has its cache of eccentric characters and celebrities, and one of our biggest claims to fame is the late Woody Creek resident and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. A 1970 candidate for Aspen sheriff on the “Freak Power” ticket, Thompson lived by his own credo. Holding court in his kitchen at Owl Farm in Woody Creek, he frequented the famous Woody Creek Tavern and chided Aspen’s real estate developers. His suicide on February 20, 2005, shocked the community, inspiring literary luminaries, rebels, and fans to pay homage in various ways. In an Aspen Peak article former Sheriff Bob Braudis lamented: “Hunter’s suicide rocked me. The last time I saw Hunter was three days before he shot himself. We spent a fantastic night together.” While researching roles for the movie versions of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream and The Rum Diary, Johnny Depp became close with Thompson. Fittingly, six months to the day after his death, on August 20, 2005, Depp helped bid farewell to Thompson in spectacular fashion, spending a reported $2 million on a 153-foot-tall tower and cannon modeled after Thompson’s signature clenched fist with two thumbs rising from a dagger’s hilt. More than 250 guests, including Jack Nicholson, then-Senator John Kerry, Bill Murray, Sean Penn, and Ralph Steadman attended the private ceremony, which included fireworks and plenty of revelry. In front of a full moon and to the strains of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Thompson’s ashes were shot out with the fireworks over a beautiful field in Woody Creek, a mesmerizing and merrymaking tribute.
The Dalai Lama on stage at the Benedict Music Tent, July 26, 2008.
We draw our share of world leaders to our little mountain enclave, yet it’s not every day that His Holiness the Dalai Lama may be spotted strolling down Main Street. In collaboration with the Aspen Institute, event cochairs Margot Pritzker and Richard Blum worked with the Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture to stage a three-day symposium that celebrated and discussed Tibet’s history, culture, art, medicine, science, and spiritual practice with his Holiness the Dalai Lama as keynote speaker. Held in the beautiful Benedict Music Tent, the event sold out at lightning speed, with more than 3,000 attendees. Speaking on compassion and universal responsibility, he wore a white Tibetan katak (scarf) decorated by Roaring Fork Valley kids, who also crafted a large backdrop of brilliant Tibetan prayer flags and drawings. One of his most powerful quotes from the event, His Holiness proclaimed: “Inner peace must develop in the families and start also with individuals. Inner peace cannot come through common law; it must start in the individual’s mind. It must also come through leadership—leadership that is truthful, transparent, open.”
Former Aspen Deputy Mike Keefe (left) and Braudis practice a roadside sobriety test in 1983.
Small towns attract mavericks from all walks of life, and one of Aspen’s legends is former Sheriff Bob Braudis. The peacekeeper of Pitkin County from 1987 to 2011, Braudis was involved with scandals like the Ted Bundy escape from Pitkin County Courthouse and, as a young deputy, the investigation of singer Claudine Longet for the murder of Olympic skier Spider Sabich. At 6-foot-6, his large stature mirrors a giant personality and capacity for fair-mindedness, as noted in Douglas Brinkley’s 2010 Aspen Peak article: “Hunter S. Thompson used to brag that Braudis was the only US policeman he knew who could ‘speak Latin, downhill-ski like the ghost of Jean-Claude Killy, and discuss Aristotle while making pat-down arrests.’” It was the end of an era when Braudis resigned; yet on January 11, 2011, Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo became Aspen’s top cop and has since staked his own claim and progressive stance. Approachable yet quick to speak his mind, DiSalvo has been at the center of the marijuana debate and helmed the investigation of a recent shocker, the murder of longtime local Nancy Pfister.
Top Chef judge Gail Simmons celebrated the Food & Wine Classic’s 30th anniversary by hosting a late-night dessert party.
The annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is the bookend to our summer season, an event of gastronomic proportions that has single-handedly landed Aspen on the international culinary scene. During June of 2012, the Classic celebrated its 30-year Aspen partnership with a tasteful lineup of special events, drawing the biggest and brightest celebrity chefs, including Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, and more. In celebration of the Classic’s 3 0th, organizers were given a key to the city by then-Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, and fireworks kicked off a weekend locals and attendees won’t forget. Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 20–22, 2014
George Hincapie competes in the final race of his career in Denver in August 2012.
Cycling is to an Aspen summer what skiing is to winter. And when the inaugural USA Pro Challenge first churned over Independence Pass and snaked through downtown, it was readily apparent that Aspen’s need for speed is a year-round pursuit. In just four years, the event, coined “America’s Race,” has become one of the largest cycling events in US history, and each year it has drawn top racers from the Tour de France podium. More than 1 million viewers watch at least one part of the race, and much has been made of the Independence Pass climb. Set in Aspen’s backyard and crossing the Continental Divide, the 5,000-foot climb to the 12,000-plus-foot pass is one of the most grueling of the professional cycling race circuit—and the highest point reached in any professional cycling race. Americans Levi Leipheimer clenched the title the debut year and Christian Vande Velde won in 2012, while part-time Aspenite Tejay van Garderen is the 2013 reigning champion. Last year Aspen became the host city for Stage 1 and 2, and this summer will see the same. Held over seven consecutive days in Colorado, top athletes race through the Rockies at altitudes rarely endured. The event has not only changed the cycling landscape on a national scale, but has also forever impressed Aspen’s passionate and dedicated cycling community. USA Pro Challenge, August 18–24, 2014
John Denver serenades the wilderness from the private deck of his Aspen home.
Only in Aspen can you find the lyrics to John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” etched into the side of a rock overlooking ponds near the Roaring Fork River. Cherished by locals and visiting fans, Denver helped shape the global perception of the Rocky Mountain lifestyle. The expanded sanctuary near Rio Grande Park pays tribute to Denver’s environmental legacy, including a four-acre storm water filtration system and wetlands area. Originally conceived by Aspen Parks Manager Jeff Woods after Denver’s death in October 1997, large boulders with the lyrics to “Annie’s Song” and others are displayed, with plans to include additional nature quotes from such writers as Henry David Thoreau. During the dedication of the sanctuary on July 1, 2012, the singer’s first wife, Annie Denver, addressed a large assembly. Today, she says: “John loved Colorado, and Colorado changed his life. John had the ability to put into words things we all felt about this beautiful place. He wrote ‘Rocky Mountain High’ on a trip to Williams Lake during a Perseid meteor shower. John never missed a sunset, he never missed a sunrise, and he never failed to appreciate the beauty of this special, spiritual place.”
Hotel Jerome was restored to its original grandeur after a major overhaul.
Ask any local the difference between Aspen and a mountain town like, ahem, Vail, and you’ll quickly be reminded of our rich history. At the center of our silver-mining heritage stands Hotel Jerome, which opened in 1889 and claims a resident ghost, a visit to its storied J-Bar by John Wayne atop his horse, and the Aspen Crud—a Prohibition-era milkshake laced with bourbon. Silver miners and skiers, Hollywoodites and aristocracy, locals and wannabes alike have found common ground under its venerable roof. Shuttered on August 1, 2012, for a major overhaul, it reopened in December of the same year as an Auberge resort and is a beautiful testament to modern historic living. Helmed by Todd-Avery Lenahan—a regular Aspen visitor who owns Las Vegas–based TALStudio—and Aspen-based Rowland+Broughton Architecture and Urban Design, the project had initial supporters and critics, yet is now universally applauded. Heritage pieces, including the front desk and grand fireplace remain, yet modern touches such as a vintage-belt -wrapped elevator add whimsy and new character. In a 2012 Aspen Peak article Lenahan explained, “As designers, we all have certain landmarks that we dream of as great design opportunities, and the Jerome was one of them for me.” Hotel Jerome, 330 E. Main St., 970-920-1000
Sarah Chang performs during an Aspen Music Festival and School summer concert.
Once the snow starts to melt in Aspen, conversation inevitably involves the Aspen Music Festival and School’s summer lineup. A town institution, founded in 1949 by Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, the school is now celebrated as one of the preeminent classical music festivals in the country. Students have included pianist and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, violinist Joshua Bell, violinist Sarah Chang, and composer Philip Glass, and it has staged collaborations with Wynton Marsalis, Edgar Meyer, and more. Today, thanks to a $25 million lead gift by Kay and Matthew Bucksbaum, the campus is as noteworthy as its caliber of 630 students and the eight-week-long summer concert season. Designed by Aspen architect Harry Teague, the sleek, contemporary new campus was dedicated on July 8, 2013. Robert Spano, Aspen Music Festival and School music director, may have captured the mood best, noting the buildings are “not nouns, but verbs,” acknowledging the music being made between the new walls. 2014 Aspen Music Festival Season, June 26–August 17
photography by getty images (obama, thompson, dalai lama); doug pensinger (hincapie); alex irvin (violinist)