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By Alexandra Halperin | May 18, 2017 | People
The latest from Aspen Peak's Publisher, Alexandra Halperin.
Enjoying the World Snow Polo finals at Rio Grande Park with my husband, Dan Sadowsky, and our Australian shepherd, Phoebe (hers is the only real fur!)
I was recently bequeathed all of my family's photos, mostly slides that my mother, Leila, shot with her ever-present camera. Together, they’re a 60-year chronicle of five close-knit Chicago clans. I had to find and buy a vintage slide viewer, and sorting them was daunting. But it was less like jumping down a rabbit hole and more like running a downhill race, with huge compressions and surprising jumps. In the summer of 1962, following a fateful invitation from fellow Girl Scout troop leader Mary Millard, Mom loaded the station wagon with her four children in the back, drove over Independence Pass when it was still a dirt road, and coasted into Shangri-La.
I ran into cinematographer and skiing legend Joe Jay Jalbert at the Hotel Jerome ballroom, which hosted a World Cup weekend event celebrating 50 years of pro ski racing in Aspen. Fun fact: Jalbert was Robert Redford’s double in the 1969 classic Downhill Racer.
The bait Mary had used was a suggestion that Leila audit piano master classes at the Aspen Music Festival. But no matter: Mom fell in love with Aspen. We were city folk—not at all a rock-climbing, adventurous, outdoor bunch. We blundered our way into a lifelong passion for hiking Hunter Creek, fishing Maroon Lake, skiing Aspen Mountain, hunting mushrooms, picnicking at Crater Lake, and bike riding everywhere we could. We had to ease our way into it, becoming one with Aspen. As I organized and curated three hundred-pound boxes of slides of her children and grandchildren, I discovered generations of others that Liela had turned on to Aspen via trips from Chicago—be they high-school-sponsored or rock-hunting-focused.
Some slides are of the early Aspen airport and a Greyhound bus shack that doubled as the Rocky Mountain “Scareways” terminal, where my father flew in on weekends during the summer, when we’d spend the whole season in the valley. In the winter, whenever we could, we chaperoned ski groups from Chicago that (cleverly) paid for our family trips to the mountains. Has the town changed? Yes. For myself, I no longer sling soup at the Sundeck, as I did when I moved to Aspen full-time in 1976. I’m no longer the only (though I am still the first) woman ski patroller on Aspen Mountain, a last bastion of ski-world male supremacy. (Ha! At least I changed one thing…)
Susan Wagenknecht’s Snow Angel hats jumped out and floored me at the SIA trade show in Denver.
But my friendships have remained constant. I still ski my favorite lines and mountain bike the Fairy Trails, where Leila adopted a gorgeous gypsy hippie family that lived in a teepee there. Their children were all beautiful towheaded forest creatures. As with a long marriage, a town slowly becomes a different person to the one you married. I’ve rolled with the changes and been changed along the way; protested change and embraced it. I’ll continue to love and chronicle this town as my mother did—and as I know my children will continue to do. L’dor va’dor.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC WAGENKNECHT (WAGENKNECHT); SANDER OLSON/RED MTN PRODUCTIONS (SADOWSKY); CHRISTINE GOLDSTEIN (JALBERT)