A Ski Culture's Legacy

Just like trees, we all have our roots – places from which we came. Ideas, perceptions and habits formed since our youth will run deep in our veins until our eventual day to rest. The same could be said about an idea, a philosophy and most certainly a town. Our cultural legacy was planted during WWII with the nearby 10th Mountain Division training facility near Leadville at Camp Hale. During this time, the powerful Elk Mountains were explored by the men in white who quickly fell in love with Aspen including a young Austrian-American, Friedl Pfeifer. He saw the immense potential in these mountains and would embark on a journey to help develop the ski culture and terrain of what is now Ajax and Buttermilk Mountains. This one man saw the energy in the landscape and had a vision so clear of what it could become. Without him, Aspen ain’t nothing.

It’s interesting to mull over all the reasons why people come to Aspen. This town attracts a plethora of those who flock to the mountains for their own reasons, but just like Pfeifer, they see some sort of means to an end. Sitting at a bar, it’s hard to say what brought each person to your right and to your left, but one thing is certain - Aspen can be the cure to almost any ailment and the love this community has is healing in itself. People are happy here and it’s apparent in the smiling faces on every corner, strangers saying hi and the continued communal fight to make this place the ‘best’ that it can be.

I was born in Aspen and my time here has been incredible. As I look forward to my future endeavors in new and distance places, I am reminded of the notion that I will always be able to come back. While my family will continue to live here, I know that I can always come back to the familial community that I left in the mountains; a camaraderie that began with Fridl Pfeifer. It’s a beautiful thing, the ski culture of Aspen, for it is a community in itself. I know that I can always hike Highlands Bowl or hop the Bucket for a ride and see familiar faces or make new friends. It’s the power of the mountains that has brought us together and formed this band of brothers who have flocked here for some sort of personal solace. 

Winter came to Aspen last week, and while the majority were tucked cozy in bed, awaiting the alarm to sound to go skiing the next morning, I walked under a sky of falling snow, surrounded by stillness and twinkling Christmas lights. In that moment, I felt so blessed for a legacy – the legacy that has shaped Aspen as we know it today. One that has given me a beautiful life, a caring community and a culture I feel fortunate to be a part of. Breathing deep, the crisp, dry air in through my nose, filling my lungs and into my cells, the night was icy, but I felt warm with the long-awaited falling snow around me; warm with the thought of how lucky we all are to live here.