The Secret Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass

on March 31 | in General | by | with Comments Off

This blog comes to Colorado Ski Country from Dan Rabin, a freelance contributor to our blog.

Question: What do Marilyn Monroe, the game of golf and Jerry Garcia have in common?

Answer: All three are commemorated with makeshift shrines tucked discreetly into the woods at Aspen-area ski resorts.

aspen shrine1

While I’ve skied in Colorado for many years, I only recently learned of the existence of the shrines of Aspen/Snowmass. There are dozens of these quirky monuments scattered throughout Aspen’s four ski mountains, a long-time area resident informed me. My curiosity sufficiently piqued, I headed to the storied resort community in search of these little-publicized slopeside tributes.

Anxious to visit as many shrines as possible in two days of skiing, I enlisted the help of some local experts. I spent my first day at Snowmass accompanied by David Wood, who, literally, wrote the book on the Aspen/Snowmass shrines. The semi-retired lawyer and part-time Snowmass resident is the author of “Sanctuaries in the Snow–The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass.” The book documents over 50 shrines located on Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. Wood also maintains a Facebook page and website (aspensnowmassshrines.com) containing detailed information about the shrines.

David Wood

David Wood

“I never ever thought I’d write a book about this,” Wood told me on the Snowmass gondola on the morning of a gorgeous powder day. “I was just initially curious about them, tried to find them and take photos of them.” He decided to produce the book at the urging of a friend, who is involved with the Trashmasters Scholarship Fund which provides college scholarships to high school students from the Roaring Fork Valley. Wood donates all profits from book sales to the fund.

Part way down our first run of the day, I followed Wood into an inconspicuous break in the trees where we soon arrived at the Frank Sinatra Shrine. Like many of the shrines I visited over the next two days, the Sinatra Shrine was simple, consisting of a small collection of laminated photos mounted on a tree.

Aspen Shrine

We continued down the mountain and into the timber to our next stop, the Hunter S. Thompson Shrine. The late author and creator of “gonzo journalism,” was a legendary local figure who lived in Woody Creek, near Aspen. His shrine was constructed on February 20, 2006, on the one year anniversary of his suicide. The elaborate shrine contained a variety of objects including photos, a golf shoe, a jeweled lizard and a bottle of Chivas Regal which was empty during our visit, but is replenished from time to time, I was told.

My favorite stop of the day was at the Golf Shrine. Among an extensive collection of golf-related photos, signage and other props, was a set of golf clubs, a bag of range balls and a tree-mounted basket to practice chip shots from the snow.

aspen shrine golf3

According to Wood, the shrines are constantly evolving. “The weather takes a toll on these shrines. Things deteriorate and fall down. New things are put up so they look different almost every time you come in. Sometimes they disappear altogether.” With his book, website and Facebook page, Wood has become a repository of news regarding changes to the shrines or the appearance of new ones.

One thing you won’t find in either the book or online is detailed directions to any of the shrines.

To be continued…

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