Aspen Characters – John Denver and Fritz Stammberger

Post by blogger | August 4, 2005      

I just got an email from the Aspen Historical Society. They want ideas for the top three living and top three deceased "characters" of Aspen. Having not lived there for years I don’t know about the "living" part (the top living character is probably some whiner who spends all day writing letters to the paper about swimming pools), but I can talk about the old guard who’s gone now.

I’d give my first two votes to mountaineer Fritz Stammberger and early day’s wild man Freddie Fischer. Though I’m loath to admit it, my third choice would be John Denver. I can’t stand most of his music (though I admit I did learn "Leaving on a Jet Plane" on my guitar back when I was a flower child), but Denver really was quite the character.

From his fur coat and feather festooned cowboy hat, to how he spread his money around, John Denver was a huge presence when he lived in Aspen. Favorite Denver story: His house in Starwood/Aspen was an extravaganza of woodworking that kept some local precision carpenters employed for years. Even pioneer extreme skier Chris Landry worked for him,and no doubt some of Denver’s money ended up being spent by Chris during his many travels to ski descents around North America. The story is that when Denver got divorced, he was so angry about how things were being split that he fired up a chainsaw and cut all his kitchen cabinets in half. This after the finest woodworkers in Aspen had spent several YEARS building the things. Ah yes grasshopper, all things material are transient…

More John Denver trivia, and this is backcountry skiing related: Did you know that several of his most famous songs were written while he stayed at a mountain hut (Mace Chalet) on Castle Creek above Aspen, near the Braun backcountry skiing huts? Ah yes, always a backcountry skiing connection…

And here we go — sing along with
" Oh, kiss me and smile for me,
Tell be that you’ll wait for me.
And hold me like you’ll never let me go.
‘Cos I’m leavin’ on a jet plane,
Don’t know when I’ll be back again.
Oh, babe, I hate to go."

La Plata peak from Mount Elbert.
Colorado’s La Plata Peak as viewed from Mount Elbert last week. The narrow snow couloirs are the ski routes on the excellent north face, they fill in quite a bit more during winter and spring.


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