You won’t find these on the trail map, but the return is worth the effort…
The trail maps of Aspen are a comprehensive and in-depth layout of Aspen’s four resorts, but there is an underground and secret side to our mountains that aren’t portrayed on the maps. Secret shrines are sprinkled throughout the trees and tucked into the nooks and crannies of Aspen, Snowmass, Highlands, and Buttermilk. Copious amounts of time to explore and/or a knowledgeable local willing to show you around are needed if you want to ski the secret side of Aspen; however, we’re willing to introduce you to a couple personal favorites so long as they are treated with respect and enjoyed as they were intended. (By no means are we an authority on the shrine subject, though. If you’re interested in more information check out the go-to resource for shrine-loving locals and in-the-know visitors: www.aspensnowmassshrines.com.)
Elegizing fallen friends and late characters, commemorating iconic rock bands, lauding literary legends, and extolling favorite sports teams (Aspen’s full of “Mass Holes”—New Englanders that love their Red Sox more than fresh powder), the shrines hidden throughout our mountains add new dimension to the Aspen ski experience.
If you’re sliding around on Aspen Mountain there are literally hundreds of shrines, plaques, and memorials tucked into random locations. Keep your eyes peeled while skiing Gretl’s, a popular run near the mid-mountain Bonnie’s eatery, is the 9/11 shrine. The Fenway/Boston Red Sox shrine is a must-see if the “Yuck the Fankees” chant means anything to you. You’ll get a glimpse of it from the Back of Bell 2 run if you’re alert. You can immerse yourself in local history if you are near Blondie’s Cabin (at the confluence of the Blondie’s and Silver Dip runs). The Aspen Ski Hall of Fame, tucked into a tree grove near the cabin, commemorates a laundry list of iconic skiers that have schussed in Aspen.
The other three mountains have shrines, too. Longtime Aspen (technically Woody Creek) local and surrogate poet laureate of the Roaring Fork Valley, Hunter S. Thompson, is canonized on Snowmass near the Gunner’s View run. A tree near Bull’s Run on Snowmass is dedicated to Baby Blue Eyes where six photographs of Frank Sinatra adorn the tree trunk. Though it’s not as intricate as the one on Ajax, John Denver’s shrine on Buttermilk’s Red Rover run is pretty cool to see. Lastly, though it’s not exactly a hidden shrine, the Kessler, Snyder, Soddy Plaques at Highlands are important to honor if you are an Aspen fan or avid hiker of Highland Bowl. The history of Kessler, Snyder, and Soddy is inextricably tied to Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol’s unwavering commitment to keep Highland Bowl safe. If you have ever relished the mind-blowing experience of hiking Highland Bowl and skiing down the best in-bounds, big mountain terrain in the country, then you need to take a moment to swing by the Kessler, Snyder, Soddy Plaques located skier’s right side on Broadway. These three Highlands patrolmen were tragically killed during an avalanche at Highlands and are the main reason why Highlands Ski Patrol maintains Highland Bowl.
Again, if this information wetted your whistle (if that’s possible), check out www.aspensnowmassshrines.com for an in-depth guide of Aspen’s shrines.