Sanctuaries in the Snow--the Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass
This site, Sanctuaries in the Snow--The Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass, covers the mystical shrines hidden in the trees on the four ski mountains of Aspen/Snowmass: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. (A book about the shrines is available for purchase too; click on the "Purchase the Book" button to the left. All author profits from book sales are donated to charity.)
Also, this site gives coverage to various plaques, memorials, displays, and other miscellaneous items existing on (or immediately adjacent to) the mountains that are not shrines in the strictest sense. These items include mostly brass memorial plaques, memorial benches, other types of memorials, and statues, but also include other various items such as wooden signs, cabins, shacks, an outhouse, sculptures, lift chairs, ski boots, fake alligators, a tepee, an incline lift, and a bedroom, as well as a noose, a wooden chair, an elk head, walls made of skis, and many other various and miscellaneous items.
The purpose of this web site is to catalogue and document these shrines, memorials, and items, and create a written and photographic record of them. They are all a part of the interesting ski history of Aspen/Snowmass, and this web site is intended to help preserve that history. In keeping with the local custom, this site does not reveal shrine locations.
There is a separate page for each shrine and each item. On each such page a general description of the shrine or item is first given, and then there are photos of the shrine or item. There are almost 2500 photos on this site.
To the best of the author's knowledge, there are almost 75 shrines on the mountains of Aspen/Snowmass. If you know of other shrines, plaques, memorials or other items that are not covered on this site, and if you would like to share information and photos for use on this site, please send such information and photos to AspenShrines@aol.com. For a listing of the shrines, in alphabetical order by mountain, go to this page: http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?id=1,3,0,0,1,0. The author is also aware of over 160 plaques, memorials, displays and other miscellaneous items on the four mountains. For a list of these items, in alphabetical order by mountain, go to this page: http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?id=2,4,0,0,1,0.
Some of the shrines covered on this site are presently in existence, and some are not. This site endeavors to cover all of the Aspen/Snowmass shrines that have ever existed (to the best of the author's knowledge) whether or not they presently exist.
The Aspen/Snowmass Shrines are homemade covert memorials made by anonymous locals, and hidden in the trees off of the various ski runs of one of the four mountains. They are a packrat's nest of keepsakes and other items, consisting mostly of laminated photos, pictures, license plates, beads, silk flowers, wind chimes, mementoes, tokens, plaques, and other memorabilia attached to tree trunks and put there in honor of particular heroes of the locals. They started to appear over 40 years ago, and in the beginning memorialized mostly musicians, but have now expanded well beyond that. They are funky, grassroots creations, and a quirky Aspen tradition that has become a brand of folk art that Aspen can call its own, and born out of the ski culture the town has shaped. The Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass set it apart from virtually all other ski areas; they add mystique, culture and local flavor to a mountain that's already rich with mining and skiing lore. They have been called by some "Sanctuaries in the Snow," "Temples in the Trees," and "Tributes in the Trees," but are most often referred to simply as the "Shrines." Except for a few minor exceptions, the various local creators of the various shrines are not known to the general populace. There are no maps showing their locations; directions to them are all word-of-mouth, and in many cases accurate local knowledge is required to find some that are squirreled away deep in the trees. They are one way the locals have made the tourist-dominated resort their own. Most tourists have never seen one, and in fact, more than a few locals have never seen one either.
A good summary and introduction to the Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass appeared in an article in the Aspen Times Weekly of February 18, 2006 (“Find Your Shrine on Ajax” by Kimberly Nicoletti. See: http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20060218/RECREATION01/60222004):
This February 24, 2012 article in the Aspen Daily News had this to say about the Aspen Shrines: "They are funky, grassroots creations. They are a brand of folk art that Aspen can call its own — born out of the ski culture this town has shaped." http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/entertainment/151993.
In an article called "Aspen's Best — Outside" in the Aspen Times Newspaper of September 2, 2006 (see: http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20060902/ASPENWEEKLY/109030053) the following was stated about the Aspen Shrines:
"The shrines of Aspen Mountain set it apart from virtually all other ski areas. They add mystique, culture and local flavor to a mountain that's already rich with mining and skiing lore."
For a number of years the official Aspen/Snowmass web site (http://www.aspensnowmass.com) made three different mentions of the Aspen Shrines. Over the years the wording varied; the most recent versions are stated below:
1. In the "Top 10 Things About Aspen Mountain" section of the official web site, #9 was: "The Shrines – Ask a mountain ambassador for a tour or take off on your own and explore the glades of Aspen Mountain in search of the infamous shrines. Elvis, Jerry Garcia, Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix, among others are immortalized in these hidden gems tucked in the trees." See: http://archive.is/SD9m0.
2. The "Fun Facts" section of the official web site said: "Throughout Aspen Mountain's trees, you can find four hidden 'shrines' made by locals in homage to John Denver, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and The Greatful [sic] Dead's, Jerry Garcia." See: http://www.snowmass.com/whatsnew.aspx
3. The "Tips For a Great Vacation" section of the official web site said: "Visit the shrines on Aspen Mountain! Can you find the John Denver shrine hidden in the trees? You won't find them on any trail map, but hidden in the trees are tributes to Elvis, Marilyn, Jerry and other deceased luminaries. Ask a patroller or local to point them out." See: http://issuu.com/cmnmcreativeteam/docs/winterinaspen2013 (pages 20-21).
In January 2011, Jeff Hanle, Director of Public Relations, Aspen Skiing Company, was quoted as follows: "The [Aspen/Snowmass] shrines are so organic to these mountains. There are small shrines and pretty big ones. They are ways for people to honor someone special. We do our best to make sure people leave them alone so they can be enjoyed by others." See: http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/index?id=6071140
When, Where, and How Did the Shrines Start?
There is some question as to when the shrines started and which one was first. Some people think the Elvis Presley Shrine was first; he died in 1977. Others think the Bob Marley/Jerry Garcia Shrine was first; Marley died in 1981 and Garcia in 1995. See the pages for the Elvis Presley Shrine and the Jerry Garcia Shrine on this site for more information about which shrine may have been the first one. For the most part the author of this web site is not aware of the date most shrines were created; if the date is known, it is stated on the page for that particular shrine. The author is also not aware of the identity of the person or persons who created most of the shrines. If the identity of a shrine creator is known to the author, and if that person has given the author permission to disclose his or her name, it is noted on the page on this site for that particular shrine. According to local expert T.C. the Jerry Garcia and John Denver shrines were created at sites that had preexisting wooden benches which had been installed previously by certain locals. These wooden benches were in place for some indeterminate period of time before the shrine materials were added by others at a later date.
Where are the Shrines Located?
Most of the Shrines are located on Aspen Mountain. But there are also Shrines on the other three mountain too. See below for listings by mountain. In keeping with the local custom, this site does not reveal shrine locations. (*An asterisk indicates the Shrine is no longer in existence.)
The Aspen Mountain shrines are:
(* An asterisk indicates the Shrine is no longer in existence.)
The 9/11 Shrine
The Adam Dennis Shrine
The Aspen Ski Hall of Fame Shrine
The Beatles Shrine
The Bingo Shrine*
The Buckaroo Shrine
The Burning Man Shrine*
The Callie Rose Long Shrine
The Carlos Anderson Shrine
The Christian Daniel Streuli Shrine
The Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Shrine*
The Drummer Shrine*
The Elizabeth Paepcke Shrine
The Elvis Presley Shrine
The Fenway Park/Boston Red Sox Shrine
The Girls Shrine*
The Golf Shrine
The Guinness/Irish Shrine
The "I Believe" Shrine*
The "In Memory of Friends of Aspen" Shrine
The Jerry Garcia Shrine
The Jimi Hendrix Shrine
The Jimmy Buffett Shrine
The Joan Campion Reilly Holm ("Joan My Mom") Shrine
The John Denver Shrine
The John Nicoletta Shrine
The Jon Silver Shrine
The Jon (STU) Stuart Shrine
The Liberace Shrine*
The Ludwig Dream King Shrine
The Marilyn Monroe Shrine
The Michael Houser Shrine
The Michael Jackson Shrine*
The Morton and Susan Gurrentz Shrine
The Nancy Pfister Shrine
The Patrick J. Reilly Shrine
The Patti Seifert Shrine
The Pooper Trooper Park Shrine
The Raoul Wille Shrine
The Richard Fry Shrine
The Scottish Shrine
The Snoopy Shrine
The Steve Butts Shrine
The Stevie Ray Vaughan Shrine/Billy Zaugg Cabin
The Susanne Wohnberger Shrine
The Tom Cole ("Be Here Now") Shrine
The Tom Sharkey Shrine
The Valentine’s Shrine
The Yankee Stadium/New York Yankees Shrine
* An asterisk indicates the Shrine is no longer in existence.
The Aspen Highlands shrines are:
The Bowling Shrine
The Brad Carner Shrine
The Chix Coup Shrine
The Christine (Chrisy) E. Hardy Shrine
The D E Va Drive Shrine
The Dog Pound Shrine
The Ground Hog Shrine
The Jeff Walker Shrine
The K-9 Shrine
The Ksenija Shrine
The Monkey Lounge Shrine
The Suzie W Shrine
The Buttermilk shrines are:
The Chris Polk Shrine
The Chuck Severy & Todd Olson Shrine
The John Denver Shrine
Kiera's--Dedicated to the Lost Friends of Buttermilk Shrine
The Señor Kess Shrine
The Winter X Games Shrine
The Snowmass shrines are:
The Ben Hogan ("Hogan's Alley") Shrine
The Beer Shrine
The Black Lab Shrine
The Bobby Jones Shrine
The Brandon Zukoff Shrine (BZ Hut)
The Caddyshack Shrine
The Eric Smith Shrine
The Football Shrine
The Frank Sinatra Shrine
The Golf Shrine
The Hockey Shrine
The Hunter S. Thompson Shrine
The Jake Foerster Shrine
The Kiera Elizabeth Tongish Shrine
The Kitty Cat Shrine
The Mazik Shrine
The Mountain Bike Shrine
The New England Patriots Shrine
The Nicholas Blake Davidson Shrine
The Shrine to Aspen's Skiing Pioneers
The Susan Marie Petrosius Shrine
The Aspen Times--Aspen's Best/The Best of Aspen/Local's Choice
From 2003 through 2010 the Aspen Times newspaper has invited members of the public to vote on what they think is the "Best Shrine." This was discontinued starting in 2011. Below are the results and quotes from the articles announcing the results:
2003: "We knew there were a lot of ski shrines tucked away on our four mountains, but we had no idea just how many. Does everyone know there's a shrine for Britney Spears, or are we just out of the loop? How about Yankee Stadium? Guess we need to spend more time in the trees. And judging by this year's winner, the people casting votes spent plenty of 'quality' time hanging out in the woods. The shrine for the Grateful Dead's late, gray-haired leader, Jerry Garcia, was far and away the most popular. Jerry has been an all-time Aspen hero, and apparently the legend lives on. Way back in second was the John Denver shrine. Denver wrote 'Rocky Mountain High,' but perhaps wasn't as much of a hanging-out-in-the-trees kind of guy ...The Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix shrines also proved popular. Our favorite answers: Some people apparently missed the header at the top of this category that stated 'On the Mountain.' St. Mary's Catholic Church is certainly a beautiful shrine, but last we checked it was smack dab in the middle of town. Either way, a good handful of people called it their favorite shrine. The roundabout also got a vote, though we're not sure what it's a shrine to. Endless highway construction? The way Aspenites go around and around? Our favorite answer was 'the new shrine we are going to build for Toad.' Toad Olson, the kids ski instructor who died recently, certainly deserves the best shrine Buttermilk can offer. Everyone pitch in." July 25, 2003.
2004: "BEST SHRINE: Jerry Garcia. The shrine to Jerry Garcia on Aspen Mountain is perhaps Aspen's most well-known shrine. You might say the Jerry shrine leads all others in skier visits. Located near the top of the FIS chair in the woods off Ruthie's Run, the Jerry shrine is one of dozens of shrines on the four area mountains dedicated to cult figures and - let's be honest - the establishment of woodsy nooks in which to get high. That said, toking up at the shrine to the hippie guitar hero from the Grateful Dead is sometimes a sketchy proposition - it's the shrine where you're most liable to be visited by a class of ski school kids. 'Jerry who?'" January 9, 2005. http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20050109/ASPENWEEKLY/101090008&parentprofile=search
2005: "BEST SHRINE. There were 24 entries in this category (are there really that many shrines out there?), but only three received enough votes to be actual contenders. The Grateful Dead must still be hip, because the Jerry Garcia shrine on Aspen Mountain won with 21 votes. The John Denver Sanctuary in Rio Grande Park came in second, despite being a landscaped sanctuary and not really a "shrine" in the informal-nook-in-the-woods sense of the word. The Elvis shrine came in third with 14 votes. Whatever happened to Marilyn Monroe and Ludwig the Dream King?" September 3, 2005.
2006: "The shrine to Jerry Garcia, the late and great guitarist for the Grateful Dead, shrine is without a doubt the biggest, baddest, most popular and most colorful shrine of them all. John Denver got a number of votes, as did the Storm King memorial, but the ragtag monument to Captain Trips has the mojo and wins every year." September 2, 2006. http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20060902/ASPENWEEKLY/109030053
2007: "Jerry Garcia has dominated this category in recent years, but Elvis appears to have come back to life. Other vote-getters in this uniquely Aspen category included John Denver, Jimi Hendrix, Fort Frog, “lady shrine highlands” and “naked lady smoke shack.” Yankee Stadium made the list, and this one piqued the staff’s interest: “Future Harley Baldwin.” September 1, 2007. http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20070901/ASPENWEEKLY/70830033&SearchID=73313928557614)
2008: "Elvis came back to life briefly last year, at least where Aspen’s Best is concerned, but Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia surged back to prominence in 2008. The Garcia shrine, tucked into a glade high on Aspen Mountain, is easy to reach and a great spot to relax, so it’s no surprise that it reappears again and again as Aspenites’ favorite shrine. Other vote-getters, in descending order, included John Denver, Elvis, Eric Smith, Hunter S. Thompson, Chicks on Sticks and, from someone who woke up on the wrong side of the bed, “Don’t Care.” January 11, 2009. http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20090111/ASPENWEEKLY/901089959&parentprofile=search)
2010: "Any mountain-town newspaper could poll its readers about their favorite restaurants, trails and places, but the only place you'll see a question about shrines is in Aspen. The readers’ favorite among the hidden, richly decorated nooks at our local ski areas is the shrine to Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. But numerous votes came in for Elvis, John Denver, Marilyn Monroe and Hunter Thompson as well. There were also a couple of votes for the memorial to the firefighters who died on Storm King mountain near Glenwood Springs in 1994." June 9, 2010. http://aspentimes.co.ussrv15.newsmemory.com/special.php?date=20100609
2011: The article was renamed "Local's Choice" in 2011 and the "Favorite Shrine" category was dropped.
The Subjects of the Shrines
Thirteen of the Shrines are to musicians or have a musical connection: Shrines to The Beatles, Drummers, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Buffet, John Denver (two Shrines), Michael Jackson, Liberace, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Michael Houser of Widespread Panic.
Ten Shrines have a sports theme: Auto racing: Dale Earnhardt. Football: The New England Patriots. Baseball: There are two baseball shrines--Fenway Park [Boston Red Sox] and Yankee Stadium [New York Yankees]. Golf: There are four golf-related shrines--Two Shrines honor many deceased greats of the game as a group, another honors Ben Hogan alone, and another Bobby Jones alone. Hockey: A shrine dedicated to hockey. Bowling: A shrine dedicated to bowling.
Sixteen Shrines are to locals, or persons with a local connection (including one of the most famous locals of them all, Hunter S. Thompson): Adam Dennis, Brandon Zukoff, Chris Polk, Christian Daniel Streuli, Christine E. Hardy, Chuck Severy/Todd Olson (one shrine to both men), Eric Smith, Hunter S. Thompson, Jeff Walker, John Nicoletta, Kiera Elizabeth Tongish, Nicholas Blake Davidson, Raoul Wille, Robert D. Kesselring ("Señor Kess"), Steve Butts, Suzie W., Ksenija Ilic, and Tom Cole.
The subjects of the remaining Shrines do not fall into any neat categories: The 9/11 victims, Aspen Ski Hall of Fame members and Aspen's Skiing Pioneers, a dog named Bingo, cowboys (The Buckaroo Shrine), Chicks (The Chix Coup Shrine), pet dogs (The Dog Pound Shrine and the K9 Shrine), pet cats (The Kitty Cat Shrine), Marilyn Monroe, the Monkey Lounge, mountain bikes, groundhogs, Guinness, the Burning Man Festival, a children's toy called "Pooper Troopers," the cartoon character Snoopy, and a shrine to Valentines.
Tim Mooney Shrine Tour TV Shows
If you are in the Aspen/Snowmass area, watch television station channel 82 (Aspen 82) for short video shrine tour segments that cover some of the various shrines. Here are two of the segments: Shrine Tour Part 1 (Raoul Wille, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and John Denver Shrines): http://vimeo.com/61379114, and Shrine Tour Part 2 (Jerry Garica, Michael Houser, and Jimi Hendrix Shrines): http://vimeo.com/61424611. These video shrines tours are given by local Tim Mooney and cover shrines on Aspen Mountain only.
Tim Mooney also did some video shrine tours for the former local Aspen channel 16 PLUM TV. Here are descriptions of six of these segments; the links provided do not work anymore, but are left on this page in case they are ever reactivated:
1. This one is narrated by "Tim Mooney, Plum TV Ski Correspondent" and he calls it a "shrine tour" and says he will be covering some "select memorial spots." It is only three minutes long and covers only three shrines/memorials: The Jerry Garcia Shrine, The Stevie Ray Vaughan Shrine/Cabin, and the Severy Plaques, all three of which are on Aspen Mountain. This segment also includes video footage, but no discussion, of two additional Aspen Mountain shrines: The John Denver Shrine and The Raoul Wille Shrine. There is no indication as to the date this show was made, but it contains video of the old gondola cars at Aspen Mountain, so it was likely made during the 2005-06 ski season, or before, since the new gondola cars were installed for the 2006-07 season. While at the Jerry Garcia Shrine in this segment Tim Mooney is quoted as follows: "It’s time for Jerry Garcia. The mama and the daddy of all the shrines on AspenMountain. What a place, what a guy, what a band. I was lucky enough to see the band and be in that whole revolving scene. Wonderful, wonderful time. I brought Bob Wier up here in the summertime. We drove up in a 4-wheel and then he and his wife came over to see the shrine with me. And we were just kinda looking at all the stuff and his wife saw a plaque over there with a picture of all the guys and she breaks down, she gives us a tear right here at Jerry Garcia."
You may view this video here: http://pdam.plumtv.com/public/marketing_player/2953
(For more information on Tim Mooney, see this page on this site: http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?75-The-Tim-Mooney-Shack-Aspen-Mountain.)
2. Another segment is entitled “Shrine Tour with Tim Mooney” and he is called the “Shrine Guide.” This one was filmed in either December 2008 or January 2009, and is about 2 ½ minutes long. It covers four different shrines on Aspen Mountain: The Golf Shrine, The Elvis Presley Shrine, The Marilyn Monroe Shrine, and The Steve Butts Shrine. This segment also includes video footage, but no discussion, of two additional Aspen Mountain shrines: The 9/11 Shrine, and The Tim Mooney Shack. Almost half of this segment is devoted to The Golf Shrine and while showing some very good video of that shrine, Tim Mooney is quoted as follows: “Look where we are—golf heaven. Wonderful commemorations of all the illustrious golfers. Payne Stewart, Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Henry Cotton, Tommy Armour. Look at these guys, here in a ski area, in our back yard, our playground. It’s got golf people. There is room for everybody. You can come here and sit down and think about your great golf game, the great places you can play golf, how beautiful it is to tee it up.” You may view this video here: http://www.plumtv.com/videos/mooney-shrine-tour/index.html (For more information on Tim Mooney, see this page: http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?75-The-Tim-Mooney-Shack-Aspen-Mountain.)
3. Another segment has the same introduction as the prior one described (#2 above) and then shows two different shrines on Aspen Mountain. It was filmed in either December 2008 or January 2009. It is about 2 minutes long, and covers: The 9/11 Shrine and The Michael Houser Shrine. This segment also includes video footage, with no discussion, of several additional Aspen Mountain shrines. You may view this video here: http://pdam.plumtv.com/public/marketing_player/11891 (For more information on Tim Mooney, see this page: http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?75-The-Tim-Mooney-Shack-Aspen-Mountain.)
4. Another segment shows three shrines on Aspen Mountain: Raoul Wille, John Denver, and Blondie's Cabin and the Ski Museum. You may view this video here: http://pdam.plumtv.com/public/marketing_player/2954 (For more information on Tim Mooney, see this page: http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?75-The-Tim-Mooney-Shack-Aspen-Mountain.)
5. Another segment shows three shrines on Aspen Mountain: The Buckaroo Shrine, the Friedl Pfeifer statue, and the Jimmy Buffet Shrine. You may view this video here: http://pdam.plumtv.com/public/marketing_player/4816 (For more information on Tim Mooney, see this page: http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?75-The-Tim-Mooney-Shack-Aspen-Mountain.)
6. Another segment filmed in January 2010 covers five shrines on Aspen Mountain: John Denver, Raoul Wille, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Jerry Garcia. You may view this video here: http://pdam.plumtv.com/public/marketing_player/15330 (For more information on Tim Mooney, see this page:
See this video regarding the shrines on the Snowmass Tourism web site: "Daly Dose of Snowmass – The Shrines January 8, 2014" http://www.gosnowmass.com/daly-dose-snowmass-shrines/. "Have you ever stumbled across any of Snowmass’s best kept secret? We are talking about the Shrines, 60+ memorials to people or things hidden off the slopes and amongst the trees. The Shrines are unique to Aspen/Snowmass — no other resort in the country has anything quite like it. But you can't find them on a map, so you had better start hunting!"
Some Aspen/Snowmass shrines come and go, and others have survived for a number of years. Even the shrines that have survived for an extended period of time are ever changing. New items are put up and old items fall down or give in to the elements. So the Shrine you visit may not look exactly like the photos on this site. However, all the Shrines on this site exist or existed in one form or another (except as indicated) at some point in time, and at one time or another looked like the photos shown on this site. All photos on this site are by the author except as indicated. All photos on the Shrine pages and the Plaques and Memorials pages can be enlarged by "clicking" on them.
Every shrine and memorial has a story or stories. Help the author to improve this site by sharing any information you might have on any of the items covered on this site. Help preserve the history of this unique Aspen institution. Write to AspenShrines@aol.com.
The shrines and memorials of Aspen/Snowmass are special. Find them, look at them, enjoy them, and take your photographs. But please respect them and those to whom they are dedicated, and leave them as you found them. Thank you.
|Sanctuaries in the Snow
The Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass
(Including plaques, memorials, displays And miscellaneous items)
All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission from the author. For any such permission contact AspenShrines@aol.com