Freak Power lives to ski another day.
The Hunter S. Thompson shrine has been spared the fate of the iconic Golf shrine, one of several on-mountain memorials removed last season from the Snowmass Ski Area.
Photos provided last week to David Wood, author of “Sanctuaries in the Snow: The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass,” by an unnamed Facebook friend show that the Good Doctor’s memory lives on in Snowmass.
“To Aspen Shrines, I took a hike up to the HST Shrine on Nov. 30 and wanted you to know that it survived that alpine coaster construction with no damage at all. Nothing has been touched in it since last ski season,” the person wrote. Wood said he does not know the writer’s identity.
Hanle confirmed Monday by email that the Aspen Skiing Co. did not remove the shrine.
The company took heat last year following not only the Golf shrine’s removal but the April takedown of a shrine honoring the late Max Genshaft, the son of a Snowmass Village Town Council member.
Unlike other shrines that are more risqué in nature, the memorial marker for Genshaft, a Snowmass Village toddler, was modest and respectful, according to Wood. The colorful “Sanctuaries in the Snow” provides context and some of the characters behind the memorial photos and flags and other collectibles that comprise the remaining shrines.
Not a priority
The Hunter S. Thompson shrine — one of dozens of quirky and unsanctioned, on-mountain warrens of memorabilia tucked within the four local mountains — was feared at risk after the Golf shrine’s removal. The two shrines were located within a snowball’s throw of one another.
In his book, Wood wrote: “The Hunter Thompson Shrine was created on Snowmass on Feb. 20, 2006 (on the one-year anniversary of his death), by a band of his friends and admirers, consisting of five people. They call themselves the ‘Glorious Leaders of the Underground Movement (GLUM).”
Included in this shrine were an American flag, a gloved arm with “Gonzo” written on it, a lizard covered with multi-colored jewels, Tibetan prayer flags and a copy of The Woody Creeker, among other artifacts.
The shrine has been the stuff of local and national lore since its creation, once landing onto CBS4’s Colorado top literary landmarks.
Wrote Chad Abraham (now an editor with this paper) in a story than ran in February 2006 in The Aspen Times: “The Thompson spot is near a trail with the perfect name: Gunner’s View, off Elk Camp. It’s hidden, but not too concealed, as a good shrine should be.”
Abraham described a scene of Hunter’s admirers digging the powder, and some bud, on a fine winter day when the shrine came together in a flurry of nail guns, laminated photos and covers of the Mountain Gazette and Rolling Stone magazines. Stories of encounters with the author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” “Hells Angels” and “The Great Shark Hunt” reverberated through the glades.
He wrote at the time the shrine builders felt Hunter himself would have approved of the collectibles.
“The shine had the blessing of Anita Thompson, Hunter’s widow, and she donated a few items to the effort,” it was reported.
Shrines, though, don’t receive the blessings of either the SkiCo or the U.S. Forest Service. Nor are they universally embraced by all users of public lands. Shrine removal, including of one devoted to Michael Jackson, has accelerated in recent years as a faction believe that photos and props like hanging Barbie dolls and bongs are litter on the landscape.
Recognizing they are popular with some guests, and a destination requested of ski instructors and mountain ambassadors, SkiCo neither promotes the shrines’ existence nor advocates for their removal.
The issue hasn’t floated to the top of Forest Service to-do lists, either.
“We are not actively out looking for shrines, due to capacity and other priority work,” Kate Jerman, spokeswoman for the White River National Forest, said last winter following the Golf shrine’s removal. However she did say that if a crew were to stumble upon a shrine, they would consider taking it down.
One of the oldest and quite possibly most visited of the markers, the Golf shrine was dismantled in February; at the time, SkiCo said a patroller tending to a downed tree came upon the homage to the sport’s great characters Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Payne Stewart and others.
It had spread to a wide area deep in the woods and included a golf bag, a bucket of balls, a bench, street signs, vanity license plates and dozens of laminated photos. A fortunate few knew where to look for a bottle of scotch.
While the Golf shrine was located in an area near the new alpine coaster, timber clearing was never offered as a reason for its removal.