Joy, peace, love, Aspen rise above

 

Women’s Ski and March attracts hundreds in Aspen

Euphoria was the dominant emotion as hundreds of participants in the Women’s Ski and March on Saturday gathered at the top of the Silver Queen Gondola to ski down the mountain together.

“Should have taken Pussyfoot,” more than a few skiers wisecracked as the group, costumed and wearing signs, making slow and precise turns, passed the run and continued on Silver Bell to Spar Gulch.

At 2 p.m., the crowd at Aspen’s largest political demonstration in ages swelled to 500 or 600 and gathered in the gondola plaza for a march to Wagner Park. Rebecca Romeyn of Glenwood Springs commented that the sense of “lightness and community” was welcome.

The demonstration — it was hard to affix the word “protest” to Saturday’s events — was staged to support equal rights in the face of one of the most divisive elections in American history. It took place along with demonstrations in hundreds of other communities across the country, including events that each attracted hundreds of thousands in Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago and Denver and other large cities.

Aspen’s, with its community ski from 11,320 feet above sea level, was said to be the highest-elevation demonstration in the country.

“We want to create a mass voice in a small community — this isn’t just happening in the capital cities,” co-organizer Kim Stevenson, of Snowmass Village, said while waiting in the gondola line that stretched down the stairs at 1 p.m., as ski marchers made their way up for the community run.

The election and swearing in of President Donald Trump has served as a moment of awakening to many, challenging the view that the forward progress of civil rights and global openness in the last 80 years is permanent.

“Everyone needs to keep the word active in activism and not sit down and think everything is going to take care of itself,” Stevenson said, explaining her hopes for the coming weeks, months and years.

The day’s events started at 11 a.m. at the Aspen Art Museum, where 150 or so, many of whom were children, were making signs to wear for the ski lap and march.

BJ Williams said the feeling was bringing her back to her activist college days at the University of Michigan.

“We’ve been complacent for too long and it’s time to make some changes,” she said. “It’s up to us as women to do it, because we are the stronger sex.”

Arielle Vanderschuit, working on her sign at the art museum showing a clinched fist and the words “the future is female,” said her work as a boxing and self defense instructor intends to push back against the paradigm that relegates women to submissive roles. Being aware, assertive and resilient are the goals, and she tries to be a catalyst for those values in the women and girls she works with.

Anne J. Maloney, 88, said she learned the power of community organizing during the civil rights movement, when she went door to door in her New Trier, Ill., neighborhood asking people to sign a petition in favor of equal housing rights. Two years later, those rights became enshrined in law.

Mahoney gave a rundown of all the changes she has seen in her life, being born into the Great Depression and listening to FDR champion the cause of Social Security in his radio addresses. Then came World War II and the atomic bomb.

“To have lived through all that and to think we could ever see war again,” she said, shaking her head.

That feeling of moving in the wrong direction is what prompted 
Stacy Keating of Basalt to come to the demonstration. Her sign contained one word — “unity.”

Coming together is the only way to solve problems, she said. In the election, she said she saw Trump “stick his finger in the hate and stir it up” to get votes.

“I want to be for something,” she said, adding that she is starting a political group called Indivisible Roaring Fork to hold politicians accountable.

Back on Aspen Mountain, many of the attendees couldn’t believe their eyes at the size of the crowds.

On the gondola, Jordan Bacheldor said he was joyed to see “this many people all together under the banner of respecting all people.”

“It’s beneficial to stand up for what you believe in and help start that dialogue,” he said

As the bucket neared the top, and the mass of people gathered at the summit became clear, he referenced the wisdom of Mr. Rogers.

“When something bad happens, look at all the people who show up to say we care and support each other,” he said.

curtis@aspendailynews.com