David E. Steiner

Retired USAF, Teacher, Dad, Grandfather, Curmudgeon

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I’ve been reading a book by Ted Conover called Whiteout, subtitled “Lost in Aspen.” I found it interesting because Aspen was at one time much like our valley — a place where some mining had taken place, but which had become a tiny mountain backwater until Walter Paepcke, who owned the Container Corporation of America, chose to turn it into a ski resort with a high-culture component. In 1949 he held the Goethe Bicentennial Festival in Aspen and managed to attract such luminaries as Thornton Wilder, Mortimer Adler and Albert Schweitzer. Aspen was never the same.

Conover’s book talks about the stars, the money, and the New Age culture, as evidenced by John Denver’s Windstar Foundation, which is very long on talk about a peaceful and prosperous planet and very short on action. But then it’s easy to talk about peace and prosperity in a place where people have few material needs unfulfilled.

Aspen is the home of several New Age cults and it’s apparently easier to find a Swedish or Shiatsu masseuse than a good plumber although there is plenty of money in the construction business when most new houses start at four million dollars.

I was in the San Francisco Bay area when New Age referred only to a kind of music, and it was to be found in just a few tiny stores in South San Francisco. It’s now a movement which doesn’t seem to go anywhere, as John Denver is now a reactionary New Ager and the field has been claimed by people who have given themselves new names like Diamond Ecstacy and Sky Canyon. They give three day seminars in Aspen at $650 a pop and tell people that “we create our own reality.” Profound stuff. They give parties while they wait for an encounter with a UFO and wear gold pendants of dolphins with long quartz crystals clutched in their flippers.

Conover’s book contains a warning for those of us in this little valley. It reminds us that we can see beginnings much more clearly than endings. It reminds us how easily we can be seduced by style and glamour. Mr. Paepcke and others after him made choices that resulted in the Aspen of today, and while we might envy those who play there, the place has become what novelist Thomas McGuane called “one of America’s top petting zoos.” My son and I passed through Aspen on a motorcycle trip a few years back. We felt out of place.

Without world-class skiing, our little hamlet will never be another Aspen. Our valley has a few new and expensive homes, but in the next few years the population will continue to increase and solitude and closeness to the earth will become ever more desirable and valuable. The whole of the foothills of the Front Range and the area around Rocky Mountain National Park in particular will have to make many of the same choices the residents of the old Aspen had to make. Places such as ours offer not simply solitude, but a solitude which also satisfies what Tocqueville called “the American mania for association” with people of similar beliefs, values and attitudes.

We have seen the beginning, but the end is much more difficult to visualize correctly. It is just a question of choices.




© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner

Allenspark Wind Columns:


Why Allenspark?

Going Riding [August, 1985]


Used Cars

Peace and Quiet [1986]

Liberals & Conservatives

Going to the Movies

The Screened Porch

The Beginning of The Season

The Weather

The Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The End of The Season

The Gift of Time

The Beavers

Addresses [1987]


Watching the Trees Grow

Postal Rates

Changes in Estes Park

Square Dancing at the Pow Wow

Back to the Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The Solstices

Bird Feeders


The Estes Park Hardware Store [1988]


Limousine Service

A Memorial Service

A Hummingbird


A Hiking Trip

The Estes Park Public Library

Wild Life

Riparian Rights [1989]




Mountain Friendliness

A Motorcycle Trip

Satellite Television

“Weaving Mountain Memories”

Hotel Rates in the Old Days

The Price of Propane [1990]

The Front Range Almanac


Modes of Transportation

Miller Moths

My 50th Column

Modern Conveniences

Rock Climbing

On the Death of Otto Walter, Postmaster

Otto’s Memorial Service

A Big Owl Pot-Luck Dinner

A Whine About Telephone Service [1991]

After the Persian Gulf War

Some Changes in the WIND

The Trip to the Mountains

The Mountains in the Summer


Of Dogs, Music, and Children

Muhlenburg County

To My Grandson

The Sale of Longs Peak Inn

World War II  [1992]

Murphy’s Law and the Computer

The South St. Vrain Canyon


The Hazards of Volunteering

Crime in Our Valley


On the Death of Charles Eagle Plume

Can We All Get Along?

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Lost Horizon [1993]


Rumors About a Visit by the Pope


More About Fences


The Visit of Pope John Paul II

Forest Fires

The New Sewage System

The Snow Pool

The Good Old Days [1994]

The WIND’s 20th Anniversary

The Bunce School

The Shooting Gallery

The Estes Park Museum

Our Government

U.S. West Takes a Hit

The Year of the Hummingbirds

A New “Yield” Sign

Growth in Allenspark

Private Telephones?

The Salvation Army

Creation Science [1995]

Devolutionizing Big Government



Fort D.A. Russell

Domestic Terrorism

Old and New

Barney Graves

Life in the Wilderness

What’s In a Name?

Arthur C. Clarke


The Estes Park Trail-Gazette Columns:

July 1983


Estes Cone

Johnny Grant

Observations in Estes Park

The Bath House


The Sutherland’s Ice House

How Old is Charles Eagle Plume?


Christmas Trees

Tree Murder

Mountain Driving


Mail Boxes

More About Mail Boxes

“Are you related to ....?”


An Accident

The Wild Cat

A July Reunion

A Visit to Baldpate Inn

Opening Cabins


The Times, They Have Changed

Death and Transfiguration

The Population Explosion

The March of Time

Faith-Based Social Services

Looking for Pitch

Recent Writings I

Recent Writings II

Recent Writings III

Recent Writings IV

Recent Writings V

Recent Writings VI



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