How to find secret shrines to Elvis, Hunter S. Thompson and others on Aspen slopes |

How to find secret shrines to Elvis, Hunter S. Thompson and others on Aspen slopes

Dan Leeth / The Denver Post
David Wood stands beside a photo-plastered tree at the Hunter S. Thompson Shrine on the slopes of Snowmass.
Dan Leeth, Special to The Denver Post

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Veteran ski instructor Ed Petrosius proudly led us off a Snowmass ski trail and into the ungroomed terrain beyond. He stopped at the ropes marking the ski area boundary. A few yards beyond, a commemorative plaque, employee name tag and laminated photo graced the trunk of a tree.

This small, out-of-the-way memorial holds a place of tender significance for Petrosius. It honors his late wife Susan.

Susan’s shrine is one of about 100 ad hoc memorials gracing the slopes of Aspen’s four ski hills. Most consist of photos and memorabilia attached to trees. With rare exceptions, they lie hidden in the forest, out of sight of skiers on groomed trails. The majority were clandestinely created with their builders maintaining total anonymity.

Some pay tribute to local residents. Others honor celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Garcia and John Denver.  A 9/11 shrine was put up by a group of New York firefighters. There’s a memorial for kitty cats and several to dogs. There are shrines for sports (hockey, golf), sports stadiums (Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park), sports heroes (Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones), and while there’s nary a shrine for our Broncos, there is one honoring the New England Patriots.

“Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family come here to ski, and they hire quite a few instructors,” David Wood explained. “I heard that those instructors are the ones who put it up.”

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