Mountain Town News: Widow of gonzo writer to license cannabis sales |

Mountain Town News: Widow of gonzo writer to license cannabis sales

Allen Best
Mountain Town News

ASPEN, Colo. – How about a commercial strain of cannabis called Gonzo? Or Fear and Loathing? Maybe Decadent and Depraved?

Anita Thompson, the widow of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, tells The Aspen Times that she now has plans for the 42-acre compound where the famous writer lived from the mid-1960s until his suicide in 2005.

In dispatches to Rolling Stone and other magazines, Hunter Thompson was known for his energetic prose and for including himself as part of the story, a style that came to be called gonzo.

Under terms of a trust set up by the writer before his death, she had the right to continue living on the property for the rest of her life, but it would be owned by the Gonzo Trust, an entity overseen by his appointed attorneys and trustees.

In June, she struck a deal with the trust. Her rights to a lifetime residency were appraised at $3.7 million. The value of the property, called Owl Farm, was appraised at $2.55 million. She bought the property from the trust for $500,000, with aid from Robert Irsay, the late owner of the Baltimore Colts professional football team.

In the deal, she gave up her rights as a beneficiary of her late husband’s book sales. But she gained the ownership rights to the “Gonzo” logo and to Thompson’s likeness.

With that likeness now under her legal control, she plans a Gonzo brand of cannabis to be sold in recreational marijuana stores that became legal in Colorado in 2014.

“Since it became legal, I get approached probably once a month by cannabis growers, dispensaries,” she told the Times. Always, the answer is no, she added, because they want to use his name on their strains of cannabis.

Instead, she saved six different strains of cannabis that the writer actually smoked. She is now working with a cannabis company to grow those strains, or at least hybrids of them, and sell them to the public.

Profits from the cannabis sales will help fund renovations at Owl Farm to turn it into a private museum and a writers’ retreat. Her model is the Hemingway Preserve in Ketchum, Idaho, where Ernest Hemingway spent his final years before killing himself with a shotgun in 1961. The home still stands and is managed by The Nature Conservancy.

“I saw, after visiting Ketchum, how important it is to have a public space, a museum, with items like typewriters and clothes and books and papers,” she told the Times. “Somewhere people can feel welcome. I can’t do that here (at Owl Farm). It can’t be public. It would be a zoo.”

Instead, she plans to make these things available by private appointment, starting next May. She also intends to make a portion of the house available for use by visiting writers and others working in the gonzo milieu. She is not, however, yet taking applications. It might be by invitation only.

Ivanka Trump, climate change and ski country

ASPEN, Colo. – Evidence is emerging that Ivanka Trump is becoming the unofficial climate czar in the administration of her father, President-elect Donald Trump.

Politico points to Aspen as having a role in this breaking story. In September, she and her husband, real estate developer Jared Kushner, attended the off-the-record “Weekend with Charlie Rose in Aspen.”

“The annual event is typically filled with Nobel laureates, former government officials, royalty from abroad, business moguls and celebrity chefs who engage in intimate foreign and economic policy discussions, coupled with outdoor bonding activities like tennis and flyfishing,” explained Politico.

It’s a decidedly liberal crowd.

Now, says Politico, the 35-year-old Ivanka has positioned herself “exactly as she did that weekend – as a bridge to moderates and liberals disgusted and depressed with the tone and tenor of the new leader of the free world.”

A source that Politico identified as “close” to Ivanka said that she wants to make climate change one of Trump’s signature issues. On the campaign trail, her father called it a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. Since the election, however, he has indicated a more open mind.

Evidence arrived Monday that confirms Ivanka’s intentions. Climate change evangelist-in-chief Al Gore traveled to Trump Tower for an audience with Ivanka Trump and instead got a lengthy audience with her father. “I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect,” Gore, the former vice president, told reporters for the New York Times and others. “… and to be continued,” he added.

Appearing on PBS, a Washington Post reporter said that Ivanka had reached out to Gore and set up the meeting.

Meanwhile, letters about climate change have been sent to Trump. One letter, signed by more than 365 businesses, was dispatched a week after the November election. It contained the names of Mars, Nike and Levi Strauss but also Vail Resorts, Aspen Skiing and other companies that operate about 40 ski areas in the United States.

The letter advised Trump against walking away from U.S. commitments made at the Paris talks a year ago. The National Ski Areas Association’s Geraldine Linke says she sent all 322 members of the trade group the letter for their consideration. “I was pleased to see the number of resorts who signed on,” she told Mountain Town News.

How Vail Resorts is like the Vegas casinos

BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Fortune magazine says that the successful business model of Vail Resorts looks a lot like the business model used by casinos. How so?

The magazine says that like resorts in Las Vegas and Macau, Vail Resorts accumulates enormous amounts of information about its customers and obsessively tracks their activities.

On the slopes, for instance, there are radio-chip-equipped lift passes that record which runs skiers take and with whom they ride lifts.

Vail can even send targeted cable-television ads to the TV sets of its customers when they are at home contemplating next winter’s ski seasons.

But Rob Katz, 49, the chief executive of Vail Resorts since 2004, also borrowed what Fortune calls a classic casino gimmick to attract customers: an all-you-can-eat buffet of a season pass called Epic. It’s good at 13 resorts in North America, one in Australia and up to four days at 31 ski areas in Europe, all for $849.

“It’s an unbeatable deal for skiers who plan to spend more than five days on the slopes this season,” Fortune says. “And it’s a good deal for Vail, too: By getting skiers to pay up front, Vail offloads much of the risk of a light snow season onto its customers, while enticing them to buy $15 bowls of chili and $1,000 parkas in mountain lodges and stores. Katz expects to sell 500,000 season passes this year, pumping more than $250 million in nonrefundable revenue into Vail’s bank account, most of it before Thanksgiving.”

The Epic brand has worked pretty well for Vail, says the magazine. The stock has yielded a 35 percent return and a share price of $160, up eightfold from the depths of the financial crisis.

Even more impressive about these statistics is that skier days in the United States have barely changed in the last 30 years.

But Vail faces challenges, says Fortune, and points to rising expectations from employees to share in these benefits. While an all-day private lesson can cost more than $900, ski instructors frequently earn less than $20 an hour and lifties the de facto minimum wage of a ski town.

Details of victim who drowned in the snow

WHISTLER, B.C. – Details have emerged about the first fatality of the season at Whistler Blackcomb, and it’s a grim reminder of just how dangerous benign-looking mountain slopes can be.

Matej Svana, a 27-year-old immigrant from the Czech Republic, was snowboarding with his girlfriend when they became separated. He fell face-first into deep snow after going beyond the resort’s operational boundary.

“Basically, what we’re dealing with is a very rapid accumulation of snow in a very short time,” Whistler Blackcomb safety manager Kira Cailes told Pique Newsmagazine. The resort had been slammed with more than 200 centimetres (78 inches) of snow in just a week and a half.

“Given that it’s early season, a lot of that snow is unconsolidated.”

Suffocation from immersion in deep snow most often occurs in tree wells. According to, a website maintained by Paul Baugher, the director of Northwest Avalanche Institute in Washington state, 67 percent of deep snow suffocation fatalities occur in tree wells compared to 28 percent in deep snow, with the balance unknown.

The vast majority of victims, 82 percent, are described as advanced and experts, compared to 18 percent who are intermediates.

California has been the leading state for fatalities, followed closely by Colorado. Statistics for Canadian provinces are more difficult to glean.

The general advice to avoid becoming a victim is to always have a buddy in eye contact.

The victim had graduated from Charles University in Prague, where he studied computational chemistry. He traveled to Whistler after watching “tons of snowboarding videos,” according to his online blog. He said he was polishing his photography and videography skills.

News from the resort green-building front

WHISTLER, B.C. – As Whistler Blackcomb moves forward with its massive Renaissance project under the new ownership of Vail Resorts, chief executive Dave Brownlie is revealing details.

The project, in part designed to broaden Whistler’s appeal to visitors, in both good weather and bad, will add another 150 to 200 jobs.

But will the new building housing the waterpark and other, all-weather activities be net-zero in energy use?

“I’m not going to commit to that up here today just yet, but we have a lot of work to do, (and) it definitely is a high priority for us,” said Brownlie at a recent forum covered by Pique.

In Idaho, meanwhile, a new Limelite hotel is soon to open at Ketchum, at the base of Sun Valley Resort. It was developed by the Aspen Skiing Co., which has a similar hotel in Aspen and another planned at Snowmass.

The hotel will achieve a silver LEED certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s hierarchy, two steps down from the highest level of platinum.

A compromise on name of our highest mountain?

ANCHORAGE, AK – Outdoor writer Ron Lizzi continues to pitch a compromise in the fight about whether North America’s highest mountain be called Denali, the name that the Athabascan-speaking Native Americans call it, or Mt. McKinley, as the U.S. designated it in 1913.

In Ohio, some people were outraged last year when President Barack Obama announced the change to Denali. A mining prospector had sought to name the mountain McKinley in 1896, to honor the then-sitting president, William McKinley. He was a former governor of Ohio. After he was assassinated in 1901, the mountain was named in his honor.

Let Denali remain as the name for the mountain but assign the name McKinley to the higher of the two main peaks within the massif, says Lizzi. The 20,310-foot peak is now called South Peak. Instead, he says, call it McKinley.

“This way, the mountain’s original Alaskan name is restored, and McKinley still gets the honor of having his name on the nation’s highest peak,” said Lizzi last year when he announced his idea.

A newspaper in McKinley’s hometown of Canton nodded favorably at the idea. There has also been acknowledgment of the idea in Alaska.

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