The Fur Curtain Falls: Aspen Opens to Snowboarding

At exactly 8:45 AM April 1, 2001 Aspen Skiing Company CEO Pat O’Donnell cut the ribbon at the gondola in front of Aspen’s Little Nell to allow snowboarders on Ajax Mountain and end what has been called “54 years of classic American skiing.”

With scissors in hand, O’Donnell welcomed the crowd. “This is an historic day,” he said. “It’s been three years and it just go to show that you have to persevere. Thanks to the Crown Family for allowing this to happen. Once again, this is not a test. This is permanent. I’m going to cut the ribbon and open the mountain permanently to snowboarding.”

Behind the ribbon were approximately 65 mostly older snowboarders and skiers. Many would be riding the mountain together for the first time. Aspen local Bob Limacher, 55, was the first in line. “I came here in 1968 and skied here until 1984,” he said. “Then I started snowboarding over at Buttermilk and have been fighting to open this mountain every since. That’s why I’m the first one in line. This is a big day for me and for the whole town because open minds are open mountains. That’s the way it should have been in the first place. I’m really glad to see the elitist attitude dropped.”

Being first has its privileges. Bob Limacher soaks them in. crane©photo

Another who was glad to see the attitude dropped was Matthew Kreitmann, founder of Free The Snow. “This is the first step, I wouldn’t use the world victory because we are not winning anything other than an acknowledgment that skiers and snowboarders are members of the same family. But I think there is going to be a huge improvement on the mountain because it’s only going to take a second for people to see that any difference between skiers and snowboarders is more a case of perception more than reality.”

When the ribbon fell the crowd surged into the gondola station while media from around the world snapped pictures and rolled video. Somewhere near the back of the line was a famous face. Tom Sims was on his way up to ride the mountain for the first time in his life even though he hadn’t gotten to bed until 5:30 the night before. “I was at Berthoud Pass the day the first resort in Colorado opened and now I’m here for the last resort to open for snowboarding in Colorado so I couldn’t really miss it.”

When asked what this opening means to the snowboarding community Sims was quick to say what we all know, “Not much.”