Peter Shelton

A Visit to the Denver Art Museum

Posted in Road Trips West, Watch columns by pshelton on April 29, 2010

Last week Ellen and I spent a rainy afternoon at the Denver Art Museum (unfortunate acronym, DAM).

It’s a dynamic place, despite rooms full of paintings by dead white men. In fact, many of the dead white painters were set on startling their viewers out of preconceived ways of seeing. (more…)

Must there always be an answer?

Posted in Animal Dreams, Watch columns by pshelton on April 26, 2010

Two pairs of crows wheel deliriously across the sky about a quarter mile from my window. I get the binoculars and lean in against the sill.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think twice about the birds, but these four are flying in such tight formation, two leading and the two others apparently following behind, that I can’t take my eyes off them. They are not traveling anywhere. They climb and circle then plummet as one, so close at times their wings overlap. A few feet above the ground, they pull out exactly together, like side-by-side roller coasters, only to skim the tops of the junipers and begin the climb again. (more…)

Change oil, change consciousness

Posted in Watch columns by pshelton on April 21, 2010

I’m lying on my back underneath the old Saab. Pulling on a wrench. Unscrewing the oil plug. Watching the silky-black oil drain into the pan. I’m doing this right now. Tweeting you in real time, pressing the keys with slightly greasy fingers. (more…)

Where 60 counts as a youngster

Posted in Ski history, Watch columns by pshelton on April 15, 2010

One of the Alta volunteer guides stood on a knoll watching, hoping that all of her charges would make the turn to the Supreme chairlift. Most of them did turn right as instructed onto the narrow access trail. But a couple of them didn’t, sailing along in their timeless parallel christies, merrily on down past the cut-off.

“Oh, I get it,” deadpanned the guide. “Half of them are deaf and the other half don’t listen.”

This was a funny if somewhat exaggerated assessment of the group. Her charges, my compatriots at the annual gathering of the International Skiing History Association, probably averaged 75 years of age. More than a few of them sported hearing aids. Quite a few—the group numbered about 20—were well into their 80s. All were lifetime skiers, some of them superb skiers still. They knew what they were doing, but not, all of the time, where they were going.

ISHA does a lot of good tings. It maintains an exhaustive history website ( It publishes a quarterly journal, Skiing Heritage, that is chock full of profiles of people everybody’s heard of (Stein Eriksen, Ernest Hemingway) and ski people you probably haven’t heard of (Jerry Nunn, for example, the first female professional avalanche hunter, a woman who regularly drove cross country with a trunk full of dynamite; or Roland Palmedo, Wall Street banker, World War I pilot, kayaker, sailor, climber, world traveler and master of four languages, the man who started the ski areas at Stowe and Mad River Glen, Vermont). (more…)

Purgatory gets it right

Posted in Ski evolution by pshelton on April 9, 2010

Telluride’s neighbor ski area to the south, Purgatory, is displaying some heartening news on its website. (Current owners want to be known as Durango Mountain Resort, but that is a mouthful to which I haven’t yet grown accustomed.) Instead of shutting the lifts down as originally planned in early April, they will reopen for three-day weekends (Fri.-Sun.) as long as the snow lasts or until the end of the month. Sweet! They will run three chairlifts and offer reduced-price tickets. They’re doing this, they say, to reward their l0yal skiers. I say, right on; it’s the right thing to do.

More props: Aspen ends its daily operations this Sunday, April 11th. But it, too, is reopening for weekends, the 17th-18th and 24th-25th. Tickets are $39.

As usual, ski area closes too soon

Posted in Ski evolution, Watch columns by pshelton on April 8, 2010

Closing day at Telluride was such a beauty. Easter Sunday, and after a cold, windy week, the sun worked its magic on the hard surfaces, turning them slightly wet and slippery, smooth as lemon sorbet.

There were girls skiing in skirts. And at least one pirate in full-bearded regalia. And neon wigs, and a few vintage one-piece suits. And stretch pants. Oh, boy, if that doesn’t define an era. If you’ve still got a pair of in-the-boot stretch pants in your closet, and you can still fit into them, good on ya. Closing day is the day to strut it.

But, as often happens, closing day came too soon. (more…)