If we needed any proof that mountain culture was alive and well in the Aspen area, we got it last Friday. Financial benefit parties tend to go well in this part of Colorado as we’re affluent, with a roaring economy. But one hopes the spirit of these things goes beyond money. In this case, the Bob Sloezen benefit climbed so far above the material level it was on another plane altogether.
As with any happening of this sort, you don’t know how many people will show up or how successful it’s going to be. The organizers figured they’d get enough folks to make it work, but they had no idea what they set in motion. Man oh man, were they in for a surprise.
When our family arrived soon after the start time the place was already getting maxed out. You had to use martial arts moves just to reach the silent auction tables. A glowing vibe permeated the venue — people were walking around with smiles pasted to their faces, just taking it all in and feeling the love. Over and over again I heard comments like “this is incredible,” or “I’ve never had an experience like this.” You had to shout to converse over the noise, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people engaged in enthusiastic conversation.
That was just the beginning. People kept arriving — and arriving. Eventually the place was so packed you had to go outside for enough elbow room to use a fork and feed yourself. The folks at the door banded a steady stream of wrists for over 4 hours. We ran out of food, then out of beer. And people still kept showing up. I just had to laugh with joy for Sloman and what we can all do when we choose to do good. Indeed, if one of the tenants of our culture is that good may frequently come from bad, this was proof.
Stats: Around 1,000 people attended. The ski resort (Buttermilk near Aspen) parking lot was maxed out, folks were parking out on the highway. Facility manager said it was the biggest thing they’d ever done besides the X Games. The organizers had planned on 300 people so ensuing challenges were huge. Five donated kegs of beer were consumed early, then we ripped through another 4 that the restaurant had on hand. One keg was drained in 15 minutes. Beer cups went to zero, so volunteers drove into Aspen and scoured the town for every available cup they could find. Ditto for food, so kitchen volunteers did a mission to Aspen and bought every piece of chicken they could beg buy or steal. If it says anything about this core crowd, the fine art items in the auction didn’t do much, but the low mileage 1995 Grand Cherokee was pursued with vigor by several willing suitors to eventually go for $7,000. As for the total money raised, final numbers aren’t available today but gross sounds like it’s in the 6 figure range.
And speaking of benefit beneficiary Bob “Sloman” Sloezen. He was there and though no doubt a bit uncomfortable being the center of so much attention, Sloman rose to the occasion and took it all with with graciousness and a humble smile that spoke to the fine person he is.
Personal anecdote from the event: As most of you know I’m working hard to round out the WildSnow.com randonnee binding collection. One of the organizers told me a few days before the event that a pair of 1970s vintage Miller Soft skis had showed up for auction, mounted with an uncommon Vinersa touring binding. The skis were interesting, but the bindings were very cool. Sure enough, there they are at the event. So I make a bid that is way over my budget for binding acquisition. Ten minutes later I go back to check the bid sheet, and some guy has it up to so high that just his bid alone will probably take care of a good percentage of Sloman’s medical bills. I could only smile. (So by the way, anyone seen any Vinersa bindings?)
Thanks goes to event organizer Bob Perlmutter and all the other volunteers for making this happen, and thanks to Aspen Skiing Company for the venue. As Perl said in an email to me: “That was one of the most incredible events of my lifetime. It reinforced the most positive aspects of humanity…”
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.