Trump in Aspen

Jeremy Bernstein

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Until 1880, Aspen, Colorado was known as Ute City, after the Native American people who inhabited the valley. During the silver boom of the 1880s it was an extremely prosperous small town. There are still traces of that era, including the Wheeler Opera House. It came to an abrupt halt in 1893 when the silver market collapsed. The place was moribund for fifty years until the Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke, who liked to ski, saw the potential of the place as a resort. Among other things he created the Aspen Institute where industrialists like himself might be exposed to Aristotle. The Aspen Center for Physics, where I have been coming since the 1960s, was originally part of the institute. This used to be a pretty funky town. In 1970 Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff. There were some wealthy people like Paepcke but they pretty much faded into the background. Either you could ski or you couldn’t. Things have changed. There are now fifty billionaires who have some sort of property in Aspen. Three of the Koch brothers – Charles, David and William – have roots here. (William is the poor Koch brother, worth only $2.3 billion.)

Donald Trump does not own any property here – though he once tried to build a hotel – but he has left a trail. In 1989, around Christmas, he showed up with his wife Ivana, closely followed by his mistress Marla Maples. The three met up in a mountain restaurant named Bonnie’s. You get there on skis. There were many witnesses including two people I had breakfast with the other morning. ‘You bitch,’ Ivana said to Marla, ‘leave my husband alone.’ Trump took off on skis. Ivana, a much better skier, easily caught up with him. She skied backwards in front of him while she explained her point of view.

Trump came back to Aspen for a fundraising event last week. I rode my bicycle to the airport in the morning and asked around. They told me he would land in Vail and then come over by helicopter. That’s nearly what happened. Trump landed in Vail then came over in one of his smaller planes some four hours late. He was driven straight to the home of the Houston securities trader Andrew Bosarge, which is said to contain one of the most significant art collections in Aspen. It has a number of suits of armour. If you paid $25,000 you might get a word with Trump. For $2000 you apparently got an autographed picture. The sponsors said the event had been oversold. Trump stayed for about an hour. The house, which is said to be worth over $15 million, is more or less on the ski slopes of Buttermilk. I wonder if it brought back any nostalgic memories. By the way, a few weeks ago Hillary Clinton had a fund raiser in Aspen where the top price was said to be $50,000.

The Trump caper was said to have cost law enforcement about $6000 in overtime, which they will try to collect from the campaign. Clinton cost only $3000 since she brought her own Secret Service detail. I can’t imagine what Joe Biden cost when he was here at the beginning of July. He was staying in a condo complex near where I live, and travelled in a sirens-blaring, lights-flashing caravan. He’d have been more secure in an old SUV, I thought, looking like everyone else. For now calm has returned, and we are left to wonder who’s next.


  • 31 August 2016 at 10:02pm
    Jeremy Bernstein says:
    Just a correction and an addition. Trump was here last Thursday and not Saturday. The next visitor is Stevie Wonder this Sunday. He is sold out but the top ticket was $250.

  • 6 September 2016 at 5:39pm
    tm cross says:
    What is voter turn-out like in Aspen? Do we see the local actual poll numbers (like the boxes in UK)? Exit polls? For whom will Aspen vote? Does Hillary ski better than DT-critical?