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Ski or snowshoe through this 140-year-old Colorado ghost town



Ski or snowshoe through this 140-year-old Colorado ghost town

Today, the Ashcroft ghost town is mostly silent, save for the crunching of snowshoes, the clip-clopping of horse hooves, the trickle of Castle Creek and the breeze blowing through aspens and evergreens.

But in the 1880s, this region of Colorado’s scenic Castle Creek Valley, located 12.5 miles south of Aspen in the shadow of the Elk Mountains, was a lively, bustling town where upwards of 2,500 silver prospectors hoped to strike it rich.

Though the 1893 silver crash thwarted those plans, later, in the early 1930s, Ashcroft became the site of another big dream: a sprawling, downhill ski resort meant to rival those in Europe. That plan never came to fruition, either.

But, as the experts at the Aspen Historical Society note, these failures ultimately helped stave off development and preserve the region’s history and natural environment for us to enjoy today. Ashcroft is a serene, all-season destination for cross-country skiing, hiking, cycling, snowshoeing, birdwatching, horseback riding, photography, fly-fishing, nature tours, historical exploration and other pursuits.

“It’s a fortune of failures,” said Nina Gabianelli, the historical society’s vice president of education and programs. “There are a few successful operations going on out there today, but very little development. Because of all the failed commercial, capital developments, we have this beautiful pristine valley and can interpret all the different pieces of its history.”

Ashcroft Ski Touring offers gear rentals, lessons, tours and horse-drawn carriage rides. (Provided by Ashcroft Ski Touring)

From silver mines to ski slopes

Ashcroft’s story starts with members of the Northern Ute tribe, or “Nuche,” who successfully hunted along Castle Creek every summer, Gabianelli said. After the U.S. government relocated the Ute to a reservation in northeast Utah — banning them from Ashcroft in the process — silver prospectors took over and established the town site, initially called Castle Forks, in 1880.

Fortune-seekers did find some silver deposits here, but they were shallow and ran out quickly. On top of that, the burgeoning town of Aspen’s silver discoveries were more lucrative, which lured Ashcroft’s residents away. The silver market’s collapse in 1893 all but sealed Ashcroft’s fate — just a handful of people remained in the late 1890s and early 1900s, mostly single men and their dogs, Gabianelli said. The U.S. Postal Service stopped delivering mail to Ashcroft in 1913.

In the early 1930s, when developers first began building European-style downhill ski resorts in the United States, the site piqued the interest of Olympic bobsledder Billy Fiske and business partners Ted Ryan and Tom Flynn.

In 1936, they opened the Highland Bavarian Lodge and began charging skiers $7 a day to visit their fledgling ski area. The trio created a detailed map of proposed ski runs on Mount Hayden and hired an architect to draw up plans for a new town at Ashcroft. Tramway companies even submitted bids for a proposed transportation system.

The men likely would’ve succeeded in building their resort, too, if not for World War II, which meant that both steel and labor were in short supply. Fiske, who persuaded the British government to let him join its Royal Air Force, was shot down and killed in the Battle of Britain in 1940, Gabianelli said.

Meanwhile, the Aspen Ski Club had begun teaching people how to ski on Aspen Mountain, planting the seed for Aspen to eventually become one of the country’s top resorts. Ryan never gave up on his dream of building a ski resort at Ashcroft, however, and continued buying nearby property, which saved it from commercial development.

Ryan leased some of the land to Stuart Mace, a botanist who trained sled dogs during WWII. Mace, who became the property’s caretaker and steward, and his wife used reclaimed materials to build their family home at Ashcroft, which they named “Toklat,” an Inuit word that means “headwaters.” (Today, Toklat is home to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ Catto Center and is currently undergoing renovations.)

Mace also ran dog-sledding excursions at Ashcroft, which attracted attention from TV production companies. In the mid-1950s, crews filmed the show “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon” here, including Mace and his sled dogs in some of the scenes.

In the mid-1970s, the U.S. Forest Service began managing Ashcroft and brought in the Aspen Historical Society to preserve and interpret the site. Ashcroft made the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

1643376779 636 Ski or snowshoe through this 140 year old Colorado ghost town
The welcome center at the Ashcroft ghost town. (Provided by Aspen Historical Center)

How to experience Ashcroft

Today, visitors can wander through the ghost town, poke their heads into the historic buildings, look at artifacts and read interpretive signs. It’s especially popular during the summer, when an on-site docent is available to answer questions, but can also be viewed via self-guided tours in the spring, fall and winter. (Castle Creek Road, which connects Aspen and Ashcroft, is also a steep — but beautiful — road-cycling route.)

The society maintains six original Ashcroft buildings here, plus an additional three that it relocated from other historic sites.

“Our preservation begins with restoring and maintaining what was there, but we do let some of the pieces fall apart so you can see what happens to something when it’s left out in the snow, sun, wind and rain for 130, 140 years,” Gabianelli said.

In the winter, travelers can explore the ghost town and 600 surrounding acres along Castle Creek on snowshoes and cross-country skis.

1643376779 352 Ski or snowshoe through this 140 year old Colorado ghost town
Some of the historic buildings at the Ashcroft ghost town. (Provided by Aspen Historical Society)

Ashcroft Ski Touring has an on-site Nordic center, a full-service restaurant called Pine Creek Cookhouse and several warming huts that are stocked with hot cocoa, cider and water; the company also offers gear rentals, lessons, tours and horse-drawn carriage rides. Day passes for skiing or snowshoeing on Ashcroft’s 35 kilometers of groomed trails are $25 for adults and $15 for seniors and children under 12.

Aspen Center for Environmental Studies naturalists also lead guided hikes and snowshoe tours of the area, offering additional insights into the region’s geology, plants and animals.


Ramsey County attorney: Officers justified in fatal shooting of armed Mounds View carjacking suspect



Ramsey County attorney: Officers justified in fatal shooting of armed Mounds View carjacking suspect

Police officers who shot and killed an armed carjacking suspect inside a Mounds View liquor store in November were justified in using deadly force, the Ramsey County attorney’s office announced Tuesday.

An investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found that 21-year-old Noah Douglas Kelley was pointing a handgun at police when two officers fatally shot him at Merwin Liquors on the evening of Nov. 28, 2021.

No criminal charges will be filed against Officer John Thomas of the New Brighton Police Department or Sgt. Michael Hanson of the Mounds View Police Department, both of whom fired their weapons during the incident.

Police were pursuing Kelley after he carjacked a man in an SUV outside an Aldi grocery store at Mounds View Boulevard and Long Lake Road, forcing the driver at gunpoint to take him across a parking lot to the liquor store where he was shot.

Kelley, who lived nearby, left his apartment on foot that evening after an argument with his fiancee, the BCA report said. He was intoxicated after spending the day drinking and smoking marijuana. A toxicology report found his blood-alcohol concentration was 0.191 — more than twice the legal limit to drive.

Kelley walked to the Aldi, where he encountered the driver of the SUV, who was waiting in the vehicle with his 3-year-old son while his wife and another child were inside shopping.

After forcing his way into the SUV, Kelley pointed his pistol at the man’s son and ordered the man to drive him to Merwin Liquors, which is in the same strip mall as the Aldi, the BCA report said.

Once outside the liquor store, Kelley exited the vehicle and the man in the SUV drove back to Aldi and called police.

Meanwhile, Kelley fired two shots through the liquor store’s front door, forced his way inside and assaulted its lone employee, who was eventually able to leave the store and call 911.

Police arrived about 7:10 p.m. and were told Kelley was still inside and armed with a handgun. When four officers entered the store and announced themselves, they were confronted by Kelley, who was holding the gun with both hands and pointing it at the officers, according to the BCA report.

After Kelley did not comply with commands to drop the gun, Hanson and Thomas shot him, the report said.

The officers provided first aid until paramedics arrived, but a gunshot wound to Kelley’s neck was fatal, according to a report by the Hennepin County medical examiner.

A .380-caliber pistol was found next to Kelley’s body.

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Orlando Magic win NBA draft lottery, come away with No. 1 pick



Orlando Magic win NBA draft lottery, come away with No. 1 pick

The NBA draft lottery misfortune that’s surrounded the Orlando Magic for nearly 20 years has ended.

The Magic won Tuesday night’s draft lottery in Chicago, coming away with the No. 1 pick for the first time 2004.

After early success with the lottery, the Magic had either stayed at or fallen from their pre-lottery positioning in their last nine tries.

That trend ended, with the Magic, who entered Tuesday with the second-best odds of having a top-five pick, winning the lottery for the fourth time in the franchise’s history.

This article first appeared on Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.


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Magic position themselves for better look at prospects at NBA draft combine



Magic position themselves for better look at prospects at NBA draft combine

For the Orlando Magic, the next few days will be a significant step in a month-long process that’ll culminate with the June 23 NBA draft.

The NBA draft combine, which takes place Wednesday through Friday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, offers the Magic their most comprehensive look, up to this point, at the prospects they’re considering selecting in the June 23 draft.

The combine is more than simply physical measurements, medicals, on-court drills and scrimmages — although that information is helpful.

During the season, teams are allowed to scout prospects but aren’t allowed to contact them.

Like most teams that didn’t already start hosting pre-draft workouts, the combine will be the Magic’s first opportunity to interview and have one-on-one interactions with prospects.

It offers them a chance to get to know the prospect as more than just a basketball player.

This can go a long way in determining who gets invited for a workout at the team’s facility or who ends up higher on a team’s draft board.

Teams are allowed to interview a maximum of 20 players at the combine, while each player is allowed to interview with a maximum of 13 teams. Just because the Magic didn’t interview someone at the combine doesn’t mean they’re not interested or won’t pick them in the draft.

Every top prospect — from Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga) and Jabari Smith (Auburn) to Paolo Banchero (Duke) and Jaden Ivey (Purdue) — will be present.

This matters for the Magic, who’ll once again have a top pick in this year’s draft.

While most players who are expected to be taken high in the draft typically don’t participate in all of the drills and will rarely scrimmage, those off-court interactions are part of the intel the Magic will consider leading into the draft.

The Magic also have second-round picks (Nos. 32 and 35).

While Orlando has a tendency of trading its second-round picks under president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, the combine will help the Magic gather the necessary information to see whether one of — or both — of those picks are worth keeping if they find a prospect they like outside of the first round.

There’s also the chance they could try to trade those picks with another team to get into the back end of the first round, among other possibilities.

Tuesday night’s draft lottery helped provide clarity into each team’s situation.

Teams also use this period to gather information on other organizations, such as intel about players they’re interested in acquiring, their own players who they’d trade, how they’re feeling about their lottery position and if they want to move their pick.

These conversations matter for the Magic as they continue to build a foundation with their young core.

The combine, however, isn’t the be-all and end-all.

Predraft workouts and the ensuing interviews allow teams to get a better look at players under their own roofs.

Weltman recalled meeting Wendell Carter Jr. for the first time during the predraft process and left with a strong and favorable first impression. Almost three years after passing on him in the 2018 draft, the Magic traded for him three years later.

Intel continues to be gathered after the initial contact, making the combine a springboard for what’s to come during the next month leading into the draft and beyond.

This article first appeared on Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.


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