New Year’s eve in Aspen 08


New Year’s Eve in Aspen

The holidays here in Aspen are always a crazy time. Every day that passes after Christmas day brings more and more people into town. This influx of tourists from all corners of the world usually culminates with a huge NY Eve celebration. Most of the restaurants toss out their regular menus and devise a special ‘over the top’ menu with a ‘prix fixe’ that is often very hefty. Fireworks, launched off the face of Ajax are scheduled at 830 and again at midnight, are spectacular as they reflect off the snow.

The chefs order in large amounts of premium seafood, beef and exotic game to dazzle the crowds. The employees of the clubs and restaurants all look forward to this night to help make the monthly nut. It is not unusual for this one night to pay the rent for the month. It’s a huge night.

This year, as people came off the slopes and headed for the hot tubs to relax before the big night and employees were polishing the silverware, the police reported several ‘credible’ bomb threats at the local banks. As a precaution, they cordoned off the downtown core-16 blocks of restaurants and clubs- and forced evacuation of the hotels and condos in this area.

Bomb squads were brought in to deal with these bombs that turned out to be very real bags of gasoline with fuses designed to be set off by cellphones. As twilight faded into the evening, it became evident that this was going to be a bizarre evening. The first seatings of the core restaurants were cancelled. Then the 830 fireworks were cancelled. Swarms of police enforced the yellow tape borders of the downtown area. All the folks who had expensive reservations began to scramble for alternative plans as it became evident this was not going to be your standard NY eve in Aspen. Eventually the midnight fireworks were also cancelled.

To call NY eve in Aspen a disaster would be an understatement.

Turns out a disgruntled local character who lead a checkered past with run ins with the police and local authorities, finally flipped out. Jim Blanning had many run ins with city hall as well as he was involved with mining claims and property rights. He even spent some time in the slammer. His mining experience made him an explosives expert. Exactly what set him off this time will never be known as this whole bizarre scenario ended with him driving to the outskirts of town in the middle of the night where he downed a sixpack of beer and then blew his head off.

I am not a fan of NY eve to begin with.After 27 years of ringing in the new year at the Tower, I have grown to detest ‘amateur night’. Unless I am making a huge paycheck that night I would much rather be home and in bed when the ball drops. Luckily I was not affected by this lunatic. I did a little cocktail party in Snowmass and was finished by about 8 PM and I headed home. I was between the sheets as this crazy scenario unfolded in Aspen.

In these crazy times, ya just never know what surprises lurk around the corner.

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