Sanctuaries in the Snow

The John Denver Plaque (Snowmass)


There is a brass memorial plaque dedicated to John Denver near the top of the Rocky Mountain High run at Snowmass.  After Denver was killed on October 12, 1997, a ceremony was held for him in Aspen, on October 18, 1997, called “A Celebration:  The Life of John Denver.”  A number of people spoke at that ceremony, including the then COO of the Aspen Ski Company, Pat O’Donnell.  In his speech O’Donnell said they were going to name the run at the top of the new Cirque lift “Rocky Mountain High” in honor of Denver, and that a plaque to him would be installed.  O’Donnell’s speech is below.


Pat O’Donnell Speech at “A Celebration: The Life of John Denver”
October 18, 1997
Aspen, Colorado

"Hello. My name is Pat O’Donnell.  I’ve been in Aspen only for
a few years but during that time it’s been long enough to
experience a number of John Denver’s goodnesses.  Whether it
was a Charity event, an environmental cause, or an opportunity
to share the beauty of Aspen with the rest of the world John
was always willing to help.

We were preparing for a concert on the gondola plaza. 
I said “I’m sure it will be more well attended than you
expect” and he said. “I don’t think so”.  I said “Why don’t
we get a nice stage.”  He said: “No, I don’t want a stage.”
I said: “How about a tent.”  “No tents.” How about if we put

you at least on top of the gondola stairs and he said

“I don’t think too many people are going to be there.

Let’s put it in the middle of the stairs.
All I want is a great sound system and I want to be close to
the people.” Well, we guestimated that between one to two
thousand and for those of you who weren’t there they even had
half of Grant street completely blocked. He sang songs that
night about Colorado, about the Christmas holidays and about
the mountains in general.  You couldn’t fit another person
there not even in the Gondola.  It was a very cold night. I
remember that and being close to him and enjoying his music
and he was just starting to pack up his guitar with his
fingers really frozen when the crowd called out “one more”,
”one more” and what they wanted to hear was “Rocky Mountain

And just now the Aspen Ski Company is finishing what is
going to be the highest lift in North America which is the one
at Snowmass, we feel that it is only fitting, with his
family’s prior approval, to dedicate the highest run in North
America to John and call it “Rocky Mountain High.”

A plaque will be placed at the top of the run in his memory
because we feel there isn’t a better place to remember John
and the feelings he was trying to express with his songs.
Thank you."


Below are six photos showing the evolution of the John Denver plaque. The first one shows how it looked soon after it was installed.  It was a sturdy piece of wood upon which had been mounted a photo and a plaque.  There was a photo of John Denver on the left.  On the right the words "Rocky Mountain High" were written in large letters, with a brass plaque below.  The text on the brass plaque read as follows:

"Come, dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops 

Sail o'er the canyons, and up to the stars 

Reach for the heavens and hope for the future 

All that we can be and not what we are.


The Eagle and the Hawk

John Denver 1943 - 1997"

The second photo was taken in October 2002 and shows Christine Moon and her friend Hilary holding a piece of the John Denver Peace Cloth.  (Thanks to Christine Moon for permission to use this photo.)  They were part of a large group of people who hiked up there in October 2002 as part of "Rocky Mountain High--October 14, 2002."


In 2006 the brass plaque was removed and auctioned off to benfit Challenge Aspen.  The Aspen Skiing Company then had a new plaque made and installed, to replace the one that had been auctioned off, but it was soon stolen.  They replaced it again, and it was stolen again.  The third photo shows what it looked like between 2006 and 2009 without a plaque on the right side.  In early 2009 the Aspen Skiing Company had an entirely new brass plaque made and installed, and the last three photos are of it.  The wording on the left of the plaque reads the same as in the original plaque (see above) and there is an image of John Denver to the right.  This new 2009 plaque is quite sturdy and well attached and is less susceptible to being stolen. 


(In March, 2007 Denver’s song “Rocky Mountain High” was designated as Colorado’s second state song.)



For more information about and photos of this plaque, see this Facebook photo album (you do not need to have a Facebook account to view this album):


If you have any photos of or information about this item that you would like to share, please send to [email protected]

This plaque is covered in the book, "Sanctuaries in the Snow--The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass."  The book may be purchased on this page on this site:

Click on images to enlarge.