Sanctuaries in the Snow

The John Denver Shrine (Aspen Mountain)

The John Denver Shrine at Aspen Mountain was created by locals Maddy Lieb and Lisa Bolerjack during the 1997-98 ski season, just a few months after his death in October 1997.

In an interview with the author in October 2008, Maddy Lieb said that she and Lisa decided to put the John Denver Shrine in its present location because someone else had already put a bench there to sit on.  So they put up laminated pictures and photos and beads and other things, including a laminted program from his memorial service.  Then other people started adding other items to the shrine.  There used to be a framed John Denver vinyl record in the shrine, but someone took it.  Annie Denver donated some wind chimes from her home and the Ski Patrol put them high up in a tree.  Maddy said she and Lisa decided to put the shrine in because they were fans of John Denver and because he was a nice guy and he loved Aspen so much, and they just decided that he needed and deserved to have a shrine in his honor.  She said that at the time it was put in, she was aware of at least three other shrines that were already on the mountain:  The Elvis Presley Shrine, the Jerry Garcia Shrine, and the Marilyn Monroe Shrine.  She knew Bob Beattie and one time did a TV show with him that was filmed in the John Denver Shrine;  but they were careful not to reveal the location of it.  For an account of another iterview concerning the John Denver Shrine given by Maddy Lieb, see the article "Monumental" by Anita Rosenberg, in the Summer/Fall 2006 issue of AspenPeak magazine at

One of the caretakers of this shrine in recent years has been Ricki Smith Newman, a choreographer who divides her time been Colorado and Indiana.  In December 2010 she told the author that she erected some John Denver signs and photos in the shrine 4 or 5 years ago.  She also stated:  "John was my mentor.  He explained spiritual & environmental truths, & love & care for animals & humanity in a way that really resonated with me.  I love his spirit!  I contributed the posters that included these recognizable words--"Mother Nature's Son", "Peace-It's About Time", "Spirit", "Dancing With The Mountains", the lyrics to "It's About Time", "The Peace Poem", & I stuck the bumper sticker "The Singer is Silent, but there still is the Truth of the Song" on a poster that was already there but had insulting graffiti scribbled on the bottom."

In a 2006 article by Anita Rosenberg ("Monumental" in the Summer/Fall 2006 issue of AspenPeak magazine, Tim Cooney, of the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol, is quoted as follows:  "John Denver is one of Aspen's original shrines.  John came here in the early 1970's before he was famous, playing in a restaurant out in Snowmass.  Rocky Mountain High was his first big hit.  He walked the walk."


John Denver was born on December 31, 1943 and died on October 12, 1997.  He was a well known and well loved American folk singer-songwriter and folk rock musician who was one of the biggest selling artists of the 1970s.  He was especially well loved in Aspen. 

In his lifetime, he recorded and released some 300 songs, about half of which he wrote himself.  His songs were suffused with a deep and abiding kinship with the natural world.  Songs such as "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "Leaving on a Jet Plane", "Thank God I'm A Country Boy", and "Rocky Mountain High" are popular all over the world.  Often singing and writing folk songs about the western lifestyle, the human condition, and planet Earth, he was named the Poet Laureate of his home state of Colorado in 1977.

He was killed on October 12, 1997 when the Long-EZ aircraft he was piloting ran out of fuel just off the coast of California at Pacific Grove.

The Story of the Plane Crash:  The Long-EZ that Denver was flying is a two-place experimental aircraft, designed in the 1970s by Burt Rutan. Denver's particular plane, bought used, had been changed from Rutan's specs: The fuel tank change switch had been moved to the back from the front. Featuring tandem seats, when being flown solo it was to be flown from the rear seat. Denver, like many EZ pilots, was flying solo from the front.
Denver apparently lost control of the aircraft while attempting to manipulate the fuel selector handle, located in the rear cockpit in his plane, after running out of fuel in one tank.  Witnesses stated that the plane made a sudden pitch-down plunge into the water, leading to speculation that, in reaching around to the rear, Denver bumped or kicked the side-stick control.  The official investigation decided that he had likely inadvertently pushed the right rudder pedal trying to gain leverage to turn.
Denver had recently purchased the aircraft and had only had about a half-hour orientation flight the day before the accident.  The NTSB cited Denver's unfamiliarity with the aircraft and his failure to have the aircraft refueled as causal factors in the accident. Denver was the sole occupant of the aircraft.  Prior to the accident, the FAA found that he did not meet the medical standards prescribed in Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations due to his ongoing drinking problem, and a determination was made that he was not qualified for any class of medical at the time.  At least a third-class medical was required to exercise the privileges of his pilot certificate.  Reports state that there was little wreckage as it had mostly been destroyed, and that dental records were needed to identify the pilot as Denver.
Upon announcement of his death, Governor Roy Romer of Colorado ordered all Colorado flags to be lowered to half-staff to honor Denver.

(Much of the above information is from the Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia.)

The Story of the Golf Ball in the Middle of Ocean Avenue:  On the day John Denver died, October 12, 1997, he played golf earlier that day at Spyglass Hill near Carmel.  Here is an article that appeared in the Monterey County Herald newspaper on September 26, 2007 that tells the story:

A way to honor memory of John Denver
Montery Herald, 2007-09-26
By JERRY STEWART - Herald Correspondent

Novato resident Neal Rogin remembers it like it was yesterday.  On Oct. 12, 1997, Rogin and friends Bill Twist and Jim Linan and musician John Denver spent the afternoon playing golf at Spyglass Hill Golf Course.  It was the first day of a planned two-day golf outing.

Afterward, the group all agreed that they would meet later for dinner in Carmel.  "John had said that he was going to take his new experimental airplane (a Long EZ) up for a spin before sunset," Rogin said. "He said he wanted to buzz Clint Eastwood's house to show off his new toy."  Later that evening, Rogin, Twist and Linan all had dinner, but Denver didn't show up. During Denver's flight, the engine had failed, causing his plane to crash just off the coast of Monterey Bay.  "I remember that on our way back to the car after dinner that night, something rather strange happened," Rogin said. "As we were walking across Ocean Avenue, we noticed a golf ball sitting in the very middle of the street.  "Bill, who was one of John's closest friends, picked it up.  It was a brand new Titleist 100, the kind of ball that John always used. We thought it was strange and wondered where it came from, but thought little more about it at the time.  "We found out the tragic news when we were watching the news later that night.  To this day, I still don't know if that golf ball meant anything." 

Ten years later, Rogin, Twist and Linan are returning to Spyglass Hill.  On Sunday, Oct. 14, the trio and 17 others will play the course in honor of Denver, who prior to his death had become a regular at events such as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Bob Hope Celebrity Classic.

Each year since Denver's death, Rogin, Twist, Linan and other friends have informally gathered at various venues in Northern California for what has become the John Denver Memorial Tournament. Because it is the tenth anniversary, the group decided to return to one of Denver's favorite spots.

"It's a way to keep his memory alive," Rogin said. "Playing golf amid the beauty of nature is one of the things he most loved, and he really loved the Monterey Peninsula."

In an e-mail to the author of this web site, in December 2007, Neal Rogin added to this story as follows:

"Bill Twist tells the story more like this:  We came out of the restaurant and Bill found the golf ball, a Titleist 100, the kind that Bill was using that day at Spyglass with John and I and Jim Linan.  All that day, it became a kind of  joke that John would find Bill's ball in the rough, out of bounds, in the trees. And each time John would yell out "Here it is Bill, Titleist 100"!  So when he found that ball, Bill picked it and looked around.  Was John there playing a joke?  We did not know at the time what had happened.  Only that night on the midnight news did we find out."

The shrine includes many photos of John Denver and also several sets of wind chimes.  One photo says “Though the singer is silent…there is still the truth of the song.”  Another says, “My spirit will never be broken or caught; I am flying again.”  Another one says, “We are one when singing with the wind.”  There is a John Denver Peace Rock there, in a glass bottle.  The rock says "Peace" on one side and "Larry & Peggie, Seminole Florida, October 2002" on the other side.  In December 2009 Snowmass Mountain Manager Steve Sewell told the author that years ago the ski patrol help to hang one of Denver's gold records high up in one of the trees there.  The gold record is not there any more; apparently stolen by someone.

The “Peace Poem” that Denver wrote in 1982 is posted on a tree there.  These are the words of the Peace Poem:

John Denver - The Peace Poem
"There's a name for war and killing

there's a name for giving in

when you know another answer

for me the name is sin

but there's still time to turn around

and make all hatred cease

and give another name to living

and we could call it peace

And peace would be the road we walk

each step along the way

and peace would be the way we work

and peace the way we play

And in all we see that's different

and in all the things we know

peace would be the way we look

and peace the way we grow

There's a name for separation

there's a name for first and last

when it's all for us or nothing

for me the name is past

but there's still time to turn around

and make all hatred cease

and give a name to all the future

and we could call it peace

And if peace is what we pray for

and peace is what we give

then peace will be the way we are

and peace the way we live

Yes there still is the time to turn around

and make all hatred cease

and give another name to living

and we can call it PEACE."

In an undated article by Rob Story on SkiNet (the link to this article is no longer active) the following is stated about the John Denver Shrine: 

"Denver's shrine--the single Aspen temple dedicated to someone who actually skied--decorates a sublime, woodsy clearing.  Photos of Denver skiing--pretty fast, by the looks of things--are tacked to fir bark.  Laminated newspaper clippings shower him with generous eulogies.  Pictures of his blond head and trademark round, wire-frame granny glasses beam down on visitors.  Wind chimes clink and bells ring. There's an old jacket for his 1971 album Poems, Prayers and Promises.  Denver's gold record for 'Country Roads' dangles from a branch."

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

For a panoramic view of the shrine taken in 2009 see: 

See this December 12, 2005 SKI magazine article by Rob Story: 


See this article about this shrine by Pamela LeBlanc:

See a Snowmass Sun article dated December 7, 2011, "The John Denver shrine dedicated to late singer," by David Wood.  This article is set out in full below at the bottom of this page.

See this March 27, 2013 article by Amanda Rae, "Can you find Elvis, John Denver & Hunter S. Thompson at Aspen/Snowmass?", and also this March 27, 2013 article "Aspen/Snowmass Tree Shrines: John Denver Shrine" also by Amanda Rae,

See this video of the John Denver Shrine: (0:43)

This January 15, 2016 video shows parts of the Jimmy Hendrix Shrine, the John Denver Shrine, and the Michael Houser Shrine.  It also mentions, but does not show, the Jerry Garcia Shrine and the Elvis Presley Shrine.

The Aspen Chamber lists this Shrine in its March 10, 2016 article as a "must-see" Shrine.  "7 Must-See Shrines on Aspen Mountain."

The John Denver Shrine is on Aspen Mountain.  (There is also a John Denver Shrine on Buttermilk, and a John Denver Plaque on Snowmass, both of which are covered on this site.  See,13,0,0,1,0 for the Buttermilk shrine and,44,0,0,1,0) for the Snowmass plaque.

"SHRINE SHIHAN" Tim Mooney conducts a tour of four of the Aspen Mountain Shrines in this Aspen 82 video (2:56):  "Aspen Mountain | Shrine Tour part 1." Included in this part 1 tour are these Shrines: Raoul Wille, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and John Denver. 

Photos of the John Denver Shrine on Aspen Mountain are below.  The last photo (in the first photo section below) was taken in the summer of 2008 and shows the large number of items that had fallen to the ground.  To see even more photos of this Shrine, see this Facebook photo album (you do not need to have a Facebook account in order to view the album):

If you have any photos of or information about this item that you would like to share for use on this page, please send to the author at [email protected].

This shrine 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:


Photos of the Shrine are below.  To see even more photos of the Shrine, see this Facebook photo album (you do not need to have a Facebook account in order to view the album):

Click on images to enlarge.

The two photos below in this photo section are courtesy of Lantz Welch. He states he posted the photo of his plane (a Christen Eagle aerobatic biplane) in the shrine in 1999. He further states John Denver also owned such a plane. Written on the photo is this: "J. D. If you never saw an eagle fly. I miss you. Lantz Welch 1999." See: Mr. Lucky, My Life Story by Lantz Welch,, Hobbies


The photos in this photo section were taken in February 2013.  

Click on images to enlarge.

Below is the article about the John Denver Shrine by David Wood, which appeared in the Snowmass Sun newspaper.

The John Denver shrine dedicated to late singer

Sanctuaries in the Snow

The Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass (Including Plaques, Memorials, Displays and miscellaneous items) All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission from the author. For any such permission contact [email protected]

  • David C. Wood
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