Magazine article Sunset

Escape to Ashcroft: Explore a Silver Boom Ghost Town in Spectacular Winter-Quiet Mountains near Aspen

Magazine article Sunset

Escape to Ashcroft: Explore a Silver Boom Ghost Town in Spectacular Winter-Quiet Mountains near Aspen

Article excerpt

Nestled in scenic Castle Creek Valley in a mountain wilderness, the ghost town of Ashcroft--a handful of tilting buildings softened by snow--is the center of a tiny, tranquil universe. Nearby, Ashcroft Ski Touring Unlimited offers miles of groomed nordic skiing. And trails head out to Pine Creek Cookhouse, which provided an authentic Colorado dining experience long before that phrase became marketing hype.

Even at its peak in 1883, when Ashcroft had 2,000 inhabitants, 2 newspapers, a school, an ore smelter, and 20 saloons, this wasn't an elaborate town. The silver boom bubble quickly burst, and by 1885 Ashcroft's summer population dropped to 100. This quiet backwater was just the place for Stuart Mace, former commander of an army canine corps, who settled here with his family and sled dogs after World War II. And apart from a period in the mid-1950s, when the town was the television stand-in for Canada in Sergeant Preston of the Yukon (featuring Mace's huskies), quiet has prevailed.

To preserve the region's natural beauty, Mace helped found the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which still offers guided snowshoe tours here. Mace passed away in 1993; his daughter, Lynne, operates Toklat, a gallery specializing in indigenous and Western art, near the ski touring center.

Established 30 years ago as one of America's first cross-country ski centers, Ashcroft Ski Touring remains one of the region's best. You can rent skis or snowshoes to explore the ghost town or to access more than 25 miles of manicured trails leading through stands of snow-covered aspens and conifers. …

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