Much of what is now Mountain Village was forest and meadow. I had a minimum-wage job that ended at noon, and every day after work I donned my clunky cross-country gear, skied out to Boomerang Road, plodded up to the ridgeline and schussed south across Turkey Creek Mesa and down by Alta Lakes, ending up on the highway just above the Ophir Loop. From there I hitchhiked back to town, in time to hit the early shift at the bars. I never saw a single soul on those lonely, lovely treks, only the occasional porcupine or coyote.
It was a wild place. One summer evening, my old friend Bracken was hiking down the Plunge and came upon a large mountain lion feeding on a freshly killed elk. My snobbish literary agent in New York, the late Julian Bach, sneered imperiously when I suggested a book about the town’s history might be of interest to the reading public: “No one has ever heard of Tellu-rude,” he said, deliberately mispronouncing the name, “and no one ever will.” Sometimes I wish he had been right.
But back to that first Film Festival: It was a world-class affair. I remember the
young Julie Christie, incandescent as a Tesla Coil and as slim as an aspen limb, sitting barefoot on the curb, wearing jeans and a T-shirt. , asking locals where the best trails were, and a dozen ski bums tripping over each other as they offered to hike with her up Tomboy, Bear Creek, Bridal Veil; the Wiebe didn’t exist yet. I spent two hours talking to Leni Riefenstahl about the German classic, The Blue Light, one of the festival’s featured films, shot in 1932 and starring Riefenstahl back in her innocent days, before she directed the famous Olympiad and the infamous Triumph of the Will; the former totally revolutionized documentary filmmaking, and the latter, a perverted masterpiece of malevolent political propaganda, helped bring Adolph Hitler to power.
Among the other guests were Gloria Swanson, representing feature films in their infancy, and Frances Ford Coppola, who was then dancing on the cutting edge of cinema’s future.
Yep. “Those were the days….”