Aspen ski instructor, architect, lodge builder

Passing Date: 
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Charles G. Paterson, whose varied career made him an Aspen institution, died August 8, 2018 at age 89.

The son of Jewish parents, Stefan and Eva Schanzer of Vienna, Karl Georg Schanzer grew up skiing and hiking in the Vienna Woods. After the 1938 Anschluss, Eva committed suicide. Stefan Schanzer applied to the American Embassy for a visa, then escaped with his two children first to Pilzen, Czechosolvakia, then to Paris and finally to the south of France. With his older sister Doris, nine-year-old Karl sailed from Marseilles to Brisbane, Australia, where in 1940 they were adopted by strangers, Eileen and Charles Raff Paterson. Charlie kept his adopted name as a tribute to them. Stefan Schanzer, mobilized at age 50 into the French Army, was captured by Germans in Brittany, escaped and cycled to Perpignan, then sneaked across the Spanish border and took a train to Lisbon, dodging officials all the way. He sailed to New York in 1941.

After the war the family reunited in New York, where Paterson finished high school. Early in 1949, at age 19, he moved to Aspen and worked as the bellhop at the Hotel Jerome. The following summer, while working at the 1949 Goethe Bicentennial Festival and at Steve Knowlton's Golden Horn night club, he invested his life savings of $750 in three lots at the base of Shadow Mountain and built a tiny cabin from left-over lumber.

The following winter, Paterson served on the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol. With his father he leased a small Victorian, the Holiday House, offering bed and breakfast for $2.50 a night and serving up après-ski goulash. Guests included the University of Colorado ski team. F.D.R.’s granddaughter was one of the housekeepers.

Paterson was hired by Fred Iselin and Friedl Pfeifer as the youngest of the eleven instructors in the original Aspen Mountain Ski School. He led tours at Snowmass Mountain before it became a resort, and starting in the early 1960s taught the “top class” on Aspen Mountain. Certified number 31 in the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association, Paterson served as President of the group from 1966 to 1968. For three years he served at Camp Hale and Fort Carson in the U.S Army’s Mountain and Cold Weather Training Command.

In 1958 Paterson was accepted by Frank Lloyd Wright as an apprentice at Taliesin in Spring Green. At Taliesin that Paterson designed The Boomerang Lodge, returning to Aspen to build it in several stages through the 1960s and 1970s. He was the first to bring a Small Business Administration loan to the valley. In 1969 he married Fonda Dehne, and they ran the Boomerang until 2005.

After selling the lodge, Paterson co-authored, with his daughter Carrie, an autobiography titled Escape Home: Rebuilding a Life After the Anschluss (Doppel House Press, 2013). He remained active as a trustee of the Aspen Music Festival.

Paterson and his wife Fonda were elected to the Aspen Hall of Fame in 2017. He is survived by Fonda and their daughters, Carrie and Jenny, and by nieces, nephews and extended family in England, Australia and New Zealand. 

(Photo: Charlie and Fonda Paterson, with Steve Schanzer)

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