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Jim Salter leaves his mark on Aspen

By all accounts, Jim Salter was one of the smartest people who spent time in Aspen, and he had the dogs to match.



"He also had the most intelligent dogs," says Bill Stirling is a long-time resident and former mayor of aspen. His late wife, Katharine Thalberg, founded Explore Bookstore, where Stirling met Salter. "They were corgis. They were very long and low to the ground and highly intelligent which would be just the kind of dog Jim would have. You could almost speak to those dogs and expect a pretty good reply from them."


According to Bill, Jim was the kind of person who could leave a lasting mark on everyone he met.


"It’s people being touched by him and still recalling that. That’s not like remembering him in a particular room in Explore, or something like that, where he was always holding form. He was very modest. And very unassuming."

His modesty was shown even more when he let people into his own home. Jim’s interactions with his guests led to the writing of a book co-authored with his wife, Kay, about the dinner parties they had with the people they knew and met along the way — never once repeating a recipe.

"They just came up with a wonderful celebration of breaking bread together with people," says Stirling. "Their dinner parties were famed."

Stirling says Jim was the kind of man who had the ability to change someone’s life, regardless of whether or not they realized it. But Salter’s influence transcended the artistic and cultural community here … and was pivotal in many local political issues during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Bob Rafelson is a well known film director who resides in Aspen and recalls fondly the way that Jim was very much a part of the common denominator. He changed the town by trying not to leave any distinguishable marks at all rather than being at the forefront.



"I think Jim had a disdain for that, and honored the working folk of Aspen," says Rafelson. "Amongst whom there were extraordinarily brilliant people who opposed the establishment."

Jim Salter was the type of man who changed Aspen forever, whether he knew it or not. He managed to touch people’s hearts for decades to come just by being himself.  The no-frills way he lived his life was reflected in the way that he chose to express himself in word.  


His writing was known to be stripped down to the essence of the words. His simple imagery, from silver coffee pots covered in cloth, to the way a man sat being likened to a villain in an old Western, allowed his intentions to be shown at face value, something he tried to do with the people he met in this community.