Is the man pictured in this photo a ski clown or a ski bum?
Before you answer, please know that this is a trick question.
This photo depicts Ralph Jackson, an Aspen bon vivant who claimed to be both a ski clown and Colorado's original ski bum.
Jackson was the scion of a Boston family that ran a bookbinding business. In the winter of 1937, Jackson suffered a serious injury while skiing in New Hampshire, which left him with a serious concussion and a broken leg. The injuries he sustained in that accident left him with a unique, and some would say, "clownish," skiing style that would reverberate through the rest of his life.
Decades after his crash, Jackson found himself living in Aspen, where he enjoyed the good life and created his ski bum/clown persona. Much of Jackson's ski clown schtick was centered on a costume that included a beaver fur coat that was salvaged from the town dump, a distinctive top hat, and a long cigarette holder.
Regardless of its humble origin, the costume was enough to establish Jackson as an Aspen legend (that and his "underground ski school").
Like most legendary figures, Jackson has passed on, but his memory lives on in the upper crust mountain resort he bummed around in for so many years. In this case, his memory lives on in the form of a bronze statue depicting him in his full, clownish glory. If you want to see his costume up close, go ahead and visit the Aspen Historical Society, where his hat, coat and cigarette holder are on display.
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