Mel BlumenthalColumnistSnowmass Village, CO, Colorado

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January 29, 2013
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Mel Blumenthal: Is the tide beginning to turn in Town Hall?

SNOWMASS VILLAGE -As discussed in my last column and as witnessed and reported by many in our community, some of our elected Town Council representatives have recently exhibited significant signs of dysfunctional behavior that if not corrected soon will likely have a negative impact on the important work of our town government during the next couple of years.Help, however, may be on the way. I was pleased to hear at last week's Town Council meeting that its upcoming retreat agenda has been amended to include a facilitated team building session, which hopefully will set the stage for more respectful, insightful and collegial dealings when it comes to setting town policy and making decisions that impact our citizens and guests as well as the future of our community.Although it's not in his good-natured personality to run roughshod over his colleagues, it now appears that Mayor Bill Boineau, by his recent words and take-charge action, intends to run a much tighter ship and not allow council deliberations to get out of hand and disrespectful, as has been the case in several recent instances. Strong leadership sometimes requires carrying a bigger stick than one is normally comfortable with, but in the heat of battle some of the troops might lose their way and require a strong hand to nudge them back in line. Fortunately, Boineau appears up to this task. Another very positive piece of news came out of last week's Town Council meeting with the unveiling of a new town-wide communications plan.The plan, which was conceived and developed by the town's new director of communications Kelly Vaughn over the past few months, lays out a detailed roadmap to proactively engage the community regarding the town's strategic plans and day-to-day operations. Transparency, two-way communications and community involvement of all full- and part-time residents, the business community, cultural and nonprofit institutions, our guests and visitors and the Town Council and staff are the guiding principles of this plan. Vaughn will have at hand all the traditional old school media tools to implement this far- reaching plan as well as all the new-school social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and a newly designed, interactive, user-friendly town website.During the next few months keep alert as all these new and improved communications tools come online, and if all you full- and part-time residents just can't wait for the communications floodgate to open, email Vaughn at or call her at 970-922-2275 and give her your email address and other contact info so that you can begin participating and communicating right away.Since my last column, in which I referenced to the disappointment of many of our residents and guests with this season's Viceroy 8K restaurant menu and quality of service, I heard from quite a few of you also expressing concerns regarding Aspen Skiing Co.'s new Elk Camp Restaurant.Although most agree the new building is a beautiful mountain structure, inside and out, many have expressed concerns regarding its space planning, which is a bit dysfunctional with its exterior ski racks and interior tables sharing a common trait: Both are set too close together for ease of access and passage. Some have also noted that its food offerings are much too expensive for most daily mountain lunch budgets. And, by the way, someone needs to give the chef de cuisine a decent recipe for chicken soup. He/she doesn't appear to have a clue on this menu item.Of greater concern are the issues concerning the ability of restaurant patrons to safely access the new restaurant coming down mountain from the top of Elk Camp into both the upper and lower level entries, as well as accessing the lower level off the Two Creeks lift and from the ski runs that terminate on the lower side of the restaurant.There is way too much traffic coming off the gondola and from patrons entering and exiting the upper-level restaurant entrance to safely accommodate those coming down mountain who also ski into the upper-level entrance area. As to the lower-level entry, the extremely small landing pad area in front of and adjacent to the entry door along with the adjoining ski racks make for a very congested and unsafe entry area particularly in light of all the young kids who access this area on their way to the ski school's lunch room, located just inside the lower-level entry door. I'm surprised that with all the experienced planners involved in this project that they screwed up so badly on what should have been some obvious entry/exit issues, but hopefully it's not too late to take corrective action before someone is seriously injured trying to get an expensive salad and a decent bowl of chicken soup.While I'm on this subject, Gwyn's High Alpine Caf & Bar is still my favorite on-mountain eatery in Snowmass - good, homemade, reasonably priced food and drink, in a relaxed and comfortable setting (particularly in light of all the new chairs and tables recently installed) accompanied by friendly service. Long live Gwyn and George, their savvy, friendly and experienced second-generation family workforce and their winter staff, the last bastion of high-quality, non-Skico food service on the mountain.Don't forget to make your reservations soon for Aspen Film's gala film awards party at the Caribou Club on Oscar night, Feb. 24. This annual celebration of the best films released in 2012 is always a sellout, and if you're a movie buff or just want to have an elegant and fun evening out with your friends and neighbors, make your reservations soon by contacting Aspen Film at 970-925-6882. See you on the red carpet.Your thoughts and comments are welcome at

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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 29, 2013 04:40PM Published Jan 29, 2013 04:38PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.