On the Job: For Aspen’s visitors, Sue Wall has the answers
Ryan Summerlin March 28, 2014
Editor’s note: “On the Job” is a series that profiles locals and the work they do. It runs every other week in The Aspen Times.
“Where’s the movie theater?” “Where can we get a cheap bite for lunch?” “Do you know where Testosterone is?” “Where can I buy electronic cigarettes?”
Those are a few of the questions Sue Wall answered on Thursday as she worked the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s information kiosk at the corner of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue. Minutes after receiving directions to Testosterone, a man returned, waving a shopping bag and claiming he had grabbed a $200 shirt for $80 — all thanks to Wall.
“They’re really friendly,” she said of visitors to the Pavilion, the kiosk’s formal name. “This is a happy job. They’re here. They’re having a great time. It’s fun to share Aspen with them.”
With 7 inches of fresh powder on Aspen Mountain, Wall guessed that most people were skiing, which made for a quiet Thursday morning at the Pavilion. In the winter, Wall typically interacts with 180 people a day, but in the summer, when two people work the kiosk, that number is closer to 600.
Wall recently has seen more people interested in the history of Aspen, from its early mining days to its transition into a world-class ski resort. She attributed this to the increase in downtown walking tours and a greater presence from the Aspen Historical Society.
Wall also has seen more international guests, especially in the winter, hailing from Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina and all over Europe. She said it’s not uncommon that her visitors return to the Pavilion multiple times during their trip, thanking her for the suggestions.
In the summer, the most common inquiries are for the Maroon Bells. Just last week, she had to break the news to a few people that the Bells are closed this time of year. In the winter, she hears more questions about bus routes and operating hours, as well as rental gear, parking and grocery shopping. She said a lot of people want to know where “Dumb and Dumber” was filmed. Not Aspen, she tells them, but Breckenridge, Estes Park, Copper Mountain and Park City, Utah — though she admits that the first time someone asked about the film, she didn’t know what they were talking about. She is learning new things about Aspen constantly, she said.
On Thursday, Wall talked to two men from Boston who said they ski about an hour a year. After discussing T-Lazy-7 Ranch snowmobile packages with them, she suggested a trip up the Silver Queen Gondola, even if they weren’t skiing that day. They took her up on the suggestion, adding that they would be eating lunch at the Sundeck.
Aspen Chamber Resort Association operates four information booths in Aspen, including locations at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, the Wheeler Opera House and at the Rio Grande Place office. During her eight years in the position, Wall, who grew up in Aspen, has worked at all four. She said the major snowstorm in February, when 2 feet of snow fell in 24 hours, reminded her of the old days.
“Most people were not upset that they couldn’t leave when they were supposed to leave,” she said.
While working at the Pavilion, she also interacts with a lot of locals, whether they are passing by or looking to entertain guests in town. Those going for a walk with their dog will drop by to say hello, while others will have a quick chat about local news.
“It’s a great way to be involved in the community,” she said.
Wall enjoys talking with visitors from Vail and Breckenridge because they get to discuss the differences between resorts. She said Aspen sets itself apart because of its four mountains, its rich history and its unique small-town character.
“I think that adds to the charm,” she said.