Bring in the clowns | AspenTimes.com

Back to: Snowmass

Bring in the clowns

Roger Marolt

Roger Marolt

Talk about this alpine slide, roller coaster thing-a-ma-bob-type contraption has been popping up off and on ever since the Base Village roller coaster thing-a-ma-bob off-and-on real estate disaster was first discussed, so my guess is that we are going to get one sooner or later. The trigger point looks to be the dust settling at the Fanny Hill constructionless site, which seems to be occurring after a decade-old wind of uncertainty has calmed to just a strong breeze.

Yay! Who doesn’t love a roller coaster? They have them at the Disneys, Knott’s Berry Farm and the Fairy Caves in Glenwood Springs, so it would probably be a perfect fit for us, too. The projections are for 2,000 cotton-candy-craving, glassy-eyed, yawning tourists to ride the thing every day of the summer. The only downside is a corresponding attendance drop-off at the Mill Street water fountain in Aspen and the hot dog stand and fro-yo shack that serve its balloon-chasing splashers.

Honestly, I think it’s a great idea. If the projections for the equivalent of 40 bus loads of tourists coming out here daily to be amused are correct, Base Village will finally be bustling and built out. All local dinghies will finally rise on that economic tide and the renaissance of Snowmass Village will be complete, possibly replete with a magical castle somewhere in the middle.

Like I said, “Yay for us!”

“Maybe all that time spent pouring over loan documents and blueprints should have been spent with a tailor, stitching together an amazing animated duck costume and interviewing aspiring actors to play the roles of benevolent princesses and avuncular wizards. You have to admit, something was missing from Plan A to begin with.”

The irony, if the plan succeeds, is that the transformation of our ultraluxurious resort, that will be the envy of the world and the worthy competitor of the Vails and Whistlers of the world, is a cheap amusement park ride.

Wouldn’t it be funny if the only thing missing from Pat Smith’s original vision, the key to Base Village triumph, was not beaucoup bucks lined up from greedy lenders and investors to fund a gargantuan plan for an enduring monument to material excesses demand by the planet’s most affluent and discerning visitors, but rather a roll of $5 tickets for an amusement park ride without even a loop-the-loop or free-fall finish?

Maybe all that time spent pouring over loan documents and blueprints should have been spent with a tailor, stitching together an amazing animated duck costume and interviewing aspiring actors to play the roles of benevolent princesses and avuncular wizards. You have to admit, something was missing from Plan A to begin with.

An interesting part of the feasibility study is that the proposed alpine slide is not going to be a strong enough attraction to bring additional tourists to the area. It’s supposedly going to be just strong enough to draw 2,000 visitors a day away from Aspen’s well-known attractions. In that light, this project does not highlight Aspen very positively. That’s all it takes to get people to make the 20-mile, round-trip drive out here for the day?

The stem of every rose has thorns. In this case, it might well be Aspen’s pride. They are not going to stand still while we steal their tourists. Think of the Wednesday night rodeo and Friday night free concerts out here as stalks of hay. Admittedly, it is hard to work a camel into this metaphor concerning summer business at a ski resort, so imagine a moose carrying straw and ignore trying to figure out any viable reason why that would be so. Got it? OK, now I can make my point: The alpine slide might be the straw that breaks the moose’s back and starts a gimmick race with Aspen.

Aspen has a lot of money, and they are not afraid to spend it. We cannot make a better tourist trap than they. I’m not saying “don’t build the alpine slide.” I’m just pointing out a big risk in doing so. We run a few tracks down Assay Hill for fun and they will go top to bottom on us, from the Sundeck down to Wagner Park with corkscrew and inversion features throughout. Can you say, “Top speed 60 miles per hour”?

I assure you that I am a realist. I know tourists get bored and we have to create artificial stimuli to attract and keep them. Inherent natural beauty and a zillion opportunities for invigorating gizmoless recreation are no longer enough. Build the dang alpine slide and they will come … at least for a little while. We’ll worry about the merry-go-round later.

Roger Marolt loves an alpine slide about as much as everyone else. And therein lies the problem with alpine slides. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.