Roger Marolt: Life’s a beach, except here iin Aspen
February 13, 2004
By now I’m pretty comfortable with my new position at The Aspen Times. So, last week I decided to get out of the office and try my hand at something new, something exciting, something like investigative journalism.
My self-selected assignment was to discover if and why Aspen is losing its competitive edge in the ultra-competitive industry of winter travel. So without the knowledge of my editor or my expense account approved, I headed out to some other resorts to see what I could see.
The truth of the matter is that the competition out there for winter tourist dollars is absolutely kicking our overdeveloped West End cold. The problem is severe. I’m afraid that it’s not going to be remedied simply by constructing a new Base Village in Snowmass Village, erecting a couple of new quad lifts, or the recent, strategic placement of flaming oar buckets at the ends of the mall.
The problem is not what Vail is doing. You’ll have to go farther south than that to see where the trouble lies, but you’ll not discover it in Telluride or Taos either. They are not the competition we need to worry about. The real competition for us is, well ” summer.
This thought first occurred to me as I found myself creeping along at10 mph from Lake Dillon to Denver in Saturday evening ski traffic slowed by 2 inches of pow pow (aptly named for the sound cars make as they slide over it and pile into each other, one after another).
Six hours later I was on a plane that didn’t land until we had lost 21 degrees latitude and found 65 degrees Fahrenheit for a net gain of heaven. My search for the ultimate winter vacation destination landed me right smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean islands owned by none other than the Royal Family.
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Upon first sight of the brilliant tropical scene laid out before me there was only one question in the world that I felt I couldn’t answer at that moment: Why would anyone spend a winter holiday anywhere except on a beach?
It’s just too easy and painless to do otherwise. You don’t have to pack anything. I took along three pairs of shorts, a bathing suit, four Hawaiian shirts, and one pair of pants for the fancy restaurant. I overpacked.
You wake up in the mornings and nothing hurts. Honestly, if I lived there I’d raise the deductible on my health insurance to a million bucks because that is what I feel like in that balmy air. You couldn’t give yourself a headache if tried to play a steel drum with you r chin, which I think I did one night.
The beach is the only place I’ve ever found where you can do absolutely nothing and feel like you made quite a day of it by the time the sun splashes down into its daily celebration of fire. Slather that 30 SPF all over me and let me roast. I haven’t felt that good since wrinkles were discovered.
I don’t know why any of this came as a surprise to me. After all, the biggest housing crisis in Aspen is really cabin fever. Spring break with its promise of warmer weather to come is always eagerly anticipated. I don’t know a sane person who thinks the summer is too long or who plans months ahead for that fall break the last week in September when they’re going to Nome, Alaska, to get a touch of frostbite to get ready for winter. Hooray, it’s snowsuit season again!
I think it must sound like I hate winter. I don’t. I like winter a whole lot. I love to ski and I like the idea of sitting by a nice warm fire on a cold night with a hot drink. I get excited about a good blizzard and I don’t even mind shoveling snow. Winter is great. It’s like a relationship with any coldhearted vixen though. She will lure you in with great promises then you’re in over your head by the time you realize you can’t escape.
Now then, I understand that my perspective is tainted from living here and being able to experience the thrill of skiing just about any time I want to. So being objective for this piece I had to fairly ask myself: If I lived somewhere else and my budgets of both time and money allowed me the opportunity to travel to both a ski resort and a tropical paradise each winter, would my thinking be different?
Well, heck yes, my thinking would be different. If I could afford to do both, I would go to the beach twice!
So as I sit on this particular dock in paradise, the gentle numbness of another fruity rum cocktail flowing through my mind with all the warmth of the turquoise sea and the sweetness of the frangipani in bloom, I feel the indescribable ache that’s universal for all pleasure travelers on the eve of a return trip home. I’ll miss this place. But I’m anxious to see my children, family, good friends, and all the familiar comforts of my town. Aspen, Colo., is a wonderful place.
By now it’s the alcohol in me talking and I hate to end a story with a worn-out cliche. Nevertheless, end it that way I must since I have no better way to describe my feelings at the moment.
Aspen is a great place to live in the winter, but I sure wouldn’t want to visit there.
Roger Marolt hopes he never has to visit Aspen. Tell him where else to go at email@example.com
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