Marolt: Brought to you by unpopular demand
April 21, 2017
We went out for dinner this week and it was perfectly lousy. They lost our reservation at a time of year I like partially because you are not supposed to need a reservation. Fortunately we did not have to wait inside glowering at the host, sending silent messages about our dissatisfaction and giving him ideas about tainting our food. We stood outside on the street instead, because it was a lovely evening and conducive to grumbling out loud.
While the ski season is not quite officially over, offseason began right after the World Cup circus left town at the end of March. Somehow the word "circus" used in a context like this has come to mean something negative, like a discombobulated jumble of activity all messed up like Trump's hair on a windy afternoon on the links after he swings wildly at a ball so deep in the rough that he wasn't able to kick it into a better lie and he jerks his head and misses and is so flustered that he combs his mop the wrong direction over his head with his fingers and is about to explode in rage until he remembers that he isn't going to count the stroke or penalty anyway, so a good score is still to be had and, thus assured, regains his composure, but the hair remains unsuitable for a photo op, even by his standards of mental airbrushing his self image.
I like a circus. So when I call the World Cup a circus, I mean good things.
But I'm not here to talk about Trump's hair or the World Cup Finals. I bring these things up to see if I can say that it is offseason, without saying that it is offseason, because offseason has become a cliche.
This is not because town no longer experiences a dramatic ebb in the flow of tourists who come here, it sometimes seems, more for its glitzy reputation and an image branded like a tattoo on the egos of those who want to be seen here and brag more about where they went than what they actually did on vacation. You can drink expensive booze all night long just about everywhere, but you can't ski anywhere else like Aspen, yet what are we better known for? It is what happens when you nurture your feelings of superiority according to magazine rankings.
Less to the point, we were finally put in our places at the table for nine, and I mean this quite literally. Instead of a humble apology, we were met with wisecracks from our waiter, and the vegetarians among us were demeaned over simple questions about the menu. The exclamation point was a 20-minute wait for our drinks.
The delay did, however, give us time to ponder the offseason that we love so much, yet which, as a community, we seem habitually hellbent on abolishing with the next and the next and the next great idea of getting people to visit here during this slow time of the year.
I was tempted to call this the unsung time of year, but that would be false. Locals have sung praises to the sleepy god of the offseason since the first ski tracks on Aspen Mountain melted away in the beginning of the spring runoff decades ago. We have been singing very softly or way off key, because nobody is listening.
Someone at the chamber of commerce in about 1996 coined the phrase "shoulder season," I think because they thought "offseason" was a turnoff to potential tourists. Never has a more meaningless phrase been made up. It conjures images of nothing and is about as clever as calling water from the faucet "Aspen tap."
When our meals finally came it was after 9, and the place was empty except for us and the idea that our reservation got screwed up in the shuffling of a crowd seemed absurd. The staff milled about anxiously, maybe looking forward to whatever the local legend says happens on shoulder season nights after work. I would like to report that the food was awful, but the truth is that it was fine, even enjoyable, but in our defense we were hungry.
It's hard to say why we like offseason or if we really actually do. There is not much to it. It comes down to about two things: The few people left on the streets are known to us, or at least familiar-looking. And it's easy to find parking. If that's all it takes to please us, I am encouraged.
Roger Marolt had written about the end of ski season, but a computer glitch caused what has been presented instead. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.