Marolt: The better Aspen gets the worse we are, then we try to get better yet
July 13, 2017
The argument for converting the entrance to Aspen into a four-lane, straight-shot highway across Marolt open space is so weak that the more deeply it is argued for, the stronger the case against it becomes. Listen to the reason people want it and you will be convinced that it isn't right for Aspen.
Before I go any farther, I have to turn onto a side street and make a couple disclosures: I live in Snowmass Village and drive through the S-curves almost every single day, most of the time during the rush hours. If anyone could benefit from an easier commute, it's me.
Also, the Marolt open space is the historically sacred ground where my tribe gathered on summer evenings to cook hamburgers and drink beer. Little if any ancestral hunting went on and we never staged religious ceremonies on that plot, but still, if anyone could benefit from preserving a historical reference there, it is me.
With vested interest in both versions of the entrance to Aspen debate, obviously I am in a position to be completely unbiased.
With that out of the way, let's get back to the argument in favor of paving paradise. Most of those supporting the idea use a lot of words in letters to the editor to state their case when only a few would suffice. What it boils down to is that they believe a straight-shot would make their lives better. A side benefit, of course, is that it would make our tourists' experience better, too.
Here I have to take another detour and tell you I don't think this is true. Through years of experimentation and observation I have figured out that it only takes about three to four minutes longer to get out of town through the S-curves on the busiest days of the year. During the other 10 months traffic over the current configuration of blacktop flows pretty freely. In addition, traffic lights at Cemetery Lane, the golf course, Buttermilk, Maroon Creek Club and the Airport Business Center, along with the Maroon/Castle creek roundabout cause enough traffic friction that a straight shot would solve nothing, anyway.
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OK, playing Devil's advocate then, let's assume for discussion's sake that a straight shot would make everybody's life better. Isn't it obvious that when life gets better around here even more people want to come here to experience it? If people start moving here because we make the commute better, they will continue to move here until traffic gets so bad again that it isn't so great here anymore again. Where do we go from there?
As it is, the down-valley commute along with the cost of living, long winters, the grocery-store bag fee, and bleeding heart liberals are a few of the major things that keep lots more people from coming here. Truly loving Aspen is to embrace all of it!
Let's make it into a ski analogy. Skiing is awesome in Aspen. It's not all about the varied and vast terrain or downy light powder, either. The best part is that Aspen is uncrowded by design. In plain English: lift tickets and season passes are expensive here. Shelling out the cash for them is the pain and suffering we have to endure to keep it relatively relaxed on the slopes.
We get a few lift lines a couple of weeks out of the season, but for the other five months we pretty much have the slopes to ourselves. Even still, some people think skiing in Aspen would be even better if tickets were cheaper. But, if lift tickets were cheaper, more people would come to ski and we would have to deal with crowded slopes. Where do we go from there?
Yes, preservation of the S-curves and steep lift ticket prices as the cost of admission to Aspen hint at snobbery. Surprise! This is who we are. We can either act like a bunch of jerks living up to that or look the other way and enjoy the fruits of it. Either way works. Our town has a long history of both.
Here is what we need to consider in all this: Everything we try to do around here to make things better pretty much seem to make things worse by enticing more people to come here. Conversely, it doesn't make sense that we can't get better by making things worse, either. This leaves only one course of action — If we want to keep Aspen as it is, we have to leave well enough alone.
Roger Marolt thinks it's a myth that we can have city-like amenities without being city-like. Email at email@example.com.