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Aspen Princess: My bad, Buttermilk, you really are all that

A group of kids stand around the chocolate fountain in the base lodge, their mouths hanging open in despair when they learn there are no marshmallows left. Two older ladies stand idle at the station, unsure of what to do.

“Here, hon. Let’s do it this way,” one says, spooning a generous serving of chocolate syrup into an empty French fry boat. Soon the spacious room fills with the sounds of young children riding the high of a sugar buzz; the preschool equivalent of partying, Aspen-style.

It’s opening day at Buttermilk, also known as Chocolate Day. Maybe you knew that, but I didn’t. This is my first time.

It turns out I’m late to the party. The Aspen Times reported Wednesday that Buttermilk was selected as the third-best ski resort in the country, according to the 600,000 people who participated in the Conde Nast Traveler’s annual reader survey. (Sundance Mountain Resort and Telluride came in first and second, respectively, which makes me think these readers probably do know what they’re talking about.)

There was a time, like four years ago, I would have scoffed at this. Everyone knows Aspen Highlands blows every other ski area away, what, thanks to the hottest ski patrollers in the Lower 48. Actually, let me amend that statement. I love all of our four mountains equally, the way I might love all my children if I had more than one. They each have their strong attributes and we are so fortunate to have a choice; depending on the day, the conditions, the weather, and who we’re with, we can curate our own perfect shushing experience. It is a privilege that exists only in Aspen.

Little did any of us know, that despite the top-to-bottom bliss of Ajax, the endless expanse of Snowmass and the steep and deep of Highland Bowl, Buttermilk is one of the top-ranked ski resorts in the country.

This news couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Chocolate Day blew my mind. Forget popping the cork off that bottle of Veuve Clicquot at Ajax Tavern when Aspen Mountain opens like three weeks early. Don’t even bother racing the 200 other people who are lined up for the annual opening of Highland Bowl so they can follow each other up the ridge butt-to-boot like a train of ants.

Buttermilk opening day is where it’s at.

All this time, I thought shredding fresh pow and drinking one too many Aspen Blondes at the Highlands Alehouse was what it was all about. This was before I discovered they have actual teddy bears at Panda Peak. We’re talking the kind of larger-than-life stuffed animals you see in the display windows at FAO Schwartz.

When they handed this giant teddy bear to Levi as he loaded onto the small double chair with his dad I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. (I’m too afraid to be the one to ride with him because there is no safety bar. Can someone please explain to me why there is no safety bar on the one chairlift in the world that should be protecting its tiny passengers?) There he was, my beautiful little boy, dressed to the nines in his brand-new Burton outfit, the brightly colored camo-pattern jacket and bright green pants with gray knee patches, clutching this huge bear. It was the Hallmark card moment for the lifelong ski and snowboard bum who has managed to fashion a life where her offspring are indoctrinated into the ways of her own lifestyle choices from a very young age.

I guess all children are naturally indoctrinated into their parent’s lifestyle, but instead of soccer practice and violin, our kids get to learn how to shred the gnar from the time they can walk. It is in fact Levi’s third season on skis, even if he only took one run that time he was 13 months old and we managed one run down the magic carpet at Elk Camp between diaper changes and naptime. The rest of the season he was stuffed into the backpack clad in the best down bunting money can buy and dragged up the mountain so Mom and Dad can skin up.

To say it’s a dream come true to see my kid experience the mountains, specifically the ski resort lifestyle, isn’t even the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Even better, Buttermilk takes it to the next level.

Seeing this place through my child’s eyes, it’s heaven on Earth. How did I drive past it so many times and not know? Where else in the world can you roll up mid-day and park a stone’s throw from the base lodge? Where else in the world is there a small, remote lift with picnic benches and plenty of sun and no crowds where you can get together with your friends and have a picnic, as if the modern ski resort didn’t yet exist?

Rather than toss back tequila shots and strut around in designer skiwear, I had no idea how much fun it would be to sit around the firepit in an oversized, “Alice in Wonderland” Adirondack chair and enjoy a fresh-made s’more that cost zero dollars. Not to mention the fried ribs at Home Team BBQ are enough to make me mostly vegan, except every Sunday when I polish off every finger-licking bite of what I’m claiming is the best plate of meat in the valley.

Last but not least, it turns out all the cool kids, or at least their parents, are at Buttermilk, too! It’s the first time since I went from Aspen Princess to Desperate Housewife of Basalt that I felt like I was in the mix, hobnobbing with none other than All the Way May herself, donned in her infamous Moncler one-piece.

I can’t believe it took me 18 years to find my sweet spot. I just can’t believe it turned out to be Buttermilk.

The Princess is sporting black Burton overalls this season. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.

Meredith C. Carroll: Sarah Palin’s heir apparent emerges in Lauren Boebert

If you supported Barack Obama’s presidential aspirations in 2008, then you weren’t happy waking up Aug. 29 of that year to headlines that his Republican opponent, John McCain, had picked a woman to be his running mate. Advocating for women in positions of power is a trick usually reserved for the left, so for a few hours Democrats quaked in their Birkenstocks.

A few hours was all it took, though. No one outside of Alaska had heard of Sarah Palin, but immediately upon hearing from her, it was as plain as seeing Russia from her house that Sarah Palin would not be the nation’s first female vice president. (To be fair, it wasn’t just the first impression that did her in; it was all of them.)

Lauren Boebert is poised to join Palin in also not making any firsts during her premiere campaign with a national audience. On Sunday, the 33-year-old Silt resident announced plans to mount a primary challenge against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton for Colorado’s 3rd district, a seat that has been held exclusively by men since it was established in 1915. (To be fair, Palin was up for a job that, in 2008, boasted a 219-year male streak.)

“Hardworking, patriotic Americans like you and me don’t want the Green New Deal and socialized medicine,” Boebert, owner of the open-carry-friendly Shooters restaurant in Rifle that offers firearm safety instruction training but no health insurance to employees, said in a news release. “Every time AOC and the rest of the squad pipes up with another crazy idea I will remind them that our belief in God, country and family are what built the United States of America into the greatest nation the world has ever known.”

Considering the wild implausibility of Donald Trump’s first victory and the distinct plausibility of his second, Boebert, whose National Rifle Association tea-towel rhetoric doesn’t demonstrate an especially sophisticated grasp of the Second Amendment (or, frankly, the First), almost seems shrewd enough to win. Her “Hell, no” quip at an Aurora Beto O’Rourke rally this fall in response to his “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR15s” Democratic debate-stage comment from a week earlier earned her an appearance on Fox News.

A few days later, with a gun strapped to her leg, she addressed Aspen City Council during public comments about an ordinance banning firearms from municipal spaces.

“Entities like (Aspen City Council) have been found guilty by the Supreme Court for passing just such laws because they absolutely infringe on our Second Amendment rights,” she said.

How much she understands about actual law and government became more clear this week during interviews about her candidacy. In Tuesday’s Aspen Daily News, she said she heard “from people who work in hospitals” that Colorado nurses turn a blind eye to “post-term” abortions, whereby “the mother has delivered her child, and decides she does not want that child, and they leave the infant to die.”

“Why haven’t we heard of that?” Boebert said. “Why isn’t our representation telling us that this is happening? Maybe they don’t have time to do something about it, but they can speak up and let us know.”

She alluded to Tipton when telling The Colorado Sun she wouldn’t have had to run “if I felt that we were being represented properly,” especially on gun-related matters like Colorado’s red-flag law, which goes into effect next month.

(The Sun then asked her “Why she decided to run for Congress and not the state legislature, where those measures were passed?” to which she replied “She wanted to have the most impact as quickly as possible: ‘This is not a career move for me,’” Boebert told them.)

The list of what Boebert doesn’t know about what she doesn’t know seems to be at the beginning, although if anything useful is being gleaned from Trump’s impeachment process it’s a reminder that voters have a duty to elect people, whether career politicians or lay people, who demonstrate a clear understanding of the difference between how they think stuff works versus how stuff, in fact, works.

2020 could well be a strong one for women if 2019 is any indication: Sports Illustrated just named Megan Rapinoe as its Sportsperson of the Year, making her only the fourth woman to receive the honor by herself since the award originated in 1953. This week Variety magazine declared 2019 “the year of the woman” cinematically (only in the documentary category, but still).

That two women (Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush also has thrown her hat in the race to unseat Tipton) are running for a seat only ever held by men is an excellent omen for Colorado (less so that one of them seems fated to discover via Ancestry.com that she’s got distant cousins in Wasilla, but still). It’s worth keeping an eye on all the women running for office in 2020, although maybe keep both eyes on a few in particular.

More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.

John Colson: Impeachment needed to preserve our union

As the Congressional impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Donald J. Trump goes on and on, the details emerging from the process are overwhelming, to be sure. But there appear to be several crucial pillars on which Trump’s apologists have built their arguments.

One is the question: Why should we worry about something that happens in a former Russian puppet state? It’s got nothing to do with us.

I actually heard some guy in Michigan say this a little while ago, during a piece on National Public Radio, and it made me flinch. Yep, physically flinch at the utter imbecility of that remark.

For the record, we’re discussing Trump’s effort over the past year to use nearly $400 million in military aid, as well as a coveted White House meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump, in an extortion scheme to get Ukraine to besmirch the public image of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s biggest political rivals in the 2020 election. This extortion attempt, which is still ongoing, is based on debunked conspiracy theories involving Biden’s son, Hunter, and Hunter’s seat on the board of Bursima Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company.

Another pillar of Trumpian support is the matter of a supposed secret internet server under Ukrainian control that somehow interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, also debunked by earlier intelligence investigations and not supported by one shred of evidence from the Trump administration.

Previous probes into these matters have found nothing criminal about Hunter Biden’s position or actions, though some have expressed concerns about the “appearance” of a possible conflict of interest with regard to the senior Biden’s job as vice president.

I have to point out that Trump’s own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been roaming around the globe in the president’s name for three years, making lucrative business deals as well as posing as a diplomat despite having no credentials or training for diplomacy. No one in the Trump administration or in Congress has objected to that arrangement, which certainly seems to imply a double standard somewhere.

As for the mysterious server in the Ukraine, it clearly does not exist, or Trump and his crowd would be crowing to the heavens and beating Democrats about their collective heads with the server’s hardware.

And as has been pointed out in the hearings about impeachment, the Republican Party controlled both houses of Congress for two years of the Trump disaster … er, presidency, which should have given them plenty of time to dig up this mythical server, evidence of Biden misbehavior, and other aspects of Trump’s fantasies.

But the real reason we should be worried is that Trump was trying to get a foreign government to interfere in our election in a way that Trump seems to think he could not possibly achieve using his domestic political machinery, or in fact any domestic agents other than perhaps his own personal attorney.

Oh, wait, he’s also been sending Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, over there over a course of months, so that’s covered. In fact, Giuliani has been over in Ukraine even as the impeachment hearings have moved forward, and news stories have accused the former New York City mayor of continuing to push Trump’s crazed conspiracy theories and to pressure Ukrainian officials to announce investigations into the Bidens.

Before we get too deeply into the weeds here, I must remind you, dear reader, that what is at stake in this sordid saga is our right to vote in free and unfettered elections here in the U.S.A.

I also must point out that Trump, in leaning on a fragile regime with a newly elected and relatively untried president, was doing what he loves to do — be a bully on the playground of international affairs.

And Zelensky, who is terribly new on the job, deeply fears losing U.S. backing in Ukraine’s 5-year war with Russia.

This fear of abandonment applies whether we’re speaking of the $391 million in military aid that was approved by Congress in early 2019 but withheld by Trump as he put the screws to Zelensky in a now-infamous July 25 phone call and by other means.

Zelensky’s fear also applies to Trump’s effort to dangle an Oval Office meeting as yet another enticement to get Zelensky to announce (but not necessarily conduct) investigations into the Bidens/Bursima/mystery server. Zelensky needs Trump in his corner, and he certainly knows it.

But, all of this intrigue aside, what really matters here is that our president was trying to subvert the most precious aspect of our democratic-republican form of government — the right to have your vote counted in a free and unfettered election.

By bringing a foreign power into the 2020 campaign, Trump is signaling not only that he has no faith in our country’s most basic rights and principles, but that he is perfectly willing to enlist foreign partners who face no accountability for corrupt practices, and whose own interests likely are far different from those of the American electorate. It worked in 2016 and made Trump an illegitimate president, and he’s hoping it will work again in 2020.

As I have argued before, I believe Trump and his minions are doing everything they can to weaken the very government they are supposed to be serving. The reasons for this may have something to do with corporate malfeasance on the part of U.S. business interests hoping to get the government off their backs, or may sprout from some unhealthy business relationships between Trump and the Russian oligarchs who have bailed Trump out of bankruptcy so many times.

But whatever the reasons, we cannot simply sit by and wait to see if Trump is successful in rigging next year’s election in his own favor.

That is why impeachment is needed, now or never.

And that is why we all need to exercise our franchise to vote in the 2020 elections, and in every election after that, in order to preserve our imperfect union.

jbcolson51@gmail.com

Sometimes risking rejection can be worth it

Dear Lori and Jeff,

My wife and I still have great sex but it’s way less frequent than it was when first met a few years ago. My wife says she wants me to initiate more but I really don’t like feeling rejected when she isn’t in the mood. I try to look for signs from her that show she’s interested as it gets later in the evening. I listen for subtle things she might say, like if she’s tired or stressed. I check out what she’s wearing to bed and whether or not she’s put in her retainer. I know this isn’t a foolproof strategy but I’m at a loss of what else to do.

Signed,

Looking For Signs

Dear LFS,

Lori and Jeff: We often see couples struggling to get on the same intimacy wavelength. Your experience of a slowed-down sex life is common for most relationships, and not necessarily indicative of a problem in and of itself. However, if one or both partners is unsatisfied, it’s worth putting in the effort to reignite the spark. Often it’s men who are looking for more, and for a good reason. Many men experience sex as a way to feel emotionally connected, and a dry spell can evoke feelings of vulnerability, insecurity and detachment. But how you make a move (or avoid doing so) can have a huge impact on whether you’re getting any.

Jeff: Stop thinking about sex like a baseball game where you’re looking to the third base coach to wave you home. Sometimes you have to make that decision on your own and risk the possibility of being tagged out. The bottom line is that you have to make it easy and fun for both of you to talk about sex so you’re not resorting to cryptic measures to avoid feeling rejected. If you’re not comfortable talking about it, it’s up to you to figure out why — don’t leave it up to her to break the ice.

If your wife isn’t in the mood, it likely has nothing to do with you. Learn to separate whether she wants to have sex with you on any given day, from whether she loves you, accepts you and approves of you. This will help lessen the fear of rejection and getting relegated to the bench.

Lori: Waiting for her to initiate doesn’t ever give her the experience of feeling desired, and that’s a downer for anyone. Furthermore, being passive, subtle, unsure or insecure in the bedroom is not going to ignite the flames of passion. For many women, it’s a huge turn-off. I was recently listening to Esther Perel’s podcast in which she said women often need to feel that their partners are strong and self-assured in order to be secure in really opening up sexually. We want to know that if we unleash our most uninhibited selves, you can at least handle it, and at best, join us in it. That doesn’t mean you need to swagger in like an adult film star, but she’s definitely going to be more interested if you bring the energy of a confident man rather than trepidation.

Lori and Jeff: Couples should see sex as a dynamic of the relationship rather than a series of events. It’s an overall atmosphere of sensuality and titillating tension that you need to play with throughout the day, not just at 10 p.m. She’s still not going to be into it 100% of the time. No one is. But occasionally not wanting sex is a non-issue when your communication about it is solid and your connection is simmering.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.

Paul Andersen: An ascetic contemplates the holidays

I can no longer “kill a tree for Christ,” so does that make me an eco-Scrooge?

I used to drive my family up to the killing fields above Ruedi, tromp up into the woods, find the “perfect tree,” say a prayer of thanks, and defy our collective conscience with a handsaw. Then we would drag our holiday cheer down to the car and strap it on like a deer carcass. A month later, the tree was thrown onto the wood pile.

Call me an irreligious un-American, but the annual Christmas harvest is not an act of stewardship by carefully pruning the forest. No one takes Charlie Brown trees, but only the best they can find.

I’m worse still about holiday gifting. Last week, MileagePlus sent out a mailer: “Light up the holidays with 2,000 bonus miles.” All you have to do is spend $8,000 in the month before Christmas.

This doesn’t quite square for a family that’s been striving to resist the materialism of Christmas and live up to the original Christian concept that rampant materialism is a deterrent to the spirit. How quaint.

Earning miles is alluring if you want to fly hither and yon without a care for “flight shame.” But to earn enough miles, you must spend like a Goldman Sacks hedge fund manager. And here’s what you buy: “The Compact Underwater Scooter” from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Billed as “America’s longest running catalogue,” the 2019 cover features a man jetting through azure water by the aforementioned scooter, blissfully skimming the rippled white sand of some tropical beach.

Paging through, it’s hard not to click the mouse on “The Facial Muscle Toner.” This $100 gadget is modeled by a comely young woman clenching in her mouth a tennis ball-sized object with twin wands attached to opposite sides.

The woman appears to be shaking her head back and forth to activate the wands, which tone facial muscles so that one’s cheeks don’t sag and one’s chin won’t wrinkle. If anyone is watching you do this, they will laugh so hard their abs will sustain the best toning of all.

Then there’s the $200 “Compression Knee Massager,” a cap-like device that heats and compresses the ailing knee for miraculous healing. It advertises “three levels of soothing warmth” so that the consumer can become limber enough to get down on their knees in praise of techno-toys.

But for the truly upscale homeowner — those with built-in pools — “The Motorized Pool Float” is irresistible. The catalogue shows a man grinning ear-to-ear while piloting this floating easy chair across a pool with dual propellers — “the same shrouded propellers used in tugboats” — so as to effortlessly reach the margarita sweating in a koozie at poolside.

These and other unimaginably gratifying gifts will, alas, not be adorning the Andersens’ Christmas tree (ours is the branching limb of a long-dead pinon tree with cubist panache) during the holidays because we prefer to save our hard-earned money rather than hand it over to catalog purveyors and credit managers.

Again, we’re out of step, as saving money makes no sense (cents) because interest rates are lower than Donald Trump’s morality meter. There’s a perfectly good reason for an accepted national policy that discourages savings and encourages spending. It’s called capitalism, and it’s what keeps employees punching the clock.

Instead of saving, most Americans are shackled by debt to mortgages, car payments and credit card interest rates. Debt is highly vaunted, even as it erodes lifestyles with crippling obligations and dividends of stress and anxiety.

But, enough of the Scrooge mode. Now’s the time to prop up the tree, build a stack of gifts around it, sing a few carols, eat a sumptuous meal, and plan that coveted trip to Cancun with bonus miles.

I’ve noticed a little flab around my jowls, so while relaxing on the beach, I’ll activate the Facial Toner. Once I get those crazy wands gyrating, I’ll have the chiseled jaw of Cary Grant.

Then I can forget our debts and pilot The Motorized Pool Float into the Caribbean sunset while humming, “Angels we have heard on high, tell us to go out and buy…”

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at andersen@rof.net.

Mike Littwin: Does knowing the Senate trial will end make it less worthwhile?

For the longest time, Nancy Pelosi was the leader of the Democratic non-impeachment camp. She said Donald Trump wasn’t worth the effort, which is, in fact, a reasonable argument. She was worried, of course, about the danger to Democrats representing Trump-won districts.

But once the whistleblower blew his whistle and Trump, against all advice, released the rough transcript of the infamous July 25 call, Pelosi and Democrats on the fence decided they had no choice. The Mueller report didn’t move anybody — the report was too challenging for most readers and Mueller was a terrible witness — but, this.

Open and shut is the obvious description of the Ukraine extortion scandal. Even the one law professor Republicans invited to testify the other day before the Judiciary Committee said he didn’t vote for Trump and basically thought that although the Democrats weren’t there yet, the investigation simply needed more work. It’s like the doctor telling you maybe you need a little more Botox.

Now Pelosi is leading the effort and insisting, in responding to a question about whether she hates Trump, that she, as a good Catholic, is praying for the president. Others say they don’t hate Trump, but they hate what he does. And others just come out and admit it. I mean, there’s hate and there’s hate. But if we’re talking in partisan political terms, the hate here is overwhelming from both sides.

Pelosi knew the Ukraine case was open and shut. Then came the testimony from the diplomats who refused to be intimidated by Trump and told the story of how the president, working through Rudy Giuliani and his henchpeople, pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to help Trump in the 2020 election. You know the story. We all know the story. Trump would release critical held-up military aid and agree to a much-desired White House visit if Zelensky announced he would investigate the Bidens (for no reason) and launch another investigation into the debunked fake theory that Russian disinformation on Ukraine’s supposed role in the 2016 election was somehow legit. It would have worked, too, if not for the whistleblower.

So now that we’re in the home stretch and the House is all but guaranteed to impeach — the big discussion point being whether to expand the articles of impeachment to include the very much damning Mueller Report — it’s time for another round of second-guessing.

Because one of the reasons the hearings were not as riveting as, say, the Watergate hearings is that almost all of us are confident of the ending.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will vote on articles of impeachment. Meanwhile, Republican fire will turn briefly from Adam Schiff to Jerry Nadler — widely seen as an easier target. The House Intelligence Committee will keep looking to persuade more Trumpists to testify. For his part, to no one’s surprise, Trump has already signaled he will not participate in the Judiciary Committee hearings, calling them “completely baseless,” despite the fact that many of his defenders have complained that Trump has not been allowed to represent himself.

And, yes, the House will impeach. And whatever the evidence, the Senate will not convict or remove Trump. At most — at the very most, no matter how clear the scandal — a few Republican senators will jump ship.

Unless.

You knew I’d get to an unless eventually, didn’t you?

I was moved to write this because of Amy Walter, of the Cook Political Report, who had another great column, this one predicting that the impeachment and Senate trial “will be more of a novelty distinction, rather than a defining characteristic of (Trump’s) re-election campaign” as far as voters are concerned in November. It isn’t to say it won’t have any impact, she writes, but probably not a major one. She’s almost certainly right. She usually is.

If there’s one thing you can count on with Trump, it’s the likelihood of dozens of other scandals and crises before November. The essential truth about Trump’s presidency is that he forces us to use up every bit of memory space — I don’t think even the cloud has enough space — and we have to dump enough information to start anew. And then our brain gets filled again. And we have to start again. You get the idea.

Certainly Trump’s base can’t be moved. As for the persuadables, however few they might be, will they still be thinking about impeachment when the time comes to cast their votes?

Let’s take, as one example, what would Trump do if the courts ruled against him, say, on turning over his tax returns? Would he simply refuse? That’s my guess. Is that a bigger constitutional crisis than sending Rudy and his friends to break knees in Ukraine?

There’s another possibility. And I wonder how Senate Republicans will play this. If they insist on calling the Bidens to testify in a Senate trial, along with Schiff — as they say they might — the Democrats should say yes, if they also get to call John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr. That will never happen, of course, but it’s OK to imagine — and to imagine what the impact would be.

And yet, Trump’s approval ratings, always low, have remained pretty much the same since the impeachment inquiry ended and we’ve now moved on to the impeachment proceedings. Trump has moved on, causing yet another international embarrassment at the G-7 when the heads of state of America’s greatest allies were caught on video mocking him. He has been pouting ever since. Fortunately for him, poor demeanor is not an impeachable offense.

Bill Clinton was impeached, and Americans, by a great majority, decided Republicans had overreached. His approval ratings soared. But Clinton is still one of three American to be impeached — Richard Nixon quit just before the House had gotten that far — and that fact will still be in the lede of Clinton’s obit.

That’s why the Senate vote when it comes — with Republicans willingly setting themselves up to be remembered much like the collaborators in the French Vichy government are remembered — will be worthwhile. Yes, Trump will still be in office. Our democracy will still be in jeopardy. Trump could still win, the experts say, in 2020. But he will bear a mark forever. And that’s something.

Mike Littwin runs Sundays in the Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.

Tony Vagneur: Just a left and a right and it’s all right in the world

It happens most every year, particularly after a good snow: “Are the lifts gonna open early?” With a low, almost imperceptible murmur, talk starts to spread, kinda like the gathering of a herd of cows who serendipitously know that a gate at the far end of the pasture, over a mile away, somehow just got left open.

I’m not immune to that kind of wishful thinking (early opening), which more often than not seems to come true, but sometimes life gets in the way, especially on weekends.

With the early opening assured, there seemed little to do but wait. But wait, there were horses to get home before the snow got too deep, and with a big storm threatening, opening day became horse hauling day. Fortunately, the snow-packed road had finally melted off just enough to get the job done.

Then Sunday rolled around and my daughter and son-in-law needed to get their cows home before the big storm hit, and work like that is just as fun as skiing, so no sweat. Ty and I usually trail them the first 8 or 10 miles down the lane, but being so late in the year, we figured we’d better haul them all the way out.

Ty and Lauren had brought them down to a natural corral the day before, so we figured we didn’t need any horses to round them up — they were ready and having no horses would save us an additional trailer trip to get everyone home. We arrived early with a fleet of trucks and trailers, raring to go.

Then the question arose as how to best get around a bunch of them at the bottom of a 45- to 50-degree slope. “Hell, that’s no problem,” I said, and took off with Johnny Nieslanik to the top of that incline. Me and Johnny trucked right down there until he went to the left — I figured I’d better go right to even out our herding front. Made some good turns, too, going down that steep, gravelly SOB, just like running a slalom course, until a dirt snake got me and down I went.

No big deal, except somehow, I pulled my left hamstring in the process. I could barely walk once I got collected, and trust me, it was a long day, especially driving a stick-shift truck for a couple of laps. Could have done the same thing on the mountain.

The day after Thanksgiving, the grip of my ski boot held my leg just right and I could ski as usual, although takin’ it easy was the word. I hadn’t missed much, it didn’t seem. As an old friend said after last week’s column, “Don’t you wish you could have a time machine and go back for just a day?” Yes, yes, I do.

That’s the beauty of getting back on the slopes in the fall. A couple of turns down a favorite warm-up and it’s all there. There’s no reticence involved, just ski. It’s as though summer didn’t intervene — coulda been up there the day before, or 20, 30 years ago, doing the same stuff. Been down those runs hundreds (thousands) of times and it feels so good to be back home again. OK, OK, after a while, the legs are a little rusty, but other than that?

Planned Monday’s ski day around Klaus’s 100th birthday party because you’d be a damned fool to miss it, and a great guy like that deserves your support. Talk to him for 10 minutes and your own motivational level shoots up, making the world a better place.

Catherine Lutz, one of my first editors at this paper, and I were talking to a young man who was telling us how he’d skipped work that morning so he could ski in honor of Klaus. “You mean in honor of his birthday,” someone asked? No, he didn’t mean that — he meant that because of Klaus he was going skiing. Just because. Period. That’s how Klaus affects people.

Thursday morning, my daughter and I, along with my 2-year-old granddaughter, Charli, headed for the Magic Carpet at Elk Camp. It was a first for both Charli and me, and after a couple of runs, Charli started eyeballing the chairlift, “Let’s go, Ampa.” Five big runs before lunch. Atta girl! She likes it.

It was Charli’s first day ever on skis, and don’t you know, it also was her first big powder day. That should make a good story whenever she starts telling about how it was when she was a kid.

We’re in it for the duration now, and there’s no looking back. As fellow ski patrolman Howie Mayer, namesake of Uncle Wiggly’s, always said, or at least one of the “family paper” repeatable things he always said, “It’s just a left and a right.”

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.

Roger Marolt: Now that we know they are real, which witches do we hunt next?

There is one effective way to expose a witch hunt: Prove there is no such thing as witches. Republicans have their work cut out for them. Their immediate job is to convince us that there are no corrupt politicians, a common form witches take these days. The problem is they are demonstrating the opposite in how they are presenting themselves in the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

A strong case has been made against the president. He knew Ukraine was vulnerable with a newly elected president trying to defend the northern border of his country against Russian aggression with too few resources. They needed U.S. money, our military might and a public show of support. On the other side, Donald Trump needed to drum up suspicion about his political rival Joe Biden’s integrity — not actual proof of anything, just a headline that Trump could parlay into a damaging conspiracy theory in time for the 2020 general election would do. Congress voted to send aid to Ukraine. President Trump put a quiet hold on the funds until Ukraine’s president made a claim that an investigation was underway over Biden’s fabricated corrupt business dealings there.

Ding dong the wicked witch is dead, but corrupt politicians are alive and well. What we are left with is both sides agreeing that dirty politicians are real. They would know. We can trust them on this.

Who is the corrupt politician in this, then? Is it Trump or Biden? Of course, we must consider that both might be unscrupulous, but then we can simply reframe the question to be: Which one is more corrupt?

Looking at the evidence presented so far, this appears to be an easy question to answer. Republicans have presented no evidence that Biden was involved in any dishonest business dealings in Ukraine. If they could do this, we would not be having this exercise in impeachment going on now when we should rather all have visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads instead of the seemingly nonstop thrumming of rhetoric. You would think that would be incentive enough; if only they could expose even a bit of shade under the kalyna tree.

On the other side, there is too much evidence corroborated by too many people to ignore at least the possibility that Trump put his personal gain ahead of our country’s. The allegations are not so far-fetched as to give the president reasonable justification for not turning over pertinent documents regarding the affair and forbidding those closest to it, who could absolutely shed more light on the subject, from testifying.

Which political witch is left holding the longer broomstick?

Keep in mind that these impeachment hearings are being orchestrated by some of the best legal minds in our country, on both sides. While one side tells a compelling story that is almost too good to be false, the other side counters about an unfair procedure. In arguing the weakness of the process, nobody has said the Trump-does-Ukraine story is not true. The best they can come up with is that the case has not been adequately proved and that more direct evidence needs to be produced; never mentioning that their defendant is the one refusing to provide it. In other words, they are talking in circles, perhaps Dante’s ninth.

Republicans have failed to prove there is no such things as witches. Be afraid. They accuse their opponents of fracturing our country along political tectonic plates that they threaten, when tension overcomes friction, will result in a seismic partisan fissure throughout the land. They tell the American public that this exercise is a waste of time and resources. They claim the president is innocent based on technicalities.

If the president has evidence to exonerate himself, as he claims, and continues to withhold it in the face on this oncoming doom, is it not he who is putting our country through hell for no reason? If they say the Democrats can’t convict him without this evidence that does exist, how can the Republicans exonerate him without examining the same? They appear to be standing behind their leader at all costs, even at the great expense of demonstrated ignorance. Doesn’t wisdom demand knowledge? Doesn’t serious contemplation beget truth? Isn’t asking questions the herald of intelligence?

And yet, I have, up to now, overlooked something important in this soliloquy. Whether or not the evidence against Donald Trump is compelling enough to remove him from office is not the question. He will not be removed, no matter what. Nonetheless, what history will eventually reveal is that President Trump’s political allies have not asked any relevant questions of him, demanded pertinent evidence be turned over, or been curious about questioning direct witnesses, because they already know his high crimes and misdemeanors, leaving the question: Just how many witches are there?

And, so, the good hunt continues.

Roger Marolt knows that Trump may survive politically to serve another term in office, but history will prove to be all the more unkind to him for it. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.

Aspen Princess: Klaus Obermeyer embodies the best of Aspen

“You can get a photo with Klaus if you go,” my friend Catherine implored back in October when the Obermeyer sale was going on. She made it sound like he was Santa Claus, or perhaps Santa Klaus.

Alas, I didn’t make it to the sale and regret that now, not only because I missed out on purchasing a super sharp ski outfit for my toddler (only in Aspen) but also because I wish Levi could have met the local legend, this man who turned 100 years old on December 2.

In terms of Aspen’s history, Klaus Obermeyer is up there as one of its most magical, even mystical creatures (alas the Santa Klaus analogy). His youthfulness and wide, effervescent smile are something to behold at any age. The contribution he’s made to the sport of skiing, from a longtime instructor in the early days to a true pioneer in the ski industry are undeniable.

More than that, I think the biggest gift he has given all of us is to personify everything Aspen stands for.

I think people often misunderstand Aspen. They can’t get past its glitz and glam. But the people I know who truly embrace Aspen’s spirit, its healthy lifestyle, tight-knit community, and love for skiing are not the billionaires who fly in on private jets and can afford to waste a really nice bottle of champagne by spraying it on the fake breasts of an attention-seeking cougar at Cloud 9, but locals who have lived here for decades and whose true wealth comes from never missing a powder day.

As downtown’s old buildings are torn down and replaced, one by one, with another one of Mark Hunt’s urban monstrosities better suited for SoHo than a small Colorado town, it’s the Klaus attitude and spirit that will live on. As downtown real estate reaches astronomical highs, it’s the people who live like Klaus that will have the most beautiful homes. As the price of a single-day lift ticket approaches $200, it’s the people who ski every day on a season pass they earned through their jobs that will have the biggest smiles on their faces at the end of the day.

It’s a pretty impressive feat to live to see 100 years old and to remain in such good health. I know my own parents, who still log hundreds of miles on their road bikes, talk about death like it’s already on the calendar.

“You know, I’m honestly just happy every morning when I wake up and can go, ‘Holy cow, I’m still alive,’” my Dad says, (though with a few more expletives).

Don’t get me wrong, my Dad completed his 10th Triple Bypass at 78, the 120-mile road bike ride from Evergreen to Avon over three mountain passes. And my mom, who is 76, just only stopped snowboarding last year and has recently (finally) discovered yoga.

“I feel like it’s my new religion,” she told me a few weeks ago.

As I myself approach 50, I’m starting to see some of my own peers die. Cancer scares the hell out of me as it seems to have become more of an epidemic than something that happens to a distant elderly relative. I worry sometimes that there is literally something in the water that causes it.

I’m also starting to see the consequences of a hard-partying lifestyle that is not only common but very much accepted as part our ski town lifestyle. At some point, all that late-night fun begins to look a little bit more like alcoholism, like addiction, like depression, or some other form of mental illness. Sometimes it’s abruptly revealed, either by suicide or on the front page of the paper in the form of a mugshot and an unpleasant headline. I’ve experienced both in the last few months; friends who were once the life of the party were harboring serious secret struggles of their own.

“You just never know what goes on behind closed doors,” my mother, a psychotherapist, likes to remind me.

Which brings me back to Klaus. Maybe he just lucked out with the genetic hand he was dealt and being happy and healthy is in his DNA. Maybe it’s the power of a positive attitude that has kept him immune to the things that kill other people, emotionally and figuratively.

Just the other day I was enjoying a few beers and sweet potato fries at Base Camp in Snowmass with some friends and I told them about the time I interviewed the developer who had originally purchased that very property. This guy had bragged to me that he planned to “Vegasize Aspen.” He never once looked me in the eye as he showed me around the construction site, pointing out where he’d planned to install an outdoor shower, “in case any girls decided they wanted to jump in during apres.”

I bit my tongue. I didn’t say, “You know Snowmass is like, a family ski area, right?” I tried not to form any strong opinions since I’d been assigned to write a story for a local glossy magazine and had to at least try to remain objective.

A few years later, that particular developer committed suicide. He left a note that was basically a screw you to all the people to whom he owed millions of dollars.

Klaus, by contrast is a man for whom health is wealth. A person who has seen Aspen grow from a quiet town with dirt roads and no stoplights to a jet-setting paradise for the 1% of the 1%. He probably accepted change as just another part of life to be seen through the prism of a positive attitude.

We could all stand to live a little more like Klaus. We can stress out about the things we have no control over, or we can smile, laugh and live to ski another day.

The Princess is fired up about the spectacular start to the ski season. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmailcom.

Sean Beckwith: Gauging your Aspen expiration date

You know what they say, “Come for the winter, stay for as long as the soul-sucking real estate prices will allow.” Wait, that’s not how the saying goes? Well maybe someone should update the clichéd unofficial official mantra of Aspen.

The affordable housing hamster wheel continues to spin in place as new units are scheduled to come online after ski season but expiring deed restrictions are taking old housing complexes off. However, affordable housing is not the ire-inducing subject today. It’s expiration dates, specifically as they apply to the younger lower/middle class’ timeline in Aspen.

When I moved to town about a decade ago, the prospects of establishing a home and a rewarding professional life were awful. Today, those chances are f—ing depressing. Aspen has become either a place to kill some time in your 20s or a spring board/training ground for people who can’t or don’t worship at the altar of capitalism.

If you work in hospitality or the restaurant business, you’ll likely need significant help/luck to comfortably live anywhere near the core. And considering the amount of retiring workforce, you might be waiting for people to literally die off because I know if I had a retirement home already paid for in Aspen, I wouldn’t be going anywhere.

After a few seasons, the joy of recreating in the mountains can get outweighed by the area’s financial landscape. The life of a ski bum is great if you’re single and don’t have to worry about supporting a family. It’s amazing how easily stress fades with a few gondola laps and a playlist. That said, as late 20s turn into early 30s and more offseasons are spent figuring out which weddings you can attend than islands to visit, people want more than powder days and apres.

Whether it’s starting a family, buying property or just wanting one job instead of three, the options outside of Aspen begin to look a lot more appealing because they don’t involve winning the lottery — be it housing or Powerball. I personally know several people who moved away for those exact reasons. The more difficult it becomes to live a semi-normal life — living in a mountain town will never be 100% normal — the less likely it is people will stay, which sucks.

I left for grad school, hated it and moved back. Have you ever spent hours trying to beat a video game only to have the file get erased? That’s how it felt moving back. All progress is lost and now I have to start over at level 1 jumping over these damn Goombas.

Not everyone moves back, though. At this point I think I have more friends who have moved away than still live here. It’s like the closing scene from “Sandlot” where they go through a disappearing montage.

“Enzo moved back to the Northeast to work closer to family. Trevor does construction in Wisconsin. Arturo and Casey explored new paths in Denver. Big Dan, well he stopped off for barbecue in Kansas City and we never heard from him again. Nick went to Houston and went bankrupt building mini malls. Carlton headed West for the vineyards of Sonoma.”

Diversity doesn’t apply to just race and gender, it also applies to socio-economic classes. Community reflects population. If you have a town full of rich people, do you think they’re going to care about affordable housing or the size of their third home? Their viewplane or the trees impeding it? A bar and grill or another outlet that serve $30 crudo?

Aspen isn’t in jeopardy of losing its culture because it already has. The notion of keeping Aspen weird is as outdated as the saying “Come for the winter, stay for the summer.” Too bad the Historical Preservation Commission couldn’t slap a “Can not redevelop” designation on the town’s personality.

It’s easy to understand why a season turns into a decade and a decade turns into a lifetime in Aspen. It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth and also has enough big city-related amenities to keep residents entertained and comfortable. But we’re approaching a point where there are more amenities than infrastructure.

With everyone holding onto affordable housing and/or desirable jobs like Aspen Skiing Co. grasping at the idea of inclusion, you have to wonder when people will swap their downvalley commutes for trips from the Front Range. Even if you score that well-paying executive chef job, you could end up washing dishes because staffing is as hard as trying to find a property manager who doesn’t view pets as the Antichrist.

Now, I’m not announcing my departure from the valley — that would be ungodly self-serving and I’m not that important — but what I am saying is it’s not a surprise when anyone of my ilk drops that sad Facebook post announcing a fire sale of their gear and a departure date.

Shout out to the friends I left off the “Sandlot” joke and best of luck, Will. Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at sbeckwith@aspentimes.com.