Aspen Times Weekly, Aspen Untucked: When Friends Comes to Town
Visitors. We love them and we’re also intensely stressed by their presence. When they come here they expect the Aspen experience, possibly based on the competitions they’ve watched on TV during X Games or the scenes they’ve laughed at over and over again on “Dumb and Dumber,” or maybe even like the photos they’ve seen of Paris Hilton and Mariah Carey in the tabloids. Everyone has a perception of Aspen and a strong expectation to go along with it, and us locals are responsible for providing the perfect experience during their stay.
Aspen is an historical town with many intriguing stories. Most people don’t realize that Aspen was once the country’s leading silver mining district or that the population used to be more than twice what it is today. You don’t need to bore your friends with the stories of the Ute Indians or the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, but take them to grab a beer or a glass of whisky at Red Onion and the J Bar at Hotel Jerome. Both watering holes were built in the late 1800s and still maintain their original style. Plus, they’re fun places to hang out, far from the glitz and glamour of Prada or Gucci and closer to the true grit style of the Old West. Besides boozing it up in town, take a stroll through the West End neighborhood and a drive up Red Mountain. The large and beautiful houses will have your friends’ jaws dropping immediately.
Get outside and get active, no matter the sport, no matter the season. The beauty in this town cannot fully be experienced without several hefty whiffs of fresh mountain air. If they don’t want to pay for a ski pass or a snowmobile tour, strap on a pair of snowshoes or Yaktrax and go for a hike.
Once the sun goes down make sure to take your friends to some kind of show. We have two incredible music venues in this town. Both the Wheeler Opera House and Belly Up attract internationally known artists and they offer a unique and intimate setting to watch these artists in. Even if it’s not a band you’re crazy about, it’s worth taking them just to see the theaters.
It’s easy to forget that we are locals and, in fact, not on a vacation with our friends. We want to do everything with them, from skiing during the day to partying at night. But don’t let your work suffer due to your hosting responsibilities. And, when you do go out, make sure all of your friends know how to get home. Phones die and people lose each other in the madness that downtown Aspen brings at night. Make a meeting spot or write your home address on their hand. Take it from me. I’ve had a friend be escorted back to my house by the cops after we lost each other in the black hole that is Escobar. I’ve had another friend lose the group right when we arrived downtown. He spent the better half of the night in cabs asking to be taken to the big house on Alpine Drive. Which does not exist, no matter what “Dumb and Dumber” says. Once he was kicked out of those cabs, he had to stroll the downtown area looking for all of us. Luckily he tracked down a member of the group by last call at Justice Snow’s.
Drink water. Most of my friends are coming from L.A., New York, Boston or Boulder. Perhaps the sole thing those four cities have in common is that they are all below the elevation of Aspen. Water consumption is not just a suggestion, it’s a requirement. Remind your friends constantly that they’re elevated, and that they’ll enjoy their stay much more if they drink the aqua.
One of the blessings and burdens of living in such an amazing town is that visitors are a constant. You hate them. You love them. And you hate to love them. They are showing up for a vacation and, unfortunately, we still have to live our normal lives. But we shouldn’t complain. After all, our lives are a vacation.
Barbara Platts had friends visiting all of last week. Now, she just wants to get some sleep. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.