Don’t Vail-ify Aspen
August 2, 2006
Dear Editor:We have been coming to Aspen since 1992 to attend the music festival, and for the past several years have been able to get up here for most of the AMFS season.During this time we have come to love and enjoy the town of Aspen almost as much as the music festival itself. What we see here is a tasteful and sophisticated town situated in a stunningly beautiful natural setting, with abundant opportunities for exhilarating physical activities and enriched by world class artistic and intellectual facilities. If there is another place somewhere that can match these aspects of Aspen, we certainly don’t know about it.We get this hammered home to us when we spend a night in Vail to take in performances of the NY Philharmonic. The dreary, manufactured sameness of almost the entire town is truly boring and depressing. And the alarming thing is that in recent years, as written and discussed so much in these pages, the scope and extent of commercial and private property development here seems to be relentlessly pushing Aspen towards a similar fate. Giant real estate offices marketing fractional ownerships have replaced many smaller, much more interesting stores. Stores like Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Prada and more, selling the kind of super-expensive clothes and accessories that we suppose sell well to high-end vacationers, are sprouting everywhere. Plans have been approved by the city council for chockablock super-tall replacements for existing, almost historic lodging. Even in the West End, scrape offs of lovely, probably million-dollar homes are ongoing, to be replaced no doubt by five million dollar homes that barely fit on the lot. And of course the list of things changing in undesirable directions is much longer.It is certainly not the place of visitors like ourselves to preach to people who live and vote here about changes that don’t appeal to us. But we can’t help asking ourselves “What are Aspenites doing to themselves? And why?” What you have here seems priceless to us. (Everything else can be bought with Mastercard, as the ad says.) And the argument that development is inevitable, so the only realistic response is to accept it, is a terrible one. Development may be inevitable, but lousy development is not. Aspen developed from a gritty mining town into the lovely place it still is today, largely due to the inspiration and guidance of the Paepckes, of course. No law of nature or economics decrees that development of that kind can’t be maintained and continued.Thomas and Lena LanganAurora, Colo.