Enjoy offseason – it’s only getting shorter
In case you haven’t noticed, offseason doesn’t really exist in Aspen anymore.I’m not talking about the slowdown in business we experience for a few precious weeks each spring and fall. That offseason still exists, although business isn’t off the way it used to be. It’s difficult to call the slowdowns in between summer and winter and winter and summer “seasons” anymore. Three to five weeks hardly constitute a season. They’re more like blips.And the face of those blips have changed dramatically. More and more of the people in town for offseason look like the people who visit every summer and winter for a week or two or three. Well-coiffed. Smartly dressed. Looking younger than their years.They’re the fortunate few who were able to purchase a 1/8 share of a condo at the Hyatt Grand Aspen, St. Regis or Snowmass Club. Or corporate executives booked into the Jerome or The Gant for a convention. Or the even fewer and more fortunate who own second, third or fourth homes in Aspen. For them, offseason means an easier time parking, and shorter lines at City Market or Clark’s.These interlopers aren’t the offseasoners of years gone by. They aren’t locals who, after a hard winter or summer working six or seven days a week, finally have a few months to relax and have Aspen to themselves.”Have Aspen to themselves.” That’s what’s gone: the joy we used to share in this place when finally the tourists were home safe in Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles. When just about every business in town was closed. When you were guaranteed to meet at least a half-dozen friends on the street each day in April, May or June. Some Aspenites left town in the spring or fall for Maui or Acapulco. Once they came home we’d revel in their stories of sun and surf and parties. But a lot of Aspenites would stay right here and go to a few movies, take a few hikes and mostly enjoy slow times in an empty town. It’s too bad we all have to flee now in the offseason.Locals broke first tracks with their mountain bikes down Government Trail. All the tables at Little Annie’s or Cooper Street were full with locals eating lunch, because those were the only places to eat. Main Street was just an empty strip of asphalt, except perhaps for the occasional bicycle or pedestrian. All that still happens sometimes, but not the way it did in the good old days.Ah, the good old days. Everyone’s got their own “good old days.” In Aspen, the good old days is that span of time between when you arrive and when you realize that the place just isn’t the same as when you arrived. As more and more people move here (either as fractionals or entireties), things start to change, which really means they’re getting wrecked. And soon the “good old days” become that time when …For me, the good old days of offseason ran from when I moved here in 1972 until I left for college in 1983. Summer typically began in late June with the International Design Conference and ended in late August with the close of the music festival. Sometimes it would stay busy through Labor Day, but not always.Those times have disappeared for a number of reasons. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association has been remarkably successful in marketing Aspen’s summers and “shoulder seasons.” Stay Aspen Snowmass, the bookings agency, and the Food & Wine Festival are two of ACRA’s most notable creations (Stay Aspen Snowmass is now a stand-alone entity).Offseason took a big hit in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Hotel Jerome was refurbished from its charming old self into its still-charming new self, and the Ritz-Carlton hotel (now the St. Regis) was built. Suddenly Aspen had the kind of hotels that could draw convention business in October and May.The latest attack has been the proliferation of fractional ownership condominium hotels, such as the Hyatt Grand Aspen and, soon, the Residences at Little Nell. Anyone paying a million dollars down and tens of thousands of dollars in annual fees for the right to stay here six weeks a year is pretty likely to show up in offseason. If enough of those people show up in May, May won’t feel much like May anymore. At least this year we had three-or-so weeks when town really was empty, except for those friends we ran into on the street. So here’s to what’s left of our offseason. Savor it now, because next year it might be gone.Allyn Harvey is managing editor of The Aspen Times. He is seeking a promotion to staff curmudgeon.
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U.S. Forest Service ready to make happy campers with the opening of facilities in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.