Jeers and cheers |

Jeers and cheers

The Aspen Times editorial board is taking time off this week from its usual opinion format to give a pat on the back – or perhaps a kick in the butt – to anyone and anything that deserves it.

JEERS: To Mother Nature, in the form of La Nina weather patterns, for giving the Aspen area and its four ski mountains, as well as most of western Colorado, lackluster early-season skiing conditions.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Aspen-area snowpack was just 46 percent of average. Hardly any snow fell between Dec. 14, when the area got about 2 inches, and Saturday, when area mountains received anywhere from 5 to 9 inches. Add it up, and that means the area went three weeks without fresh powder for the slopes.

So far, Aspen Skiing Co. is doing what it can to manage what little snow there is on its four mountains without the aid of the typical winter storms that blow through on a regular basis. Skico has been making extra snow past its usual Christmas cutoff in order to fill in some of the rough patches. It’s also stepped up a public-relations campaign to send the message that conditions here are as good as or better than at most U.S. winter destinations, which also have faced a lack of snow.

The company says its business has been strong this year and that visiting skiers and riders have been satisfied. This was evidenced during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period, when the town was buzzing with activity and businesses reported an healthy uptick in sales. The visitors we’ve spoken with seem happy enough to be on vacation in a cool town.

But there’s a decrease in pass usage, meaning local users of the mountains aren’t hitting the lifts with their usual frequency. If you’ve bought a one- or two-day-a-week pass and you’ve been waiting for better snow, you’ve already lost a good bit of money. The community, in general, stands at a critical mid-January stage in which snowfall must become more plentiful or the winter tourism season will be remembered as mediocre – at best.

Mother Nature, get your damn act together. We need a huge dumping of snow in the next week followed immediately by another one. Good times, and perhaps jobs, are at stake.

JEERS: To the wealthy family – aka Goldman Sachs executive Jeffrey Verschleiser – that rented out the entire Hotel Jerome from Thursday to noon Monday for their daughter’s bat mitzvah. Because of the six-figure rental, the historic Jerome’s 94 rooms and its popular watering holes are closed to the public for the better part of five days to accommodate the private function.

Didn’t you know that Aspen newspaper reporters and many other local worker bees spend a fair amount of their meager discretionary income at either the Library in the morning (coffee, pastries) or the J-Bar at night (draft beer, cocktails)? And what’s this about the discount program being rescinded? Do you really want to upset the apple cart by taking local entitlements to task?

Truth be told, it’s a minor inconvenience, and locals will find other venues for celebrating life or drowning their sorrows. We all know money talks, but please … don’t let this happen again.

CHEERS: To the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners for lifting the cap on its commitment to child care funding. A year ago, commissioners capped the program at 13 families in the face of higher demand for the state-local program that helps working families to meet child care needs.

The cap has been removed, and a greater amount of county money will be allocated this year, paving the way for more eligible families to enter the program. The action also will ease the burden on Kids First, the city’s child care program that was taking in families affected by the county cap.

Every so often, our elected officials get it right. Now we need to hope that the local economy improves to the point at which families won’t have to rely so heavily on government assistance.

CHEERS: To the Aspen Sister Cities program for its successful pursuit in bringing kids from other countries to the area for sporting, cultural and educational pursuits. The program’s board is considering adding a seventh sister city to Aspen’s international family: The ski-resort town of Abetone, Italy, is the applicant. This seems like a good idea, and we hope the negotiations and the approval process go smoothly for all parties involved.

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