Listen to the canary
December 13, 2009
Reader response to Jack Johnson’s Dec. 3 letter to The Aspen Times makes it clear that Ms. Marks is quite unpopular. The City Council has been praised while most express the view that Ms. Marks should move.
I will not defend Marilyn’s methods. It would be better if she used honey than vinegar. I will, however, suggest that Ms. Marks today is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Aspen’s canary may not be dead yet, but she is on life support. If trends continue, the canary will be dead – as will Aspen’s economy.
Ms. Marks’ spoofing of the “Save Snow” picture in the Times seems to particularly annoy Mr. Johnson. However, those of us who work in the outside world have seen the response. I have been asked more than once if Aspen had snow yet. Everyone had seen the “Save Snow” picture, courtesy of some resort in Utah. One friend suggested that Aspen was trying to discourage visitors so the locals have the mountains to themselves.
Most locals would endorse such an outcome. However, locals would then have to cover all the costs. If you think it is expensive this year, just think how much it would cost if the rest of the world went to Vail, Alta or some other resort.
Consider also the impact on local income. There would be few jobs if Aspen were a locals-only ski report. Jobs would be downvalley. Affordable housing would be really affordable because there was no money to pay for it – and few tax receipts to finance Mayor Ireland’s grandiose goals.
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The canary warns that position taken by some on the City Council as well as others, such as Jack Johnson, are driving business elsewhere. The high cost of parking and new parking regulations drive those who might patronize Aspen stores downvalley. It is argued that these rules will promote bus ridership. They may be right for downvalley people working in Aspen. Those of us who shop, though, go elsewhere. The policy also raises labor costs in Aspen, further harming Aspen’s competitiveness.
The canary also warns the community of the need for five-star hotel rooms to attract visitors. The efforts that blocked the remodel of the Jerome and the Lift 1 project tend to marginalize Aspen as a resort.
I suspect Aspen Skiing Co.’s pricing policies recognize this dilemma. Those managing revenue at Skico seem to see a need to extract more from locals because City Council has driven off visitors, particularly those from the Front Range.
Listen to the canary’s message. Aspen needs high-income visitors. Aspen needs high-end hotel rooms to attract the visitors. Aspen cannot afford another Burlingame mistake, nor can it afford to imprudently spend capital as it has recently. Lastly, Aspen needs a government that invites visitors, rather than sending the subliminal signal that they would be better advised to ski Vail.