Marolt: Why in the entire world do we live where we do?

Roger Marolt
Roger This

What is the personality of the typical Aspenite? I have an idea, but I don’t know for sure.

We profile our visitors. Hired experts have charged a lot over the years to tell us that they are mostly healthy, more-active-than-normal, upper-middle-aged, upper-upper-class, white people. It may not be politically correct, but it’s true. It seems we like diversification in most things except our bread and butter — all white, thick upper crust, slathered in rich, creamy butter and prone to dropping crumbs.

What about the people who live here, though? As a whole, we are not quite as white, not quite as wealthy, quite a bit healthier and much better skiers. That’s easy to see. But what about our personality? Who is it that wants to live here?

Let’s not flatter ourselves. Despite what we like to think, not everybody in the world wants to live here. Not even most people who can afford to live here want to live here. Not even most of the people who can afford to live here and actually already own a house here want to live here. Not even most of the ones who own really big, fancy lifestyle estates here want to live — never mind. You get the idea — there are not a lot of people who really, truly want to live here. I’m not saying it’s a hell hole; I’m just saying visitors are not as envious of us as they lead us to believe when we ride up the lifts making small talk with them.

If I were wrong about this, there would be no need for real estate people to spend their careers convincing people to buy property and move here. Ask any of them and all the people who have tried to do that job and failed — it’s not as easy as it looks.

I know there is a different type of person who lives in Aspen. I know this because I am one, and I know there are a lot of places I am not cut out to live where many, many others are really happy to live.

Las Vegas people and I have different personalities. I wouldn’t live there in 92 years, which is my current actual life expectancy. Don’t get me wrong. I love to be dumbfounded at what I see when I visit there, and it’s worth the price of admission for the day and a half at a time I can stand to be there, but I don’t have the personality to fit in there permanently.

I don’t mean to make anyone who lives there feel bad. There are even nice places I couldn’t make my home. San Diego, for instance. I lived there for four years while in college. Except for the first semester when I was going through the adjustment phase of being away from my beloved mountains and family for the first extended period, I loved it. I loved the ocean. I loved the people. I loved the lifestyle. The weather? Seriously? I could live there happily if I had to. But I don’t have to, so I live here. That means something. What is that quirk in my genes? Or is it nurture? Those are half-million-dollar questions.

Even what should be splitting hairs over this issue of personality and place can be like the difference between baldness and a braid. Look at Aspen vs. Vail. Two perfectly expensive mountain resorts, with a hundred miles of highway between them, couldn’t be metaphysically further apart. It’s not about the interstate, either. Nobody chooses Vail over us to be closer to a highway. Besides, our car-clogged Main Street can frequently be more offensive than a four-lane interstate highway. Those who live in each become blind to these fatal flaws that are obvious to each other and the rest of the world. Why?

I don’t know what good it would do to profile Aspenites to see what makes us step together to a different beat. All I know is that there is something we have in common, and I would love to know what that is. There’s more to living here than skiing and mountains, just as there is more to living in New York City than Broadway plays and Fifth Avenue shopping.

On the other hand, maybe figuring out what kind of weirdos we are is the intrigue that makes us stay. Forget hiring an expert to tell us who we are. If they live somewhere else, they couldn’t possibly understand.

Roger Marolt is a proud weirdo of Aspen since 1962. Contact him at