Our peeves about paradise
First of all, it goes without saying that we all love Aspen. It’s a paradise, and all it takes to reconfirm that fact is a weekend trip to the “real world” somewhere else.But let’s face it – even paradise has its problems. And Aspen can be a profoundly strange and annoying place. Who hasn’t wanted to scream while stopped in traffic on Highway 82? Who hasn’t wanted to strangle that arrogant jerk with the cell phone on the Silver Queen Gondola? And don’t even mention the cost of living …This week, the staff of The Aspen Times decided to get it all off our chests, to perform sort of an autumn psychological cleansing. We gathered all of our Aspen-related peeves, gripes and nitpicking naggings into one edition. And we present it here, for your … well, enjoyment.That’s right. This collection of peeves is designed to entertain and hopefully elicit a few laughs. We certainly need it after election season.So read on, don’t take anything personally and by all means LIGHTEN UP. Here at the Times, we’re breathing a sigh of relief after this purge, and we’re back again to loving Aspen.
This is the time of year when each short flurry of flakes from the sky gradually builds up in town, making snow a prominent local feature for the rest of winter. So it’s truly a shame (and one of our biggest peeves) when the snow melts and we discover just how many dog owners failed to pick up after their pets.Dog poop doesn’t melt, people. It’s chilled beneath layers of snow until the spring thaw, when we’re left with stinking dog piles in parks and along sidewalks. Frankly, we don’t think that living in a dog-friendly town should equate to living in a dog-poop-friendly town.Lest we attribute this problem to mere forgetfulness followed by snowfall, a Times staffer actually watched a woman last winter shove snow over her dog’s steaming pile until it disappeared. We doubt she returned to pick it up.
Early one morning over the holidays last winter, it snowed a few inches on Aspen Mountain right before the lifts opened and after the cats had finished grooming the slopes. Therefore, on top of the fresh corduroy was a thin blanket of fresh powder – God forbid!The Aspen Skiing Co., realizing some of their visitors prefer to ski only on top of the snow, and not through it, issued an apology on a sign at the base of Ajax. The people who appreciated the apology were probably the same ones who complained about the lifties playing their music too loud.
It’s bad enough our daughters are exposed to the anorexic, big-boobed joke of a woman that is Barbie (and the live versions of the doll that frequent Aspen during high season), but now there’s Barbie in fur to contend with. That’s right, one local furrier is hawking Barbie dolls dressed in full-length fur coats. Plus, the furs are dyed in bright hues – pink, purple, aquamarine – sucking in little girls quicker than candy on Halloween. And if that wasn’t enough, the dolls are on display in the store’s front window, right at the eye level of a 4-year-old.Parents, get out your blindfolds.
Aspenites routinely feel a sharp, stabbing pain in their side, akin to a gun stuck in their ribs, as they’re robbed of their cash for overpriced goods and services. Perhaps nowhere is the sting more pronounced than at the pumps, where we stick a nozzle in our tanks and it sucks our wallets dry.Earlier this week, regular unleaded at the Shell station on Main Street was selling for $2.69 a gallon. The Main Street and Airport Amoco stations were both charging $2.64.(And, speaking of getting hosed, ever notice how a few pennies tick off the pump at the Shell station even before the refueling begins?)On the same morning (Nov. 9) we were shelling out at least $2.64 per gallon in Aspen, regular unleaded was selling for $2.32 a gallon at the Conoco in Vail – make that $2.22 for locals who pay cash, according to the attendant there.Gas was going for $2.17 at the Glenwood Amoco.Frankly, we don’t buy the argument that it costs that much more to truck gasoline from Glenwood to Aspen anymore than we buy gas in Aspen. Anyone in their right mind pulls in at a downvalley pump whenever possible, or buys just enough gasoline in Aspen to go somewhere else and buy gasoline.
This has nothing to do with killing animals to wear their skin, but the fact that a grown man donning a fur coat while trying to pick up ladies is really funny. We’ve all seen this guy. He usually rolls out of his Hummer wearing ridiculously tight jeans and (more often than not) sporting an equally ridiculous mustache. His hair is usually slicked back, bulletproof and dyed to hide the gray.As he strolls the sidewalks in his full-length fur coat, en route to the nearest chic Aspen nightclub, his step is snappy and confident. With a smile, he notices that all the ladies want him, and all the guys want to be like him.It must be the man-fur.
Of exactly what use is the traffic light at the intersection of Main and Galena streets? Is there something that light was meant to accomplish that was not already handled by the light one friggin’ block away at the corner of Main and Mill?There is no synchronicity between the foul light and its brother a block away; in fact, the two seem staggered to assure that motorists will be stopped at both. The light at Main and Galena is comically inconsistent; it will turn red after a few seconds, leaving a line of cars down Main waiting as nary a pedestrian crosses. A pedestrian can press those damn buttons for eons before the little white man appears (We’d wager that those buttons are connected to nothing). In an act of defiance against government stupidity, one local bicyclist – no names – makes it a point to run the red light on Main each day.
Same story, but downsized. Locals have long complained about having nowhere to buy the basics: Underwear, socks, shoes, pajamas. Well, try to find those items for kids (who need new ones on a seemingly weekly basis) and the ordeal becomes even more taxing.And for those of you who say, go to The Gap, think again. While the Aspen outlet has a Gap Kids section, it is but an ugly stepchild of the real Gap Kids’ stores you find in malls across the country. Of course if you’re looking for a pair of pink nubuck boots for $200-plus, a crib sheets that cost more than king-size comforter or XXX, disregard these comments.
At least half the dryers are broken, and the ones that aren’t often croak right after you’ve thrown in a handful of quarters. Sometimes it happens twice in a row. Since it’s late and there’s no one around except the guy in the other room watching television, you cock your fist and prepare to KO the machine. But then you remember there are cameras, and you realize how stupid you’d look if caught on videotape beating up a dryer.The floor is curiously sticky in spots, so if you drop your girlfriend’s underwear while taking it out of the dryer you might as well throw it back in the washer. The soap trays in the vertical washers are always full of stinky water and little floaty things from whoever used the machine last, which doesn’t invoke feelings of clean and fresh.Oh, and there’s the Aspen pricing. It costs $3 to do a wash – drying not included. And if that’s not enough, you can’t even enjoy a beer while you wait.
The Aspen/Snowmass Village area has four world-class ski mountains – and four reject-class base areas. It says something that kid-friendly Buttermilk has the best of the local base areas – but it ain’t saying much.The worst of the lot, though, is Aspen Highlands Village. What an opportunity, to build from scratch a brand-new base village at the bottom of an amazing though under-used ski area. How badly that opportunity was blown.Highlands Village is unsightly and horrifically out of scale. What would be the main plaza is instead a largely empty pavement concourse on which the sun never seems to shine. Though the village is largely devoid of foot traffic, the area at the bottom of the main lifts gets uncomfortably congested. Small wonder that the Hines Company wasn’t even given a sniff at Snowmass’ Base Village.On the brighter side: Had the village been a hit, Aspen Highlands might not be the laid-back, uncrowded semi-secret it seems destined to remain.
The stunted new Campground Lift at Snowmass is the first ski lift in history that was actually out-performed by the one it replaces – and all in the name of progress.Yes, the old lift took an eternity to reach the top of Sam’s Knob (matching the longest ride in Aspen at 16 minutes), but the new double-chair offers even less incentive for locals and visitors to experience the Old World charms of the Campground area. Once skiers and riders alight at the new “top” (somewhere on the Knob’s forested flanks), they must buckle their boots and strap into their boards for a boardercross-style traverse to the bottom of the Sam’s Knob quad. Only from there can they reach the top of the Knob.The point of this “upgrade” was lost on us.
We don’t pretend to be gourmets here at The Aspen Times, but it doesn’t take a foodie to shake your fist in exasperation when pawing through the questionable produce at Aspen’s supermarkets. In the last couple of years we’ve been dazzled by the new vegetable and fruit setup in Clark’s Market and awed by the pomegranate juice at City Market, but is it really so hard to ensure that pre-washed, bagged salad greens aren’t wilting on the shelves?In today’s global economy you can generally find seasonal produce year-round, but it seems this phenomenon has skipped right over the Roaring Fork Valley. We’ve had it with questionable bananas, unyielding avocados and tomatoes that don’t even seem any better during their summertime prime.Aspen’s world-class chefs import the freshest ingredients every day, so why are the grocers lagging?
For Aspen’s working stiffs, many of whom haul themselves upvalley each day from more affordable places, there are pathetically few places to park for free. After squeezing through the Buttermilk wormhole and dodging state troopers on the highway, the last thing commuters want to see is the latest homeowner who has decided to stick a “no parking” sign on their mailbox or on a stake in their front yard.Who do these curmudgeons think they are? They don’t seem to understand that their multimillion-dollar properties don’t extend into the public right of way. Most commuters simply ignore the flimsy signs from the local hardware store, but they wonder what kind of retribution they’ll suffer for parking in some homeowner’s “viewplane.” Will their car be egged? Keyed? What evil lurks in the hearts of the parking curmudgeons?
Sure, the widening of Highway 82 through Snowmass Canyon gives commuters reason to rejoice. That section of road should be open sometime around Thanksgiving, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.But we can’t shake the suspicion that traffic at the “wormhole” – where two Aspen-bound lanes narrow to one at Buttermilk – is going to generate some gargantuan traffic snarls this winter.CDOT has managed over the years to widen about 38 miles of Highway 82 to four lanes between Glenwood Springs and Buttermilk. But leaving the highway incomplete into Aspen is like making Julia Roberts go through life with really, really big buck teeth – it just doesn’t make sense.We won’t get into possible solutions here, but clearly CDOT and the city of Aspen have to work quickly to improve the flow of vehicles into town from Buttermilk.
Thank God all bruins will be snugly tucked in for the winter any day now, if they aren’t already. The bears had a tough go of it this spring, summer and fall due to the well-documented late freeze and subsequent failure of the berry crop.Unfortunately, the exponential leap in the number of human-bear encounters created a reaction among some people that only Donald Rumsfield could love. Some people voiced what would best be described as the frontier attitude. They figure that any bear that wanders into town looking for an easy meal is fair game. They want to shoot their way out of the problem.Certainly there are a handful of cases when shooting and killing a bear is the only option. No one wants to wait until a person is injured or killed before dealing harshly with “problem” animals.But that’s a far cry from the strategy that some citizens advocate: Shoot any bear that comes looking for food. That sentiment was expressed in a couple of letters to the editor over the course of the summer, and you can bet numerous other people are thinking it.Fortunately, cooler heads prevail at the Colorado Division of Wildlife and local law enforcement agencies. The wildlife division traps and shoots only those bears deemed to be a problem that cannot be dealt with any other way.
The Aspen Skiing Co. has done a fantastic job in recent years to try to reverse the decline in the number of out-of-state visitors willing to take a ski vacation. Their marketing efforts create the feeling that Aspen is once again a vital part of the ski and snowboard scene and not just a has-been resort relying on its reputation.But more often than not, perception is reality. So we don’t understand why the Skico lets some of its chairlifts and restaurants sit idle during winter. Visitors can’t help wondering if Aspen is a dying resort when they see the lifts shut down.The Naked Lady lift at Snowmass is a prime example, as is the Bell chair on Aspen Mountain on weekdays. Naked Lady won’t be around much longer if the Skico gets its way with Base Village and the associated mountain improvements. She deserves the chance to run while she can.At Buttermilk it’s been a shame that a skier or rider couldn’t grab lunch or a hot chocolate at the West Buttermilk cafe. Hopefully, with a new chairlift there, the Skico will reopen that spot. And what about the prime piece of real estate that once housed Ruthie’s and then the too-fancy La Baita? We think something besides the shell of a restaurant should welcome visitors on Aspen’s flagship mountain.
Aspen’s east-siders have good reason to gripe when winter rolls around. Anyone who walks to and from town on East Cooper Avenue (aka Highway 82) has to slog through the slop on the bridge spanning the Roaring Fork River.For a town that boasts its pedestrian experience, a stroll across the bridge is no walk in the park. The narrow walkways on either side of the pavement are routinely covered with deep snow and slush pushed aside by the plows. In fact, the mess regularly spills out into the traffic lanes; anyone looking to avoid has to walk well out into the roadway.To top it off, a veritable ice rink forms on the southwest end of the span. Concealed under a light dusting of snow, the ice is slicker than dog shit in springtime (see related complaint).Apparently, it’s no one’s job to regularly clear off the meager expanse of sidewalk on the bridge, so pedestrians either posthole across, nervously eyeing the swirling, frigid waters below, or step into the traffic lanes. If two people meet in the middle of the bridge, one has to step off the sidewalk anyway.Lord help you if you’re pushing a stroller and encounter the uncleared sidewalks. Your only recourse is to take to the often-busy street.We lay the blame for an inadequate sidewalk on the Colorado Department of Transportation, but we’re shoveling our frustration over the uncleared sidewalks on the city’s doorstep.
We suppose every newspaper town has them – writers of letters to the editor whose muddled missives no doubt leave readers shaking their heads. It’s true, you don’t have to read them, but these letters are like a bad car wreck – you can’t help looking.Regular readers know these writers as prolific, if not profound.We must admit, we’re frequently mystified by the nomadic Emzy Veazy III, Esq.’s submissions, though he recently pitched Beverly Hills as Aspen’s next Sister City (which makes more sense than we’d care to admit).For a downright groaner, though, Toni Kronberg offers the best of the worst.Try wading through this unedited bit of classic Kronberg:”Aspen’s community can now look forward to, what I hope will be, future discussions about multiple sites for more visitor centers, repairing of the library park’s plaza’s roof with additional open space being created with a viewing area overlooking Rio Grande Park and the open discussion with the landowner of Galena and Main for the City to acquire the parcel in the historical overlay district as open space to preserve the Entrance to Aspen from the Rio Grande Parking Garage.”Whew. Now there’s a mouthful only Toni could produce (or comprehend).
Even a person who can’t properly work a microwave oven can make a perfectly decent salsa: Chop some tomatoes, jalapeños and onions, add lime juice and cilantro and serve. So why does the Cantina, with more than 15 years to improve on their formula, continue to serve what some refer to as “tomato water”? The Cantina’s salsa is thin and bland; not only that, they serve it in tiny cups not nearly big enough for proper dipping.A few Times staffers were encouraged recently, when a spiced-up cup of Cantina salsa – with discernible chunks, even – turned up on the communal counter. The event prompted several positive remarks. Alas, some follow-up investigation a few days later revealed that the tomato water had returned.
So you’ve got a one-hour lunch break and you know you live in a small mountain town where you’re supposed to be immune to the big-city rush. But when you get to the post office to return the scarves your mother sent (was plaid ever in style?), you hit “the line” and immediately pop a blood vessel. Not because the line is particularly long – it’s rarely more than a dozen deep. It’s the combination of factors – the guarantee that the person in front hasn’t completed the right form, the fur-coated woman behind with enough perfume to be considered a chemical weapon – that all but ensures a miserable experience.Also, is it just us, or do the postmen move in slow motion?
No one expects gas station stores to provide gourmet grub. Still, there’s a list of essentials – nuts, noodles, soggy pizzas – that any weary wanderer craves and expects. There’s a reason they are called “filling stations.” In preparation for the long trip to Denver, Aspenites often stop at the Airport Business Center to fill up for gas and grab some nosh. What they find at the BP station “convenience store” would be a meager stash even in a post-munchies fraternity-house kitchen. An anemic rack of chips and a lonely refrigerator of basic sodas (no fountain) are your options.Sure, you can stop in Basalt or walk across the street to the Alpine Market, but then that pretty much takes the convenience out of this store, doesn’t it?
It’s official – Gondola Plaza is the most expensive place on Earth. OK, that might be an exaggeration, but it seems everything in that corner of Aspen is seriously overpriced. Case in point: the ATM. It costs $3.50 to withdraw cash from that machine, regardless of where you bank, plus whatever your bank charges you.Tack that onto the cost of a lift ticket, a cup of joe at Starbucks and an apres cocktail at the Ajax Tavern and you’ve got one expensive day, in one expensive pocket of an expensive town.
What’s with vacant storefronts in Aspen’s core being filled with banks?This community certainly has enough ATM machines, and local checking and saving accounts can’t possibly require more banks. Mortgage loans are often concluded with computers in home offices.Count ’em – there are seven banks in Aspen, which has a permanent population of 6,500. Perhaps our second-home owners prefer dealing with Aspen bankers to those in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Chicago or Zurich. Or maybe it’s because so many local real estate deals are transacted in cash.Whatever the case, we hear a giant sucking sound of messy vitality going downvalley.Locations that once housed our first ski shop, a furniture store, a sports bar, offices of the Music Associates of Aspen, a toyshop and photography studio now hold sleek desks and counters, designer lighting, terrazzo floors and fine art on the walls. What depicts this trend the best is the recent painting of the building at Main and Mill from Elli’s bright blue to a banker’s dull gray.
The Aspen T-shirt Company resembles a superhero’s phone booth. During hot summer days, it’s amusing to stand at the Hyman Avenue fountain and watch people enter as normal-looking shoppers, then leave shortly thereafter as T-shirt clad, comic-book tourists.Sure, we all wear T-shirts, but these ones are remarkably lame.”How’s your Aspen?” is a popular one for the college kids. “I got High in Aspen (elevation 8,000 ft),” a favorite for the teenagers. See someone wearing a shirt from this store and it’s a good guess they aren’t staying in town for long.A double-depressing closure – stillA once-vibrant Mecca of the Aspen live-music scene, the Double Diamond is now a dormant and vacant testament to how bad local nightlife has become. It’s been a year since the Double Diamond closed its doors, and nothing has emerged to take its place.Where can old touring act fixtures like The Meters, Maceo Parker, The Radiators, The Wailers, Gov’t Mule, Young Dubliners and Deep Banana Blackout play nowadays? Could it get any worse?
Call us jealous, but we think those Aspenites who spend their every waking moment working out are just plain nauseating. Sure, they’re fit. And yes, they look good in Lycra (well, sometimes). But they make us mere mortals – or even those of us who work out a considerable amount – feel like two-toed sloths. And the worst of the bunch, since we’re pointing fingers, are the übermoms. You know who we’re talking about: Those women seen scaling mountains just days before giving birth, while toting toddlers on their backs; or their evil twins, the pencil-thin women who have just given birth and are already readying their family for a four-day foray into the backcountry.Relax, already!
Ever wonder what all the work is about at the Pitkin County Airport? Heavy machinery always seems to be pushing dirt from one pile to another.Our cynical side can only wonder if the five county commissioners formed a construction company a few years ago and won the bid on a job that keeps going and going and going and … .
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