Marolt: The Snowmass Recreation Center is living up to our potential | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: The Snowmass Recreation Center is living up to our potential

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

I remember when the Rec Center opened. It was a quiet place. I was on its initial advisory board, which was actually a group of us sitting around the deserted lobby sipping coffee and talking about ways to make the place more attractive. We spent most of our time coming up with suggestions that would make it more like another Snowmass Club. A pitcher of fresh lemon ice water at the front desk was a frequent one.

In those early years, real estate was booming and timeshares were seen as the rubber glove one could relatively inexpensively slip onto the economy's invisible hand to reach beneath the rump of the goose and snatch a golden egg. As people gobbled up these fractional ownership units at the Snowmass Club, management there seemed to realize that the more exclusive (i.e. expensive) their health club became, somehow, the faster they sold available units. Economists call this the Veblen effect, but that is only an academic way of describing snobbery.

One of the results of this was that some locals gave up their memberships. It was not as easy a decision as one might think to save thousands of dollars per year in club membership dues plus a mandatory food minimum you were required to spend on lousy food whether you ate it or not. The Snowmass Club had really become a local gathering place over the years.

It was way more than a gym. It also was a swimming pool where parents gossiped and read while their kids socialized in the water. It was a great place to thaw frozen, stiff legs after a day of skiing while sipping a drink in the hot tub (highly recommended by 0 out of 10 doctors). It also was a place that threw an incredible annual Christmas party that pretty much everyone in town attended unless they had contracted a case of flu. It also was a place that hosted community pumpkin carving at Halloween and egg hunts at Easter. They kept it affordable for the local riffraff because Aspen Skiing Co., which owned and operated it then, seemed to enjoy being the gracious host for the village.

As the sound "cha-ching" synchronized with the noise from jack hammers, dump trucks and circular saws, the latest version of architectural alchemy of turning river rock, two-by-fours and faux Bavarian stucco into gold took hold and eager buyers formed a line to get in on the deal without even bothering to to turn their heads to the right to see that their dream vacation investment spots were being raised within spitting distance of the municipal sewage treatment plant. No, Toto, that is not a mountain pond.

The reason I bring this all up is because I have recently realized that a Rec Center advisory board is no good substitute for time. What we could not accomplish in bringing new membership to The Town's health club back then, the passing of years did. In the words of the late great Yogi Berra, now "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded!"

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Like many people, I don't think I like crowds, but the truth is that they bring a lot of enjoyable energy to wherever they are; the exception being a line at the lift on a powder morning. While crowd mentality is usually described in bad ways, it can also be a good thing.

If you haven't been to the Rec Center in a while, you are in for a surprise if you head over there just about any weekday evening. The local masses will be working out, many from the jaw down. While adjusting your routine on the fly to include whatever mechanism of fitness torture becomes suddenly available, there is plenty of interesting activity to observe. It has become a people-watching paradise, and I don't mean that in a creepy kind of stretched Lycra way. It is just kind of cool to be around people you mostly know or at least recognize doing what we do in the gym to prepare ourselves for what we are all into out there in the recreational cornucopia we call our backyard.

As a former member of that long defunct initial Rec Center advisory board, I am happy to report that the facility has finally become Snowmass Village's most prominent social gathering spot. That was our goal! It has grown into what it was designed to be. It is fun. It is convenient. It is affordable. It is the place!

Roger Marolt loves the Rec Center like he thought he used to love the smell of a sauna. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.