The real stars of Aspen

Daryl Elliott Aspen, CO Colorado
Carriage driver Randy Melton of Redstone and his trusty red heeler, Spur, 12 weeks, wait for a customer Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

Editors note: Those of us who live here have heard every stereotype there is about Aspen, and we laugh about it. But isnt it nice to know that we prove our visitors wrong all the time when they arrive with preconceptions of the Aspen life? Daryl Elliott from New York City came to Aspen this winter, and wrote us a long, long letter about how his own perceptions were shattered. We edited this down quite a bit to fit it on the page, but youll get the point. This was it. Time to pursue my dream of spending a winter skiing. First, to select where Aspen, Telluride, Vail, Whistler? Aspen? Eek! Too expensive, too exclusive, too snobby, too Hollywood, glitzy, glamorous, the famous, the furs. No, couldnt possibly do Aspen But the decision was made for me a friend of a friend taught at the Aspen Snowmass ski school. I had an in! Aspen it would be. But all that bling! What would my friends say? Id just tell everyone that I was going to Colorado for the winter. I wouldnt get specific. I arrived in Aspen just after Thanksgiving. I had a week to get my ski legs. Id find my way around town, adjust to the altitude, figure out where to buy groceries and locate the best coffee. It was so beautiful. The town had character, charm, history and everything you could possibly want. Great coffee, too. Too bad about those [snobby] people I dreaded meeting Four days and 2 feet of snow later, my dog and I set out on our early morning walk. As we worked our way through town, I was impressed by the plowed roads. But lurking below was a treacherous sheet of ice. I slipped. I lay in the middle of the street, unable to right myself. There was no one coming to look for me, no one to call. I didnt know a soul. Are you OK?! Can you get up?! Voices through the blinding snow. Two of them, from different directions. No, I cant! Out of nowhere two figures arrived. Come on, lets try and get you up. These are the first locals youve met. Get up, brush yourself off and be on your way. But, I needed their help. To Stranger No. 1: Do you think you could get the keys out of my pocket and take my dog home? My place is at the end of this road, I said as I lay in the snowy street. No problem. Dog in hand, he was off. To Stranger No. 2: I think I need to go to the hospital. Ive done something to my arm. He peeled me off the street and got me into his truck. He drove through the blinding storm to Aspen Valley Hospital. What a compassionate kind stranger. From the minute I was escorted into the ER, I could not have asked for more quality care. My nurse was an angel and efficient. The X-ray and MRI technicians could not have been gentler. Apassing EMT ran over to prevent me from rolling off the bed. Dr. P showed me in detail what had happened and spelled out the prognosis. I had fractured my arm in two places. You wont ski until March. How was I going to do anything? My arm would be pretty useless for a month. The nurse called me a taxi. It was still snowing. When the taxi dropped me off, I saw that my stairway and a path to my door had been shoveled. The dog was inside, safe and happy. There was a note: Please call me when you get back and let me know how you are. I have looked in on the dog several times to make sure he was OK and tried to shovel as much snow as I could. My cell number is Signed, Stranger No. 1. Someone seems to care! He and I became good friends, and he shoveled my stairs and looked in on me for the remaining month of my stay. Stranger No. 3 from Pet Pals cared for my dog as her own. Shed take the time to chat and check my state of mind while I moaned about my situation and what I should do next. We became great friends and remain so. I needed a visiting nurse. I found Stranger No. 4 in the phone book and took a chance. She arrived promptly and quickly put me at ease. She cleaned me up and set up a schedule for regular visits to do whatever needed to be done. She clearly had compassion for my predicament. She called to invite me to a supper club with her family and a group of her friends. (Editors note: At this point, Elliott connects with five more strangers who invite him to social event, listen to his woes, and eventually help him move back to New York.) When I tell my story, people sigh: What bad luck! It must have been awful going through that on your own. I didnt really go through it alone. The people of Aspen got me through it. Out from under the towns glossy and glamorous reputation, emerged some of the most caring, compassionate and generous people I have ever met. Aspen showed me its true colors not hidden to those who live there but often out of sight to strangers who only see the stars. In addition to the glitz and glamour that draw so many, there is a proud, caring, kind and generous community. Acommunity grounded in small town values. Where people opened their arms wide to a stranger in need.