Aspen Times Weekly: Aspen Untucked with Barbara Platts
December 24, 2013
The old, cherished Yuletide season has arrived again. Christmas music is back on the radio, holiday decorations light up the downtown streets, and there is an abundance of powder on the mountains. But, despite the cheerful details that the holidays bring, it doesn't feel quite like the white Christmas of years past.
As I peruse websites and stores in town for the perfect gifts for family and friends, I can't help but feel rather Grinch-like due to my lack of holiday spirit. Perhaps that is because I am growing older and the holidays have lost some of their magic. We "20-somethings" aren't kids anymore. We have bills to consider and we no longer get a month-long winter break like we did in college. Santa has stopped bringing us presents, probably because we have all made the naughty list at this point, and, typical of living in a mountain town, this is the craziest time of the year. It is the week that makes Aspen legendary.
But, for those of us who make our home here, this is a week for work, not play.
Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman, said Christmas to New Year's is the most populous time of year on the slopes with more than 20,000 people split between the four mountains.
"We are all 'hands on deck' over the holidays with all staff working, extra help in the ski schools and executive staff pitching in on the front lines," Hanle said. "There is a ton of energy and everyone is fired up to get the job done."
Restaurants, hotels and retail shops are jam-packed as well, making it difficult for many employees to get a break.
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Sam Gemus, 25, has lived in Aspen for two years and has grown used to the hectic time the holidays bring. He is a bartender in the Living Room at Hotel Jerome and is scheduled to work on Christmas Day.
"After living here for a while, you realize that Christmas is just another day," Gemus said. "It kind of feels like you are selling your soul for money, but that's the nature of the beast here."
Gemus said his family is disappointed he is unable to make it home to Michigan over the holidays, but he prefers spending longer periods of time with them during offseason.
"We get almost four months to ourselves during the year," Gemus said. "I can go home for a month in the spring or fall instead of a few days over Christmas."
Perhaps after living here for a few years, working on Christmas just becomes the norm among Aspen residents.
Sean Casey, 31, is a concierge at Dancing Bear and a bartender at Brexi. He's lived in Aspen for five years and has never once been able to go home for Christmas.
"Christmas means money and money means work," Casey said.
Despite missing time with friends each year and hearing of his mother's annual disappointment, Casey does not have many regrets about having to work during this time.
"It's magical enough just to live here," Casey said. "You understand that you'll have to work for Christmas. That's just part of the deal."
I suppose Casey is right. The magic of Christmas may be lessened or lost for many young residents, but being fortunate enough to call this mountain town home is quite possibly the best gift of all.
Barbara Platts, a local marketing professional, writes about the "mountain millennial culture" that she participates in every day. Reach her at email@example.com or follow her @barbaraplatts.
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