Andersen: Closed for ‘disrespect’

Paul Andersen
Fair Game

It was bound to happen. A once great outdoors experience has devolved into a vomit fest. You really can tell when a party hits its stride as people start throwing up. That’s such fun, especially when everyone is doing it together. What a visceral bonding experience!

I’m writing about what happened last week at a full-moon howler at the top of Buttermilk. Equal portions of moonlight and mayhem caused Aspen Skiing Co. to close the West Buttermilk warming house.

This tiny, quaint cabin was once a haven for backcountry enthusiasts seeking quiet in the moonlight. Not any more. The mob got to it and did its dirt, violating the warming house, which, according to reports, was “littered with trash and sprayed with vomit.”

The once mellow vibe of full-moon skiing apparently is staid, boring and way out of fashion today. Those comparatively sober days of yore, when moonlight brought on reverence and awe, have been thrown over for boisterous Bacchanalian barfing.

This is not what you want to read on tourist brochures touting the Aspen Experience. Or is it?

By cultivating an X Games mentality, an appeal to upchucking in the mountains might actually fill a few more tourist beds, though with what I shudder to think. I pity the housekeeping staffs who tidy up after these manic, Red Bull-chugging miscreants.

Still, this brand of gut-wrenching behavior may have potential as a nocturnal X Games event. Select competitors with drinking disabilities are challenged to hoof it up the mountain, gulping shots of Jagermeister at a dozen “aid stations.”

When they reach the top they artfully hurl their guts into a public warming house, ideally onto the hot, wood-burning stove that sizzles with their sputum. The cameras pull tight for a close-up of the repugnant action then segue to a sponsorship ad for Dr. X’s liver transplants.

The staggering competitors must then crawl through a field of broken beer bottles to a starting gate where they are helmeted and strapped onto makeshift sleds fashioned from lift-tower pads.

Cheers erupt as the stricken, bleary-eyed gladiators are sent careening down the mountain. Penalties are given for upheavals undocumented by the aerial cameras, behind which the lights of Aspen are seen glimmering like blood diamonds in the valley.

Down they go, plunging into the Klieg lights of fame and fortune, landing in a heap in front of equally inebriated fans catcalling from sagging bleachers. At the finish line, avaricious agents are quick to sign the top alcohol-induced athletes to Alka Seltzer endorsements and full-ride scholarships to AA.

“The rest of the community needs to step up and tell people to grow up,” was the comment from Jeff Hanle, spokesman for Skico. But how does “the community” communicate with troglodytes whose exuberance for a full moon morphs into an ugly display of upchuck?

With grunts and pantomimes, that’s how, much the way apes dance and cavort to convey basic messages through simian semaphore. And when that fails, you communicate by closing off to everybody an experience that everybody ought to have the opportunity to share.

Maybe it’s old hat, but taking in a full moon on a silvery night without the benefit of a .3 blood alcohol level used to carry sacred overtones for those who quietly and respectfully grasped the full spiritual impact of celestial communion.

Now the full moon triggers a Pavlovian response of foaming at the mouth and primitive groveling for liquid intoxicants. It’s as if the moon mystically conjures base stupidity and human depravity among a population of alien lunatics.

The warning signs have been there for years. Random fire pits, broken beer and wine bottles, trees stripped of limbs. What better way to express appreciation for an inspiring natural setting than with fire and destruction?

Now there’s just one sign left: “Sorry!! Closed due to lack of Respect!”

It’s sad that this gorgeous place on the back ridge of Buttermilk now serves as a sickening version of the Roman vomitorium. No wonder the Skico padlocked the once welcoming hut against a plague of barbarians beating against the walls of civility.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Monday. He can be reached by email at