Aspen Princess: Klaus Obermeyer embodies the best of Aspen | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen Princess: Klaus Obermeyer embodies the best of Aspen

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

“You can get a photo with Klaus if you go,” my friend Catherine implored back in October when the Obermeyer sale was going on. She made it sound like he was Santa Claus, or perhaps Santa Klaus.

Alas, I didn’t make it to the sale and regret that now, not only because I missed out on purchasing a super sharp ski outfit for my toddler (only in Aspen) but also because I wish Levi could have met the local legend, this man who turned 100 years old on December 2.

In terms of Aspen’s history, Klaus Obermeyer is up there as one of its most magical, even mystical creatures (alas the Santa Klaus analogy). His youthfulness and wide, effervescent smile are something to behold at any age. The contribution he’s made to the sport of skiing, from a longtime instructor in the early days to a true pioneer in the ski industry are undeniable.

More than that, I think the biggest gift he has given all of us is to personify everything Aspen stands for.

I think people often misunderstand Aspen. They can’t get past its glitz and glam. But the people I know who truly embrace Aspen’s spirit, its healthy lifestyle, tight-knit community, and love for skiing are not the billionaires who fly in on private jets and can afford to waste a really nice bottle of champagne by spraying it on the fake breasts of an attention-seeking cougar at Cloud 9, but locals who have lived here for decades and whose true wealth comes from never missing a powder day.

As downtown’s old buildings are torn down and replaced, one by one, with another one of Mark Hunt’s urban monstrosities better suited for SoHo than a small Colorado town, it’s the Klaus attitude and spirit that will live on. As downtown real estate reaches astronomical highs, it’s the people who live like Klaus that will have the most beautiful homes. As the price of a single-day lift ticket approaches $200, it’s the people who ski every day on a season pass they earned through their jobs that will have the biggest smiles on their faces at the end of the day.

It’s a pretty impressive feat to live to see 100 years old and to remain in such good health. I know my own parents, who still log hundreds of miles on their road bikes, talk about death like it’s already on the calendar.

“You know, I’m honestly just happy every morning when I wake up and can go, ‘Holy cow, I’m still alive,’” my Dad says, (though with a few more expletives).

Don’t get me wrong, my Dad completed his 10th Triple Bypass at 78, the 120-mile road bike ride from Evergreen to Avon over three mountain passes. And my mom, who is 76, just only stopped snowboarding last year and has recently (finally) discovered yoga.

“I feel like it’s my new religion,” she told me a few weeks ago.

As I myself approach 50, I’m starting to see some of my own peers die. Cancer scares the hell out of me as it seems to have become more of an epidemic than something that happens to a distant elderly relative. I worry sometimes that there is literally something in the water that causes it.

I’m also starting to see the consequences of a hard-partying lifestyle that is not only common but very much accepted as part our ski town lifestyle. At some point, all that late-night fun begins to look a little bit more like alcoholism, like addiction, like depression, or some other form of mental illness. Sometimes it’s abruptly revealed, either by suicide or on the front page of the paper in the form of a mugshot and an unpleasant headline. I’ve experienced both in the last few months; friends who were once the life of the party were harboring serious secret struggles of their own.

“You just never know what goes on behind closed doors,” my mother, a psychotherapist, likes to remind me.

Which brings me back to Klaus. Maybe he just lucked out with the genetic hand he was dealt and being happy and healthy is in his DNA. Maybe it’s the power of a positive attitude that has kept him immune to the things that kill other people, emotionally and figuratively.

Just the other day I was enjoying a few beers and sweet potato fries at Base Camp in Snowmass with some friends and I told them about the time I interviewed the developer who had originally purchased that very property. This guy had bragged to me that he planned to “Vegasize Aspen.” He never once looked me in the eye as he showed me around the construction site, pointing out where he’d planned to install an outdoor shower, “in case any girls decided they wanted to jump in during apres.”

I bit my tongue. I didn’t say, “You know Snowmass is like, a family ski area, right?” I tried not to form any strong opinions since I’d been assigned to write a story for a local glossy magazine and had to at least try to remain objective.

A few years later, that particular developer committed suicide. He left a note that was basically a screw you to all the people to whom he owed millions of dollars.

Klaus, by contrast is a man for whom health is wealth. A person who has seen Aspen grow from a quiet town with dirt roads and no stoplights to a jet-setting paradise for the 1% of the 1%. He probably accepted change as just another part of life to be seen through the prism of a positive attitude.

We could all stand to live a little more like Klaus. We can stress out about the things we have no control over, or we can smile, laugh and live to ski another day.

The Princess is fired up about the spectacular start to the ski season. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmailcom.


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