Aspen Princess: Aspen will always be a safe haven for my family and me |

Aspen Princess: Aspen will always be a safe haven for my family and me

Alison Berkley Margo
Aspen Princess

Oh, Aspen.

We have known each other a long time and I have loved you all my life, at least since I visited you for the first time when I was 8 years old and knew that we were made for each other. It wasn’t until I was much older when our relationship really began, but I think I knew from the beginning that you could never be mine, at least not really.

Most of us are faced with a choice at some point when it comes to living in Aspen: You either have to fully commit to the lifestyle and live in what is essentially Manhattan real estate (not a lot of space for a lot of money) or you settle for moving a little farther away and acquiring a house, maybe some land, and a shot at building real equity. In the end, the latter option was a much healthier choice for me, sort of like marrying the nice boy instead of the bad one. I have often compared Aspen to that guy who is forever unobtainable and who will ultimately break your heart. Even though you know this, you can’t help but go back. He’s too irresistible, too exciting and too gorgeous. Like a bad drug, the high is almost worth the pain, only it’s not sustainable.

We’ve been staying downtown at a friend’s condo since we were put on pre-evacuation notice for the Lake Christine Fire. I couldn’t handle the stress of knowing that at any given moment, I may find a policeman at my door, telling me to evacuate my house. I couldn’t sleep at night worrying that I might wake up to see flames outside my window as fire burst into the Fryingpan Valley the way it did on Basalt Mountain on July 4, lighting our immediate world on fire.

As it is, smoke chokes the midvalley as helicopters swarm the skies, making it feel like a war zone. It’s 10 degrees hotter, and everyone is on edge, wondering if this version of hell that has invaded and forever scarred our little piece of paradise will ever end.

Then you come up to Aspen and you’d never know that 20 miles down the road, all hell has broken loose. The air is clearer, the weather is perfect and the rains come in the late afternoons, just as it starts to get a little too hot. Beautiful people flit around town dressed in the most current incarnation of athleisure and mirrored aviator sunglasses with bodies that look sleek and shiny and somehow manufactured, much like the luxury cars they drive, the cost of maintenance equally high. Meanwhile, I’m cruising around town in my Levi cutoffs and a ruffled cotton blouse feeling like maybe my wardrobe could use a little updating. At the very least, I need a new pair of shades. Are acetate lenses out already? And what’s with the thick-framed aviators? Everyone looks like a ’70s porn star or a stripper doing a bad cop routine.

“Oh, is there still a fire?” this dude Rob asked when I ran into him at Victoria’s. He was as perplexed by the midvalley being in a state of emergency as he was by my reasons for moving to Basalt.

His opening line was, “Did you leave town or something? I haven’t seen you in a while.”

When you tell people you moved downvalley, there is little difference in their minds between the Frying Pan and France. Once you’re out of the bubble, you’re out.

I watched as he jumped into his little convertible with his two designer dogs and drove off, feeling a mix of envy and irritation at the extent to which he is sheltered here from having to ever deal with anything so unpleasant as three weeks of living with a wildfire.

I’m constantly running into people I haven’t seen in a while, what, since I became a Basalt mom who spends her days driving around doing errands, one of which always includes spending exactly $75 at Whole Foods, no matter what it is I buy. Instead of attending at least one trendy fitness class a day and hiking Smuggler, I’m taking my baby to doctor’s appointments and spending the afternoon at the Basalt pool, dressed in a bathing suit I bought at Target to hide my expanding mid-section and the muffin top that has slowly, steadily crept up toward my rib cage (mushroom top?).

Now that I’m up here for the week, I’ve easily returned to my old routine, bee-bopping around town on my bike (now equipped with baby trailer) and squeezing in yoga classes between a hike and multiple trips to City Market.

Then there is this one simple fact: I love being in the mountains, at an elevation high enough that it gets cold at night, that you can see peaks above tree line, that the air is thin enough to make your fingers swell just a little.

Being here has been a mixed blessing. I am so grateful to our friends for providing us with this refuge, a getaway that feels a million miles away from the chaos that surrounds our home. At the same time, my heart aches for this love I have for Aspen. I start walking around daydreaming, trying to think of ways I could make millions of dollars, so I can afford a house in the West End, a tummy tuck and a personal trainer. It’s like I’m back where I was when we first moved away six years ago, trying to make sense of my decision.

But if there’s one thing that you learn when you think you could possibly lose your house is that home is the people you love and knowing they are safe. Thank you, Aspen, for providing a safe and happy place for us, at least until the end of the week. You know I will always love you.

The Princess is praying for rain. Email your love to