Aspen Princess: Sometimes a little self-reflection is good for the soul

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

It has taken me most of life to stop trying to be something I’m not and to accept myself for who I truly am.

The one thing, the only thing that has always come naturally to me is writing. That’s always been true — until recently.

In the past few months I’ve received some negative feedback, passed along to me from my editor. It’s rare that someone will actually tell me to my face when they dislike my writing. It happens occasionally, and when it does, I have always taken it in stride, as part of the job. I always thank the person for taking the time to read my column and sit down and write me an email. That’s success in my book.

I’ll admit that this time, I’m not taking the constructive criticism so well. It’s starting to block the channel I’ve always turned to when I sit down to write. My head is filled with static, interference and fear.

“Maybe I’m too happy to be an artist,” I told a concerned friend on the phone yesterday.

“If you’re going to go out, you better do it in a ball of flames,” he said, and made some Game of Thrones reference that totally went over my head.

Some of the feedback that’s been passed along is “Why does she write a column about Aspen when she lives in Basalt?” and “What is the point of this column? All she does is write about ME, ME, ME.”

Here is what I am not.

I am not a socialite who never misses an annual Aspen event or whose name is on the guest list of every cool party. I don’t maintain a social calendar or coordinate the perfect outfit or pose for photos that will run in the back pages of the local glossy magazines. These days, when I’m invited to something, I’m almost amused that people think I live in a world where consuming alcohol or staying up past 10 is even an option. They don’t understand that the rhythm of my life means we are all happily settled on the couch in front of the TV in one big cuddle puddle by 8 p.m.: me, toddler, husband and the pugs I’m not supposed to write about. And that is how I like it.

I am not a hardcore athlete who manages to organize her life in such a way that she has time to devote to raising her heart rate above 140 for several hours at a time. Women who do this with young children mystify me. I get self-care, I understand the need to continue to be who you are after you have kids, and how important it is to take care of yourself. My own mantra since Levi was born has been, “Happy healthy mommy, happy healthy baby.” It’s how I abstain from nibbling on the kid snacks I happen to love, how I manage to pull off a liquid cleanse in the midst of preparing hearty meals for my family and how I justify the cost of my own grooming, which isn’t cheap. But I will never rise to the standards set by Aspenites who always want to go farther, longer, faster and lighter. They are a different species to me. They are beautiful, exotic creatures and I revere them, but I will never be one of them.

I am not a hardcore ski/snowboard bum who feels compelled to count how many days I hit the mountain each year (I get it that the app keeps track for you these days). I don’t approach my recreation with such alacrity that it’s almost a full-time job, a requirement, or an obligation. You will never see me in the Ajax gondola line on a powder day or at Bonnie’s eating pancakes with the cool girls who skin up before the lifts start running, before the sun has risen over the ridgeline in what I imagine is a cold, dark, early-morning sky. I’ll roll up to Highlands after noon when parking is free, and I might get lucky on a rope drop in the Bowl where fresh tracks can be found anytime, anywhere, at the whim of the ski patroller who is there to let it happen. It is possible to catch those sweet, pristine turns quite often, especially in the late afternoon on a storm day when the powder hounds are long gone.

I suppose I am not technically an Aspenite because I have lived in Basalt for seven years now and I love it here. I have never understood the “us versus them” mentality sometimes exhibited by people who are either too proud to go past the roundabout or who think Carbondale is some kind of Chosen Land. I have always believed we are a valley-wide community. Who hasn’t been to Mountain Fair?

And while I am a princess in the sense that I have been born into privilege (relatively speaking; my dad, a humble psychiatrist, probably earned less than 1% of a billion dollars in his lifetime), that I have been coddled and sheltered by my parents most my life and have rarely been denied something that I really want, I am just a regular mountain mamma who rarely wears makeup and is happier in flip flops and one of those dresses with a built-in bra.

What I am is someone who is not afraid to share small, honest insights into everyday life that are relatable. I am someone who can articulate what you sometimes find yourself thinking but have not had the courage or occasion to say out loud. I am someone who tries to capture some tiny observation about this beautiful mountain life we all have in common in a way that brings a smile to your face, a chuckle to your lips, or a tear to your eye.

That’s what’s sustained me for the past 17 years. I hope it’s good enough for you.

The Princess loves you. Email your thoughts to


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