Andy Stone: A Christmas dream come true (damn it!)
December 25, 2002
Well, we’ve got plenty of snow this year, don’t we? It snowed early and as I write this, with the Christmas season upon us, it’s snowing again. This is looking like the best Christmas we’ve had in a long time.
It’s a dream come true.
That’s great news for Aspen ? and we could certainly use some good news … and a good winter season. It’s been awhile.
First it was bad snow, then a bad economy … most recently, it’s almost felt like bad karma.
No one likes to talk about this, of course ? why would we? how could we? ? but there’s been an undercurrent of suspicion, with a touch of something like desperation, that Aspen’s lost its spirit, its panache.
Can it be, we wonder, that the winter’s still cold, but Aspen’s no longer cool?
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If you bring the topic up, everyone will have a ready explanation.
You know them all and I won’t go into any of them here.
I have a different explanation in mind.
The reason Aspen’s in a slump just might be that the people most affected by that slump ? the Skico and the local merchants ? got exactly what they wished for a few decades ago.
Their dream came true.
What they wanted and what they got was an end to those young, rowdy radicals who kept stirring up so much trouble.
I know all about it. I used to be one of those troublemakers.
Thirty years ago, like everyone else in town who was in their 20s, I hated the Skico. (Actually, back then it was the Ski Corp.)
It was the early ?70s and we were doing our level best to stir up a little revolution and destroy the “Establishment.”
We were hippies and radicals and ski bums and we were eager to live as recklessly and wildly as we could. And ? aside from the semiobligatory drugs, sex and rock ?n? roll ? skiing was just about the best expression of what we were trying to do. It was wild and reckless, with a solid edge of danger (especially the way I skied … but that’s a different story).
We skied hard, partied like crazy and, when necessary, went to work (most often with a hangover) to earn enough money to keep partying and skiing.
It felt like a form of delirious rebellion against the Establishment ? and, as I said, it was a natural part of that rebellion for us to hate the Ski Corp.
The Ski Corp., owned and run by crusty old stalwarts of the Establishment, naturally hated us right back.
The Ski Corp. executives made it very, very clear that they couldn’t believe they had to put up with all of us troublesome punks.
They were trying to make Aspen a successful, world-class resort, and we were trying to destroy everything they were trying to create.
Back in those days, the Ski Corp. needed Forest Service approval to raise the price of a lift ticket ? and every time they tried to boost the price (especially the price of a season pass), we would protest and picket and file law suits and send delegations to Washington, D.C., to stir up trouble.
Oh, they hated us, they really did.
Most of the business owners in town agreed with the Ski Corp. at least 100 percent.
Together, they all just couldn’t wait for the day when we young punks shut up, calmed down, grew up or moved out.
Well, they got their wish. They got their dream come true. We’re not all gone ? but, goodness, how we’ve changed.
I’m 50-something now, instead of 20-something. I don’t stay out late. I don’t stir up trouble. And, to tell the embarrassing truth, I actually have a pretty high opinion of the Skico.
I am, all in all, kind of dull.
That’s pretty much true of all the rest of those young radicals from 30 years ago ? no longer young and no longer radical. Ya-hoo! has turned into ho-hum.
And there’s the rub.
Back in the day, our crazy spirit was part of the attraction of Aspen.
It wasn’t that people were eager to “go to Aspen and hang out with the hippie ski bums.”
Well, actually, some people were eager for exactly that.
But, more than that, the spirit of risk and rebellion was part of the town, and it gave an edge to Aspen that people found attractive ? even if they weren’t personally ready to ski too fast, drink too much and go home with someone whose name they might not remember in the morning.
It was that craziness that made Wintersköl the kind of all-out party that people fondly remember ? and bitterly mourn. It was that craziness that gave Aspen its reputation for world-class night life … a reputation that some say we don’t really merit anymore.
And it was that craziness that faded away as we all grew up.
So the grumpy elders got their wish.
Their dream came true.
And, as so often happens, that dream come true turned out to be a bit of a nightmare ? and now what Aspen needs is a little more rebellion … and a few more crazies looking to topple the Establishment (which now just happens to be, you know, me).
[Andy Stone is editorial director at Colorado Mountain News Media.]