Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw |

Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

A week or so ago, I received a magazine in the mail with a cover blurb proclaiming “Aspen vs. Vail: How to decide.”

Well, maybe some people need a little help on that decision. For me, of course, it’s easy. Here I am; here I stay. So much for that.

But, of course, I immediately flipped to the magazine story to see how Colorado’s two premier resorts stacked up. I was particularly interested in seeing what type of sophisticated rating system they were going to use to help readers decide where to spend their precious vacation dollars.

Sadly, I have to report that the article was stunningly worthless. (And it must be noted that this was in a major national travel magazine. One of the top guns in the industry.)

Am I being unfair? Too fussy? Well, you decide.

The article was a single page – so, right off the bat, we’re not talking any kind of in-depth treatment. In fact, it was essentially a list, with comparisons of, for example, each town’s “Hot Hotel” and “Coveted Table.”

Now perhaps that could be a reasonable approach – although pretty skimpy, at best, as a useful guide for people trying to decide how best to invest many thousands of dollars.

Let’s take a look. Under “Hot Hotel” for Aspen, their choice was the St. Regis, which they described as “fresh off a redesign that gives the modern rooms a touch of Gilded Age opulence.”

And over in Vail they had the Four Seasons, “with its claw-foot tubs and 75-foot heated outdoor pool … the crown jewel” of Vail’s village redevelopment.

And that, aside from prices (not cheap), was almost all they had to say.

So that’s it: St. Regis or Four Seasons. Two perfectly nice, perfectly standard, perfectly expensive modern-day luxury hotels. Nothing about either one, I suspect, that really reflects the towns in which they are located.

What’s to choose? Gilded Age opulence or claw-footed tubs.

Is that any help at all?

Is that really savvy inside info?

Do you feel enlightened?

Under “Coveted Table,” for Aspen they listed Cache Cache, not a bad choice, but then they added the note that “townies are flocking to casual newcomer Justice Snow’s.”

Well, speaking for us “townies” (when did we become “townies”? I never got that memo), I have to point out that that “casual newcomer” had not even opened for business when I received the magazine in the mail.

So how the heck do they get the nerve to declare that anyone – townies or otherwise – is “flocking” there?

It’s great for the restaurant. But it’s not any kind of helpful information for the readers. Reviewing a restaurant you haven’t eaten at – that no one’s eaten at – is simply dishonest. (And I really do hope that Justice Snow’s is a great restaurant and that people “flock” there.)

Meanwhile over in Vail, the article insists that the “coveted table” is at Elway’s, a steakhouse that’s an offshoot of a Cherry Creek establishment.

Well, maybe. But, again, given that Elway’s just barely got open in time for this ski season, it’s hard to know how the magazine could declare that it’s “giving competition to the area’s other hot spots.”

I could go on, but you get the idea. There is nothing in the article to provide any helpful guidance to someone trying to decide where to go on a ski vacation.

There is a promise at the start that “whether it’s a family friendly retreat or party central you’re looking for” this article will help you “decide between Aspen and Vail.” But there is not a single mention of anything that even hints about “party central” or “family friendly.” Not the least little clue. If you don’t already know, this article’s no help at all.

Still, the cherry on this particular hot sludge sundae is the final category, “Celebrity Sightings.”

Now there’s some guidance that really matters.

OK, I suppose there might be some people who make their vacation plans based on the celebrities they think they might – if God smiles upon them – actually see in the flesh at their chosen destination resort.

But – if God smiles upon the rest of us – those people will not show up here in Aspen.

I know I’m sounding like a particularly cranky kind of “townie,” but the fact is that Aspen and Vail are two very different ski towns. And if someone wanted to, they could write a pretty good article comparing the two. You know, something that might actually help people decide where to go on vacation.

One might, for example, talk about the ski mountains. Gosh, what an idea! There’s a lot to consider – from variety of terrain, to snow conditions, to lifts (and lift lines).

And there’s a lot to be said about the ambiance, the spirit of the two towns. (I really want to jump in with my own, highly prejudiced opinions on that topic – but I’m going to restrain myself.)

But this article, as presented, was exactly as pointless as the annual magazine “rankings” of ski areas.

I know, fools that we are, we follow those rankings as if they mean something.

But really, if one year Vail is ranked ahead of Aspen and the next year Aspen is ranked ahead of Vail and the year after that Deer Valley or Elk Abattoir comes out on top, does it mean anything?

No. It means nothing. (To the marketing departments, sure. But to skiers? Zip.)

It’s all as pointless as deciding between Aspen and Vail based on “Gilded Age opulence” vs. “claw-foot bathtubs.”

I suppose we should be flattered. They put “Aspen” and “Vail” on the cover to attract attention – the same way other magazines put half-naked celebrities on their covers.

We’re a kind of travel porn.

Now that I think of it that way, it makes me quietly proud.

I always wanted to be a porn star.