Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
Well folks, looks like this is it. Last call at the Lift One Saloon.Or maybe its the Gunfight at the Lift One Corral?Anyway, this very evening, Aspens City Council is scheduled to hold the final hearing and cast a final vote on the massive Lift One project (thats barring bankruptcies, lawsuits you know, the usual stuff).The council will be grappling with a pile of paperwork so massive appropriately massive for this monster project that you would think an environmental impact statement should have been required for the documents alone.And it would seem as if approval is in the air.The planning staff is recommending approval. The Historic Preservation Commission is recommending approval. The Planning & Zoning Commission is recommending approval. The Citizens Task Force is well, you get the idea.But somehow I still think I hear a faint cry of opposition, lost in the howling winds of bureaucracy.Could that faint cry be the soul of Aspen the long-lost soul of Aspen begging the council to vote no?Maybe not. Maybe its only a final burst of flatulence from whatever development juggernaut has just finished wolfing down the last remains of that long-lost soul. If so, I suggest a soothing swig of pink Pepto-Bismol. Its the ravening developers friend in times of stress, when even the greediest feels his tummy churn and is tempted to cry, in the words of the Alka-Seltzer commercial (and, yes, I know Im mixing medications), I cant believe I ate the whole thing!Oh, poor baby. Did that Fillet of Soul upset your stomach?Look, Im not suggesting that the area around the bottom of Lift 1A cant use a little spiffing up.But before you decide that this Lift One proposal (six quadrillion square feet of new construction, I believe) is the kind of spiffing up we need, take a long hard look at what weve got at the bottom of the mountain right now.I will admit to a fondness for the Little Nell, but, from there on west, does the fierce agglomeration of faux fakery warm the cockles of your heart? Does that Murderers Row of ersatz elegance make you think charming little ski village?And, while youre thinking about it, zip on over to Aspen Highlands and see how thats working out. And why not? take a spin out to Snowmass and check out Base Village. Charming? Welcoming? Hmmm.Hey, make up your own mind. (We insult. You decide.) And if you figure that what weve got is what we want then, sure, lets have a whole bunch more of it.Waiter! Another round! More of the same! Lots more of the same! (With a side of Pepto-Bismol for my flatulent friend.)But perhaps youll find yourself feeling that, as the poet said, two roads diverged in a wood and I, I didnt want to take the one lined with vast piles of brick and concrete and ludicrous lodges that have the cozy charm of Trump Towers.Is that what the poet said? Well, something like that.The point is, I just wish we could get something thats actually, you know, good instead of, Well, its the best we can get. Or, Heck, its better than it might have been. Or, Oh well. Ive seen worse.I wish we could get something thats good for Aspen: the ski town instead of something thats good for Aspen: the real estate investment opportunity. Or Aspen: the construction site.A cluster of small hotels and real lodges? And maybe enough room for the lift to actually run down to the bottom of the mountain? Hey, thatd be great. Great for a ski town, I mean.But that, weve been told, is impossible. We can put a man on the moon, but we cant put a reasonable hotel development at the base of Aspen Mountain.Houston, we have a problem.You know what I think really reveals the fatal flaw at the heart of this project? The platter pull surface lift.Sure, theres the absurdity of the name: Platter pull sounds like platypus, and a platypus is a ridiculous animal. It has a duck bill, a beaver tail and a poisonous spur on its hind foot and its the only mammal that lays eggs. So maybe its the perfect symbol for this project: misshapen, poisonous and likely to lay an egg.But beyond that (if you can get beyond that), theres the absurd reality of the thing itself.First of all, most people these days dont ride more to the point: wont ride a platter pull lift. You do remember what those are, dont you? You might know them better as Poma lifts. You tuck a disc between your legs, hang on tight and hope you dont lose your balance and subject yourself to genital mutilation.Yes, Snowmass has two of these lifts. One at the Cirque, for experts; one serving the Scooper Terrain Park. But as your base mountain access lift? Nope. Dont think so. Not gonna happen.And then theres the tricky little subject of getting a surface of snow for this surface lift. This lift is meant to serve the bottom of the mountain. It needs good snow underfoot all the way. That means snowmaking or, at the very least, lots of snow moving and snow grooming to keep it open.But that lift runs past the brand-new hotel buildings.If you think a venomous platypus is something to beware, wait till you hear the screams from the venomous hotel guests whose beauty sleep is disturbed by the sound of the snowmaking and snowcats right outside their high-priced windows.Oh yeah. Thatll be great fun.The screams of the guests. The screams of the genitally mutilated skiers. The belching of the all-devouring development juggernaut.And somewhere beyond all that, beyond all the screaming, beyond the roar of the bulldozers and snowcats, that faint, despairing wail of Aspens long-lost soul.Ignore it, folks. You need to stay alert for that venomous platypus.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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