Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw |

Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

As a wise friend observed the other day, “Aspen doesn’t have problems. Aspen has issues.”

Egypt has problems. Somalia has problems. Detroit has problems. In those places, desperate people fight violent battles for their turf – or their lives. Here in Aspen, privileged people battle over … what?

Really, what do we fight over? Over whether to replace an aging conference center with a $20 million mansion? Whether ski instructors are paid enough? Whether to ban plastic grocery bags?

I’m not saying these aren’t subjects worth caring about. Some of them are certainly right up there on the global concern list with the burning question of whether Shaun White’s ski pants are too tight. (Really. That’s a hot topic of public debate … or so they tell me.)

I’m just saying, these are not problems. They’re issues – something to worry about when you don’t have anything to worry about.

Remember the bitter fight over instant-runoff elections? Certainly, elections matter. And of course getting the votes counted correctly matters. But no one ever claimed there had been a problem with any of that. Instead, we had a long-running heated argument about possible flaws, things that could have gone wrong, but didn’t. It was an argument based on almost incomprehensible mathematics – a battle carried on for the most part by people who had no real idea what they were talking about.

They were just talking to hear their own voices. A reality check, to make sure they were alive. Just like someone who thinks he’s been bitten by a vampire might keep checking the mirror, to be sure he still has a reflection.

We might as well have been fighting about interpreting ancient Phoenician cuneiform tablets. (“Proto-Canaanite? You fool! That’s Ugaritic! Were you raised by wolves?”)

People in a desperate battle will fight with whatever comes to hand – people in Aspen, desperate for a battle, will fight over whatever comes to mind.

Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” Here in Aspen, we say, “I yammer, therefore I am.” (And Popeye says, “I yam what I yam.”)

So … the Aspen City Council wants to ban grocery bags?

Given some of the weird stuff they’ve done recently, you’d think the council would want to be sure there are always plenty of bags around – to put over their heads as a disguise when they go out in public.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that plastic bags are generally bad things – coming and going. They’re made out of petroleum and they turn into semi-permanent trash.

But, still, I love imagining our average Aspen visitor being told when he finishes shopping at City Market that he’s going to have to carry his $675 worth of groceries back to his thousand-dollar-a-night condo in his bare hands.

So … we don’t want to see the Given Institute disappear, crushed by greed, bulldozers, rampant ego, whatever.

Don’t get me wrong. Like everyone else, I think the Given is a wonderful amenity for the town. And, like everyone else, I go there regularly, like clockwork. Once a decade.

Well, I suppose the city could, you know, buy the property. I do believe that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.

Yes, I know, when Elizabeth Paepcke donated the Given to the University of Colorado, she never imagined they’d eventually sell it off to the highest bidder for a mansion.

But that’s what you get for trusting a university.

Besides, nothing else about Aspen has worked out the way the Paepckes thought it would. So what’s one more brutal disappointment?

So … rookie ski instructors aren’t paid enough?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure they’re not. And I wish they were. You know what else? Welcome to the club.

A lot of people around here aren’t paid enough – and most of them would gladly switch jobs with ski instructors. They’d rather be underpaid for teaching people to ski (even teaching whiny, spoiled, annoying people to ski) than be underpaid for, you know, collecting garbage.

And the Skico instructor who was fired for the simple, innocent act of slipping anti-Skico fliers under the doors of guest rooms at a Skico hotel? Well, I do admire his courage, but I have to question his intelligence. I have to question his aggrieved outrage. And I have to question what he really thought was going to happen.

Here’s a general rule: You can call your boss a dirt bag. You can call your boss a greedy dirt bag. You can track down as many of your boss’s customers as possible and tell all of them that your boss is a greedy dirt bag. But there’s a catch: You can’t expect to keep your job after you do that.

To put it in terms more appropriate to an Aspen debate: You can ski the Ridge of Bell blindfolded, with your hands tied behind your back. You just can’t expect to live through it.

And … finally, just because I brought this up way back at the beginning, you think Shaun White’s ski pants are too tight?

Well, since I’m almost out of room, I’ll just note that, as he won his fourth straight X Games superpipe gold medal, Mr. White (once known as the Flying Tomato, but now far too hip for that) was wearing what were described as “gripper pants.”

And, according to the TV commentators, a lot of people were outraged at his fashion choice.

Being a clueless old guy, I had to Google “gripper pants” and I found this description from a company that makes them: “[The] Gripper Fit has a low rise, a slight flare at the bottom, and it hugs your thighs, knees, and legs without putting your nuts in a vice grip.”

Now I’m going to guess that they probably meant “vise grip,” rather than “vice grip.”

But, then again, given what’s being gripped, maybe “vice” is the proper term.

But, as I was saying, that would be an issue.

Not a problem.

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