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Aspen is overrated

Roger Marolt

Aspen, Colorado is the most overrated place in the world.It is a conclusion that is easier to come to than any of us want to admit. I couldn’t see it before because I was too busy convincing myself, my friends, my neighbors and every distant relative that my investment here is worthwhile.I feel so stupid.It came to me recently in a headline: Real Estate Sales on Pace to Shatter All-time Record. This says it all. More people are selling property here than ever before. Many brokers and even some people who understand economics are calling it a frenzied market. Disenchantment reigns!Sure, a few see it as a positive sign that so many new people want to move here. But, lest you be one of those so naïve, ask yourself this: Who knows more about the disappointment in attempting to call Aspen home than the sellers who have tried and failed or, the starry-eyed dreamers who are buying now based solely on what they have experienced on a two-week Christmas vacation? It also occurred to me that it is a poor omen that citizens commonly make a boast of having survived here for 10 years. You see it written in letters to the local papers all the time. Seniority is claimed after spending nary a decade in this den of disillusionment. Throughout the suburbs of cities in other parts of the country, that’s not enough time to get to know the next-door neighbors!Fortunately, there are many here who recognize the consequences of our over-hyped status and are working hard to remedy the situation.Our own city government has made it a priority to deal with this crisis of empty promises made. Meetings drag on for hours over how to continually make over the town to better meet the expectations of residents and visitors. In the current year alone over $125 million will be spent to this end.This amounts to the local government expending about $20,000 for every man, woman, and child that it governs. It is more than the average citizen’s annual salary in most other more contented towns of similar size.Yet, the angst of our population continues. One more trail built, one more park groomed, one more day gone and the hope for Nirvana remains unfettered.But, thankfully, government is not alone in its efforts to perfect our town. It is the rare person who moves here today expecting to do nothing but enjoy himself. As with country music in our bars and softball games in downtown parks, the days of carefree, or more correctly, careless living have passed.Through an unofficial yet powerful social awareness program, each new citizen seems to implicitly understand that he should make every effort to begin changing things nearly as soon as he arrives, if not before. Despite uncountable committees and organizations already formed to make this an ideal place, more are needed every day.However, despite our best efforts, it remains a constancy of this town that multigeneration families are so rare as to be a veritable freak show; homes are acquired with an eye toward resale potential rather than livability; and a lifetime membership in anything labeled with the “A” name is a poor investment.Countless numbers have come and desperately worked to make this place comfortable, convenient, and hospitable. We even have a Starbucks, yet people still become disenchanted. The duration of citizenship is now shorter than ever. The rhythmic churning of real estate continues – in this season, out the next. We are not pleasing people!Rather than panic, we should continue creating an illusion of hope, happiness and euphoric living. It has served us well thus far. Unfulfilled dreams are the fuel for change; greater disappointment leads to more rapid improvement. With a constant flow of new citizens eager to pitch in, eventually we may live up to the expectations that we create.Developers are helping with this. The trend of converting cozy condominiums into sanitary timeshares is an effort to trick a different sort of people with their unique ideas into coming here under the pretense of offering an ownership stake in this town without community. Some say this deceit is distasteful. I say, let every person contribute wherever his strength lies.Like an old uncle with bad gas, Aspen has become a place that most people can only stand to be around for short periods of time. It’s charming for a little while, but nobody wants to take a deep breath and settle in. If so, what’s wrong with letting folks come visit a couple of weeks every year so they can rearrange the living room?Discouragingly though, the evidence also indicates that it may be the very blue skies, fresh water, clean air and postcard scenery that leave Aspenites with a discontented feeling. During the off seasons, when most of the shops and restaurants are closed, we are forced to contemplate the raw nature that surrounds us. It is then that we find ourselves uncomfortable standing before the stark nakedness of the mountains and we eagerly excuse ourselves from the premises. We must create diversions during those times of year to distract our gaze.Unless we strive to cover this major defect, the town will continue to empty when the bars close for remodeling each spring and fall, and all that is left to slake our thirst is meager suckling at the cold breast of Mother Nature. The satisfaction is not equal to the hype that we have perpetuated to the world, and to each other.Yes, progress will happen naturally, but we can’t afford to sit around and wait for the slow, methodical pace at which it normally comes. We have to work hard to bring the future here as quickly as possible! If we are not diligent in doing everything within our power to transform this place to meet our expectations, this town could end up changing us.Imagine that!Roger Marolt has met many people in Aspen over the years who tell him change is inevitable. Explain it again at roger@maroltllp.com


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