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Aspen’s allure lost in translation

Janet Urquhart

Here in the “ultrasmart American station of ski” that is Aspen, I was interviewed a few months back by an East Coast-based writer for a French news magazine.She was looking for deep background; I was captivated by her accent.As it turns out, I’m not sure the allure of Aspen, at least from the French perspective, translates well. Thanks to three useless semesters of college French 20-plus years ago, I have no idea what French readers gleaned from her visit here, chronicled in an article that finally appeared in its online pages a week or so ago. All I know is a website that offered free online translations (only 1,000 words at a time, please) proffered a version that was both hilarious and chafingly accurate. Some excerpts:”For fifty years, the ‘Megève of the Rockies’ [Megève is a French ski resort], stuck in 2,400 meters, is the date [le rendezvous] of rich Americans and shows one of the strongest specific gravity of multimillionaires in the square meter of the planet.””In Christmas and certain weekends, a spout takes off or lands every six minutes with its freight of stars, captains of industry, politicians and athletes who come to ski, to pedal or to fish to the fly.” (For some reason, “jet” was consistently translated into “spout.”)”Among the spout-jet [jet set], there are the stars of Hollywood, of course: Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, Jack Nicholson, happy owner of a green wooden home spinach, and Kevin Costner, which became established on a huge parcel next to the river to tease the gudgeon.””Aspen resembles a holiday camp especially for big bosses. All Dow Jones is on Red Mountain, the north mountainside with its spectacular eyesights there.””The valley is a paradise of slip it. Four stations within some kilometers – Aspen, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass – more than 400 kilometers of lanes, 42 ski lifts, a sun 365 days a year and a dusty of dream, nicknamed ‘champagne.’ ” (La glisse produced “slip it,” as in sliding, or skiing, I presume.)”As every morning, they achieve without standing in a queue in eggs which transport you at the top of Aspen Mountain.””The extremely coveted club [Aspen Mountain Club] gives an access to Internet, a pair of slippers, and especially – invaluable privilege – a lunch far from the cacophony of the snack bar of inside!””On the streets, the multimillionaires remain surprisingly invisible … Instantly having taken down spout, many people take refuge in their eagle’s nest. The others, neither the seen nor known, swap the costume Armani for blue jeans and polo. The true dandies are the dogs decked out in waistcoats Burberry or Vuitton and of small boots which hold their cushions in heat.””In the terrace of Ajax Tavern, a restaurant at the foot of the lanes where the price of the salad gives the evil of mountains.”At the Aspen Institute: ” … meet for informal exchanges all the thinking heads of the planet.””A paradise for the rich men, surely, but for the others? Oh well, as all, Aspeniens draw the demon by the tail and play thirty-six jobs: monitor of ski in the daytime, bartender in the evening … .”Janet Urquhart is a happy Aspenien when there’s no queue for an egg up the mountain. Her e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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