Barry Smith: Let’s give them something to complain about | AspenTimes.com

Barry Smith: Let’s give them something to complain about

Inconvenience, Babe. That’s where the tourist dollar is.

No, hear me out.

For too long we’ve put our focus on tourist convenience ? courtesy vans, information booths, trail maps, direct flights, snowboard lessons, etc., … and what do we get? Empty beds during supposedly peak times.

So isn’t it time we start asking ourselves why? Why go out of our way to make things easy for visitors when what they really want is something to complain about? If we concentrate on making things as difficult as possible for the people who vacation here, they will surely flock here in increasingly larger droves.

I think it’s time we started swinging the other way.

What if planes were no longer allowed to land in Aspen, and Highway 82 was demolished just this side of Glenwood, making a skiing vacation in Aspen possible only via a treacherous traverse of Independence Pass in the dead of winter? Normal reasoning would say that no one would bother to come here anymore. But I tend to think that, with the proper advertising campaign, we’d see a real spike in visitor numbers.

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“Visit Aspen The Old-Fashioned Way! Five days and nights in a covered wagon through deadly avalanche territory where temperatures often plummet below zero! Our inexperienced guides wear authentic cowboy hats and are prone to cannibalism! Special group rates not available! Children under 5 still have to pay full price! So exciting there’s an exclamation mark at the end of each sentence!”

I dare say that the phones would be ringing off the hook, which wouldn’t really matter, because, in keeping with our inconvenience plan, they would more or less go unanswered.

Survivors of this trek would have a lifetime of stories to tell, including exciting wildlife encounters and multiple complaints of numb digits due to hypothermia. Break out the slide projector.

Once they got here, the tourists would discover a refreshing pocket of inconvenience in an otherwise pandering world.

Their hotel reservations, made months earlier, would be invalid, and they would be forced to spend their entire vacation camped out in a cardboard box (not included) in Triangle Park. Their rental car would not have a heater. Their rented ski boots would be two sizes too small. The lift lines would wind through town ? assuming the lifts were even running that day. Restaurant service would be appallingly slow, the prices ridiculously high. If they wanted to save money and buy their own food, the only place would be the Neo-7-Eleven, open 24 minutes a day, usually with a sign on the door that reads, “Back in half an hour.”

And they would love every minute of it. They would send post cards ? which would never arrive ? to relatives. They would make phone calls ? which would never get through ? to jealous friends. They would wander the town spending fortunes on clothes that don’t fit, buying tickets for big-name entertainment acts that never take the stage, consuming drinks that aren’t even close to what they ordered.

Then, assuming they made it back across the pass alive when their vacation sadly came to an end, they would delight their friends back home with tales of hardship and woe.

“And then, after waiting in the cold for an hour, we finally got a table.”

“How was the food?”

“Well, that’s the best part. The food never came! But we still had to pay for it. They even added a 25 percent gratuity to our bill.”

“Wow …”

“Then it turns out that they only take cash … and only for the exact amount. So here I am trying to count out exact change, and the waiter is getting impatient because I’m taking too long. I try to explain that I had limited feeling in my fingers since the trip over the pass, but he just didn’t seem to care. He threw a drink in my face!”

“Oh my God! That settles it … we’re going there next year.”

[Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Monday and Thursday. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com]

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