Building over Aspen’s past |

Building over Aspen’s past

I first skied in Aspen 41 years ago and have been coming back off and on ever since. What I find there disappoints me. So much of the character that was Aspen is gone. It appears that little attempt has been made to preserve the institutions that made Aspen unique. In a word, it appears to have been “Vailarized.”On the mountain, the old Roundhouse restaurant is gone. Perhaps it was too small to support the influx of skiers and boarders. And it was an older frame structure that perhaps was difficult to expand on. The replacement seems rather ordinary, compared to other on-the-mountain structures at Keystone and elsewhere. Sam’s Knob at Snowmass is gone. It was a relatively new structure and the powers that be must have thought it was time for it to go too. At least Bonnie’s on Aspen Mountain is still there.But in town is where the greatest revival has taken place. The old Copper Kettle and Tippler Inn are gone, what with the unique structural design and relaxed atmosphere. Maybe the North of Nell building was in part to blame for it’s demise. To drink a beer and listen to the Walt Smith trio at the Tippler was a real treat for skiers coming down Little Nell at the end of the day. And to be treated to wine and fine food with the waterfall in the Copper Kettle will long be remembered, but never again repeated.I miss what was called, I think, the Little Bavaria, where the polka band would play for the ski school parties on Thursday night and a baby grand piano rested on the other side of the room for someone to sit and plunk out Debussy or Mozart. In its place now sits Boogies Diner.The Skier’s Chalet offered a pleasant Swiss atmosphere with part of the first Aspen old-time chair lift still setting outside. They featured reasonable prices, excellent quality and relaxed music set in a classical mode.Guido’s Swiss Inn, Ute City Bank, both gone. The Golden Horn now features sushi. The Red Onion and Hotel Jerome are set to be revisited with plans that will probably lead to their demise as destinations as had been known.It appears the very rich have come into Aspen and converted it into something that is foreign to it’s heritage as a silver mining town of the 1880s and 1890s and an early ski destination area in the 1940s. Perhaps Aspen resisted the impulse to modernize into the 1970s. But since then the town has changed. There used to be expensive and inexpensive restaurants in town. Now they are mostly the former, what with the demise of the Spaghetti Works, Soup Kitchen, etc.At least the Crystal Palace still exists, thanks to Mead Metcalf and his staff. And they have persisted, while performing in an old building of relatively little structural beauty, because they are an institution in Aspen.In Europe, the order is to build and preserve for future generations. In Aspen it is to build for today and rebuild again tomorrow, a little like Vail, preserving little of its storied past. Perhaps this lack of preservation that once made Aspen unique is what is leading people away from the area today.And there appears no inclination to promote the features that made Aspen famous. No effort to guide people to Ashcroft and Stuart Mace’s restaurant and dog teams there. There is little in the book stores about the places mentioned in this letter. There are no tapes of the Walt Smith trio on sale that I could find.I feel sorry for the people who come to Aspen for the first time without being able to experience first hand the identity to it’s past. On the other hand, I feel very fortunate to have been a part of an earlier Aspen with wonderful memories.I know it’s easy to be critical. I guess I’m just an old fuddy duddy who doesn’t like to see change. On the contrary, I am for change, but not if it means the demise of what has been the spirit and character of the town. Oh well! The skiing is still great.Wayne Simpson is a resident of Lincoln, Neb. Editor’s note: Soapbox runs weekly on the Sunday opinion page. This spot is a forum for valley residents to comment on local topics. If you’d like to contribute, contact Naomi Havlen at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, ext. 17624 or e-mail

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