Here’s to Colorado, Princess
September 6, 2006
In Alison Berkley’s Aug. 31 Steamboat-skewering column (“Returning to reality – sort of”), she said the Roaring Fork “kicks the Yampa’s ass.” She claimed the Bikram yoga in Steamboat is for pussies and so, too, are the mountain bike trails. She said she doesn’t feel comfortable in her fancy shoes in Steamboat – perhaps because her stiletto heels keep falling into the cracks in the creaky wooden sidewalks. Carrying her Louis Vuitton purse doesn’t get her the street creed it should, and she didn’t hit if off with the “mountain chicks.”As a twice-yearly visitor to Colorado for almost 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Steamboat and enough in Aspen to get a flavor for the place. Alison, I’d like to offer my own observations since I was in Steamboat recently, following my visit to Aspen the week before.In Steamboat, the people are almost unfailingly friendly – whether you encounter them on the street, in one of the lame restaurants you griped about or on one of the pathetic mountain bike trails you bemoaned. In Aspen, the people seem generally more aloof. If I had a nickel for every time a cyclist ignored my waves in Aspen, I could afford a condo there. There are delightful exceptions to that rule, but cool seems to rule in Aspen.The streets in Steamboat aren’t lined with gold like they are in Aspen. Which means many people who work there can still afford to live in town. I dare say most of the service sector employees who serve Aspenites their sushi drive 60 miles-plus to and from a reasonably affordable place to bunk down each night.Steamboat is becoming overdeveloped too, but for crying out loud: If you’re not squeezing every last penny out of the Roaring Forks Valley’s natural riches in Aspen, you just don’t count. Overheard at lunch in Aspen – “you just have to know how many lawyers to bring to city council to intimidate the living s–t out of those people and get what you want for your project.” This comment was uttered by a spindly legged gentleman in a Willier bike jersey. His tan looked more golf than Guerciotti. I didn’t get the impression the bike leaning on the wall behind him had a lot of miles on it. But his Gulfstream probably did, since he said he imports many of his lawyers from New York.It’s true you’re more likely to run into Nelson Charmichael or Billy Kidd in Steamboat than Don Johnson or Goldie Hawn, but, so what? Nelson and Billy will actually talk to you, and ski with your kids.You’ll encounter ranchers in Steamboat – not dude ranchers or Houston posers staggering under the weight of their twenty gallon hats. I’m talking about ranchers with actual cow crap and sheep crap on their actual cowboy boots.The comment about Steamboat mountain biking … that was a beauty. Trust me on this, Al, you can get your lungs burned and your legs fried in Steamboat on more killer trails than there are Hummers in Aspen. Next time you ask a Steamboat mountain chick for trail suggestions, don’t do it in your $400 Manolos. Leave your Louis Vuitton at Dad’s phat condo. Otherwise, said mountain chick might assume you’re looking for a ride for, uh, pussies.Aspen has great mountain biking, too, of course. And Aspen’s road riding is better than Steamboat’s. Maroon Bells – wow. Castle Creek – what a great ride to have right out your back door. Independence Pass – ouch.Who is this Bernadette you speak of in your article? Why do you need her to “fit into your size 26 jeans?” Most of the women – and men – in Steamboat seem to find plenty of inspiration for recreation by simply walking, running, riding or skiing out their back doors. You don’t need no stinking Bernadette in Steamboat. Instead, go see Jon Cariveau at Moots or Kent Eriksen at Eriksen Cycles. They’ll outfit you with handcrafted titanium bicycles so tasty you’ll want to ride every day – until the snow falls to depths that Aspen cannot touch. Then you’ll want to ski everyday. I bet the generally high cost of food in Aspen has more to do with your jeans size than your exercise regimen. It’s true that Steamboat lacks Aspen’s dramatic peaks, but it has many natural treasures of its own. The nearby Flat Tops are spectacular for their high altitude … flatness. No kidding. Try Devil’s Causeway some day, an absolutely stunning Flat Tops hike or backpacking excursion that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.Oh, another Aspen positive: Woody Creek. And George Stranahan. Cool rules in GOOD ways in the Roaring Fork Valley, too.At the end of the day, Aspen and Steamboat are Rocky Mountain jewels gracefully sitting beside their respective rivers like pearls on shimmering necklaces, fashioned from the same hand, but endowed with fascinatingly different personalities and treasures of their own. One is no less beautiful to its denizens for its lack of Hollywood glamor – and outrageous expense – than the other. I can’t help but think: As much as I like Aspen, and I do like Aspen very much, I would have LOVED it back in the days when it was more like Steamboat.When you’re preparing to write your next Valley vs. Valley article, it might be useful to remember, one man’s Aspen is another man’s Steamboat. And some of us actually see virtue in both. Here’s to Ajax. Here’s to Werner. Here’s to Colorado. Jay Graham lives in Rockford, Ill. “Soapbox” runs weekly on the Sunday opinion page as 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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