It’s getting hotter than Vail around these parts
Go to Vail!That’s just what I tell folks around here who want to install AstroTurf in the parks, erect trendy base villages, create skating rinks with theme shops at midmountain and expand the airport to allow 767s to service the valley.Why bother with it here? They already have all that stuff there. Go enjoy all of these amenities in the infernal valley to our north. You can get about twice as much house for your money there, to boot!But be careful what you wish for – Vail is a very hot place.It tempts many lost souls. Every ski publication poll shows that it is eternally more popular with the tourists than are we.I, for one, don’t care. I’ve earned my place here, in heaven.I make this confession because I have faith that most of you agree that Aspen is a far superior place to live than Vail. I can’t otherwise explain why you would be here, singing in this more pricey choir loft. For the devil I can’t figure out why things have changed so much here over the years that some now advocate trying to succeed like Vail. Growing up in Aspen, we despised that place. There was no history there. It was phony and contrived. It had an interstate highway running right through it. It was a truck stop with a ski area that looked like Disneyland. It wasn’t a real town.Nothing has changed for me. I still get the willies when I drive through it. Vail was someone’s inspiration to suck a buck from a vacationer’s money belt right through a ski parka. Congratulations, it worked! From its inception as a far-off cash register ring in a developer’s ear to the faux-Swiss village that it is today, it has become the icon of wintertime tourist traps. I simply can’t comprehend the notion that we have to become more like Beaver Creek, Hades, Whistler or Vail to succeed. I even hear this mantra from some who claim to be Aspen locals. Rest assured though, anyone with even a hint of I-70 ski area corridor envy is not a true Aspenite. But let’s allow that we have to make a living here. There are those who will tell you that we need all of these “improvements” for economic vitality. This is true for tourist traps. It is not true for great places to live.Look at the formula that has created more instant millionaires here than the Readers Digest Sweepstakes in Iowa. There is no more of a surefire way to make money than owning residential real estate in Aspen. I don’t care if it’s a Red Mountain palace or Hunter Creek deed-restricted studio, hold it long enough and you are going to do all right financially.And, as long as people own valuable real estate, they are going to spend money locally to maintain their lifestyles. So even those who don’t own real estate will do well too. The key here is residential real estate. Commercial real estate is fine, but it has fiscal limits. We are starting to recognize that in complaints from merchants about high rents. But, for homes, the sky is the limit in great places to live. People will seemingly pay anything for a slice of paradise. On the other hand, you don’t have to look very hard to see the results of all of the “improvements” that other ski “towns” have made. Vail has never met ambiance that it couldn’t manufacture, while Aspen hasn’t “kept up.” How has that played out economically? Their skier-day numbers have soared. Our real estate values have soared. Judging by the average home values here and there, Aspen is still about twice as desirable a place to live. So why are folks willing to pay such a huge premium to live here?It’s so simple that it’s hard to imagine that even people with only artificial intelligence don’t get it. It’s because we are not like those other areas. Aspen is a better place to live!Also, look at the job situation with a little perspective. They have all of the improvements and modernization that we don’t. They have huge skier numbers. They have everything the experts say will create an economic boon here, right? Well, gaze across the valleys at someone over there with a similar job to yours. Easier yet, just compare the average worker bee in Pitkin County to the average honey-sucking, cross-pollinator in Eagle County. Are they making more money and living a better life than you because of all that crap? No way in Vail!They say money is the root of all evil. Just look at the developers who would risk all we have here for the prospect of making a few extra bucks. I believe that there’s a special place in Vail for people like that. If you sell your soul to the devil, there is no looking back.So it boils down to this – Vail is a more popular place for tourists to visit, but Aspen is a better place for you and me to live. Why do we want to jeopardize fouling up this Promised Land?They can never become what we are – a bona fide town with soul and a thriving economy. Unfortunately, we can become what they are. If we get focused on imitating them, guess what? We’ll succeed! In the process, I’m afraid we may lose everything special about this place we love so dearly. Remember, Vail is forever.So the next time someone starts selling you on all of the “improvements” we need around here, tell them to go straight to Vail. It’s a damned good place. Roger Marolt hopes that it never gets hotter than Vail around here. Send your damned comments to email@example.com
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Tuesday morning at Bone’s Barber Shop in Basalt, the seating appropriately spaced, the congenial ambiance welcoming as always, and the conversations all over the place. It was cold outside and some overflow people were waiting…