Let it snow, and let it be
Aspen, CO Colorado
I happened to be multitasking in the bathroom at home one day this week, paging through the 60th anniversary issue of Skiing magazine for no better reason than because it was inexplicably mailed to me, though I’m not a subscriber.
After checking to make sure I wasn’t personally featured in the “Top 10 Crashes of All Time” installment, I found myself perusing a “From the Vault” collection of old ski photographs, including a black-and-white shot of Aspen taken by the late Loey Ringquist.
The photo, snapped from a vantage point on Mill Street looking toward Aspen Mountain in winter, depicts the backs of skiers making their way up a snowy street to the slopes in the 1950s.
The back of the Wheeler Opera House dominates the foreground, as many of the buildings that exist now weren’t yet a developer’s pipe dream when the photo was taken. And, to either side of the white street, snow-covered autos are immobilized in snow banks left by a plow’s blade.
The caption reads: “Aspen, Colorado, before global warming.”
I could take that picture today. There are cars all over town encased in more snow than the now-vintage models in Ringquist’s photo. As I write this, the roofs of Aspen are blanketed in a far thicker layer of white than they are in that snapshot taken more than a half-century ago.
And town never looked better, if you ask me.
What’s with all the hand-wringing about where government should put the snow? The city has been scrambling to come up with vacant lots where it can pile up the tons of snow it has been cleaning from the streets; they can leave it piled on the curb as far as I’m concerned.
Aspen never looks more like a ski town than when there’s a center median of snow running the length of Main Street and the sidewalks, when you can find them, are no wider than the width of a snow shovel.
Isn’t this what it’s all about?
I used to live in an Aspen apartment where my parking spot was surrounded on two sides by a 3-foot retaining wall. I’d keep shoving out the space and tossing the snow onto the space on top of the wall. By midwinter, I was regularly tossing snow 6 or 7 feet up and over the rising bank. It was also my job to shovel the walks around that building. I didn’t need to go to the gym.
Some of my neighbors in that building never dug their cars out. They just waited for it to melt, like true Aspenites ” the kind of people with a length of PVC pipe attached to the back of their mountain bikes. Put the skis in the pipe and ride to the mountain.
It warmed my heart to watch people walking down the streets of Aspen this week ” the only place they could walk. Leave the car at home, stuff your feet in a pair of untied Sorels and go. Or jump on one of the buses grinding slowly through the narrowing streets of the East End.
I can’t believe the city wants to pick up and haul away nature’s transit incentive. While the brains at City Hall debate the need for paid parking in the residential neighborhoods to discourage automobile use, build bus lanes to speed up the workforce commute and subsidize the city’s free buses to encourage ridership, they could accomplish all of their goals with snow.
Don’t want people to drive to town and park in the West End? Put mountains of snow on each side of the street. Want residents to ride the bus or walk? Plow their driveways shut and leave the streets pretty much impassible. People won’t want to drive.
This already works on Highway 82. The crappier the weather, the more crowded the buses. It has been standing-room only most of this week.
Let winter really take hold of Aspen and people will ski down the street. Want proof? Take a look at Ringquist’s photo.
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