New gondola cabins foster interaction
December 7, 2006
The new gondola cabins have changed the dynamics of Aspen Mountain, just not in the way I’d hoped.While I’m liking the more ample leg room in the new buckets and the fact that it’s no longer necessary to duck in through the door – if you’re my height – I was hoping for heated seats and coffee cup holders. No such luck.Gone are the little porthole windows, front and back, that one could open and give a listen to a skier’s edge cutting the snow below. In the old gondola buckets, you’d know if the slopes were icy long before your first run. The new cabins have larger panels that open next to the ceiling, but I haven’t seen one cracked open yet.I also notice the new cabins each feature a plaque detailing some historical tidbit. Nice, but I’d opt for prominent display of a No Cell Phone Use placard instead. Unfortunately, the latter is not in evidence in the cubicles.Still, I have yet to experience a ride up in one of the new cabins with five other people who are all talking on their cell phones. I envision a cacophony akin to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during heavy trading: “Whoa, someone just biffed on Bell. BELL. I said BELL, not sell.”OK, there will clearly be drawbacks to facing my fellow passengers, but I was hoping the inward-facing seats would force passengers to look at each other instead of the terrain below. It’s not that I have any particular desire to make small talk with strangers, but here’s the thing: I don’t ski lift lines and I especially don’t ski below the gondola. I’ve avoided the Shoulder of Bell religiously out of fear I’d biff big time right below buckets full of laughing onlookers. I’ll take Spar Gulch to avoid widely witnessed embarrassment in Copper Bowl.I learned to avoid skiing lift lines years ago, when I joined a trio of fellow riders on the Loge Peak chair in laughing our asses off when a would-be showoff took a particularly spectacular fall right in front of us. It was definitely a mental-note moment.Still, I was thinking the new cabins, with the reoriented seating, might ease my trepidation. As it turns out, though, the buckets are practically all glass. The views from inside are far too far-reaching for me to risk the bumps of Bell.In fact, with floor-to-ceiling Plexiglas essentially encircling the cabins, I may have to avoid the runs on the Back of Bell and Face of Bell, as well. I have a feeling I could hold a yard sale at Highlands and be in full view of a Ajax loyalists dangling in midride.I’m not sure this sort of transparency is a good idea. At the very least, they should have made the cabins like reflective sunglasses – so you can see out, but no one can see in.Yeah, the new cabins are going to foster passenger interaction, all right, but it won’t be idle chit-chat or heated debate among the random assemblage of riders facing one another. No, things will heat up when there are only two people aboard. People are going to rub more than shoulders in the gondola. Stats like the number of inches on top will take on a whole new meaning.I think the roomy new cabins will give rise to a membership boom in the 14 Minute Club (if it takes that long), even without a mirrored ceiling and leopard-print seats – decor details that were inexplicably overlooked.Shaped skis gave old knees new life; the cabins offer space to get down on those knees, when the urge arises.Let’s face it, that center seating arrangement in the old cabins was not very conducive to maneuvering into position. And Aspen Mountain’s Viagra-popping clientele skews older. They’re not only less flexible, they’re struggling with out-of-date, once-piece skiwear. The new cabins may rekindle old passions.The open floor of the new cabins opens up a host of new possibilities for suspended intimacy, but once again, I think the windows are an issue. You can watch the skiers go down, but if anyone in the cabin does, the voyeur who’s downloading on the gondola is likely to notice. You don’t exactly need binoculars for a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in a passing bucket.Unless the windows fog up.Janet Urquhart is not a member of the club, nor has she applied to become one. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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