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Pow-pow punishment

The Fleisher Co. has been running a clever ad this winter. It features the picture of a man – a stylish model type – walking down the steps of the Gondola Plaza on a wintry day. He has a cell phone pressed to his ear and carries a briefcase and a rolled up set of plans. He wears an overcoat and “urban” shoes.The ad extols a great virtue by proclaiming that “even on a powder day” the Fleisher Co. works for its clients. Powder days, sad to say, have become yet another sacrificial lamb for the competitive real estate industry.I must confess to a certain respect for the folks at Fleisher. Walking away from the base of a ski mountain on an “epic” powder day takes considerable discipline, the kind I have marshaled many times during my working life, albeit with a twang of remorse and regret.But to vow that I would walk away from every powder day would require desperate circumstances, like having a gun held to my head. Something would have to shift in my value system that would deny a fundamental attraction to the sublime forces of nature that are vibrant in Aspen.Even if the cell phone at my ear were enticing me with a million dollars, even if the blueprints under my arm were promising a million more, even if the briefcase in my hand were full of contracts for Starwood mansions, I would find it painful to just say no to powder.I relish powder days and take them when I can as a mark of my personal freedom and career choice. To swoon in deeply drifted snow is akin to a sacred baptism. It is one of my soul-soothing joys and a prime reason for living in a ski town.When I lived in Crested Butte in the ’70s, businesspeople hung signs on their doors excusing themselves on a powder day. Nobody minded because practically everyone was doing the same. Anyway, the loss of business for a day was no big deal because there wasn’t much business to lose. Those were simpler times.Today things are different. Powder days are few and far between, at least for the 10-inch rule to apply. Taking a powder day today risks the harsh judgment of those who stick to the daily grind, no matter how many feet of fresh snow grace the slopes. Therefore, it is only the purest, most stalwart skier who can guiltlessly postpone a busy work schedule for the pursuit of sheer pleasure.Peer pressure has a way of coercing conformist behavior. Now that the Fleisher Co. has eliminated powder days from the lives of truly professional Aspenites, anyone who dares to frolic in the pow-pow will be deemed a slacker. That stigma is already forcing social change.Instead of slapping high-fives with fellow powder aficionados at the brink of Walsh’s, now you must cover your face with a neck gaiter and pull the goggles low. Powder days are for hedonists and sinners, all of whom are doomed to Purgatory (today known as Durango Mountain Resort).If an Aspen businessperson is caught skiing on a powder day, the Chamber of Commerce will gather to review your case. You will be marshaled into its Council of Purity, where heads will shake with remorse over your sorry condition. The scions of business will stare into your soul. You will be lectured and berated and admonished. There will be a white letter “P” affixed to your ski parka so that everyone knows your sin is original. Snowballs will be flung at you by your peers for breaking the ranks of professionalism. There will be shunning. Perhaps Fleisher has it right. A powder day is like any other day in Aspen. The work ethic prevails for the men in the gray flannel suits, a dress code that will be the next step in the urbanization of what used to be a ski town. Paul Andersen’s column appears in the Aspen Times on Mondays – even if he’s taking a powder day.


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