Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com
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Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I love this job. Writing a weekly column for a small-town, century-old newspaper in this incredible Botoxed mining town is a fabulous opportunity. The pay is conservative, but I knew that going in. We have the coziest offices in town. The retirement and health benefits package is easy to understand. In a nutshell, I don’t feel exploited one bit. I am fortunate and willing to patiently work my way up the ladder, savoring every rung.

OK, that ought to do it. My editors are busy and they trust my work. I’m sure they just give the first paragraph the smell test and then move on to the three Ds – D’news, D’weather, and D’sports. It’s safe to say what I really think now.

The truth is that I didn’t expect the electronic media boom and The Great Recession to so quickly decimate newspaper bottom lines and my remuneration. I was patiently working my way up the ladder, but I have realized it is more like a buttered fire pole and to get any higher I need something like a rocket ship.

Lee Mulcahy, you have been belittled, ridiculed, and roasted since you came out in defense of rookie ski instructors and what you perceive as the indecent wages they are being offered by Skico. I would be pleased if you took up the cause of local columnists, at least this one. What do you say? At least you’ll be appreciated.

The first thing I have to tell you, though, Lee, is that I don’t agree with you in principle. I mean, nobody around The Aspen Times is holding an old typewriter cartridge over my head making me do this. I really do enjoy it, and if the truth be known I probably would do it for free. (Just kidding, Boss, if you do happen to still be reading.) And, that’s the problem: There are more people like me in this town than there are moguls on Bell Mountain. You know what they say: If you’re new to Aspen and in a hurry to meet people, just introduce yourself to the first three people in front of you in a checkout line in City Market and you’ll know a personal trainer, a real estate broker, an attorney, and three writers.

In that sense it is kind of like being an entry-level ski instructor. Almost anyone can do it. It doesn’t take special training. It doesn’t take special skills. If one guy doesn’t want to do it for the peanuts they pay, they just ask him to step aside and yell “next.” They don’t even have to say “please.” People around here are falling all over themselves to put their precious words in print or to put on any kind of uniform made by Helly Hanson.

I’m not saying that there aren’t dangers involved in being a ski instructor or a columnist. Your health is always in jeopardy writing a column. If the wrong person picks up the paper on the wrong day in the wrong frame of mind and turns to the right page, you risk carpal tunnel syndrome responding to all the nasty e-mails you’re going to get. Similarly, if there isn’t enough coffee in the locker room first thing in the morning, a beginning ski instructor risks falling asleep traversing Fanny Hill in a wedge. Ouch!

But, for reasons other than cash these types of jobs are sought after. We are rewarded with something besides money, or at least they say some people say we do. I don’t know what those other things are, so I can’t say for sure whether I’ve gotten any or not. At the very least, though, I suppose it’s not taxable.

So, I don’t agree with you, Lee, but I’m sure as heck not going to mind if you want to argue my cause to The Aspen Times. Go for it!

Now, here’s the thing that puzzles me: Why did you catch so much crap from fellow ski instructors over your efforts to help the rookies in your ranks? I mean, how was anybody except Skico brass threatened by what you did? If you got a raise for the lowest wolf on the totem pole, I imagine the entire thing would have to be re-carved all the way up to the beak on the eagle at the top. Great! That’s more for all ski instructors, right? And, if you failed, so what? It was your time, money, pride and energy that were wasted. And, you were more than willing to risk that. Good for you!

What gives? Other ski instructors arguing that their pay is all it can be and that you should just butt out? Worse yet, that you should leave town? I don’t get that. I can see not supporting you. I can see keeping quietly out of the debate while you get shot down. I can even see calling the cops as you trespassed at The Little Nell and disturbed their guests. But, you got blasted, dude! By your own corduroy-cruising homeys!

The thing is, I don’t think you and your detractors are that far apart on this issue. Both you and the veteran ski instructors that publicly flayed you know that ski-instructor pay is lower than what most instructors would like to see. Where you differ is that you believed that you could get a raise by negotiating for it. The veterans, through experience, know that this is impossible. They know that the most likely way to earn a raise is not by ski instructing, but by towing the company line and hopefully getting promoted into management for it.

And sadly, there you have it: Kissing butt offers more career opportunity than teaching skiing in Aspen. Who’s surprised?


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