Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

The good news is that Aspen men and women have life expectancies of 80 and 84.2 years, respectively, and this gives Pitkin County a top-10 ranking of U.S. counties for longevity of life, according to a recent University of Washington study. The bad news is that nothing boosts life expectancy more than having achieved near ripeness of age already. You can’t argue that a 30-year-old triathlete has a higher life expectancy than a 90-year-old chain smoker.

So, what does this revelation of our superior drive to stay alive mean? Well, for one thing, it means Aspenites are not engaging in high-risk extreme sports with enough vim and vigor. That’s for sure. For another thing, the fact that we even care about this news means that the youth movement has taken a different route through the mountains. Young people care about life expectancy like Joey Chestnut – the rail-thin guy who ate 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes on July Fourth – worries about the cost of liposuction.

I read the numbers complied from the 2010 census (note: using bifocals). In Aspen the number of people ages 60-64 increased by 243 percent from 1990 to 2011. For those between 65 and 69, the increase was 275 percent. There were similar triple-digit jumps all the way up to those over 85 years old, increasing by 342 percent. Do you realize the implications? If we keep getting older at these alarming rates, not all the Botox in Boca Raton can save us.

Moreover, in 2000 the average age in Pitkin County was 38.5 years. In 2005 the average jumped to 40.8 years. This is kind of like counting dog years in reverse. Currently, for every calendar year that passes, the average age of Aspen residents increases by almost half a year. If this trend continues, by the turn of the next century, the age of the average Aspenite will be 96! Try to imagine what the town softball league will look like then.

Our reputation is in trouble! The X Games are an anomaly! We are old! The average Aspenite is older than the average Coloradan. Do you want to know why Vail overtook us as the ski resort to be seen at? It’s because the average age there is just 32. They’re kicking our butt not because they are better-looking or have a better product, but because they have more energy! We’re tucking ourselves into bed after the early-bird prix fixe, and they’re up late jacked on Red Bull thinking of ways to convince customers that the Back Bowls there are great skiing. And it’s working!

I mean, how many times do you hear on our streets things like, “This place inspires everyone to get outdoors!” “Everybody’s so active!” and “Everybody is so fit!”? We hear stuff like this all the time, right? And it’s all true, of course.

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The thing is, though, young people don’t talk like this. Yes, they hike and ski and work out and do all the other things we do around here, but they take it for granted without ranting and raving and getting all impressed by themselves over it. Why? Because they can! They don’t ache after hiking to Cathedral Lake. They don’t have to take recovery days between activities. They don’t get tendinitis from planting their ski poles too hard. They just do it, forget it, and stay up all night not focusing on it.

None of this matters, of course. … If we are planning on becoming a retirement community. But, we are not going to become a retirement community. It’s too cold, the winters are long, and the last thing older people want is more gray in the sky or their hair.

Our only choices are mining and skiing, and they haven’t invented shorter, super-shaped, reverse-camber, fat shovels yet to make digging effortless, so I think our best bet is to remain a ski resort. To do this, we have to work on our image and stop leaking all these stats about how old we’re getting. The next time the census people come to your house, lie about your age. You already do to everyone else, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Next, we have to work on the accommodations. We’ve talked about it for years, but nothing gets done. Our product pricing has more than weeded out the middle class; it has turned off the young, too! Even rich young people don’t want to spend 500 bucks a night on a hotel room. To them it’s just a place to sleep. Four hundred for a three-hour dinner and a bottle of wine? Forget it. They’re more interested in carbo-loading. No matter how well a meal is presented, there is nothing worse than sitting in a dining room overflowing with “atmosphere” feeling like you are missing the party going on someplace else. Like Vail, for instance.

It may be true that 50 is the new 40; or perhaps more appropriately for us, 90 is the new 80. Physically we can do a lot more at our ages than the caveman could, mostly because he was dead by about 30. But, we have to change our minds to go along with our physical fitness, too. If we are ever going to attract the young back here except for our funerals, we need to stop acting our age.

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