Roger Marolt: Roger This
September 15, 2011
“Before Aspen, mountain was never cosmopolitan.” That’s one of Aspen Skiing Co.’s advertising angles for this winter. And, I’ve got a case of the willies. I hate to think that Aspen Mountain, an excellent example of God’s handiwork, in my opinion, wasn’t good enough until we started selling gourmet coffee on every street corner that wasn’t already occupied by a real estate office or an art gallery and installed state-of-the-art solar-powered toilets in Wagner Park. I don’t think mountains should be cosmopolitan. But, that’s me probably picking nits.
Another bit of marketing spin for the upcoming season aims to get the word out that Aspen is about the only place where you will see ski bums sharing cocktails with jet setters. I suppose it is irrelevant that most of the ski bums I know would rather share their beer with an Irish setter. At any rate, I thought it was worth trying to figure who this slogan is targeting.
I don’t think it’s the ski bums. They buy discounted season passes, never pay full price for gear, feed themselves at happy hour, and there is no chance that they will ever be interested in fractional ownership. They are exactly the types of cheapskates we don’t want to attract, but it’s nice having the idea of them around to refer to in promotional materials.
It’s intriguing that somebody thinks it would be appealing to a ski bum to share a cocktail with a jet setter. There are two conditions under which I think such a meeting might take place. The first, of course, would be if the jet setter is buying all the drinks. Ski bums are hardwired for sniffing out a free round, especially because this oftentimes leads to a free dinner at the cost of only a few wildly embellished local stories. Second, there might be an opportunity here for the ski bum to broker a real estate deal. Other than that, I don’t see this type of mythical smokin’ and jokin’ session happening just for the camaraderie.
In fairness, I suppose I must also try to imagine this hypothetical scene from the eyes of the billionaire freshly off his G-XXIV and seeking out a grizzled local, freshly off his freshies, to share a drink with … hmmm …. sorry, I can’t think of a reason why this would sound appealing to somebody who is rich enough to own his own jet. I mean really, the reason rich people get rich is to get away from low-life riffraff like dishwashing ski bums, so why would they want to vacation with them? If you really desired to cavort with the commoners for a couple of weeks in the mountains, why wouldn’t you book a suite in Leadville and spend the days at Ski Cooper? Duh, it’s because those mountains aren’t cosmopolitan.
Obviously I don’t get it. I don’t understand who this shtick is supposed to appeal to. “The prince in a Bogner one-piece and the pauper in Levi jeans” is a resort-town legend. It’s a metaphor for the good old days. If you could put it to music it would be a dirge. It makes us cry. The truth is that billionaires and ski bums don’t share drinks now, didn’t before and never will, here or anywhere else on the planet. I’m not kidding.
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But, let’s not dwell on this. The whole marketing package for this season appears to come together with the pitch, “Before Aspen, winter was just cold.” Remember the past few winters’ advertising theme focusing on “The Death of Snow”? It’s just a new twist on that. This year we are highlighting our jet-setting visitors and cosmopolitan mountains. Of course it was colder before this Aspen. You can’t convert a plain ol’ mountain wilderness into a cosmo mecca for jet setters without releasing a little greenhouse gas. At least they have finally put a positive spin on the global warming trend: It’s fun!
Which brings me to my favorite slogan for this season’s advertising campaign: “The heart of a city. The soul of a mountain town.” Unfortunately this is true. We are a city. It is also true that our soul is that of a mountain town. Happily, it went to Resort Heaven when the town died in 1992. Some say it still haunts The Hickory House. Who am I to say?
Without a doubt this year’s marketing plan is innovative, different and artistic, which can only mean that it will be universally misunderstood as all true art is in its time. But, someday, long after we are gone, somebody will get it. Then the whole shebang will end up in a museum somewhere. I bet they’ll sell a zillion tickets to people wanting to see the exhibit.
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