Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I think the Lift 1A master plan is ridiculous. Any grand idea in a ski town that involves moving the loading station of a chairlift up the mountain to make room for a real estate development is the height of stupidity. But, what do I know? I’m only a skier all hung up on aesthetics and a sense of our own history. Don’t blame me someday when Little Nell is covered with condos and the new “upgraded” gondola is 500 feet farther up the grade we used to ski down. Today is that day’s precedent.

But, what’s the use of explaining the inanity of shortening our ski mountains to promote “vitality” in town? If it’s not obvious to you why we should strive to bring the lifts closer to downtown rather than push downtown up the side of our ski runs, then you don’t understand what made this town so incredibly unique in the world of wintertime resorts in the first place, and I feel sorry for you.

While what I just described to you makes me want to cry, the process that brought it upon us irks me to no end. I can’t talk about the former without a knot of regret forming in my stomach, so I will rant on the latter. If I sound mean and vitriolic, I apologize in advance and plead your forgiveness as pure common sense is surely getting the better of me.

But, I don’t care. It is my sincere hope that this town that I love so dearly never, ever again is subjected to the indignity of enduring the work product of a citizens’ task force.

It is not that I don’t appreciate the “thousands of hours of hard work” that the few dozen, unelected participants in “the process” put into coming up with “the plan” that we all have to live with for the rest of our lives. However, I don’t necessarily believe that keeping one’s nose to the grindstone is a guarantee of success. As anyone who has spent an evening trying to solve a sixth-grade algebraic story problem knows, putting in time until the wee hours of nighttime turn into an orange glow in the east does not ensure that you will come up with the correct answer.

I am certainly not suggesting that what the task force came up with is a mess. The architectural drawing on display in the courthouse annex speaks for itself. Just as surely I do not blame the good, albeit sleepy people making up the task force for the result. They had no chance in a process that was flawed from the get-go and heavily weighted in favor of the developers. I aim to prove this succinctly.

In order to do this, I ask you to ask yourself just one simple question: Why doesn’t this masterful plan include a chairlift that extends all the way down to Dean Street, to the very spot where our skiing history arguably had its birth?

Shouldn’t this be the single most important element in a comprehensive plan of this significant area? Shouldn’t all other planning revolve around this centerpiece?

Surely only a certifiable idiot would suggest that two five-story, gargantuan hotels should be the cornerstones and history conform around them.

So, I’ll ask it again. Why didn’t we lengthen the lift to come down to its original spot instead of further shortening it as we did in the mid-1970s, which everyone who was around then will agree was a huge mistake and killed the vitality of that area in the first place?

The answer is so stupidly simple that is reveals the entire process as exactly the same. It is because the developers, who were a part of the task force, said that this configuration was impossible. They brought in experts to back them up, the politicians on the task force validated their notion, and the rest of task force believed them!

The fact of the matter is that it is absolutely and certainly not impossible to extend the chairlift down to Dean Street. For crying out loud, people have figured out ways to split atoms and beam television programs off satellites and into our houses. Much simpler than that, a street could be moved here, land swapped there, building envelopes redrawn and, voila, the lift can be built! Expensive? Yes. Would it require some gerrymandering? Of course. Impossible? No way!

So then, where was the “citizen” on the task force who told the developers that it was impossible not to have the lift come down to Dean Street? This statement is every bit as true as the developers’ was, and maybe more so! For success in business and pleasure can anyone think of a greater community benefit than this? The absence of any person on the task force forcing this issue exposes the entire task as a

monumental farce.

A citizens’ task force should not have developers or politicians as members. These two groups have ample voice in the process as it is. City Council has the final word.

How much more say do they want? The developers already present their best-case wish list for everything under our sun and can even be counted on to drag in few things from neighboring solar systems for council to consider. What more say do they need? Only the “citizen” is left with an unorganized, disjointed, crackly voiced lonesome plea in council chambers during the last minutes before the final “ayes” and “nays” are counted.

Citizens need their own unadulterated task force and not one polluted with constraints from developers and politicians. The citizens should be left alone to brainstorm, formulating plans for what they truly want, cost and lot lines be damned.

In the end the citizens’ wish list should be presented alongside the developers’ wish list and then council should pare them down to what is a reasonable compromise.

As it is, the proposal to build a ski museum on the spot where actual skiers used to begin and end their mountain adventures and where the new lift should start speaks pitifully for itself and the process that produced it. In the greatest ski town on the planet, getting to the lifts is continuing to become more of an uphill battle. How sad.


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