Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
I know Aspen Skiing Co. is doing its best to make Aspen the greatest resort in the world. I know it’s tough to remain prominent. I know innovation is hard. I know that what is good for Skico is good for the rest of us at least 50 percent of the time. What I don’t know is if I like associating myself with a ski mountain making news for serving flutes of champagne out of a makeshift bar on the side of a blue-square trail.
We all read about it in the paper. The stupid thing didn’t cause any problems in its trial run last year. There weren’t any large crowds of drinkers loitering around the place all day long. There were no wild, silver-haired schussers loaded on expensive champagne crashing into Day-Glo orange “slow” signs or skiers in Spar Gulch. Heck, it didn’t even make any money, according to testimony Skico officials gave before county commissioners earlier this week. I never saw the thing. For all any of us know, it didn’t exist.
That’s how Skico did a job on us by playing the innovation card. It proudly threw out the fact (I’m sure easily proven) that nobody else in the ski industry is doing anything like this. Wahoo!
OK, I would say that if Skico were the only one with an incredible machine that could uniformly cover all of Bell Mountain with a foot of dry champagne powder every night of the winter, that would be something to brag about. Serving dry champagne by the glass slopeside at 15 bucks a pop isn’t the same thing. There are probably lots of good reasons that no other ski area in the entire world does this. Lack of genius isn’t one of them.
Here’s what drives me beer nuts. Since it wasn’t financially successful, my guess is that this portable champagne shanty at Picnic Point is not an amenity our guests are particularly craving. So what’s the point? The point is that this is a gimmick.
All this world needs, much less this town, is another gimmick. I mean, for crying out loud, on late-night television we can buy knives that stay sharp after cutting through tomato-sauce cans, and two steps from the gondola we can get free skiing advice from “ski ambassadors” on the hill. Isn’t that enough?
The problem I see with gimmicks is that they attract people who are attracted to gimmicks. What do you do with people like that once they arrive? Unless we are prepared to see a slew of Benihana knock-offs around here or have coin-operated vibrators in all the hotel mattresses, we might want to rethink this strategy. Don’t you just know the people of Vail are having a good one over this.
If Skico is committed to this champagnification of Aspen, how about doing it at Snowmass? A little bubbly might put a little zip into that place. At any rate, it couldn’t do much harm. But Aspen Mountain? Why? Is nothing sacred? It’s the Shrine. It’s the birthplace of real skiing in North America. Bona fide adventurers traveled here from Europe to discover it. They scouted it, mapped it, worked it, skied it and finally declared, “This is it!”
Only then, after years of pain and sweat, did they pop any corks. It was a very special occasion! Until then, if they drank anything but riverwater, it was regular old gluvine.
Hard-core skiers used to come here for our world-renowned extra-dry champagne that fell from heaven. Now, presumably, they will be coming for France’s kind that pours out of a magnum. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing the matter with real champagne. On second thought, there’s not much right with it. Does anybody really like the taste? Heck no! It’s awful. It gives you a wicked headache. It’s expensive, is hard to store, foams all over the place and can take an eye out if you don’t open it carefully.
About the only good thing you can say is that it can remove red-wine stains from a tablecloth. We drink a few sips of the stuff at weddings and New Year’s Eve only because it’s tradition. It is literally the turkey of adult beverages.
Here’s to hoping we get back to being a meat-and-potatoes town. Soon!
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