Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I have been swayed. I now believe that the Lift 1A redevelopment proposal is exactly the kind of project that this town needs right now. In these difficult economic times it is necessary that we take whatever measures possible to construct icons of former prosperity.

I see advertisements in the newspapers by contractors, who made their names constructing multi-million dollar homes, soliciting work to remodel bathrooms and kitchens. I notice on the way to work that each day there are fewer and fewer construction vehicles in increasingly shorter lines of bumper-to-bumper traffic coming into town. Pause in the center of our city these days and there is a noticeable absence of the familiar hum of success that we have come to know. What a shame.

Where are the blasts of air hammers and shrieks from skill saws that used to proclaim vibrancy in the core? About the only beep-beep-beeps you hear from heavy equipment in reverse anymore are from the snow plows.

Times are tough. There are those who suggest that we weather the economic storm by enjoying the peace and quiet, by getting out of doors and re-discovering the inherent beauty for which many of us came to this naturally serene part of the world. But that “good” advice does not mesh with the universal desire, dare I say inalienable right, to accumulate wealth. Human beings cannot thrive purely on the enjoyment of the “simple things” in life. Sure, family, friends, health, and being content with the essentials are noble pursuits. But the fact is that we need money in order to have these in abundance. If we have learned nothing else from our past, certainly we clearly understand now that the more income we earn the happier and smarter we are.

To prove this to yourself, ask a simple reflective question: Were you better off in the past with a booming economy, having opportunities to roll over your car lease on a whim, exotic vacations twice a year, eating out whenever you felt like it, or now? If you answer “now,” you are delusional.

Now, I am not promising that building two gigantic hotels at the base of Lift 1A is going to immediately revive the local economy. What I am saying is that the psychological impact of waking up daily to the erection of a project like this will feel really good. Far from negatively impacting the views from town, this will become a tangible reminder of what we once were, not that long ago.

As for the small price to pay of moving the ski lift another 250 feet up the mountain to make way for the forward progress of this gargantuan project, what of it? Who truly cares if local access to the west side of Aspen Mountain becomes impractical? We always have the gondola to get locals up the mountain. Larger lift lines there will be further proof of prosperity.

I admit that the prospect of moving a chairlift uphill used to strike me as idiotic, but now I see that we need more of what made Aspen great to begin with ” opulent exclusivity. Without that, we are just another quaint mountain town. The guests who will pay the exorbitant prices to stay at the new hotels deserve private access up the ski mountain. We should gladly give up Lift 1A to them in exchange for their sure-to-be lavish spending in town. Just think of the tips!

Never mind that something extraordinary and enduring could be done with this site. Some have suggested things like cantilevering the hotels and shops over the street to make room for a new ski run and chairlift that would extend all the way into town. They say this plan would eliminate the need for environmentally damaging snowmelt systems for the road and that it would provide all kinds of skier parking for the area. They go so far as to say that it is “really cool” to have ski runs that extend all the way to the bottom of the mountains. Some even argue that this plan would allow for a World Cup finish line so close to Wagner Park that people would actually come to watch it and that we might even be able to attract a showcase men’s downhill event again.

That, however, is all about dreams. While these types of things would be fabulous for Aspen throughout many decades to come, we do not have the time to do something fantastic. Instead, we must maintain a modicum of level-headedness and concentrate on drastic measures. We have to act now to revitalize our dying town. It’s either this plan or starving to death. That’s not much of a choice for any sensible person.

I don’t think anyone need be reminded that size does matter now. In an unprecedented crisis like this one, it is all about quantity, not quality. The larger the impacts on the community, the more vibrant we appear. Contrary to what we came to believe in more prosperous times, noise, dust, and traffic congestion are not things to be mitigated, but rather byproducts of success that should be stimulated. These are signals to the world that recessions are for other people to suffer through, not us.

Sooner rather than later, we have to get back to life as usual. Give me back the privilege of a 45-minute commute from Snowmass Village and traffic jams backed up to the courthouse beginning at three o’clock every afternoon. Allow me the former luxury of being awakened at dawn to the clanging and banging of front-end loaders dropping their heaps into the backs of hulking, gritty, idling dump trucks. If I have to circle downtown a dozen times before finding a parking spot, at least I will do it with the feel of a wallet stuffed with cash and my Caribou Club membership card pressing my bun to sleep in the heated leather seat of a new SUV with the surround sound thumping.

The fortuitous reality of life in Aspen is that it is all about money. It always has been. We don’t dare now risk damaging that international reputation we have worked so diligently over the years to earn. The redevelopment at 1A is just the thing to revive this sorry local economy and make each and every one of us wealthy beyond our wildest imaginations. Seriously.


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