Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
The oldest advice in the investment world is to not put all your eggs in one basket. Evidence that this strategy has withstood the test of time lies in the fact that it was arrived at back when people invested in chickens instead of portfolios, and kept their investments in baskets, protected in their own shells, instead of in banks, protected by the FDIC.
Not that we haven’t done a good job of diversifying Aspen’s assets into all kinds of baskets. We have real estate. We have skiing. We have nature. We have art and culture. We have dining and shopping. And, we have real estate … Did I say that already?
Anyway, seeing how things are lately, I wonder about this sage advice of diversity. Since we offer so many baskets, why is it so quiet? Now, I like the offseasons here as much as the next person, but by the time the leaves start budding in late May, don’t we usually begin to feel the tremors of a vibrant summer coming? I’m not feeling it this year.
Maybe we’ve focused too much on making baskets. Yes, I get it that many Aspenites majored in basket weaving in college, but come on. We have enough baskets, already. We have cases of baskets! More baskets are not going to attract any more people. Give me a beak! … er, I mean, break.
I’m beginning to think the problem has something to do with what’s in our baskets. Have a look. Most of our eggs are about the same. They are pointy at the top and larger around the middle. Most of them got hardened as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. And, they are approaching their “best when used before” dates by the dozens.
Not that there is anything wrong with mature eggs. In many cases they are richer and make damn fine omelets. But, there is nothing wrong with a little variety either. Maybe, what we really need around here are not more baskets, but different types of eggs.
Look, I know that we host the Winter X Games every winter, and there aren’t any chickens in that group. But, that whole production’s effect is to make the same old geese gathering here feel like the swallows of San Juan Capistrano. Except for one long weekend every winter, we aren’t attracting any new birds. The day after the Games are over all the chicks and night owls fly south where life is cheaper.
So, what do we do to really mix it up? Here is where a lot of you think I am going to chirp about making this place more family friendly and affordable. Well, sorry to disappoint you. I’ve been around long enough to know that won’t work. Since the time I was hatched from a tie-dyed shell, Aspen has always been a sanctuary for the wealthy. We can’t change that, nor should we try. Rich, grade A, extra large eggs loaded with cholesterol go better with bread and butter than low-fat middle-class Eggbeaters. It’s scientifically proven.
So what else is there? Come on. Are we really so narrow-minded that we shove our pointed heads so deeply into the sand that it becomes impossible to see that all rich people … er, I mean eggs, are not created equal? Well, they are not, and here’s a well-kept secret: It was not a middle class population of residents and visitors who made this town so much fun in the ’70’s and ’80s. It was a group of wealthy people who didn’t necessarily want or need to be noticed. You just thought they were regular folks … er, yokes. They were organic eggs with brown, blotchy shells; not bleached snow-white to attract attention from aisles away.
These are the kinds of eggs we need again. They return to a nest like Aspen no matter what because the things they like about it never change; like the beautiful trees, for instance. These birds care less about investment returns, cost per square foot, and price appreciation than about flying free in our mountains. If you don’t believe we have ignored this population of glitz-less golden egg layers, have a look at some of the ads in local publications over our recent history. For crying out loud, some contained real estate price charts overlaid on photos of snow capped peaks. Believe it or not, even some rich people find this repulsive.
It is time to change. Since economic times are dictating that we do this anyway, we might as well do it right. Let’s make a little agreement about the new Aspen. From now on designer labels are for dorks, real people don’t wear fur, fake or otherwise, and only fools spend $5,000 on bicycles. (Remember, Lance Armstrong gets his for free.) Oh yeah, and Vail sucks. I promise, there are rich people out there who subscribe to these ideals. This is our true heritage!
To complete the reversion, we are going to need new slogans for Aspen to announce our recovery. How about the old tried and true: “Under new management” or “Please excuse our mess while we reconstruct our reputation.” Or, maybe we simply lay it out: “Please forgive us for being arrogant jerks for the past 20 years.”