Roger Marolt: Roger This
November 26, 2009
Today I am thankful for the jerks that run the Aspen Skiing Co. And, I mean that sincerely.
When it comes to skiing, we have it good in Aspen, and sometimes we take it for granted. For the terrain, the weather, and the fabulous snow we have God to thank. For being able to freely shoot our mouths off about it we can be grateful to the Skico brass. Although in winter resorts, skiing and complaining about ski area operators seem to go together like a cold middle finger in a mitten, it is not a Constitutional right to be a mogul-bashing blowhard.
Take, for example, what happened down in Durango a few weeks ago. It was there that Durango Mountain Resort, the four-corners (as in blockheads) ski area operators of Purgatory Mountain, revoked the ski pass of Lauren Slaff. They sent her a refund check in the amount of $539 for the cost of her ticket along with a letter telling her that it would “be best if we part ways.”
As reported in the Durango Herald, Slaff’s season pass was yanked after she was quoted in the newspaper expressing her concerns about a change in the resort’s hours of operation. Apparently she bitched a little too loudly about opening and closing times that benefited tourists to the detriment of locals. But, who here really gives a hoot about that? The point is that they took her pass because she criticized them. Is that a violation of her right to the freedom of speech? Probably not. Is it a downright nasty and intimidating thing to do? Hell, yes, it is!
Now, as you might imagine, reading this turn of events had the same effect on my innards as a quart of prune juice would have. During my brief six-year tenure at The Aspen Times I have regularly and alternately criticized and made fun of the Aspen Skiing Co. for reasons that you couldn’t write out in shorthand on an entire roll of Auden Schendler’s biodegradable toilet paper stretched out in the sun to dry after washing it to reuse before recycling.
The things I have commented on include, but are certainly not limited to: the Snowmass Base Village disaster, the Highlands Base Village disaster, the ridiculous name change for the run “Kleenex Corner” because of a boycott of its manufacturer, Kimberly-Clark, former CEO Pat O’Donnell’s strangulation of a punk in the grocery store as a result of road rage, one Skico exec adopting a monster truck for his new company car as part of a Nissan sponsorship, Winter X Games pollution somehow being the solution to global warming, the inexplicable and overpowering odor of raw sewage permeating the air around the ultra-posh Aspen Mountain Club for several seasons after it was built, the infamous “Uncrowded by design” advertising campaign, ticket prices, season pass prices, the public denunciation of second-home owners in an attempt to get the construction of a new hotel approved for the base of Lift 1A in Aspen, and moving the existing ski lift another 250 feet uphill to make room for it … and, come to think of it, it probably would be a good idea to expand the hours of operations another half-hour each day for the locals. Would that kill them?
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Do you see what I’m getting at? That’s right. I’m still skiing! Not once in all of my years of belly-aching, pissing, and moaning has anyone from the Skico even hinted to me that I should shut up at the risk of losing my privilege to use their chairlifts. Sure, a few of my columns provoked them to call me dirty names in guest column responses where they tried unsuccessfully to rebut some of my assertions, but I consider myself to be fair game when I put it out there every week, so it’s all good there. Plus, if the truth be known, I would say that I probably enjoyed reading their harried retorts more than they enjoyed writing them.
The funny thing is that, far from resentment, I think a certain mutual fondness has sprouted from this little game of idiots and columnist that we have played out over the years. I honestly can’t think of one person whose name is printed in the little rectangles in Skico’s managerial flow-chart that I don’t like. They are good, decent people who occasionally get sidetracked in their ideas of how things should properly operate. I hope that feeling is mutual.
The bottom line is that the Durango Mountain Resorts that dominate the modern ski industry have all tried fairly unsuccessfully to reproduce what we have in such natural abundance here in Aspen. They build resorts that look like towns, but they don’t want to have to deal with all the messy stuff that comes with trying to operate a ski area in a real town. I’m sure it’s hard enough in the business to make snow, groom it buttery smooth every morning, and try to ensure that every guest’s soup is the correct temperature at lunchtime without having to deal with the unpredictable element called citizenry that comes with genuine small towns.
Unfortunately, most operators don’t even try. We now have proof that some resorts take steps to quash this spontaneity that is more likely to kick them in the butt than praise them. That might be the way to make life easier for the head honchos in the short run, but does anybody really want to create an annual skiing tradition at a place run by control freaks?
This might be the secret that makes Aspen the place to be. It’s a real ski area above a real town filled with real pains-in-the-ass. I like it. You like it. Our visitors seem to like it. Why shouldn’t the Skico like it, too?
So, as much as I hate to give credit where credit is due, I think the buffoons at the Skico have it right. Thanks for letting me be a skiing jackass.
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