The mythical Aspen State Teachers College used to refer to an equally mythical freshman class that would arrive “on campus” each year. The joke was that living in Aspen was essentially like being in college and that locals viewed newcomers for the ski season as, essentially, the incoming class.Well, not that much has changed, and each new ski season does bring in a group of newcomers. But this year, perhaps more than any other before it, the freshman class was made up of Southerners. No, not Mississippians and Georgians, though there certainly are a few of them, but more to the point, folks from the Southern Hemisphere. Go to just about any ski lift in the valley and your liftie is likely to be Isabel from Argentina, or Tito from Chile, or Ben from Australia. It seems like there is this whole group of fresh-faced, good-looking young people with accents from someplace south of here.Some come from resort areas like Thredbo in Australia, or Queenstown in New Zealand, or Bariloche in Argentina, following the snow from season to season, living the life and having fun. Others come from the major cities like Sydney, or Buenos Aires, or Rio de Janeiro, taking some time off for an American adventure before going back to cosmopolitan careers.And the thing is, all of them seem to get it. Rarely is heard a surly word. Everyone is smiling and nice. Some speak English very well, while others struggle with it (especially the Aussies), but invariably if you try to say something to the lifties they smile and answer back. I can’t count the number of times I have heard “have a good run” this year in an assortment of accents and dialects that make this place sound like the general assembly of the United Nations.We’ve always had our foreign visitors to Aspen. Many times it seems that the only folks on the slopes are Brazilians and Brits. But this is different. As a season progresses and you get your days in, you start to recognize many of the faces of the kids manning the lifts. This year has a good vibe, and one can only hope that it works both ways. That our visitors are having as much fun this season in Aspen as they had hoped, and that the vibe comes right back at them.We all know that this has been an exceptionally good ski year, and a multitude of factors go into making it such. But kudos must go to the folks from South America, New Zealand and Australia.This year’s freshman class is a winner.
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