Su Lum: Slumming | AspenTimes.com

Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I have a 1969 promotional booklet called, “Snowmass-at-Aspen … it can be yours,” which I saved because it contains a very cute picture of my daughter Hillery, then 4, posing on a playground swing.

“A complete and thoroughly planned, year-round recreation community … one that would not be plagued with overcrowding, tourist come-ons and architectural oddities. One where all buildings would be in harmony with the natural surroundings,” reads the promotional propaganda.

No architectural “oddities.” “In harmony with the natural surroundings.” Sounds marvelous, don’t you think? The booklet stressed that at Snowmass-at-Aspen, there would be no surprises because it was fully planned. There would be several “villages,” each with its own shops, restaurants and entertainment.

It would not look, as you approached it at night, like a flow of condominium lava spewing down the mountains, it would be “in harmony with the natural surroundings.”

Well. Yes. So far so good, but then the whole kit and kaboodle got sold, sold again, resold and transmogrified into too-big dreams, a re-bar city that epitomizes our financial quagmire: the new Base Village.

Snowmass, when it first opened, was a happening place. It had the Tower restaurant with its magic, the Opticon movie theater, apres-ski venues and better nightlife than Aspen for a small window of time.

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Redevelopment made it less inviting – the entrance no longer offered a panoramic view of its mall. The movie theater was closed, the nightlife dwindled, and Snowmass-at-Aspen was no longer the destination, but the less expensive stepping off point for visitors to Aspen.

Last week I drove out with my friend Jack to assess the damage. Good golly, Miss Molly, they should change the name of that thing to Snowmass-at-Vail.

Staggeringly huge hotels, some built, some partially built, dominate the entrance, obliterating the “natural surroundings.”

You have to stop and get right up into the new business area, an Aspen Highlandy-type place complete with cobblestones, central plaza, a few shops and devoid of human beings.

A high chain-link fence surrounds the rest of the proposed Base Village, covered with colorful billboard posters so the view behind will not shock the senses of passers-by. The view behind (peek through small gaps between the chain link panels) is of acres of dirt, unfinished concrete pillars looking as if a major bomb recently had been dropped.

No earth-moving equipment, no activity, just a big excavation. Perhaps if those folks don’t get their money woes solved in the near future the whole place can be turned into a community garden.

I never subscribed to the idea that if a place isn’t working the solution is to make it three times bigger.

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