The social climber’s guide to Aspen
Believe it or not, as some have suspected, Aspen is deeply divided into social classes. Everyone who visits, lives and works in this fine burg falls into the pecking order. However, figuring out just exactly which layer of the pyramid people are perched upon is a constant source of agitation.In order to alleviate the suffering caused by uncertain social rank, I have researched the subject thoroughly and come up with mathematically accurate descriptions of each progressive rung of this oft-slipped-off, ice-laden ladder.Of course the noblest title belongs to the few who are connected here by birth. These are the Natives. Their privileges inure in much the same way as with royalty anywhere – through happenstance and luck. And, they protect their legacy in much the same way, too – by sitting on their imperial duffs. Even so, the title can never be taken away. It’s so secure, in fact, that it is said that a tot born here, moving away even before weaning, never intending to return again, claims the designation from somewhere on Park Avenue.Many jealous subjects like to make a point that the corn-growing Native American-Natives of Aspen have a greater claim to the title than do the late arriving ore-digging Euro-Natives. However, when the former arrived here, it was hardly a place anyone would recognize as Aspen. Ancient pictographic sales tax receipt records verify this. So, that argument is reduced to nitpicking. The fact is: if you were born here you’re a Native. That’s that! The only consolation is that Natives have no power in politics. If you want to know ahead of time the outcome of any local election, ask a Native’s opinion, and the issue will certainly come out the other way.The second tier of denizens is the Locals. These are people who have called Aspen home for more than 20 years. They are detected by their unique speech patterns, manifested in exaggerating stories about wondrous things that existed 10 years before they arrived, and lamenting the loss of business establishments they never set foot in. They cry the loudest at funerals for other locals whom they didn’t actually like.Beware you who would engage a Local in an argument about anything. No matter the soundness of your logic, the Local will subtly and skillfully provide proof of his correctness by clearly stating his own longevity in town to the exact minute. The next category is the Residents. These are Locals in waiting. They’ve lived here for more than two years. Some work, some don’t. But, they all lie to relatives, friends and visitors about being Locals. Many Residents try to shortcut the time-in-service requirement for the coveted Local status by giving copious amounts of money to Aspen charities that they couldn’t care less about, creating boards to sit on, taking ski lessons on the sly and tipping liberally at local eating and drinking establishments. What they don’t realize is that if they put as much energy into simply being here, time would pass much more quickly.Next are the Johnny/Joanne-come-Latelys, also know as Wanabees. Their heritage is that of families who frequently made ski vacations here. They are now recent college graduates who come for the skiing, the nightlife and because they didn’t get any job offers in their majors. They have the foggy notion that living here somehow resembles a perpetual holiday. God bless them; they come with the conviction that they will call Aspen home for the rest of their lives, make a living by teaching underprivileged kids how to ski, and pay $450 a month rent for that quaint, little West End Victorian that hasn’t been seen since 1972.Eventually, however, the weekly reminders from home about the wasted college education exact a toll. In the end, they haul all of the gear they bought new at the Ute Mountaineer to sell it slightly used at Play it Again Sports, completing the buy high/sell low transaction that has just consumed seven seasons of their lives, all of their cash and a good portion of their credit.The Tourists are next in the queue. This type fuels the dream of Aspen social climbing. If they didn’t constantly pump us up about how great it must be to live here, our heads wouldn’t be full of all those nonsensical fairy-tale notions. They spend so much money in town that their words become truth, despite their horrible driving habits. For many of them, Aspen is nothing more than a bragging right, another accumulation in the trinket collection proving financial success to anyone who cares, or otherwise. Most of them look as if they are in a permanent state of adjustment and act as if they would rather be at the other end of their cell phones instead of riding up the gondola.Finally, the lowest position in the hierarchy belongs to Time Sharers. As is common with members of low castes, they have devised a less demeaning term for their lot to foster a more optimistic outlook. “Fractional ownership” is their mantra for salvation from the stigma “Sucker,” or worse yet, “Outsider.” These poor souls would give anything to have a stake here as is clearly apparent in their closing statements. The telltale sign of this obedient group is that they only come to Aspen when they are told to.Thus the oddballs are racked, a different type of people in a different kind of town. But you might notice that the strangest thing in this strange place is that we don’t use wealth to separate ourselves from each other like they do in most other places. It’s an old trophy-wives’ tale that all you need to survive in Aspen is a pile of cash. The truth is that, while it may seem like the rats are winning the race to get here, not many people, rich, poor or in between, stick it out long enough to reach the height of Aspen status. There are few who do have something that apparently no amount of money can buy and no real estate broker can sell. Locals call it “reasonable expectations.” Roger Marolt is an Aspen Native, a Snowmass Village Resident, and will never be a Time Sharer, anywhere. He’s a Johnny-Come-Lately at email@example.com
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