Grounding the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport vision with reality

The Dec. 27 “additional document” authored by a fervent minority of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Vision Process Community Character Working Group broadly attacks the work and conclusions of the coequal Technical Working Group’s final report of Dec. 5. No doubt, this new document will provide additional grist for the ASE Vision Committee, which in the coming months will make recommendations to the Pitkin County commissioners as to whether and how to go forward with the airport’s modernization. The fight is on, and anyone who has a stake in or cares about the Roaring Fork Valley’s future should pay attention.

And make no mistake, it will be a fight, albeit cloaked in the dulcet public-process tones of “outreach” and “consensus building,” because, in part, of the deeply held belief that in Aspen and elsewhere in Pitkin County the basic economic forces that drive and shape the rest of the world don’t apply here. This is delusional. Aspen Exceptionalism is as much a fraud as American Exceptionalism, and equally pernicious if embraced by policy-makers.

Case in point, the “additional document” asserts that the airline industry will “miraculously respond” to the valley’s needs whatever they are because Aspen/Pitkin is “an extraordinarily lucrative market.” The authors of this language must have missed Bill Tomcich’s detailed presentation on Dec. 5 of the ups and downs of air service at ASE. There is nothing miraculous about the shifting fleets that have served this market, and there have been times where the disappearance of a fleet has wounded the valley severely.

This “we’re special” bias is not confined to a few. Every burg, village and town, every city and state, every nation, every tribe, thinks they’re special. We’re no different. The challenge for the Vision Committee and the BOCC is to see past that bias and deal with reality.

Barry Vaughan

El Jebel