Marolt: Devouring the leftovers of juicy stories
November 29, 2014
I am on vacation this week, so excuse me for not wanting to think too hard. A few local short stories are hanging around on a thin thread of logic, and it's time to take the pinata stick to them. I like candy. Somebody put a blindfold on me, and I'll make this quick. Ready?
For whatever reason, the $900,000 salary of Heidi Zuckerman continues to be a hair in the local guacamole. It's ridiculous. I'm not talking about the salary. I'm speaking about our collective gut reaction to it.
I do not know Zuckerman, and I don't particularly care for the looks and scale of the new art museum. Further, I don't know much about modern art, but I do know that her salary is not too high.
This woman — for better, if you are a museum patron, or worse, if you are a fan of the local building code — pulled off the impossible. If we hadn't seen it happen before our very eyes, we probably would say that the art museum is a tall tale instead of a huge edifice. She raised, what, $60 million and built a behemoth of a weird-looking building in the heart of downtown Aspen. She defied the odds. She defied public sentiment. I think she defied, or defiled as the case may be, the Aspen Idea, but am not certain of that, such is the magic she employed.
We need to put this controversy in context. Most local nonprofits would gladly pay a director a hundred grand if they could raise half a million for their cause. In terms of proportion, a million-dollar salary to raise $60 or $70 million of capital is dirt cheap. A local real estate broker would likely make upward of a couple million dollars if they sold a house for $60 million. I'll go so far as to make a bet right now: If anybody raises $70 million for any local charity, I think I could convince that organization to give you at least three times the salary that Zuckerman made last year. Give me a call. I'll act as your agent. Will you give me a third of whatever I can negotiate for you?
My next swing is going to be at the notion that this town needs affordable hotel rooms. It seems a lot of people think we do, but nobody has logically answered the question: Why?
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This doesn't require a lot of debate. Right now, we don't need cheap hotel rooms. All available tourist accommodations are priced right to keep Aspen full with visitors who aren't afraid to part with a buck or two. Discounts would serve no purpose. You make hay when the sun is shining. The sun is shining right now on Aspen. Let's keep baling it.
As for Aspen's economic future: It is now, as it always will be. If, or when, Aspen needs cheap hotels, every single lodge will become affordable enough to ensure its own survival. Inasmuch, our town will survive. It happens every offseason. It happened during the past recession and every recession before that. The prices for hotel rooms are quickly and effectively self-regulated.
I don't really know what the would-be developers of would-be "affordable hotels" in Aspen have in mind, but the absurdity of the idea makes me suspicious. It appears to be a made-up problem with an artificial solution that is concocted to result in real money for imaginative developers at the townspeople's expense. My advice to our decision-makers is to wear hats that fit well so that they can't be pulled down over their eyes.
Finally, let's put to rest any notion that skiing might be made into an affordable pastime, as some around here dream. From the time it switched from being an efficient postman's mode of transportation across the flatlands of Norway into a gravity-fueled activity to fill idle time, its destiny was doomed to be the exclusive province of adrenaline addicts willing to burn money in homage to it. Like sailing and polo, it can't be remolded to the budget-minded. No, we skiers don't have to buy expensive, sleek-hulled boats or personally trained thoroughbreds to play our game. We only need mountains lined with ski lifts and tamed with prides of snowcats.
It would be easier to turn lead into gold than profitably sell a $50 lift ticket.
That's it. It's all I've got for you. Sleep the turkey off. Enjoy the ski races. Get ready for the holidays! I am out.
Roger Marolt is watching football in Midland, Texas this weekend, where folks would pay just about anything to be skiing right about now. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.