Marolt: Did going downhill again really have to be such an uphill battle?
Hold on a second. Did I read the headline right? Aspen is going to host World Cup downhill and super-G races next March? I don’t believe it. It’s impossible! I know it’s impossible because that is what Aspen Skiing Co. told us only a couple of years ago. No way, no how, if I may paraphrase.
Either the local papers are going to print embarrassing retractions tomorrow or a great miracle has occurred. It’s that or somebody told a big fat lie several years ago when Gorsuch Haus was up for approval.
Without a serious facilities upgrade at the base of the racecourse, including a new ski lift, they said there was no chance of Aspen ever hosting another World Cup skiing event. Never mind the hugely successful World Cup Finals we hosted only a couple years earlier in 2017. Apparently, things changed quickly after that and it was forcefully fed to us that Aspen simply did not have the modern infrastructure necessary to host World Cup events, much less a marque downhill race. This is what the experts said.
Did the experts lie or were they simply wrong? I am willing to give them the benefit of a doubt and say they didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. I guess that means they aren’t experts at all. This might be more painful to them than being called liars, a developer’s peril if there ever was one.
One problem with this, of course, is that these are basically the same people who told us Aspen desperately needs the Pandora’s expansion of lovely intermediate terrain on the back of Aspen Mountain. I would change the name to “Blue Acres.” They said the town needs it, but I think it was the members of the Aspen Mountain Club and the Snow Beach bums who demanded it. Let’s just say memberships to those clubs don’t require a love of Face of Bell on a powder morning, The Dumps dotted with slush bumps in the spring, or last runs of the day down Silver Queen.
All of which curiously comes down to speculation about Mike Kaplan’s announced departure from the helm of our mother ship, Skico. From the beginning I found him to be a bit of an enigma. He simply skied too well, too hard, and too often to be more in sync with puffing up Skico’s bottom line than settling in as a legitimate Aspenite.
For years good fortune smiled on Kaplan’s tenure. For the most part, Skico moved in lockstep with the town. There were bumps along the way with things like the natural incongruity of operating a luxury ski resort on a dangerously warming planet, but after a little griping and grandstanding we moved forward together with neck gaiters up, goggles down, looking straight down the fall line.
But a few things happened recently that seemed out of nature with the Mike Kaplan I thought I recognized. The first was an unvarnished threat he made when the Pandora’s approval was coming to a head in the form of a foamy election battle. He pretty much said Skico would develop big houses back there if voters didn’t get on board with the plan for more skiing.
I thought, who is this? It was as if a demon possessed him to offer up this coarse threat. It didn’t seem like something the friendly guy we often saw helping load gondola cars on busy weekends would say.
Then there was the now infamous “diamonds and duct tape” statement he uttered in announcing Skico’s new AspenX ultra luxury branding campaign. This was so completely out of character that I assumed he had finally snapped under the pressures of trying to right the ship after navigating the turbulent waters of COVID-19 as it coursed unsteadily between sand bars along the channel leading to better times ahead.
If you want to try something terrifying, go ahead and record your voice as you read a favorite quote aloud, recite a few lines from a cherished poem or sing one of your favorite songs. If there is a greater reminder of our own humanness than playing this back and listening start to finish, I can’t think of it. My hunch is that something like this happened in Mike Kaplan’s head. He may have heard his own voice repeating things planted there by others. As Hunter Thompson said, “There is some shit we won’t eat.” I’m thinking he may have stepped back from the company buffet.
Roger Marolt apologizes to Mike Kaplan in advance if he has read this all wrong. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.