Marolt: Great expectations between friends
Dear Jeff Gorsuch,
You’re an Aspen guy, so you’ll understand. You gotta admit it’s been a long time since anything really great has been built here; I’m talking about beautiful, functional, something that’s embraced as a local treasure. I mean, we got the Bayer Music Tent and Harris Concert Hall kind of recently and the Wheeler Opera House a long time ago and pretty much a whole lot of nothing before, after or between.
I guess that’s not unusual. We have as many notable architectural gems as anywhere. But the thing is we’ve got more resources than most places and a lot more to gain from an exceptional aesthetic sense than almost everywhere. I think we should be creating more of our own culture. Our buildings should play a leading role.
So, why am I writing you now? Well, it’s just that, as you well know, there are plans on the drawing board to build a new hotel at the base of Lift 1A with your family’s name on the stationery and front door. I hope that gives you incentive to insist that this thing is not just profitable for you and comfortable for your guests but also magnificent for me. I hope your great-grandchildren will look at this project 50 years from now and be proud — not only for what you did with this hotel but for what the hotel has done for the town, which they will adore and know without doubt that you did, too.
They say you can judge the true depth of a person if you know what they care about most. You have been given an incredible opportunity to tell the world who you are. If this were all about money, I’m sure we would end up with a nice-looking, trendy hotel with a functional obsolescence designed in that will render the project a scraper perhaps within your lifetime. I believe I know better than that. I hope you make me proud.
The location of the new hotel is a place of prominence. It’s the birthplace of modern Aspen. It’s less a part of the town than it is of the mountain that made the town. I look up toward this spot. This project needs to look back down at me, smiling, with its arms wide open. It simply can’t end up another private enclave insulating an exclusive clientele.
You have a great team of local talent. I hope you turn the creative genius of the architects at Design Workshop loose. I hope the building’s lines mimic those of the Shadow Mountain ridge above. I hope it is situated not to block the new Lift 1A from moving back down the mountain toward downtown. It would be really cool if our love of skiing was embraced so that skiers descending Norway Slope behind the hotel could pass through an archway in the hotel to get back to the ski lift.
A great project will require cooperation of interested parties. Yes, this will require lots more work, but it will be worth the effort. Aspen Skiing Co. will undoubtedly play a huge part. When it comes to doing great things, it’s overdue. Remember its last awesome project? Highland Bowl — now that is spectacular! The opening of that terrain was initiated in conjunction with the development of Highlands Base Village. Even though the base area didn’t work out well, our community has benefited hugely by all the new ski terrain that came with it. Bringing Lift 1A back to town might be even greater for me than the bowl.
Now, I hate to emphasize this last point, because it puts a lot of pressure on you. I’m going to risk it anyway: A huge amount of power comes with your name on this project. I’d go so far as to say it can’t possibly succeed now if you come out and declare that it simply isn’t up to your standards. You’ve got leverage; I beg you to use it on my behalf — on our behalf.
The bottom line, Jeff, is that when this plan is unveiled, nobody in town should see it as a regular old real estate play. Your family has invested passionately in skiing and me for a long time. Don’t allow our relationship to be tarnished by this project. Bring it on, bring it strong, and bring greatness! You and I have an incredible bond. I hope you value it as much as I do and that it is reflected in the care you bring to this project.
Roger Marolt has known the Gorsuch family as long as he has known Aspen. They are both dear friends. Email at email@example.com.