Marolt: It feels like a mighty wind is about to change Aspen forever
More and more often, I get the feeling that sooner than I think — probably in my lifetime or at least within the statistically based time frame the actuaries give me to remain part of the problem — Aspen will be a big city. Many say it’s a big city already, but that’s only because we are used to exaggerated claims to make arguments in local politics or haven’t been to Denver lately. And I hate to use Las Vegas as an example because that’s as easy as comparing Donald Trump to a moderate Nazi, but I think we might end up something like the size of that glittery town in the Mojave Desert.
I get the feeling the world is on the verge of something big. That, and Aspen has been too popular for too long to remain so exclusively inaccessible for much longer. I don’t necessarily think it will be bad; my gut just tells me it will be big.
It may have something to do with climate change. The way I see it, unprecedented weather changes won’t make Aspen less desirable, although the rest of the world may suffer terribly. If the jet stream in turmoil brings bigger storms to the continent, the skiing gets better up here. If hot winds overheat currently warm places, we will be relatively more pleasant. Headwinds, we win; tailwinds, they lose.
Even if it gets too warm to snow here, I bet it will still be beautiful. Yes, I am concerned about the rest of the world when it comes to the persistent accumulation of greenhouse gases under our atmospheric dome, but I think all of us little pigs in Aspen are pretty much living in the brick house, even if we weren’t the diligent ones who constructed it and maybe are even major contributors to the huffing and puffing that’s going to blow everyone else’s straw houses down everywhere else. We got lucky. Opulence pays. If we believe hard enough, we will be able to convince ourselves we did what we could.
Nonetheless, I don’t think there will be big enough climate change in any of our lifetimes to bring about a monumental shift in the way we operate up here. If you pressed me on it, I’d guess the big thing will be driverless cars, but that’s probably not going to be it. You’ve heard the expression “It’s the bus you don’t see coming that hits you.” Well, I’ve got my eye on cars that are piloted by computer programs, so I bet we are safe from them, at least if we stay in the marked crosswalks.
Even still, I think it will have something to do with transportation. Recall how transcontinental railways, automobiles and airplanes changed Aspen. Barely over 150 years ago, there wasn’t even a town here where we argue about sanitized luxury penthouses built above noisy nightclubs today.
This isn’t a good place to end a newspaper column, so let’s go with the autopiloted car since I haven’t got any other point to drive home. Basically, the car driven by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come travels by command of an electronic brain the size of an iPhone on the blacktopped and concrete infrastructure we already have in place, so, in theory, this revolution could happen quickly. Driverless vehicles are train cars hooked to one another by electronic couplings that connect and detach automatically and reconnect to other wireless trains on other roads that they pass as programmed.
If driverless cars end up being outfitted like Winnebagos, and why wouldn’t they be, their occupants would be free to eat, sleep, shower, work or watch TV as they travel. If this proves true, Aspen becomes an easy daily work commute from places as far away as Grand Junction. It becomes an effortless vacation drive for a long weekend from places as far away as Salt Lake City and possibly Los Angeles. Visitors will be able to live in their well-appointed and comfortable vehicles when they get here! There isn’t anyone alive who can accurately envision exactly how something like this could so astonishingly change not only Aspen but the entire world.
So, while driverless cars might not turn out to be the big thing I feel like we are on the verge of, it gives you an idea how big of a change I think is coming. It will be enough to make anyone who spent 10 minutes giving their two cents at a meeting for tweaking the Aspen Area Community Plan wish they would have gone skiing when it was so much less crowded instead. That’s for sure!
Roger Marolt understands that gut feelings can often be ameliorated with a healthier diet. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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