Marolt: It’s the lift, stupid! But you are the brilliant developers
It is the places in the world that invigorate us that are important, not the places that need us to invigorate them — unless you are a real estate developer, of course; then the latter presents opportunity to make a buck, which only falsely promises invigoration to those who fall easily for myths and the perceived worth of $200 haircuts.
The forgotten lots and blocks that need us to sand them down and shine them up are usually chipped, splintered and neglected mostly because they quit invigorating us in one way or another. Most can’t be helped much unless you can rearrange their character by building a Major League Baseball stadium there or convert burned-out buildings into funky art galleries surrounded by bistros and hip coffee klatches. It takes vision, not more of the same-old.
So I’m not overly saddened by the news this week that The Lodge at Lift 1A looks like it will be approved without an extension of the historic ski lift, now situated directly above it, back down to its birthplace on Dean Street. There was a time when I believed this would be a dream come true.
I see now it was a sentimental notion. A new, modern lift extending from a new, modern plaza where there is now a quiet park with a sand volleyball court off Dean Street would likely be about as invigorating as a ride from Little Nell to the Sundeck on the Silver Queen Gondola, with or without a cup of Starbucks.
In case you don’t see my point, one of the most invigorating rituals I think anyone can now enjoy within a five-minute walk from downtown Aspen is a slow ride up Lift 1A followed by a fast warm-up run down Corkscrew and then another slow ride up the old lift stewing in a brew of adrenaline and endorphins while taking in the views and fresh air with either sunshine massaging your thighs or snowflakes teasing your cheeks for face shots to come. As far as rejuvenation and relaxation go, compared with a half-hour massage, it makes the price of a lift ticket seem cheap, even if they stick you for the daily rack rate.
Aspen Skiing Co., our City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Mark Hunt, a conglomerate bent on promoting foreign concepts to Aspen, believe we need more hotels in our budding metropolis, so things are going to change on the Lift 1A side of town. I don’t get that, but this, of course, is completely beside the point, because the new hotels are going to be built where we all live, although very differently in the pursuit of different things, most of which don’t matter a whit to one another.
Where I thought there would be despair with the dashing of the hope of extending Lift 1A back into town, I now have some optimism, though. It’s not that I’m wanting the new hotels to fail, thus preserving some peace and quiet in that part of town, but I believe they will just the same.
What I think the builders of these hotels don’t see is that they are going through the exercise of reconstructing a failure. It’s not at all that they possess a unique vision for a piece of land that has been overlooked. It is more blindness to recognizing why a once-vibrant neighborhood suddenly and utterly failed.
The Skiers Chalet was not always a boarded-up visage of the Bates Motel. It was once the first choice of the Kennedys. There is a reason that it fell into disrepair and was eventually abandoned to become the concern of the Historic Preservation Commission. It’s the lift, stupid!
As soon as the original Lift 1 was replaced with the shortsightedly shortened Lift 1A in the mid-1970s, that part of town died from sudden-onset lack of interest. Nobody was interested in walking up the hill. Nobody was interested in lodging or dining so close and yet so far from the ski lift. Nobody was interested in beginning their ski day out of breath and frustrated for difficulty of parking. Most figured that if you have to catch a shuttle bus back and forth between your hotel and downtown, you might as well stay in Snowmass.
I don’t believe hotels invigorate places. Places invigorate hotels that are lucky enough to find themselves comfortably situated in them. Arrogance makes developers believe that skiing doesn’t matter in a ski town. My prediction for the future of the Lift 1A part of town: demise of the Skiers Chalet redux times two and reasonably peaceful skiing on that side of Aspen Mountain.
Roger Marolt knows that developers have rarely gotten the bases of ski areas right around here. Highlands, Snowmass, Lift 1A, Little Nell — one out of four is bad, and it was due to luck! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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