Marolt: My oh my, how Aspen has changed |

Marolt: My oh my, how Aspen has changed

Thinking and driving can be dangerous. (Mothers Against Thunk Drivers?) For whatever reason, I was barely out of town on my way to California, and I thought about all the times people have sympathized to me, the Aspen native, about the incredible change I must have suffered here over the years. Boy, is that an understatement. I mean, we have Boogie’s, where The Shaft used to be. The Chart House and La Cocina are gone. The Hotel Jerome is a completely different color, not to mention the add-on it put up in back. I could go on for 52 years about what’s different.

You know what, though? When you think about it, Basalt has changed even more. It did a bypass with the highway, the big subdivision east of 7-Eleven popped up, and all the area out by the high school got developed. Don’t forget about Willits and the two supermarket complexes, either. Basalt used to be a blink-and-you-miss-it town. Now it has about six stoplights, depending on whether you can find the city limits.

Now that I mention it, whatever isn’t Basalt is Carbondale. Talk about change. The River Valley Ranch golf course/real estate play altered that town completely. All of those houses behind Catherine Store got built, too, so the “back way” into town isn’t such a secret anymore. I guess you could even consider Aspen Glen part of Carbondale, too, funny as that sounds. Yeah, that place is way different.

But Glenwood you can hardly recognize from 32 years ago. They put in the Walmart way back when because of all the change upvalley so that the people who still lived there would have a place to buy underwear and other necessities that were no longer available for reasonable prices in the boutiques that had pretty much taken over the retail scene. And that was just the beginning. Shorty afterward, Glenwood got a real mall with Target and Lowe’s. Then new golf courses were built on either side of town and surrounded with big, fancy houses, and things will never be the same.

Then there’s Rifle. I would have bet the farm that place would never change. But somebody finally figured out how to squeeze oil and gas from a rock, and all shale broke loose. The rest is history, as they say. Have you Google-Earthed that area? From outer space it looks like a giant pincushion of oil wells, or chicken pox on the earth, whatever comparison of dots and spots all over the place you want to make. Whatever kinds of farms and ranches the area had are lost. Ha! It was a bad bet, I guess.

And it doesn’t stop there. What was once sleepy little Grand Junction is now a major retirement community and regional medical center. Main Street is where it was all happening back in the day. Now, it’s happening just about everywhere around the city except there. There are lots of big-box chains, but you can tell it’s still kind of a hick town. Cabela’s is a bigger box than Home Depot.

Las Vegas has become something else altogether. I bet it’s 10 times bigger than it was in 1980. Twenty miles from the Strip, you still are driving past gigantic neighborhoods of vacant houses where only lizards used to reside. Change? Whew! Where do you even begin to describe it?

Even Barstow boomed. I’ve never been able to figure out why that town exists in the first place, but lots of other people have figured out it is for them.

Los Angeles only thought it had traffic problems in the ’70s. The beach towns are now all connected. San Diego is a zoo grown up around a zoo. Yeah, so we marvel how Aspen has changed. It’s been quite a transformation, all right.

OK, you’re no dummy; you see what I’ve done here. I pretty much hand-picked towns and cities across the west that have changed dramatically over the past 30 years to help you see things my way. To be totally fair, I should have thrown in a few of the towns along the way to the ocean that have successfully fended off change. Green River, Utah, and Baker, California, are still pretty much the same as they’ve always been, as far as anyone cares to notice.

Roger Marolt is not so much afraid of change as he is tired of it. That’s why he’s staying in Aspen. Contact him at

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