Marolt: We don’t need no stinkin’ permit
Some local traditions fade away. Others get nuked.
An example of the former is the Aspen High School homecoming parade that evaporated after tradition escalated to the expectation that the seniors would absolutely set the freshmen’s float afire the night before the parade. The Aspen Fire Department agreed that it seemed redundant to have two bonfires the same week. And then there were none. And nobody in town can tell you when the last one was. My guess is about 1987.
An example of the latter is the annual Hike for Hope — the event that became the highlight of Winterskol week over the past 11 years purely on merit. It was a lot of fun and a terrific event organized around a horrific thing.
The terrific part was a local race/hike up Buttermilk Mountain to a pancake breakfast at the Cliffhouse restaurant early on a late-January Sunday morning after the holidays when town is our own again and winter is at its peak of excitement for locals. Some participants raced so hard that they could barely talk, and others talked so hard that they couldn’t possibly race. The best part for me was that I usually didn’t decide which group I would be in until the starter’s gun sounded, and I learned that no matter which group I ended up hanging with, there were no losers. Perfect.
The horrific part of the race is that it has its origin in fighting muscular dystrophy, which is a merciless killer of children, mostly boys, and, as of now, has no cure. A childhood friend and neighbor of mine, John Keleher, died from it. A childhood friend of my kids’, Ian Sharp, is living with it now. Ian’s parents started the event to raise awareness and money and love, the three ingredients absolutely necessary to ever find the end to this awful disease that is not as rare as we would hope.
As many of you noticed, the event did not happen as usual this year. So, how does something so good, so popular, so necessary, get nuked so suddenly?
I wish I had an answer other than that bigger interests took precedence. The first bigger interest, which clearly represents our community values much more perfectly, is the X Games. Yes, I know that this big, made-for-television advertisers’ dream event wasn’t slated to take place until a week after the Hike for Hope, as it has so copacetically taken place forever, but somebody with a wallet bigger than a heart decided that X Games workers needed all the parking spots at Buttermilk before dawn on the Sunday morning four days before the first training run, so no parking could be provided for the Hike for Hope.
The second bigger interest is the U.S. Forest Service, which is currently so poorly funded that it now apparently has to extort money from dying children in order to stay afloat. Suddenly it was demanding a large permit fee from the Hike for Hope in order to stage the event this year on land already leased from it by Aspen Skiing Co. and, thus, paid for by us skiers. OK, OK, I know rules are rules and government red tape is the stickiest, but it still seems a little fishy that it took 11 years for somebody at the Forest Service to read that part of the regulations.
Add these two things together, and you have the death of a community asset that, if you ask me, is more important than La Cocina, the Skiers Chalet and Der Weinerstube combined.
Fortunately, the Hike for Hope is about never giving up, no matter what. We’ve got to have faith and determination in equal measure to pull this off.
Here’s the plan: We don’t need no stinkin’ parking. We don’t need no stinkin’ permits. The 13th annual Hike for Hope is happening tomorrow, in hundreds of different places, in hundreds of different ways. If you want to hike with the Sharp family, they’ll be heading up Buttermilk at 10 a.m. They’d love to have you along. But, I know, this is late notice, and you already have other plans. That’s actually great. Whatever your plans are, that’s this year’s Hike for Hope! Go do it, and post pictures and messages afterward on the Hike for Hope Facebook page. Get it? Show you care. Raise awareness. Have fun. Send in a check to help find a cure. The only way this local tradition dies is if we let it!
Stuff happens. It’s not the ideal plan. But it’s the best we can do for now. It’s not sitting around sad-faced and doing nothing. It gets us to next year. It gives us optimism about the future. When you think about it, this is what the Hike for Hope is all about.
Roger Marolt asks that, as you are out there celebrating this glorious weekend, please consider a donation to the Hike for Hope Foundation, 936 W. Francis St., Aspen, CO 81611.