Meredith C. Carroll: The responsible visitor’s guide to Aspen

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off
Meredith Carroll

A burgeoning movement in the travel industry advocating for responsible tourism has picked up steam over the past few years, including in Aspen. An official set of guidelines issued recently in A-town encourages tourists to more adequately recognize their effect on the area, as being a sustainable visitor primarily means carefully and positively impacting the economy and culture in order to respect and preserve the resources and experience for others.

As such, please be mindful of the new set of local standards:

The 10-foot red Solo cup at the base of Aspen Mountain is regarded as art by as many as four people. Shhh. Nobody tell them.

Please refrain from encouraging the adorable bear/deer/moose/fox you see on your hike/bike ride/Maroon Bells excursion/back deck. Quite possibly the lamest and most dim-witted thing you can do in Aspen is feed the wildlife something other than their steady diet of keto-friendly snacks, free-range brown eggs and organic meat scraps regularly provided to them by a home-grown consortium of counterfeit naturalists. Maybe you’re all that and more, but this is Aspen: ours are extra special.

Always refer to Aspen as an environmental trailblazer while simultaneously maintaining radio silence on exactly how much of that trail is distorted by the blaze from private jets and big city-like traffic. At the same time, frequently referencing Aspen’s plastic-bag ban is mandatory because the city has a smug image to uphold.

Local dogs are exempt from leash laws and visiting dogs are exempt from manners. Exempted from both exemptions are Los Angelenos (human and canine); they know what they did.

If you reside at an altitude below 7,908 feet, commenting on the lack of oxygen a minimum of eight times within the first 24 hours of arriving in Aspen is required.

A little-known Aspen law compels anyone within city limits to refer to businesses by the name of the establishments that preceded them at the same address. While the penalty for calling Clark’s Oyster Bar anything but Little Annie’s is yet to be determined, if you refer to Aspen Public House as Justice Snow’s, don’t be surprised if you’re slapped with a misdemeanor (because Bentley’s is the most correct allusion).

Patronize the local pot shops. Giggle when you enter. Take selfies with hand-blown glass bongs while wearing a look of pretend exaggerated shock. Look around when you exit like you might get in trouble with the principal. Just please do all your marijuana-ing in your hotel room or fractional, because if everyone else wanted to experience amateur hour on a continuous loop, we’d have gone back to prom.

If you think Aspen Mountain is a workout, try hiking the Hyman mall in heels. No, really.

Please walk around at all times with a Camelbak, Native Roots bag and bear spray. If your group goes for a ride down the Rio Grande trail, be sure everyone rents the same bike model. More so than a fanny pack or nametag, these will make identifying and making fun of you much easier once you’re out of earshot.

Please tell everyone you know that Aspen’s Saturday market is indicative of the variety and quality of produce available year-round in regional supermarkets. (It doesn’t take a “Dateline: To Catch a Predator” episode to know this is not actually the case, although it does take a village to maintain Aspen’s smug reputation.)

If you come to Aspen for a 10-day vacation each year, please identify yourself as a part-time local, even when nobody asks. Those who actually live here really, really cherish this information.

The town of Carbondale has 59 full-time employees, an annual budget of just over $18 million and a population of 6,800. Thirty-one miles away in Aspen, where there are also fewer than 7,000 residents, the city has 300 employees and operates on a budget of roughly $130 million. As with the giant plastic cup ruining the view from Gondola Plaza, it simply cannot be explained and it’s best to just look away.

Your goal: to summit Mount Elbert (“It’s the easy 14er,” they say). The reality: If you can make it up Smuggler without sacrificing a lung, alert the media. Either hike will reward you with spectacular photo ops, but only one will end with you in a Flight for Life to Denver. Choose wisely.

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