Old-fogey optimism with a smile and a cheap shot | AspenTimes.com

Old-fogey optimism with a smile and a cheap shot

Since I seem to be turning into an almost classic grumpy old fogey (“almost”?), I am going to stand on my head to “turn that frown upside down” and dedicate this week’s column to some purely optimistic Cheerful Charlie uplift.

(Yeah, I know: Yuck! But stick with me here.)

And in pursuit of my smiley-face goal, I am — of course — going to pick a fight with an esteemed longtime colleague, a good buddy and fellow Aspen Times columnist who is known for his good-vibes, save-the-planet view on life.

But before I launch my assault on this esteemed colleague, I must first note this: He is absolutely right in everything he says.

And I am going to disagree with him nonetheless.

In the name of optimism.

So — deep breath and here we go: a cheap-shot attack on the esteemed Paul Andersen for his Monday column, “X Games hype falls flat.”

In that column, Andersen declared that the X Games are big and noisy, a carbon-spewing abomination that helps destroy the planet while exploiting adrenalin-crazed young athletes for obscene corporate profits. In summation, these so-called games are the exact opposite of everything that Aspen ought to stand for.

Or, to put it another way: Hey, you kids! Get off my mountain!

Paul’s outrage has honorable historical roots.

Aspen’s old guard has pretty much always been outraged by the crazy newcomers.

The Ute Indians resented the silver miners (with good reason, to be sure).

The miners’ descendants resented the Paepckes and their big-city imperious ways.

The old-time ski bums resented the surfer dudes who tore up the mountain and invented hot-dog skiing.

People on long skis resented people on short skis, and skiers of all kinds resented snowboarders.

Every step of the way, the old fogeys were reliably outraged.

And just as reliably, today’s young crazies turn into tomorrow’s old fogeys.

And I say that with the reliable wisdom of a onetime young crazy who now looks in the mirror and sees an old fogey staring back at him.

So, sure, everything is bigger and brighter and crazier and louder than it used to be. And, sure, the X Games are an outsized, profit-driven corporate circus.

You know. just like when the World Cup races come to town — sponsored by, of course, Audi. A car company. (Nothing new there. Decades ago, before we all got so Germanic and ritzy, the races were sponsored by Subaru.)

Yes, I know: Cars spew carbon dioxide, and that causes climate change and melts the snow, and how can we pretend to care about the environment when we’re glorifying carbon-spewing, climate-changing, internal-combustion machines?

Good point. I’ve already said Paul was 100 percent correct.

But, then again, how can we pretend to care about the environment when we run ski lifts in the wilderness and bring in customers from around the globe by jet plane?

And, yes, I’ve read the letters to the editor about the loud noise, the piles of trash and the (sorry) puddles of vomit left behind by the X Games kids.

But the “vital” Aspen we want is directly related to the “crazy” Aspen we either resent or fondly remember. (And I write these lines as someone who ruefully remembers sitting on the curb in front of the Hotel Jerome throwing up on my shoes in broad daylight during the Winterskol parade.)

Is there a better way?

Of course! And of course not!

I call your attention to the idea of Aspen as an “uphill resort,” as admirably promoted by Mayor Steve Skadron.

That uphill ideal is exemplified by the Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race — 25 miles and 12,000 feet of vertical gain, up and over the top of all four ski mountains, including Highland Bowl — whew! And there’s also Aspen Skiing Co.’s (poorly named) SkiMo town mountaineering series. And America’s Uphill. And the Grand Traverse.

All of these are great, nonpolluting, only slightly commercial events featuring courageous and admirable athletes. And all of them, I do believe, fit into Paul Andersen’s definition of what Aspen should stand for.

Of course, that Power of Four race is most properly referred to as the Audi Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race. So — oops! — there go your nonpolluting, noncommercial angel wings, devoured by the corporate monster.

And, even more to the point, the fact is that these (almost entirely, see: corporate monster, above) praiseworthy events are small potatoes, sideshows to the main circus that is Aspen itself.

If this town relied entirely on the uphill ski-mountaineering crowd, we wouldn’t have any pollution problems. Ghost towns don’t pollute.

Look, skiing — or, more properly, the ski industry — has always walked a fine line, balancing the glory of the mountains against the necessary industrial intrusions.

Industrialized recreation is the name of the game.

Our game.

And, just to be very clear, I love it. One man’s industrialized recreation is another man’s lunatics defying gravity, racing downhill on the ragged edge.

Sure, I know, it’s shameless marketing, corporate pandering.

But the real danger to Aspen does not come from crazy 20-somethings or loud music. Or even the occasional puddle of vomit. (Sorry again — for the gross image and my own past bad behavior.)

The real danger to Aspen comes from profit-crazed developers — not party-crazed kids.

And, believe it or not, that actually brings me to my final shot of Cheerful Charlie optimism.

I ran into an old friend in the market the other day, and we agreed that even when some of what’s happened to Aspen gets us down, the answer is simple: Raise your sights.

Look up, over the crap and the glitter and the greed. And the penthouses.

And there are the mountains.

Still there.

With lunatics sliding down them.

And — come on, Paul, I know you agree — that’s a good thing.

A great thing.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is andy@aspentimes.com.

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