Petrie: Missing yesteryear |

Petrie: Missing yesteryear

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

I just read Roger Marolt’s excellent article in Outside Magazine, “Aspen Has Been Overrun By Zillionaires,” where he talks about the Aspen town characters of the past and how they are pretty much non-existent today. As usual, Mr. Marolt is spot on.

I moved to Aspen in 1970, later than I would have liked but in time to experience what I consider to be the golden age of the ski bum, and I remember many of those legendary characters. 

But, they weren’t alone. Aspen was a crazy place In those days, and I think that a great number of people who were here in the ’70s and ’80s, while not necessarily flamboyant or eccentric enough to be in the same league as Ralph Jackson or No Problem Joe, were sufficiently weird and irreverent that they would be considered genuine town characters in today’s whitewashed version of Aspen. I have a long list of names who I think would qualify, as I’m sure everyone who was here then does.

Many tourists, as well as numerous celebrities, enjoyed hanging out with the locals then. One of Aspen’s biggest attractions was called its “local color“— the wackos in the bars, the ski bums, many with advanced degrees from prestigious universities working at menial jobs, dishwashers, waiters, bartenders, cabbies, the local cowboys, and so forth. 

The tourists actually tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to be like the locals they considered cool. Quite a difference from today’s tourists! When was the last time you heard the description local color? We lost that part of us a long time ago.

And, where have all the funky old Victorians gone where ski bums could afford to live? For the most part, they’ve been converted to lot-line-to-lot-line monstrosities, extra homes for the super wealthy. We used to blame the overdevelopment on Bill Greed, but I haven’t heard his name in years. I suspect that, at some point, Greed morphed into William Avarice, and then we just stopped paying attention.

The classic story of locals here is that they came for the skiing and stayed for the summers. I came for the skiing, and, as much as I love the summers, what I stayed for was the lifestyle.  Unfortunately, that lifestyle no longer exists.

Mike Petrie