Princess: Basalt can take a cue from Telluride |

Princess: Basalt can take a cue from Telluride

Alison Berkley Margo

So while all of you were frolicking at your various beach destinations and gloating about it unabashedly on Facebook by posting at least two photos a day, Ryan and I took our little offseason trip to the only place in Colorado colder than here. We went to Telluride.

So here’s what struck me about Telluride: It might be expensive, but it’s still small town, and it’s still cool. And it’s not that expensive — you can get a funky old house downtown for around a million bucks. The fact that I think a million bucks is “not that expensive” pretty much says it all about Aspen.

We pulled into the visitor’s center and decided to walk into town with the pooches. In the first three blocks, we saw three different dogs walking themselves without owners, never mind leashes. That was the first sign, at least in my mind, that this is still a small town — no uniformed guards on bikes wielding handheld electronic devices that have a record of your DNA, handing out $500 tickets because your dog is off-leash. It just says something about the laid-back attitude of the town that felt refreshingly cool.

Everyone knows there are no stoplights in Telluride — another hallmark of “still small.”

Then we met a local with her young son who was super nice and chatty. More and more I’m finding this is the exception when I travel to other small towns. It’s like the smallness is so coveted that people aren’t welcoming because the last thing they want is for you to like the place and want to move there. It’s as if as soon as they arrived you should lock the door and throw away the key. I so hate that mentality.

But this town, it still has grit. It has hippies who are old and kind of gross and, like, real hippies. You don’t see beautiful, coiffed-looking girls in the latest riding boots with aviator sunglasses and manicured fingernails. People are messy, disheveled and bearded and have, like, gross dreadlocks. I so love that.

The thing is, Telluride reminded me what it’s like in small-mountain-town Colorado. Which made me think: “Wait a minute, don’t I live in a small mountain town in Colorado?”

Yes, as a matter of fact I do — it’s called Basalt.

Speaking of which, I appreciate that they’re asking for community input on the redevelopment of downtown. As you guys know, ever since I went from Aspen Princess to Desperate Housewife of Basalt, I’ve been somewhat perplexed by its lack of cool. I mean, if Carbondale can be cool and it’s 10 miles farther away from the ski resorts, why can’t Basalt be cool? I love our little downtown. I love that we live at the confluence of two great rivers. I love the red rock and the way it creates the perfect contrast of color between the sky and Basalt Mountain.

Yet, Scott Condon wrote in a recent article about the revitalization of Basalt, “Basalt has built a reputation over the past decade or so for being a place where development projects went to die.”

I feel like Basalt is that beautiful girl who think she’s ugly so she keeps getting all this cosmetic surgery done to the point where she looks nothing like her former self and is still miserable. It’s all here — I think it’s just a matter of people taking pride in it.

Carbondale is so into its community that it will make any excuse to let its freak flags fly. Like, let’s pick a day to celebrate dandelions! Let’s turn an arbitrary day like the first Friday of every month into a big party! Let’s have a blowout, three-day celebration every summer under the biggest mountain in the valley and call it — I know! Mountain Fair!

See what I mean? You don’t draw town cool on a map and hand it to a developer.

That said, here’s my wish list for the town’s redevelopment:

We for sure need a gourmet market like a Roxy’s or a Trader Joe’s — one with hardwood floors and overpriced food items I’ll buy because they have free samples and the vibe is good so I’ll go there almost every day, even when I don’t really need anything.

No question we need a microbrewery with a tasting room downtown, because that right there is the hallmark of a cool Colorado town. Super-minimalist and chill. With board games and furniture made of recycled bicycles or something. Make the beer strong enough to kill a small child and with enough hops to taste like liquid pot — even more cool points.

We need affordable housing that’s nice and attached to free-market housing and retail — a la Obermeyer Place. I want one of those here, something with in-the-now architecture where locals can afford to live.

We also need a cool boutique hotel like the Sky. I want a heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi with a funky lounge with gourmet bar food where people would want to hang out and drink and eat outside, all year-round. Preferably with a spa good enough to be a destination resort. If they have one in La Costa, California, they can have one here. La Costa is not that great.

So, make it an affordable place to live, and create some cool places to hang out that have even a sliver of a hip factor to attract a younger set. Oh, and an outdoor music venue wouldn’t hurt. An outdoor music venue on the river! Who wouldn’t drive here for that? If you’ve ever been to Mishawaka or State Bridge, you know what I’m talking about.

There’s nothing better than life in a small mountain town in Colorado, and with all the development and growth that’s happening in Aspen, it’s time for Basalt to become the locals’ town.

The Princess just joined Burn Fitness — the perfect example of a cool new business run by an awesome local in Basalt. Check it out at