Roger Marolt: Are we making cheese from ick? |

Roger Marolt: Are we making cheese from ick?

Roger Marolt
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Roger Marolt

The dictionary definition of “icky” is not accurate. It can’t be. “Icky” defies simple explanations. “Icky” requires detailed examples to begin to feel what it represents. “Icky” is understood best by an involuntary contraction of the innards when one witnesses or encounters it. Let’s go have a drink on the Wet Deck. See what I mean?

Icky was the period from roughly 2006 through 2009 when the country got caught up in the too good to be true housing bubble. Normally intelligent and emotionally well-adjusted people were borrowing boatloads of money and buying real estate, any real estate, oftentimes sight unseen; not because they needed it or thought it a prudent acquisition to diversify an investment portfolio, but solely because somebody was dumb enough to lend them the money to do it.

You remember those days. Everyone in Aspen was a millionaire on paper, and everyone was also the smartest person on the paper mache planet. Nobody shied from telling you how much their properties appreciated last month. I walked into Cafe Ink and there was a small group of acquaintances greedily plotting at a table. One asked if I wanted to join their partnership that was going to buy a house in Willits that afternoon. They gave me crap for suggesting I had to think about it. It was an icky time in this town. History is cold gravy on that hunk of fat.

But icky is not limited to general conditions. It can be more easily applied to smaller events. A few moments of not very deep thought brought some of Aspen’s ickiest events to mind. That they are all related to Aspen Ski Co. I am sure is coincidental.

Draw a mental image of drunk people spraying expensive cheap champagne on each other at Cloud Nine “Restaurant” at Highlands. Ick! It’s a bad look for professional athletes doing it in the locker room after wining a championship, especially when they don goggles beforehand. So how do a bunch of rich tourists who have been planning it as the highlight of their trip to Aspen make it look any better? They don’t. There’s no spontaneity. There’s no surprise. It’s premeditated icky in the first degree.

The soon to be installed Snow Beach at the Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain might be worse, because it won’t be put in place until March. The scheme isn’t fully baked and may never be. But there is no sense in taking a wait and see approach to see how it turns out. It’s going to be icky. There is no doubt. The idea of setting up faux cabanas on a faux beach wouldn’t be absolutely terrible, but the idea to charge up to $4,800 for these primmest seats under the sun puts this weird “let’s go skiing in order to pretend we are in Cabo” scene over the top. Of course, the cost includes bottle service, but that doesn’t make it better. It makes it even ickier. Let’s hope the patrons don’t spray it all over each other.

Even this, however, pales in high-definition contrast to the ickiest thing I have seen in Aspen. This distinction goes to Ski Co. for a Valentine’s Day stunt they pulled back in the early 2000s when Snowmass Base Village, the most spectacularly failed real estate development the Roaring Fork Valley has ever seen, was being hailed as the salvation of Snowmass Village (which, incidentally, showed no signs of needing salvation at the time).

Anyway, one of the big shots involved, Pat Smith, from a company called Related West Pac, whatever that means, was the initial developer in charge. Skico believed him to be so important and so smart that they granted him a private gondola car on Valentine’s Day afternoon, fully decorated and rigged with temporary privacy curtains for Pat and his guest. They stopped the lift for 20 minutes while they loaded his cab with a multi-course meal from The Little Nell. Then they stopped again a lap later to get all the dirty dishes out to give Pat more room to operate in there. All this while paying customers fumed or shuffled their feet, averting their eyes for the awkwardness of it all. Until they finally replaced the old gondola cars years later, I couldn’t help wondering if I was sitting in Pat’s cab every time I rode that lift. Ick!

This topic struck my sensibilities like a prune juice margarita the other day. It occurred to me that Icky is only a symptom. The disease is actually being cheesy.

Roger Marolt knows that Aspen would be the last to know if Aspen actually was cheesy. That’s just the way it works.