Roger Marolt: Ikon see clearly now

Roger Marolt
Roger This

I’m a classic rock kind of guy. When I am alone it is what I listen to. When I am with my wife and kids they play what they like, and I’ve been telling myself I don’t like it, so I haven’t gotten to know it. This changed recently. I read an article that suggested we can enrich the quality of our thought by broadening what we read, whom we talk to and what we listen to. I tried it and a funny thing happened — I started to like young people’s music. What I find is that, while classic rock reminds me of when I was young, listening to current music actually makes me feel younger. I’ll take it. A combination of both is best. Who knew?

This pleasant little surprise inspired me to open up to other possibilities. The discovery continued Sunday morning as the crowds grew bigger and bigger on Aspen Mountain. It’s after the holidays, Gay Ski Week, X Games and before Presidents’ Day; I could come up with no explanation for the weekend crowd other than the dastardly Ikon ski pass.

We were told last year that Ikon passholders showed up in large numbers due to the incredible snow year we had. We also were told that they only accounted for about a 12% overall increase in visitors to our four ski areas. What they didn’t think about then is that the driving from the Front Range to Aspen is easier during a more normal, drier winter like the one we are experiencing now and this, apparently, attracts as many, or more, Ikon people as does deep powder. They also failed to mention that almost none of that 12% increase in skier visits comes on weekdays, so the new crowds are compressed onto weekends and that feels more like a 25% increase in visitors.

I’ll admit it, the Ikon crowd thing kind of got me worked up last year, even though I tried to pretend it didn’t. Now, I am choosing to look at the lift line maze as being half empty, as opposed to it being half full. I am trying to broaden my thinking and see the advent of the corporate conglomerating Ikon Pass as a brilliantly positive thing.

First of all, even though Aspen Mountain, a mecca in and of itself in my opinion, was noticeably more crowded, I did not find the trails I normally ski to be much more trafficked than usual. My observation is that the crowds from Denver mostly stick to the cruisers. If you like cruisers, too, I think you are just going to have to deal with that. But, if you like bumps and steeps and semi-untamed stuff just barely off the corduroy swatch, I don’t think you will be inconvenienced by the increase in visitors much. Expand and experiment with your repertoire of runs. Try tearing off chunks of the dark meat on weekends and go back to carving the white on weekdays. There’s plenty of gravy here to top it all off.

Secondly, the lift lines on an Ikon weekend aren’t that bad here. It is a little shocking to see lines in Aspen, but that’s not because they are dreadfully long. It’s because they are rare. When you finish up Aztec and come around the corner and see a few people waiting to get on the chair, it has a stunning effect. But, it’s more like a sasquatch sighting. Initially there’s shock. Is this thing going to eat me raw? Then it runs off into the woods.

Thirdly, Ikoners spend money. It is true that they don’t spend money like the “wrong kind of people” do over the holidays, but this just may mean that they are “the right kind of people.” Think about that. Let’s make a rule: if you are a local, you have to choose at least one category of winter tourists to like. Besides, Skico is probably making money off this deal and they employ a lot of locals. If these friends and neighbors now actually get their bonuses and 401(k)s funded, maybe there’s a bump in the cash they spend around town at the kinds of places we like, thus helping these businesses stick around.

Fourthly, the Ikoners boost our egos. Ride the lift with one and you will pick up on this. They are like the fawning freshman and we the star seniors. It is a huge psyche for them to be here with us on the varsity fields. I have heard more than once things such as, “Aspen has more great skiers than anywhere else.” They want to be us. Take the compliment with grace.

Fifth, the Ikon Pass brings people to town who listen to bands other than The Beatles and Rolling Stones. For a couple of days a week it lowers the average age of town and pumps vitality back into a sport on life support.

Finally, be thankful we don’t honor the Epic Pass. If we did, the ski patrol would have to fly their iconic flag at half mast on extraordinary powder days on Highland Bowl. “Epic” would take on a whole new meaning.

The Ikoners have not gotten in the way of Roger Marolt getting as much skiing as he wants this year. Email at