Roger Marolt: Of Stillwater and thin ice … some Aspen’s pressing issues
As the world more clearly appears to be on a collision course with big trouble, Aspen is facing intractable problems of its own. North Korea continues to test-launch ICBMs over the Pacific Ocean while invectives are hurled between barefoot paddle-boarders and lead-footed drivers in our own Stillwater. And, at the same time, polar ice caps continue melting at alarming rates, local developers skate across the thin ice of a promise they made in 1992 to maintain a skating rink downtown.
Stillwater is a problem I didn’t see coming. The local kids started it, mine included. I don’t know what made them think about going up there, but they did one hot summer afternoon about 10 years ago and their faux-beach loafing caught on. I am not saying they were the first to do it, but they were young and cool so they are the ones that made in popular.
I have floated that uniquely long, calm section of the Roaring Fork river exactly twice: once on an old car tire inner-tube and the other in an inflatable canoe my neighbor thinks he got cheap at a garage sale. I experienced it, had a fun time, numbed all submerged appendages thoroughly, and moved on to other things. I figured everyone else would get over it as quickly as I.
Granted, I have never navigated a stand-up paddleboard up or down Stillwater. I’m told it adds a workout element to the experience. Apparently, heading up the creek with a paddle is fun. I have also heard that yoga balance poses on a floating platform is the ultimate yin-yang swirl of peace and abdominal strain with the added benefit of producing awesome Instagram material. While inflatable canoes can fill up with water and rubber inner tubes get punctured rubbing against stream-side brush, paddle boards resist. I might try one, sans the present hassle.
I am curious about the mixture of locals and tourists doing this. I know it was started by local kids and I suspect not many are doing it regularly anymore, if for no other reason than that baby boomers love it. Yet the crowds are getting bigger and you can tell when you drive by that it is in on many tourists’ Aspen “must do” lists, so I don’t really know who is … ehm … driving its current popularity. We probably need consultants to tell us, even though I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference.
We already have roadside pullouts out there for the hang glider pilots, because they landed there first. We could build more to accommodate floaters and moose watchers. But the most efficient thing to do may be to convert the riverside bike path into a frontage road from the put-in to the take-out areas. Not only would this allow plenty of parallel parking spots along the river, but also provide access for first-aid administrators and trash collectors. Who knows, we might even get a 7-Eleven there.
Then there is the issue of the Silver City outdoor skating rink near the base of Aspen Mountain where many believed there should have been public parking instead. This glimmering ice oval, somehow accepted as a community amenity, seemed like a brilliant idea when all the timeshares overlooking it needed to be sold by the developers, but now that all the buyers’ checks have cleared it is nothing more than an expensive pain in the ice.
This puts the city of Aspen in an interesting bind. On one hand, this costly-to-maintain, rinky-dink ice rink was a great way to stick it to The Man when he developed the land. On the other, global warming has intensified and The Man has a good point that it seems stupid to waste copious amounts of energy to maintain real, frozen ice where it won’t naturally stick around.
The right thing, of course, is for the city to lick its wounds and let this rink be covered with state of the art artificial ice, no matter how much tourists hate it, because it is the best thing to do for the planet. And, yet, when have we ever made that trade-off before?
Of course this would leave the adjacent burger joint out in the warm. It turns out that vacationers don’t like fake ice and, when lousy skating leaves a bad taste in their mouths, they take their appetites elsewhere. This issue can be all laced tight with the city buying out the fast food store’s lease and turn the space into an electrical vehicle charging station with a Canary Initiative brochure stand.
Roger Marolt would like to set up a compressed air concession at Stillwater and a maze of snow caves for the tourists to crawl through on the skating rink. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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