Roger Marolt: The Aspen Local: fact or myth? |

Roger Marolt: The Aspen Local: fact or myth?

Roger Marolt
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Roger Marolt

I have more or less poo-pooed the idea of “local” status but have come around to see the value in it. It’s a sterling title worthy of reverence.

My gripes with localism started with folks using it like a military rank or something earned through long suffering. I like it more the less it implies. It is too often coveted and more often flaunted.

Localism is another way to expand snobbery in Aspen. It oftentimes feels like local status is weaponized as a bunker buster aimed toward massive mounds of braggadocio as tall as Red Mountain on one side and Aspen Mountain on the other. One person is a billionaire, another has lived here for six decades, so they’re equals? This equilibrium is a completely false equivalency. Owning a huge house on Red Mountain and being an awesome skier are not the same thing. Billionaires wish. Pretending otherwise causes more resentments than harmonies.

What isn’t cool is people playing the “local” card to win an argument over things so stupid as entitlement to a parking spot at City Market or rolling through a stop sign because “nobody who has lived here for any amount of time stops there.”

And yet, this is beside the point, because nobody actually knows what a “local” is. In a town with rules about almost everything else written down, debated, permitted, codified and cited, nobody has ever officially defined what the criteria for being local is. I would love to hear what candidates have to say about this on Squirm Night.

How long should it take to become a local? You can get into a fraternity after a semester. A five-year apprenticeship for a trade and profession seems about right. I first thought 10 years to become a local seemed about right until I had been here 15 and that made me believe 20 was a good number until I turned 30 and suddenly 25 didn’t seem long enough to establish true local status. Right now I feel 60 is where the bar should be set. It will give me something to shoot for and maybe keep me from selling out and moving to Meeker. It’s awful pretty up there. Who knows, maybe you can only be born into localdom. The oldest living native is the silver king or queen.

I’m not sure I qualify as a local. I live in Snowmass Village, you know. I’ve only been there for 25 years and that doesn’t yet make me feel like an insider. I was the last one to move into my neighborhood and they will always treat me like the new guy. Now long gone, I see 30 years in Aspen was maybe all for naught.

Local status is not only an issue in chronology, either. It’s got plenty to do with geography. I mean, does citizenry demand you live in the downtown core, within Aspen city limits, the Aspen School District, Pitkin County, or the whole Roaring Fork Valley? If it’s the whole dang valley, that leaves the folks in the suburbs of West Glenwood and No Name out on their own, locals of practically nowhere. If we include these people, then there is no basis for excluding residents all the way from here to Grand Junction, and it would seem a little arbitrary even to stop there. I suppose we could all agree that any argument has to stop at the state line. If you live in Utah, you are not an Aspenite.

I wouldn’t mind if a good disposition was required to be a local, too. Why should someone who sits around complaining every moment they’re not habitually writing dark cloud letters to the editor, like everything is wrong, be afforded the honor of local status? I would make a deal with that person: You can be a local if, and only if, from now on you fly a replica, full-size Highland Bowl “Epic” flag in your front yard instead of sheltering behind a wall of political signs. No negotiating. That’s the deal. Admit it, you could live anywhere else for half the price, but you choose to stay here. Actions speak louder than constant vitriol. You know you love us!

You know the old joke: How do you recognize an Aspen Local? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. It is actually funny, because real locals never bring the subject up. It’s what makes them cool.

All things considered, then, we should earnestly revere every local. Good luck finding one.

Roger Marolt thought he saw a Sasquatch eating a local the other day on Fanny Hill. Email at

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