Roger Marolt: Time matters because it always tells
I was trying to think of something like skiing that so completely consumes people. We live in a ski town. Almost everyone here skis. Many ski a lot. Some ski way too much, depending on whom you ask. Skiing is the primary reason a huge portion of our population moved here.
This happens in spite of our town being outrageously expensive. Gas prices aren’t advertised. Groceries can seem like a luxury item. Ski passes are cheap, but only compared with the price of a mountain bike. They say a baby can drown in a thimble of water, but in Aspen you can barely afford to drown a few sorrows in a local bar. The cost of living is like Palo Alto’s, but we don’t exactly have jobs that pay like Google. Basically, we go way out of our ways to be part of this ski town thing. It sounds as odd as it does cool.
Is there such a similar thing as, say, a tennis town? I have never heard of it. I can’t imagine creating a culture around white clothes, sweatbands and sneakers. Maybe it has to do with all the chainlink fence and bright lighting that is required. At nighttime a tennis town might have a similar feel to a prison.
There is the whole surfing culture that might be likened to skiing, but my impression is that it is different in more ways than it is similar. There are beach communities where surfing has an oversized presence that loosely defines them, but I think much of that identity is assumed vicariously. Even in the surfiest beach towns, I doubt most citizens partake in riding waves. Surfing is hard. To master it takes years of dedication, usually beginning at a young age. Not many folks fit the criteria. Persistence is too time consuming for the modern attention span. While many are called to splash around in waist-deep water tossing a foam football, few are chosen to ride the glass.
There are golf communities, too, but they are usually just gated neighborhoods in larger communities where more residents care about an image than about the sport. Aficionados wear golf shirts and hats in as many places as are socially acceptable. Some plaster Titleist stickers on their bumpers. And still, enthusiasts’ lexicon does not include the term “golf bum.” The irony may be that you have to devote your life to being a doctor or lawyer in order to seem like you are devoted to shooting par.
Lots of people are into running and some devote their lives to that, and there are places where there are many runners of all kinds — Aspen actually is one of those places — but again, I have yet to hear of a community creating an encompassing lifestyle revolving around this. Maybe it’s because there is no adrenaline rush in running; all you get is skinny, and that is usually unsustainable.
Moab could be considered a mountain biking community, except for all the four-wheeler enthusiasts there. The balance between cyclists and motor heads is pretty even, so they kind of cancel each other out as far as one or the other defining the character of the town. There also are the national parks there. They attract crowds who don’t bike or wench their jacked-up vehicles over boulders. Moab has a schizophrenic identity, at best.
So, you have to admit skiing is a kind of weird thing. In the end, when we need to account for what we did with our lives, it could be an interesting reconciliation to see what we get for molding our lives to fit our ski town identity. The grand scheme may not award many points for bowl laps and 100-day pins. Certainly it will be far fewer than those handed out for things like feeding the poor, discovering vaccines, or even solving complex mathematical equations.
Of course there has to be a greater purpose for living in a place with such a veneer of an identity as Aspen’s and, despite evidence to the contrary, it isn’t partying that sustains over the long haul. I think fewer people end up understanding this than those whose heads it completely goes over before they eventually find themselves as residents of somewhere else. It has to be more than what meets the eye that keeps us rooted and, while I don’t claim to know or be able to define exactly what ends up being of substance here in the shadows of Bell Mountain moguls and outside of an epic powder day, I do know what they call the lucky ones who figure it out. The few, the proud, the contemplators, and givers are who are eventually known as “locals.”
Roger Marolt feels it is safe to bring up this topic this time of year. Email at email@example.com