Sean Beckwith: Baptism by tourist
There’s an event in high school called hell week, which refers to a semi-boot camp designed to get prospective football players in shape. It also doubles as a process to weed out those who are out of shape or lack the desire and commitment to play. Do you want a letter jacket to help with your personal life or do you want it to signify how devoted you are to the team and game?
Aspen has its own version, and it just arrived. From Christmas to New Year’s Day, the amount of people in town, at your job, on the bus and in general is enough to give even the least agoraphobic person pause before venturing into town.
While I don’t know many, if any, locals who embrace the crowds like The Rock embraces subpar scripts, there are those who pick and choose their spots, refusing to let the winter rush dictate their lifestyle. Whether you’re a junkie for the nightlife, seeking 100 days on the mountain or a foodie, there are ways to continue to do what you like with minimal interference.
There’s not a ton of advice I can give the club rats because Aspen’s high-end tourist clientele hails from places where going to the club is the thing to do. New Yorkers, Miami natives and the like are used to maneuvering crotch-to-crotch, ass-to-ass or ass-to-crotch to get from bar to dance floor to bathroom. So if that’s not your thing, which it probably is if you’re a Bootsy Bellows regular, just avoid that scene. And if you love the hard-pumping, hard-thrusting lifestyle, get out there and grind away.
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For those of you who enjoy a drink on the town at a dive bar or none, I would suggest Zane’s or Public House — though the location of Public House lends itself to crowds. Still, they do have a mellow atmosphere that is rarely described as “popping.” Also, when the bartenders at Zane’s aren’t chasing tip scofflaws, they’re very nice people who do a bang-up job during busy nights and deserve your patience and, more importantly, tips.
For the avid outdoors crowd, it’s all about beating or avoiding the crowds. If cardio wasn’t the bane of my physical being, I knew how to ski or owned a split board, I would probably enjoy morning skins up Tiehack at Buttermilk. However, remember to take a quick run after to get a scan if you’re trying to hit that centennial mark.
For those who prefer the luxury of a chair lift over the self-propelled method, you have to get out there early. Aspen Mountain has been pretty stark before 10, powder days notwithstanding. Buttermilk is always a good bet to bypass the gapers and Jerrys. Highlands can be empty but traffic likes to gather in heavily skied areas. (Also, if you’re going to stop in the middle of the run, don’t get mad when someone sprays you. It’s probably a good indication that your stop-and-chat needs to be moved to the lodge.) And Snowmass is a s— show, so maybe leave that to families, at least until there’s enough snow to get off the groomer grid.
For the people who still want access to their favorite restaurants, it’s a little more complicated than picking the right time. To those who want to eat at the White House Taverns, Jimmy’s and Matsuhisas in the area, you’ll have to adopt the “No friends on a powder day” mantra and limit your dining group to two at the most.
Showing up at a popular restaurant during peak season in Aspen is like showing up to a high school party with six other guys; you’ll be lucky just to get in the door let alone stay and enjoy yourselves.
If you like futile endeavors and want to get you and your visiting friends into a desirable eatery, try to get there early or just late enough not to piss off an entire staff that’s just trying to get off work. This logic also applies to going grocery shopping. The last thing you want to do is shimmy around City Market during lunch rush like it’s the front row of a Chainsmokers concert at Belly Up.
I never participated in hell week during high school but I’ve been experienced my fair share of New Year’s weeks in Aspen. There’s no point in trying to snowboard uphill. You’re still going to be annoyed by how long it takes the bus to get from the store to Rubey Park, you’re still going to hate every second you try to run an errand in town and people are still going to stop in the middle of the street to take a picture of the lights in the walking mall.
If you can make it through this week, the solitude of the next couple of months awaits and you can do all the stuff you want at the pace of your liking.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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