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Sean Beckwith: Misplaced escapists

I recently had a new neighbor knock on my door to introduce himself (with a mask on, thankfully) and, I wondered, was it coronavirus that prompted the move or a yearning for open spaces? It’s a legitimate question that I didn’t ask because there’s no way to ask without coming off as territorial.

“So, uh, what brought about the move? Big camper? Snowboarder? Got sick of being harassed for not wearing a mask at Whole Foods?”

I can see why people want to live in Aspen in general. Other than the obvious geographical features that people love — which is probably the most mundane way to describe the Rockies — there are big-city aspects. From its ability to routinely draw notable acts to venues like Belly Up and the Wheeler, to “upscale” dining and equally high-end fashion, Aspen offers plenty of comforts usually not afforded to typical small cities.

If you’ve just moved to Aspen because you want your slice of privilege with some added personal space, I don’t know how happy you’ll be. The summer and shoulder seasons have been relatively chill because of the shutdown but also the ability of Americans and Coloradans to get outside regardless of where they are in the U.S.

Now, though, that the lust for outdoor adventure in Colorado will be condensed to its ski resorts, the wait for a table over lunch is going to be a lot longer, the search for parking is going to be a lot harder and the list of options to get away from the hordes is a lot smaller. All of that room in your Red Mountain home or, even worse, your multimillion-dollar-yet still-small single-family house is going to feel very cabin-ish once you realize exercise isn’t a step outside of your front door away.

Like the gym the first few weeks of January (I’m assuming because I’m definitely not a resolution guy), the mountains will be packed with COVID escapists once the lifts start spinning. My prediction is twofold: those new setups are going to get minimal usage (which means next year’s ski swaps could be plump) or people will really enjoy the improvement that’s only attained with skiing a full season.

I’m not sure what the split between “These ski boots hurt my feet” and “Face to 6 to Dumps?!” will be, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

Will the 1% migration — annoyed with breaking in those dastardly ski boots — move to warmer climates? Will ski patrol need backup because Fredericks and Chases keep pulling Kennedys while skiing trees? Will this newfound enthusiasm for Mother Nature result in a renaissance for the sport of skiing and spur meaningful action against climate change? (Best joke of the column hands down. [The answer is resoundingly “no.”])

What I do know, though, is all of the things locals bitch about, COVID escapists will soon be harping about, too. Eventually, they’ll get sick of fondue and quaint bistros, begging to the gods of chain restaurants for an Au Bon Pain or at least “a f—ing Panera.”

Wait until the entitled escapist-entitled tourist bouts. If you thought the infighting among billionaires in season two of “Succession” was entertaining, wait until season COVID-19 of “Lift Line Aspen.”

I can’t wait for multiple brawls to break out over Jerry 1 hitting Jerry 3 with improperly carried skis, leading to the first of many melees featuring guys in turtlenecks, which are right behind Halloween costumes and birthday suits in the pantheon of funny things to wear (or not wear) during a fight.

Aspen feels even less like a ski town when the Christmas crowds come. If half of those masses are here full time, that changes the game. Trying to get a parking spot at popular hiking trails even now requires either luck or a 6 a.m. wakeup call. I don’t even want to think about trying to snag a space at Tiehack’s parking lot anytime past 10 a.m.

After living in Aspen for 10-plus years, I would love to have a house in or around town not because it’s some safe haven for millionaires — complete with passable amenities — amid a pandemic, but because I enjoy a recreation-centric lifestyle, the people (at least the ones in my tax bracket), a concert or two and, of course, the geographical features.

In terms of dealing with this hyperactive real estate buying spree, I’m trying, Jennifer. Far be it for me to judge your reason for living here; wanting more space for your family to be safe is not the same as wanting a place where you’re not hassled to cover your face. (Wait, was that a judgment?)

Welcome to Aspen. I hope you overvalue your time — and the community’s safety — here as much as the Realtor did with that house you just dropped seven (eight?) figures on.

Sean Beckwith feels like he didn’t have to say he can’t afford free-market property but in case you were wondering, he can’t. He is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at sbeckwith@aspentimes.com.


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