Stone: Real Aspen, ‘deep’ Aspen. Look closely. See even more
What I really wanted to write about last week was my niece’s wedding at Maroon Lake, but instead — after briefly touching on the wedding — I felt compelled to dig into the damnable business of the Cooper Avenue “affordable restaurant space” and the case of the disappearing vent.
That and the fact that the City Council needs to develop a backbone.
So now, stick with me while I backtrack and talk a little more about the wedding. (And this is not going to be all “ain’t we sweet?” family chitchat.)
A quick recap: The wedding was a perfectly and spectacularly Aspen affair — and I most certainly do not mean the new Aspen of tight leather pants and high-heeled shoes that can’t be worn on the terrifying terrain of the downtown pedestrian malls.
This was — and pardon me for being so narrow-minded — real Aspen, dare I say “deep Aspen”?
My niece is fourth-generation Aspen. Her father’s grandfather moved here more than a century ago, not quite a decade after the Silver Crash of 1893 sent Aspen skidding into what we euphemistically and nostalgically refer to as the Quiet Years.
When my niece was born, the family was living in a tiny, un-“restored” Victorian house on Main Street.
So, yes, a “deep Aspen” wedding. Four generations deep.
On the day of the wedding, respecting the ban on private cars on Maroon Creek Road, the bride, her bridesmaids and the groomsmen all took the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus up to the lake, dressed in their wedding gowns and suits. The other passengers loved it.
By the way, since they had formally reserved a place at the lake for the ceremony, the Forest Service had offered them a special permit to drive to the lake. But they wanted to do it right — which, for them, meant taking the bus.
The groom did not take the bus. Although not an Aspen guy, he is a nordic-skiing fanatic and proved he deserved a place in this slightly loony family by skate-skiing from town to the lake for the ceremony. Ah, youth!
As long as I’m talking about Maroon Lake, I’ll also mention that the bride and one of her sisters took a quick Maroon Lake day hike two days before the wedding.
A day hike sounds reasonable, right? Well, that day hike was the Four Pass Loop: 27 miles over four passes all right around 12,500 feet. They started early and made it home late, in fine style — except for a few blisters.
A very Aspen family, a very Aspen wedding — and I need to emphasize that I’m not bragging on my own behalf: I just married into this crazy bunch. We share no DNA.
After the ceremony, almost the entire wedding party — a pack of several dozen — rode bikes from Maroon Lake to the reception at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies on Hallam Lake.
It was amusing to watch the serious cyclists, grinding their way up to the lake in full Spandex, when they caught sight of the bride and bridesmaids in their gowns pedaling like crazy down the valley.
Still, the part of the day that particularly caught my attention came during the now-standard computerized childhood slideshow at the reception.
Once the (also now-standard) computer problems were solved, the part of the show that traced the bride’s life featured any number of pictures of her in extraordinary mountain scenes, most often with her sisters and various friends: picture after picture of strong, beautiful young women, standing in the heart of the mountains, with spectacular peaks and ridges and deep valleys behind them.
And virtually all of those pictures were taken in the mountains right here, those strong, beautiful young women’s home turf.
Being a New York City and suburbs guy myself, I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful gift it was to have been raised here, where those astonishing mountain scenes were not once-in-a-lifetime, special events.
Indeed, it was the opposite of once in a lifetime: It was their life.
And so here we are (at last) at the heart of the matter: Everything that wedding was — everything that family is — is worth fighting for.
Their Aspen, a real town, filled with real families, some of whom have been here for generations, is worth fighting for.
It is worth fighting for in the way this family fought for it: finding a way to stay here, even as the town that had been their home for a century became too expensive for them — and that tiny Victorian on Main Street had to be sold.
And that’s not a sob story — “Oh, those poor, poor people, forced out of their home” — because they have lived rich, full lives filled with genuine family and genuine love.
And that, too, is certainly worth fighting for.
And we cannot forget the mountains where my nieces grew up. That mountain wilderness has been preserved because people were willing to fight for it.
We may take the wilderness for granted now, but the fight to save it, the fight to establish wilderness areas, was very real and very hard. And, in so many ways, that fight continues.
By the same token, the traditional character of downtown Aspen is also worth fighting for. And if that character is much diminished, that only means we have to fight even harder to save what still remains.
It takes a real town to nourish real families — and it takes real families to nourish a real town.
So we cannot give up on Aspen.
We cannot shrug and say, “Sure, go on, build 60-foot-tall hotels downtown.” We cannot say, “Go ahead, block the views, block the sunlight.” We cannot say, “Fine, tear down anything that doesn’t suit your need to maximize profit.” We cannot say, “OK, pretend to preserve historic buildings even while you’re destroying every shred of their original character.”
We just cannot do that. We cannot give up.
Look around. Look closely. The closer you look, the more intently you focus and the wider your view should become.
A bride and a groom. A small wedding. A life. An entire way of life. A century of history.
We have to keep fighting.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is email@example.com.