Beathard: The Snowmass age gap
You might have noticed a funny juxtaposition on our front-page today: A story about an aging group that calls themselves “Geezers” and another one about the Town Council looking to engage the younger generation.
That might just about sum up the problem Snowmass is experiencing. When the resort and the town were first created, most of the people living here were young, green people, and they became the business owners, stakeholders and community leaders of Snowmass.
Now, those same people are aging, and although they’re still highly active in the community, the current crop of 20 and 30 somethings living in Snowmass is not.
I’m not sure why that is, but being a young woman of 25 with a professional job in Snowmass, I’m going to throw out some theories.
One thing I’ve noticed is that young people who live in Snowmass aren’t necessarily looking to stay here long-term. They live in an employee-housing apartment because it’s affordable and close to where they work their first season, and then they find a similar place in Aspen, or if they’re ready to purchase a home, they go downvalley.
In addition, most of them aren’t exclusively “Snowmass kids.” They work in bars and restaurants in Aspen during the summer. Or sometimes it’s the other way around — they have a professional job at Related or one of the large hotels and they live in Aspen.
I think that there are young people who really care about Snowmass and want to see it succeed. Like the individuals on the Aspen Next Generation Advisory Commission, though, they aren’t necessarily both residents and employees of Snowmass. That’s an important distinction to keep in mind.
If the Aspen Next Gen would have it, Snowmass could work with them, but I’m not sure that’s the best route. That board is, after all, a city of Aspen commission, and even though what they do clearly affects the rest of the valley as they said, I think Snowmass has a need for some fresh thinking focused solely on the village. I’d wager there are quite a few people in the 18-to-40 bracket who have great ideas for Base Village solutions, increasing summer tourism and vitality, and what it would take for them to see themselves as a long-term Snowmass resident. There are some problems with that last one, but that might have to wait for another column.
I hope the Town Council really does talk about this at its strategic-planning retreat, but before it makes a decision as to what group it would like to form, I hope it asks the young people. Invite them to a meeting, serve lunch — your best bet for attendance from a young adult — and ask them what type of involvement they’re interested in.
It might not look the same as Aspen’s group. And frankly, it may never look like it did back in the days of the “geezers.” But I’ll bet we’d all learn a lot. I’m sure interested in what they’d have to say.
Jill Beathard is the editor of the Snowmass Sun. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.