Britta Gustafson: Slowmassing, a thing of the past? | AspenTimes.com

Britta Gustafson: Slowmassing, a thing of the past?

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

Simple shifts in everyday participation help us to widen the window and allow us to experience the pace of life here from the perspective of our visitors. Seeing our town through their eyes helps bring into focus the joys and challenges that confront our guests.

It goes with the territory of living in a destination location like ours, a truly beautiful and often out of reach place to visit that we often find ourselves playing host to those who expect to experience the resort like a tourist. Last week, while my little sister was here on a visit, we took advantage of some time off to see the sights, dine and play like the rest of the summer travelers.

Now that she has been living in Seattle for almost two decades, coming back to Snowmass Village is more than a visit home, it’s a warp in time travel. The setting has been vastly altered from that of her memories, but the most notable difference that she observed was the general ramping up of the pace of life. I felt it too “stay-cationing” around town while she was here.

However, unlike the rest of us who have seen and assimilated to the shifts occurring over the years, it’s a bit of a culture shock for her, admittedly filled with highs and lows. I’m sure some of our longtime returning guests must agree. Yes, there is so much happening here now, but that’s not really very different, it’s the velocity and magnitude that she noticed.

Of course construction all around impacts the character. The scale, in our attempts to create a mountain metropolis, has questionable effects on the ability to easily and peacefully connect with nature. All of this may be contributing to an ever escalating tempo of life, an almost ramped up sense of hyperactivity that we observed in full effect during this most recent visit.

In essence, she noticed a considerable shift in the personal energy of both locals and visitors. Perhaps this is a universal trend as we do seem to be in general, an overly stimulated culture, but that racing around and dashing from one experience to the next has changed the overall vibe here for better or worse. It doesn’t seem to feel as refreshing to be exploring the mountains and breathing in the vistas. This is no longer a place to escape from the city, it’s more like getting off of the carousel and jumping on the ferris wheel. You’re still spinning around.

A much quoted Borstein and Borstein study from 1976 showed that the walking speed of pedestrians is positively correlated with the size and density of the city. They interpreted that the higher walking speed of people in larger cities is a psychological response to stimulatory overload. Another study on walking speeds conducted in the UK in 2007 provided data showing that the average walking pace world wide had, increased by 10% since the first data was collected in the 1990s.

So, I suppose it’s relatively safe to assume that we may now be racing about at a walking pace that has potentially increased by as much as 30% since we were kids here in the 1990s. Assuming that the 1976 study has some merit, we can project that we are in fact now entering an era of a potentially frantic pace due to the ever-increasing stimulatory overload we all face with smartphones and their hundreds of thousands of entertainment channeling options available at our fingertips at any given moment. And all of this is amplified by the fact that everyone around us is equally overwhelmed by the same stimulatory exposures.

So, where can we escape sensory overload? Well, it used to be in the mountains, away from it all. But now that we are bringing it “all” to the mountains — wifi, rollercoasters, live music, scramble kitchens and seafood — do we even know how to escape anymore?

I guess now, if ever again I hear the phrase “Slowmass” used as a pejorative reference to our small town, I will find it somewhat of a relief. Heck, if this is slow, I’m not sure I can handle fast.

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. Aug. 3 to the sounds of the Spartan Race and it was all over before I left my house at 8 a.m. But healthy racing is not what I’m considering here, it’s not what my sister observed. It’s the frenzied shoppers in the market and the near misses and fender benders and honking horns in the parking lots. The shoulder checks on the hiking trails, the anxiety on the pool deck and in lift lines, the irritable signs in restaurants and the families trudging to concerts — not as a happy herd but as if marching to battle. Aren’t we having fun dammit! Is everyone competing, and where does this race finish, 6 feet under? In that case, I’m in no hurry to win.

Race on my fellow neighbors; I’ll still see you in 2040 if your blood pressure doesn’t get you to the finish line first.

Maybe we need to slow down, enjoy the intermission, leave your smartphone in your pocket and chat in the queue, run because you want to, not because someone passed you on the trail, and find a secret mountain hideaway sit spot with no wifi. To envoke a few 1990s references “don’t have a cow, man” and “take a chill pill.” Let’s all stop telling each other how busy we are for a minute and just talk about the weather.

In fact, sometimes we just need to do nothing for a whole day. Wouldn’t that be an escape?

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.


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