Roger Marolt: Nine miles and a galaxy away

Snowmass closing day will bring Aspenites and ’Village People’ together

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt for the Snowmass Sun
Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun

This is going to be interesting. I don’t remember Snowmass being the most powerful of our four mountains when it comes to endurance, but it’s staying open the longest this year, all by itself. Highlands and Buttermilk closed Sunday. Aspen Mountain shuts down next week. For one week after that, we ski Snowmass or nothing at all.

If you’re a skier, you go skiing on the last day of the season. It doesn’t matter if you are sick of winter. It’s of no consequence that suddenly yard work seems more alluring that gearing up to swish the tails of your skis through slush served too runny. Golf in the afternoon, if you must. Plan on washing the car Monday after the lifts stop running. Everyone skis the last day of the season, or spends it at home percolating regret and thinking up excuses for not being seen at the end of the last day, toasting the winter that always overstays its welcome.

This poses a bigger dilemma for Aspenites than you imagine. They know we exist out here, but they don’t quite know exactly where, much less what, our town is. They rarely visit. They hear about us, mostly from tourists who go to Aspen for dinner and shopping after a day of skiing “out there.” We are a concept to Aspenites, an alternative ski area that theoretically honors their ski passes, a place they might go for a cheap staycation, if life in the city becomes temporarily burdensome. Perhaps someday.

Many Aspenites pride themselves on never driving past the roundabout. And they adhere to accommodating that code of prideful self-isolation until they need a trip to Moab before the single-tracks open here or a resupply of household staples in bulk from Walmart or Target “downvalley,” the general description of a slightly less novel geographic location providing an ironic form of entertainment for those willing to take off their own sneakers and dip their toes into this reasonably accessible ho-hum pool of “real world” life.

Thursday evening concerts in the summer are exempt from their omertà of avoidance toward the “family oriented” piece of Aspen Skiing Co.’s amalgamation of guest choices. They get around it by keeping their eyes and minds on the drinks they smuggled onto the free bus that serves as a hermetically sealed capsule temporarily launching Aspenites into orbit around the center of their universe for a time before delivering them safely back home a few hours later. The rodeo is technically, if only by their way of thinking, not even in Snowmass Village, so their bi-annual visits to check it out don’t really count as a threat to tarnish their “local” status that they continually polish to reflect Aspen’s high-intensity glitter radiation so that it can’t be mistaken for anything but a trophy.

While there is an inherit cultural clash in the undertaking to claim superiority between Aspenites and Village People, I think we can agree that there are good people on both sides. The wall separating the towns is an ideological one constructed from concrete notions that each place is a philosophically foreign land to the other. The haphazard design has resulted in a largely unscaleable obstacle, becoming more insurmountable the longer one resides on either side.

In the end, I think the diehard Aspen Mountain and Highlands skiers will venture here for the final week of this ski season. I also am confident the steadfast villagers hosting this annual rite of passage will prove to be cordial ambassadors representing the town that always gets its eight hours of sleep. It’s time to tear down that invisible wall. In that no-man’s land traversed by Owl Creek Road, we need to assure people making the attempt to get here on their own without the aid of RFTA that it is perfectly fine to stop along the way to look at the elk and horses grazing in the meadows, even if they can’t distinguish which is which at first glance.

That visitors don’t really take to pedestrian malls terraced into the side of ski mountains not withstanding, that axiom of “build it and they will come” holds true out here. We’ve put together a good place to ski and just be who you are in Snowmass Village. Aspenites will come, conquer and maybe visit a little more often in the future after they see what a great thing we have. Hopefully there will be some snow left.

Roger Marolt is the Village Person wearing two hats, one a faded Patagonia cap and the other a lampshade. Email him at


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