Roger Marolt: The local’s last meal
How long will it be until there are no locals left to eat anything anywhere?
There have been recent heartfelt discussions about where locals are going to dine. We endure constant turnover of restaurant space in this part of the world. Perpetually churning food and beverage concepts is one thing resorts do well. But this time is different. More locally owned and operated longtime watering holes and feed troughs have shuttered for good than at anytime I can remember, and I’m old enough to recall places like Arthur’s and Donny’s Dog House.
It comes down to money. Astronomical commercial rents are a root cause of this problem for the local working stiffs looking to unwind with a burger and beer after busting a hump for The Man, who likes to vacation here precisely because it is expensive enough to justify sticking it to the servers while he eats. It’s not that The Man doesn’t want to dine next to The Toiler, it’s just that The Man drinks expensive wine with his fine meal and that generates a higher profit margin than a daily special off the bar menu. If you are a corporate restaurateur, the formula that your shareholders like relies on math that cross cancels the less-profitable common man denominator.
And still I think the concern about where locals are going to eat misses a bigger point, which is how long will it be until there are no locals left to eat anything anywhere? If locals were a growing sector of population, new businesses would be targeting them. This is not happening. It appears that new restaurants are writing off the local. Regular people who live, work and raise families here are an endangered species. They are increasingly harder to spot even in the offseasons.
I am picturing a future without locals. It’s hard to imagine someone moving here now in their 20s and sticking around until their expiration date. I’m not talking about someone who has a second home or timeshare and spends a little time in town every year skiing and playing golf. I’m talking about the true local, the lost soul just out of high school or college who passes through on a lark while exploring the country and decides to explore the possibilities of a winter in a mountain resort and ends up staying for the rest of their life. Don’t laugh. It used to happen.
There is a slight possibility that a young ski bum might show up here, but it is hard to imagine them staying long. Who is going to let them sleep on their designer couch in the great room? It just doesn’t seem like people are inclined to invite grungy goof-offs whose identities are skiing to crash in their $11 million pads. What if the folks from Architectural Digest happen to show up and there are dirty ski clothes and smelly boots scattered about?
It seems like part of the problem is that trust funds have changed, too. They seem larger than they used to be. Many have very serious people managing them who are instructed by the trustees not to allow tomfoolery with the distributions of cash. It may seem weird that the larger your trust fund is the less likely it is you can afford to be a ski bum. I think we have actually reached a point where you truly can be too rich to enjoy relaxation and recreation. Managing money is a full-time job. Again, there is no proof of this. It’s just a feeling I get waiting in the gondola line.
One thing I have learned about dyed-in-the-moisture-wicking-fleece ski bums is that they do not commute. There’s something about living 40 miles away from the slopes, waking up to an alarm, stopping by Starbucks on the way in, and sitting in rush hour traffic that would make ski-bumming more like a job than a bold counterculture statement.
A sign of the times is that fewer people on the streets are bragging about how long they have lived here or telling interesting stories of peril and risk about how they got here. I actually hear lots of folks talking about how long they have been coming here instead. Someone will jump on the gondola and proudly tell you they have been coming here every winter since 1996 and use it to establish some slot in the hierarchy of localdom. At any rate, I’m not giving up. I promise to hang on until they elect a timeshare owner into the Aspen Hall of Fame.
Roger Marolt doesn’t know where his next bar menu meal is coming from. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.