You may ask yourself, how did we get here? | AspenTimes.com

You may ask yourself, how did we get here?

Roger Marolt

I read Lo Semple’s column on customer service and admit it was pretty good. It got me thinking. As registered Village People, we assume we have a strong say in how things go around here. I’m not so sure.

It’s true we get to vote and we can attend any Town Council meeting for a chance to be heard, even if not listened to. We’ve got the wildly popular Letters to the Editor sections of three local newspapers that everyone reads, so all ideas can gain traction or scorn. We’ve got the post offices where locals go to pick up mail and gossip. We’ve got enough coffee shops to where you almost don’t need an office to get business done. We even have a second-home owners’ advisory board to give non-resident property owners a voice in local politics, even if it’s oftentimes pompously phlegmy and presumptuous. It certainly appears that the process is designed to put us in charge of our town’s destiny.

I think this appearance is more of a mirage, though. Go and stand in the middle of Fanny Hill and turn slowly for 360 degrees taking a careful visual inventory of everything around you. Start at the mall. It’s a thin ribbon of pedestrian path running out of what was supposed to be the closest thing to the center of town that we have. At least it was for about 30 years until we thought the center of town would be better at the bottom of Fanny Hill, about 200 vertical feet below where you are virtually standing now as you are rotating to your right past the Skittle lift that is not a convenient connection between our two centers, despite the best developer intentions.

This is, of course, only if you don’t consider The Town Center to be the center of town, which some people do. It just passed out of your sight to the left. You may have missed it because it’s still further below the mall than the base of the mountain is. An argument can be made for it as the focal point since we get our groceries, gas and mail there. Town Hall is there, too.

Let’s not forget to mention Town Park, the Rec Center, and the Big Parking Lot which seems like a logical center of town, too.

This exercise is getting complicated and making me dizzy just describing it. I can’t imagine you imagining it by trying to follow along with this description. Good thing you aren’t a tourist trying to find your hotel by it.

The point is that The Village isn’t the way any one of us would have designed it. So, why is it this way? It’s not a rhetorical question. There is an answer I’m looking for and it’s clear, but we never really think about it, so it’s not obvious.

The answer is that tourists control the way this place is arranged! It starts with customer service. Most of us in this area make our livings serving visitors, and the greater we please them the more money we generally make. The bottom line is that we are programmed to give visitors what they want, from extra room in a grande coffee for milk or a gigantic base village that looks like how they think an Austrian village did in 1965, when Heidi’s grandfather got promoted from shepherd to burger meister. Heck, we even subconsciously consent to call large cups of coffee “grande” because we think it gives the place more class, which we honestly could do without, but tourists like … a lot.

This is all funny, in a strange sort of way, because the reason that this area was originally popular is because we weren’t like that. Believe it or not, the people who lived in this valley before skiing became popular actually created their towns the way they liked them. To them it made sense to have a place they felt comfortable in. Does any local feel comfortable around here during the Christmas holidays, Fourth of July … really anytime of year outside of the offseasons?

I mean, we manage. We know where the crowds don’t ski. We know a few good trails that lead away from it all. I’m not suggesting that most of the time it feels like we live in Disneyland. … Or, am I?

Anyway, it’s hard to argue with results. There’s no doubt this area is more popular than ever. That would suggest that it doesn’t matter whether or not we think our town is as good as it used to be.

Roger Marolt thinks that, if the layout of Snowmass Village reflects our personality, we are seriously messed-up schizophrenics. roger@maroltllp.com


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