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Roger Marolt: Sometimes skiing don’t feel like it should: It hurts so good

Roger Marolt

Those claiming they know how to get in shape for skiing are either liars or they don’t know how to ski. Experience is the great teacher. If someone promises fitness for ski season, run as fast and far away from them as possible. And, you still won’t be any more physically prepared to tackle the slopes after you catch your breath and foam-roller you aching legs.

It’s a fact: after each of your first four days of skiing, your legs and lower back will ache. You will be so miserably sore that you will wonder if skiing is worth the effort. You might regret springing for the Aspen Premier pass. Striving for the 100-day pin will seem less a worthy goal of achievement than a prison sentence that cannot be shortened by good behavior. Of course this assumes you are skiing properly. If not, sliding down the mountain on your skis should pose no more day-after suffering than an afternoon of boutique shopping.

It goes without saying that this is a liberal media portrayal of early season skiing. A more balanced reporting of what skiing feels like after the first few runs would include some description saying something like “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “Biden sucks in the bumps.” At any rate, the basic message is the same — working into an enjoyable ski season takes time.

The fact that I have used “skiing” or “ski” nine times in the first three paragraphs of this column offers a clue as to why it is impossible to get in shape for this sport. Just as there is no suitable substitute word for “skiing,” there is neither a suitable physical activity to replicate the act of skiing.

You can do deep squats in the gym, but if you incorporate that exaggerated movement into your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. If you are into long distance running and try to incorporate that plan of attack into your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. If you play a lot of tennis to hone your ability to stop, start, and shift directions quickly and use short twitch muscles that allow you to do these things in your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. Bicycling thousands of miles as training for skiing? All that’s going to do is harden your butt for riding old, slow ski lifts and/or blowing your ACL.

In the old days there seemed to be an ongoing debate in town over whether or not skiing was exercise. It seemed to me that more people than not agreed that skiing was not exercise. I never understood this. As an overactive 10-year-old, nothing made my muscles ache except the first couple of days of skiing every winter. There was the time I decided to practice for the sixth-grade standing broad jump the day before the test in gym class until my stomach felt funny and woke up to abdominal muscles that were too sore to touch, but that was the only thing I recall doing that produced anything like the pain of the first day of skiing.

All said, my advice is to forget about the idea of getting into shape for skiing. One of the best things about living where we do is the change of season. Not only does flipping the pages of the calendar bring different temperature ranges and new nature-scapes to look at, the shifting environmental conditions push us into different kinds of exercises. Just as soon as the spring slush starts getting a little too soft and sticky, the shoulders of the roads get swept off and we get out the road bikes. When the summer traffic arrives we move to the trails for running, hiking, and mountain biking. Falls are perfect for casual sightseeing walks after morning yoga. Finally, the first snowfalls of winter bring us around to the inevitably excruciating pain of a new ski season. It’s the beautiful circle of mountain fitness.

What it comes down to is trying to accept the initial pain of not only the first days of skiing, but all activities we eventually get into decent enough shape to kind of enjoy, because, in the end, most of us end up fat and reminiscent. And, the few who don’t, get lots of wrinkles from the long runs they do where the sunscreen was all sweated off after the first three miles.

Roger Marolt thinks the physical pain of early season skiing is better than the pain of remembering where he stored his ski socks, goggles, and gloves last spring. roger@maroltllp.com

Giving Thought: Start with the why to determine what causes to support

Tamara Tormohlen
Steve Mundinger

Charitable organizations collect the lion’s share of their donations during the “giving season,” the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Most nonprofits are sending out their annual appeals, and, quite frankly, the number of printed letters and email pleas one receives can be overwhelming. No one can give to every deserving charity, so the discarded we-need-your-help materials often leave behind a residue of guilt. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to those remorseful feelings.

Meet Danielle Howard, a certified financial planner practitioner who takes a uniquely personal and holistic approach to money management. “Giving and sharing are foundational parts of a healthy financial life,” she says, and she encourages her clients to incorporate giving — whether it’s money, volunteer time or expertise — into their lives and their budgets.

Charitable giving comes in all shapes and sizes, from simply writing a check to actually building homes and wilderness trails. Some of us give to schools or youth programs, while others are more attuned to the environment or social justice issues. In Howard’s view, the key element is identifying the mission or cause that matters most to you.

“What are you passionate about?” she asks. “If you’re reading the paper or watching the news, what brings you to tears or makes you angry? That’s where you should put your money, time or expertise.”

There are also different kinds of givers. Some are systematic and prefer to give a little every month to one or more chosen organizations. Others like to set aside money in their budget for giving, but dole out money more spontaneously, to a fund drive they just heard about, or a cause that a Facebook friend suggested.

Some individuals are motivated by religious or spiritual practices; others may have experienced a health issue or family challenge that made a deep impact. There is no right or wrong in how or where you give. The key is to be deliberate and intentional about it.

“There are only so many hours in a day and so many dollars in the bank,” Howard says. “If you’re using some of your money in service of your core values, then you’re going to be happier. You won’t be giving out of guilt or compulsion or other reasons that we can fall into.”

Here is a question that Howard likes to ask her clients: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail at it? Perhaps that thing — whether it’s saving whales or curing cancer — is where you should invest some time or money.

Another thing she strongly recommends is an “attitude of gratitude,” which can be a truly liberating force in our lives. “When you appreciate what you have in every area of life — relationships, work, material possessions, financial resources, health, etc. — it frees you from the constant pursuit of more and gives you the freedom to share what you have,” Howard says.

So, if you want to give and share but don’t know how or where to put your energy, if you’re dazed and confused by all those nonprofit pleas in your email inbox, then consider creating a personal mission statement or giving plan to organize your approach. Being clear and intentional about your chosen cause or organizations will feel good. And, on a more practical level, it will enable you to say “no” to the pleas that don’t fit.

If you’re having trouble deciding how much you can afford or navigating other details of your plan, then call a financial advisor. Maybe you don’t know whether to give now, while you’re healthy and can see the impacts of your generosity, or to make your gifts part of your estate. Many people work with attorneys and financial planners to coordinate gifts that occur after they die.

Whatever your financial situation, giving is a good thing. The details are up to you, and the more thought and care you put into your giving, the better it will serve your values and warm your heart.

“The research is out there that more money doesn’t bring you more happiness, and we know you can’t take it with you,” Howard says. “If we’re mindful about where our money goes and grateful for the opportunity we have to choose where it goes, then it creates an upward spiral.”

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

John Colson: A known killer working at the U.S. Capitol?


The ongoing governmental takeover being engineered by right-wing forces in the United States got a strange little nudge recently with the exoneration of shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois who shot two people to death and wounded another during a protest against police brutality in a town near Milwaukee.

It was exceedingly interesting that close on the heels of Rittenhouse’s acquittal on five charges, we learned that a Georgia jury convicted three vigilante-type white men who chased and killed a Black man they caught jogging through their neighborhood.

I’d say observers of all this are to be forgiven if they feel a bit whiplashed by the two cases, as they have been taken by some to be proof that our courts cannot possibly be even-handed in the dispensing of criminal justice, and by others as proof of just the opposite — that our courts are operating just as they should be.

I’m not so sure about all this, but I note that the Kenosha, Wisconsin, jury completely bought Rittenhouse’s claim that he was acting in self-defense against rioters who were threatening him, though his victims were unarmed (the judge ruled that label could not be used during the trial).

In addition, the judge in the case committed what I view as grievous errors, such as his bizarre dismissal of a charge that the defendant was too young to be carrying, and using, a loaded rifle on the streets, although neither of his victims was armed. Testimony revealed that one of the men who died threw a bag of socks and other personal stuff at Rittenhouse, and the other tried to grab the rifle out of Rittenhouse’s hands. The man who was wounded, according to news reports, did have a gun and at one point pointed it in Rittenhouse’s direction out of fear for his own life.

The accusation that Rittenhouse was acting as a provocateur by carrying his assault-style rifle seemed not to have made much of an impression on the jury or the judge.

In any event, many observers see in the Rittenhouse verdict a kind of declaration of open season on protesters around the country, particularly since a number of deranged members of the U.S. Congress, including Colorado’s own Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Rifle), have been doing their best to get close to Rittenhouse by offering him internships in their offices.

It is notable that Rittenhouse’s attorney has denounced these offers as “disgusting” examples of opportunistic politicians trying to cash in on his client’s troubles, which I find supremely ironic given that Rittenhouse’s defense benefited massively by celebrity support and donations from right-wing sympathizers.

In her zeal to use Rittenhouse and to gain some of the shine he’s enjoying, Boebert (along with other Republicans) has tried to inject a little supposed humor in this sordid mess. Representatives Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida, a triad of deeply authoritarian thugs, began joking about arm-wrestling contests to see who gets to claim Rittenhouse as his own pet thug, leading Boebert to one-up them by challenging Cawthorn (who is wheelchair bound) to a “sprint” race to see who gets to claim Rittenhouse.

So not only is this crew of legislative Neanderthals seemingly endorsing Rittenhouse’s violence and recklessness, they are doing so in the kind of bad taste that should be condemned by the leadership of their party and the nation as a whole.

Instead, we are being treated to silence from the GOP leadership, raucous claims of solidarity with the shooter from some elected officials, and a general circus atmosphere that seems to align well with the Republican Party’s apparent conclusion that government is simply a farcical game.

But I’d like to know if this is how we want our government to proceed into the future.

Do we believe it is right or acceptable to allow this kind of celebration of homicidal recklessness?

Do we think it is just another day at the office when a man who shot two people to death and got away with it is invited to work at the nation’s capitol?

Gosar, I should point out, was recently censured by the House of Representatives for online videos of himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and swinging two swords at President Joe Biden, which if I had done it would likely be considered a crime.

If Rittenhouse does get an internship as a consequence of his actions, might he feel emboldened to bring weapons into the U.S. capitol and, egged on by his cabal of supporters, to use them at some point against perceived political enemies?

Far-fetched imaginings? Perhaps, but it’s worrying, nonetheless.

jbcolson51@gmail.com

Scott Bayens: Thanks is not enough

Scott Bayens

Something clicked for me this week as I watched the latest episode of “The Morning Show” on Apple TV. It chronicled the beginnings of the pandemic in Manhattan in early 2020. Lockdown was yet to occur but hospitals were filling up and the gravity of the situation was quickly coming into focus.

It stirred up my own recollections from that time; many memories I’d either pushed away or had simply forgotten. It’s understandable most of us don’t want to look back and re-live that fear and panic again; we’ve got to move forward. But it made me think; what if anything did we learn or takeaway? Did we work to discover the lessons of our collective experience?

Yes, there were those that took the opportunity to leave or change jobs. Yes, during lockdown we were forced to slow down, embrace simpler things, and be grateful with less. And we saw the greatest migration since the wagon trains as record numbers left cities for places like ours.

But less than three months later, just as the U.S. suffered its 100,000 death, what I call the great denial began. And I’m not referring to the denial of the virus, masks or eventually the vaccine itself. I’m talking about the dismissal of the profound disruption it all caused; to our health, to our safety, and future certainty. Again, looking back is not really in our nature.

Many I know wished the crisis could have prompted a more seminal human moment; a cathartic game changer; and a shift to something greater. I’m not arguing our recovery should have been postponed to find greater meaning, but I can’t help think we missed something fundamental. But before we could contemplate that, stocks ticked back up, business reopened and real estate sales hit the stratosphere. In the blink of any eye we were “back to normal”!

My guess is that’s what more fortunate Americans gave thanks for around the table last Thursday. Prosperity and good fortune. Thank the Lord it’s all over! As a Christian (a flawed one at that), and at risk of coming off as holier-than-thou, I would suggest in this time and this year, just giving thanks is not enough.

Here in our valley, we have been reminded COVID remains deadly and can strike those who claim immunity. We’ve recently lost four long-time locals; ranging in age from their late-30s to early-70s. Those men are now absent from a local school, a barber shop, a hockey rink and our hardware store. And now those who may have been misinformed, manipulated or proselytized are in need of our prayers and support.

And yet there are those who continue to dismiss the need for masks, vaccines and contact tracing. Three weeks ago when a local school was inundated with disease, it was not administrators but anonymous tips that prompted the county to take action. Recently the owner of a high-volume business suddenly canceled appointments with no explanation or so much as a heads up to clients that may have been exposed after a COVID outbreak there.

I can’t help but wonder if this irresponsible behavior is related to shame or guilt after believing this is all a hoax. Shouldn’t we be looking out for our neighbors and co-workers? As I recall, that’s one of the things they teach in Sunday school. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

This selfish and dismissive behavior has real world consequences. When one of us dies it can eliminate a family’s sole source of income. And let’s not forget when a parent or a child gets sick, even if its asymptomatic, there’s significant economic and social impact as parents who work must be home to care for children who can’t go to school.

And now we see increased need for donations as rising food and gas prices, and the cost of housing take hold in the aftermath of all this “prosperity.” It’s convenient to forget the working class folks that keep our glitzy, world-class resort up and running. And if they can’t afford to make a living here, make no mistake, the impact reverberates from that double-wide trailer 60 miles down the road to the top of Red Mountain.

Those of us in the business of real estate and so many more with means must begin to focus on the housing needs of our essential workers. Specifically relaxing zoning and infill requirements, incentivizing investors and developers, utilizing state and federal housing credits, and simply paying attention to our fellow man.

Because many of here us are living in abundance, we simply can’t continue to ignore the aftereffects of a disaster we’d like to forget. Gathering around a table of food with family and friends just won’t cut it this year. This season, our deeds and action should be our clarion call.

Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a Realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. Learn more about him and view current listings at www.aspendreamhome.com.

Tony Vagneur: ‘Jonesie’ remembered for his hardy laugh, bad directions and a true lasso


It seems lately that every weekend has a memorial service for someone we knew. This past Sunday we honored the memory of Kent Jones, 60, a treasured member of the Vagneur clan, his mother, Virginia, being a third generation Woody Creeker.

Kent left the valley years ago and made a home for himself, his wife, Jami, and their family in Loma, Colorado. Yeah, I know, have you ever been to Loma? It’s a different world down there, one that stirred my envy bone a bit.

Driving to the Absolute Prestige Ranch in the middle of agriculture country, the first thing you notice is that everyone does drive, because to walk, you’d go through a pair of hiking boots before you ever got there. The parking is in someone’s old hayfield because no one drives a Prius, Mini Cooper or other small car. Pickups and SUVs were in the majority, and even with three or four in most vehicles, it takes a lot of room to park the rigs of what seemed to be about 300 people milling around before the service.

“Jonesie“ as he was affectionately called, Kent grew up in Woody Creek, the second son of the developers of the “new” Woody Creek Store and Trailer Park. The store, as many of you know, is now the home of the Woody Creek Tavern. Kent, his older brother Clark, and their dad, Lee, were prolific steer ropers and kept their horses on the south side of the property, ready to go at a moment’s notice. Many evenings we’d all rope together up at the W/J or at the arena on the Vagneur ranch. Kent wasn’t yet a teenager, it doesn’t seem.

He came to work for me one late winter, when he was still in his early 20s and I was running the only solid waste game in town. That kid was a powerhouse, barrel-chested and strong and always smiling or laughing. Spring came around and one Monday, Kent strolled into the office, informing us he’d won $1,200 roping over the weekend. It sounded impressive, but I had to ask, “How much did you spend on entry fees.” As he ducked out the door, he replied with a laugh, “Only $1,500.” It was hard to tell if he was serious, but that cowboy loved to rope.

One day that same spring, he didn’t show up for work. He’d never missed before. Where the hell did he go, I wondered? Turns out Kent and some of the other Vagneurs got to talking at roping practice the night before, and decided to brand calves the next day. It was a spur of the moment thing, no one mentioned it to me and even though I was more than a little irritated with Kent, I had to recognize that if I hadn’t been the boss, I’d likely have gone with him.

One year, Kent and John Vagneur (JW — he and Kent were like twins) invited me to use their hunting camp anytime if needed or to join them for the hunt. “It’s in the bottom of Fly Camp,” one of them said, “you’re always welcome.”

After a serious snow storm, a lady friend and I were riding around in that country, about seven miles from civilization; it was very cold, the snow was deep and slick, and on a steep, her horse fell and rolled her in the snow. She was OK, but wet and getting colder by the minute. We were close to Kent and JW’s camp, so we headed that way.

The trail we were on came out at the bottom of Fly Camp and right there across the creek was a big wall tent, hitching rail out front, and a warm wood stove burning inside. It fit the description. Naturally, everyone was out hunting. We tied up, put more wood on the fire, drank some of their whiskey and got toasty warm in the friendly ambiance. Out loud, we thanked them for the life saver it was.

Some days later, as I was thanking JW for the hospitality, he let out a big guffaw, telling me between laughs, that wasn’t their camp at all. Theirs was up the creek another couple hundred yards, fairly well off the beaten path. Was there suspicion I might have been set up?

Kent never let me forget that case of mistaken camps. Years later, I was headed to his house in Loma to pick something up for JW, and Kent, as he was giving me directions, got that flash of brilliance in his eyes with a mischievous grin crossing his face. “It’s not like finding our hunting camp, Tony. You’ll have better luck this time.”

Whatever loop you’re throwing, Kent, I’m sure it’s straight and true. Keep the camp stove warm, I’ll get there eventually.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.

Roger Marolt: Thankful for kind politicians

Roger Marolt

I am thankful for getting over myself in the realm of politics. I have accepted the right to vote for what it is: a tremendous gift in the whole that propels democracy, but of little consequence alone in my hands. Like a drop of rain, it’s power comes when in due course it finds its way into the raging rapids of a mighty river, helping to sculpt the landscape of a continent. It doesn’t get there through combative determination. It goes with the flow.

When it comes to steering the direction of this country, I can do nothing by myself. I will cast my vote and wait. If I appear disinterested, it is because I have no choice, only acceptance. I feel younger having come to this conclusion. I haven’t felt this way in years.

You may ask yourself, how did I get here? It was a purge a long time in coming. I vomited political poisoning. I sweated out the toxins of party affiliation. I felt the cleanse was completed by my reaction in a recent conversation steering towards a political bend, but ending up at an destination I see myself settling in.

A staunchly Republican friend, euphorically high from sniffing a Fox News opinion poll on his Apple news feed no doubt, gleefully asked if I now counted myself among the many who voted for Joe Biden now sorry they did so. His provocation caught me off guard, not because we don’t generally bait each other into political arguments. We do, often, and usually heatedly so. I paused because I was surprised. Did people who voted for Joe Biden really regret doing so?

“No,” I replied. “I like him.”

My friend went on to list all the insanity, incompetence, incoherence, and even the potential incontinence of the Biden presidency as he perceived it. He summarized his rant with an emphatically rhetorical, “What do you like about him?”

I didn’t think. “He’s a nice man.”

My friend agreed that Biden is a nice man, but pressed me on how I thought he was handling the more important and pressing issues facing our country. I doubled clutched. I hitched my giddy-up. I was figuring out by what means was I going to move forward with that question and, in that moment, I took a giant step backwards.

“There is no more important issue to me than that,” I quietly declared.

Did it make sense? The world is a mess. What with the planet blowing its thermostat, the too long resting soul of racial injustice waking to haunt, the virus that will never succumb to herd immunity, inflation, whitewashed definitions of self defense, restroom identity, deadly opioids laced with deadlier fentanyl, war, famine, hunger, no affordable places left to eat out anymore — how could kindness be the most important issue in the world?

I don’t know how, but I feel strongly that it is. Applying the laws of supply and demand to the analysis, I see it is an intangible commodity in short supply. In as much, the price of kindness has shot up faster than the cost of gas, mattresses, and refrigerators locked up in the supply chain. In fact, the price of kindness seems to be so high right now that few are prepared to bear its cost.

The cost is humility and the gratuity is compromise. I used to posses these qualities in my savings account of currencies I needed to provide a good life. As a younger man I paid more attention to the issues I felt were important. I voted, but actually derived satisfaction from doing what I could aside from that. I understood my contributions were small, but in my hands they looked big enough and I found them more precious to hold that grudges over inevitably failed political debates. I knew nothing about politics and, so, perceived the futility of engaging in them at the cup of coffee level. Those were good times. I focused on a lot of other things that did enrich my life that I actually had some control over.

I can be kind. Politicians can be kind. This is within our control and the results are beyond argument. Perhaps I sound naive in saying that kindness is what I value most in politicians, but if it is the characteristic I value most in all personal relationships, why would I discount it in choosing leaders? Besides, if kindness isn’t the greatest pursuit in giving and receiving in life, what is the point?

Roger Marolt would rather a politician demonstrate kindness than make promises. roger@maroltllp.com

Meredith Carroll: The pardoning of Aspen’s turkeys


United Airlines

PARDONED: For the $1,490 roundtrip airfare between Aspen and Denver this week. Because what family wants the ease of traveling with kids out of an airport located 3 miles from home when they can start their “vacation” by driving 216 miles to a parking lot located 3 miles (and a shuttle bus ride) from an(other) airport.

Australians*

PARDONED: The vacationing Australians who made front-page news over the course of several consecutive days in March 2020 for being Aspen’s first confirmed COVID-19 cases. At the time it seemed like they’d done us in. In time we’ve come to understand the virus probably would have made it here even if the Aussies hadn’t.

*The Australians who made front-page news a different time in March 2020 for breaking quarantine (in the Little Nell!) to ski Snowmass are excluded from the blanket Australians pardon.

November

PARDONED: Once the pit stain on Aspen’s calendar with its melodramatic reduction in daylight, its image got a makeover this year by becoming better known as that one month when town legitimately cleared out for the first time in forever.

Aspen Skiing Co.

PARDONED: Skico enjoys a great deal of power in Aspen; however, their influence does not extend to actual powder. They’re pardoned for the lackluster early season snow showing, if not for the $149 walk-up ticket price to “ski” it tomorrow.

Aspen restaurants*

PARDONED: Every local restaurant with a $28 fried calamari appetizer or $42 burger for doing its part to draw attention to the stark reality that Aspen’s soul will die a quick and ugly death without a meaningful reasonable dining remedy. In other news, a lien-free beautiful old 9,000-square-foot building on Galena Street and Hopkins Avenue became vacant earlier this month.

*Casa de Angelo, one of Aspen’s newest restaurants, is not pardoned for its $22 “Buttermilk” side salad. Naming a plate of lettuce with bacon bits that sell for $3.99-per-pound at Costco after a beginner mountain is a rookie move destined to go down in the Aspen Restaurants So Ridiculous Even For Aspen That You Don’t Remember Them Because Of Course They Didn’t Make It Hall of Fame.

Stevie Nicks

PARDONED: For the last-minute Labor Day concert cancellation that paved the way for Jimmy Buffet’s Jazz Aspen Snowmass debut.

Texans

PARDONED: Aspen misses the days when y’all were our biggest problem. You can come back now if you want (just not all y’all at once, please).

All of you

PARDONED: The Aspen Police Department announces its fleet will transition from Fords to Teslas — Teslas! — and there hasn’t been one halfway decent joke. Come on, Aspen. You’re snarkier than this.

Joe Biden

PARDONED: It remains to be seen if he’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with the best or be counted among the worst. One thing is certain either way: The actual worst was forced to leave because Biden won, so he’ll always have that going for him.

North Star Nature Preserve partiers

PARDONED: Once described by Aspen Journalism as “flotillas of stand-up paddleboarders, clusters of inner tubes, beach parties, sunbathers, children splashing about with plastic toys, dogs playing fetch in the river,” the (ab)users of the North Star Nature Preserve finally forced officials to more tightly regulate the beloved east end sanctuary. Thanks, party animals. No, really, thank you.

Short-staffed establishments

PARDONED: For the dirty looks and stares of disgust or indifference (both given and received). For the wrong orders, long queues, waits and hold times, and non-apology apologies. You could have not shown up entirely but instead you’re limiting your services and hours and, most importantly, staying open. Truly, thank you.

Skippy Mesirow

PARDON DENIED: It has almost been two years since the Aspen City councilman blamed both a vegan cleanse and a steak dinner with compound butter and a side of creamed spinach for choosing to post to his own Instagram account a video that he recorded of himself driving through a pre-pandemic downtown Aspen during the busiest week of the year and ranting about how “it’s time we have the conversation about it’s too many people in town at peak season and they are not the right people and even if we have to take a little bit of a haircut on our income, which I certainly would, it’s worth it for quality of life and the character of our town.” Maybe next year, Skippy.

More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.

Kaya Williams: You can paddle your own canoe and accept help, too

Kaya Williams, reporter for the Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun

A month ago, when I wrote about my tendency to escape my woes with outdoor recreation, there was a third component to the Roaring Fork Valley’s mental health messaging that I neglected to mention.

One: nature is a resource. Two: you can still have bad days in beautiful places. But when part one stops working due to part two, it’s time for part three: It’s OK — and sometimes necessary — to ask for help.

I hate that last part, even the act of admitting it. It’s probably why I forgot to mention it a month ago, when I was willfully blocking it from my memory just as I have every other time someone’s told me as much before.

See, I prefer to paddle my own canoe, sometimes to the brink of stubborn idiocy. If I dropped both paddles into a river at peak runoff while I was careening toward a section of whitewater, I’d just as soon stick my hands in the water and try to grab a rock as holler for someone to chuck me a rope from shore.

It’s a good thing, then, that sometimes someone will throw the rope without waiting for the request.

The morning my October column ran, I got an email from a local therapist with an offer to try a session, if not for me then at least for the sake of my readers.

The first time I read it, I wasn’t sure whether I would say yes. I was still on the fence the second time I read it, and the third time, too.

I’ve listened to some of my closest friends tell me how therapy has helped them, and I’ve quoted plenty of mental health advocates who extol the virtues of therapy in stories about resources and support systems, but it didn’t seem like something I myself needed. I could usually figure things out just fine without it, and I was already on the up and up by the time the column went to press anyway.

Then again, there are a lot of things I’ll try “for a story.” I’m mostly a vegetarian, but I make exceptions for special occasions and if I had to write about a hamburger, generally, I’d take a bite. And though the strongest substance I’ve ever consumed was a shot of pepper-infused tequila, I’m only sort of teasing when I joke that I’d try ayahuasca if it was the right time at the right place on the right assignment.

So why not change and try therapy for a column?

Besides, if I’m going to keep covering about mental health — and quoting folks who say it’s OK to seek help — I might as well see what it’s like to actually do it.

Three-and-a-half business days later, I accepted.

I don’t know what I was expecting, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. For all the times I’ve listened to friends talk about their experiences with therapy, those conversations usually focus on big-picture realizations or interesting tidbits, not exactly what they talk about for 60 minutes every couple of weeks.

For me, it was mostly a conversation, a chance to learn about the experience as much as the chance to experience it myself.

We talked about my childhood and my family (not in a deep Freudian psychoanalysis way, more of a getting-to-know-you way) and vulnerability (I find it easier in writing than in talking, which checks out based on what I’m doing right this very minute) and what was vexing me (my relatively recent discovery that I can’t always reason or work or long-run my way out of deciding how I’m feeling). Not once was I required to lie horizontally on the couch and stare at the ceiling as I talked, though I’m sure it would have been fine if I wanted to.

Breakthroughs? Not in an hourlong introductory session.

But I did learn some new language to describe the boat (canoe, if you will) I’m currently in: I’ve spent most of my life in a state of emotional rigidity, clinging to an obstinate optimism that made me exceedingly chipper but ill-equipped to handle turbulence in my own life or listen to friends who might have been struggling themselves.

Now I’m figuring out, somewhat reluctantly, how to develop the emotional agility to ride the rough waters without capsizing.

Sometimes I’ll be able to paddle my own way through; sometimes, it just might mean shouting for a rope in the rapids.

Kaya Williams still has plenty of emotional rigidity left in her, but these days, she’s learning to stretch a bit more often. She covers education, mental health and the town of Snowmass Village for the Aspen Times and the Snowmass Sun; email her at kwilliams@aspentimes.com.

Elizabeth Milias: Pacaso — an artful new real estate twist in Aspen


When it comes to art, beauty is most certainly in the eyes of the beholder. And while highly collectible and valuable, works by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) are no exception. However, a new real estate phenomenon named to honor the artist’s legacy of innovation is arguably a controversial movement in its own right, not unlike cubism, surrealism and expressionism were in the art world at the time.

Pacaso, founded in October 2020, has created a new category of second home ownership by turning single-family homes into unlicensed but legal mini multi-user resorts. Designed to capitalize on the high demand for second homes in luxury destinations where the pandemic real estate boom has priced many out of the market, Pacaso’s unique model is relatively straightforward. Pacaso creates a limited liability company (LLC) that purchases a luxury home, lightly refurbishes it, divvies the company up among two to eight owners, and sells co-ownership interests via its website. For 12% upfront and $99 in monthly management fees, Pacaso finds and vets all co-owners, handles all sales details, takes care of all furnishings, repairs, cleaning and property management, and enables owner scheduling via a proprietary app. Currently valued at $1.5 billion, this start-up is purportedly the fastest American company to achieve, in investment parlance, “unicorn” status, meaning a market valuation of $1 billion or more. Investors obviously love the model, and it’s coming to a resort town near you. In fact, Pacaso has already arrived in Aspen.

On Oct. 8, Pacaso, under the guise of “28 Smuggler Grove LLC,” closed on that local property for $9.1 million. One-eighth owner membership interests of the property-specific LLC that owns the three-bedroom, four-bath home on a quiet cul-de-sac off Midland Avenue are now listed for sale on Pacaso’s website. Interests are currently on the market for $1.34 million each, which get you up to 44 nights a year in this tasteful and newly remodeled 3,166-square-foot single-family residence. Buy as many interests as you’d like up to half-ownership, sign the owner operating agreement for the LLC, and you and your co-owners will then collectively own 100% of the the home. The only catch? You can only stay there for a maximum of 14 days at a time.

Pacaso’s novel model is gaining traction across the country. In addition to homes in Aspen, the website features available interests in LLCs that own luxury homes in Palm Springs, Scottsdale, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Lake Tahoe, Miami, Park City, Napa, Malibu, West Palm, Naples, Carmel, Santa Barbara and Vail, among others. In addition to paying Aspen’s 1.5% RETT upon the initial purchase, Pacaso takes good care of local real estate agents through payment of a 3% referral commission on sales and restricted stock options as a “referral equity bonus.” Interests in the home-owning LLCs are being marketed on the local MLS.

It has long been a desire of City Council to target second-home owners for special taxation because they do not reside in their Aspen properties on a full-time basis. An “occupancy tax” is regularly suggested to raise additional money for pet projects, such as more subsidized housing; the idea being to punish people who dare to pay their property taxes and bills yet leave their private homes empty until they wish to use them. But Pacaso second homeowners are a new breed. They own vacation real estate that they do not occupy full time, but Pacaso houses are not sitting empty. In fact, Pacaso homes will likely be occupied 100% of the time. And while the co-owners cannot rent out their interests on the open market, they can “gift” them to friends and family. What could possibly go wrong?

Aspen’s nemesis, the law of unintended consequences, is rubbing her hands in glee. So council doesn’t like empty vacation homes? Now imagine full vacation homes, all the time. The Pacaso owner code of conduct stipulates “no large parties,” “quiet hours 9p-7a,” no more than two dogs less than 80 pounds each, and recommends avoiding on-street parking. But since these are not Airbnb-type rentals, there is no lodging tax collection, no business licensing and therefore no agent of record for when something inevitably goes awry. They’re not commercial businesses so there’s no housing mitigation.

The interests being sold are not deeded-ownership timeshares, they’re interests in an LLC which holds the deed to the home, so these sales are not subject to the RETT, or are they? It’s unclear. Furthermore, what will the impacts be on our community services and infrastructure? And given the unprecedented service industry labor shortage and horrific commuter traffic on Highway 82, just who is going to service the revolving doors of these mini multi-user resorts?

Many jurisdictions are already fighting the Pacaso model in their communities; however, there are challenges with doing so. Pacaso is not selling easily regulated fractionals or timeshares, nor tenancies in common, rather interests in LLCs that represent true ownership of real property. It’s unclear what Aspen can or should do, if anything. And since many local real estate buyers already make their purchases using an LLC, often for privacy, it’s impossible to identify a “Pacaso home” until it’s too late.

Pacaso dramatically lowers Aspen’s real estate ownership barrier to entry, but comes with its own host of serious concerns and unintended consequences. Contact TheRedAntEM@comcast.net

Tony Vagneur: Bud Strong’s friendship and legacy touch many souls in Roaring Fork Valley


From the looks of the crowd, it could have been a day in the 1970s or even ’80s, when something was happening at the firehouse. Not a holiday, but clearly something special, an event that got fire department families to gather on the tarmac in front of the big doors.

You don’t wear AVFD badge No. 1 and sneak out the back gate when your road on this planet ends without folks taking notice. John “Bud” Strong Jr., Aspen native, 92 years old, a man who spent a majority of his life in Aspen, passed last month into that great forest in the sky, leaving behind generations of family and friends who truly would miss him.

It’s hard to grasp the significance of a person’s life in a short ceremony, designed to offer condolences as well as healing memories, but Bud’s many-faceted life left numerous opportunities to reminisce at the Nov. 13 gathering.

“Take a seat, we’re ready to begin,” intoned Fire Chief Rick Balentine, and we sat facing the 1953 FWD fire truck, the symbol of a new era in Aspen firefighting, with Bud’s uniform displayed along the side; helmet, pants, jacket, and that unique badge, No. 1.

The honor guard, in true military style, hushed whatever remaining crowd rustling there was, and we were off, a walk down memory lane of Bud Strong and the volunteer fire department he served for many years. Also, sitting at the front were two U.S. Navy sailors to perform the flag ceremony in honor of Bud, a Korean War vet.

Like all of us in the audience, my mind darted off to different experiences I’d had with Bud over the years. If nothing else, he was a dedicated hunter and was known as one of the best around. For umpteen years, he and his family, including various friends, had a yearly elk hunting camp in Kobey Park, so well known that many times, geographic references about game or hunter movements were talked about in relationship to “Strong’s Camp.”

When I was a kid in the 1950s, we always stopped by the Big Lift Ski Shack at the bottom of Lift One, owned by Bud Strong and Byron Shipp, to get our skis waxed. It was a fun place to wait your turn, listening to all the town and ski bum gossip. Bud always treated us local kids with the utmost attention to detail.

One fall, hauling hay to cow camp in anticipation of hunting season, I found Bud above the ranch, truck broken down. He might have been headed to their camp, high above our cabin, taking in necessities, I don’t remember.

There was a lot of new snow on the ground and he said, “I’ll ride along with you, the snow will get deeper as we go. We’ll work on my truck on the way out.” Bud was my co-pilot (and life-saver) as we drove through at least 2 feet of newly fallen snow, helping to keep me on the path in those places where the road was indistinguishable from the landscape. Bud was in his 70s then and even though he had his own problems, he took the time to give me a hand.

Bud and I drank a lot of beer through the years at the old Eagles Club on Galena, but we weren’t afraid to dive into a Stinger or two if the mood happened to strike us.

Dance night at the Eagles or Elks Club, or just a quiet afternoon in town, if the fire siren went off, many of the male population would blast out the door, running to the fire station and scrambling onto a truck, headed to whatever emergency called them forth. Most firemen lived in town then and they’d be running or driving from all directions, putting everything else they were doing aside. The serious looks, the determination to do a job they volunteered for, the sheer energy of the men you knew you could trust, couldn’t be denied.

Bud’s last team (all loggers have teams of horses), Pearl and Tom, came to my rescue when I was doing sleigh rides at the T Lazy 7. One of my draft horses got injured and could no longer pull, so Pearl and Tom, who were spending the winter at the Vagneur ranch, got pressed into service. Couldn’t drive that wonderful team without thinking of Bud and his generous nature.

The U.S. flag — red, white and blue, folded three corners — was carried to the front of the audience by the Navy sailors and carefully unfolded, all with total silence and attention from the crowd. Then, in a dramatic flash, the flag was unfurled to its true majesty, inspiring an involuntary breath of surprise from the gathering. My eyes filled with tears at the significance of the gesture tied to the memory of a man’s life.

Bud Strong, you were a good man, a good friend, and you will be missed.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.