You can see it in the glazed eyes and pale faces of those on the front lines this time of year. It wasn’t like we never saw it coming either. We had all off-season to prepare, yet somehow we feel anything but. The Christmas/New Year’s week rush is in full swing. Braving the storm of living in a busy resort town is like the mastering of a yoga deep breathing exercise. Just pretend you’re giving birth to an oversized baby. It’s as Ricardo Montalban once used to say as the guests arrived at Fantasy Island in zee plane — “Smiles, everyone!”
When it comes to complaining about being busy, I think us Aspenites might just have the market cornered. It’s a common sob story that echoes throughout the hallways of hospitality — how busy we are and how awful it all is. Then the off-season hits and a whole other crop of whiners complain about how slow it is. But the biggest complaint I hear is from people who aren’t skiing enough. Fair enough. That’s why we live here, remember? Don’t look now, but I’m complaining about people complaining!
Based solely on the lineups of cars coming in and going out of this one-horse town each day, one could hypothesize that we’re all getting filthy rich. There should be one of those huge jumbo-trons on the side of the road as you enter town on Highway 82 that tallies how much money is being spent in real time. Can you imagine how obscene that would be?
I heard someone in the gondola plaza say that Aspen wasn’t “cool” anymore. My immediate reaction was, “what a relief!” You wouldn’t know it, though, by the amount of passage at the base of Ajax every day. The people watching just doesn’t get a whole lot better. That busy three-way intersection on Durant would benefit greatly from a couple of strategically placed, overly enthusiastic traffic cops during those times.
It seems as if our tireless efforts of cheapening the Aspen brand have finally paid off. Our town hit a new low by being a hot spot for paparazzi at the base of a ski mountain that charges nearly a buck-twenty a day (watch out for those fist-sized rocks on the surface of the upper runs). Hiring security guards to protect celebrities from camera men really is a clever ruse by the Aspen Skiing Co. to hopefully get more celebrities to actually come. Perception is reality. God, I loathe that saying.
Keep in mind that the economy of a resort town is not unlike that of a personal retirement portfolio. We are constantly being told the importance of diversifying our investments. So what do we continue to do? Put all of our eggs in the high-end basket. Another sign our ship is moving in the wrong direction — the names of our stores are getting increasingly difficult, if not entirely impossible to pronounce. Case in point — the exclusive new Cooper Street building. It sure is pretty, but the question that all the real locals are asking is, “can I still buy a bindle and play pool upstairs?”
When it comes to being busy and work keeping me off of the slopes, I’m the biggest brat around. The other day when I finally made it onto a chairlift, it just didn’t seem relaxing for some reason. Maybe it’s the shifting of mental and physical gears into a different work and play cycle, or the daunting prospect of another long cold winter. Perhaps it’s the constant barrage of people telling me how great it is here. It makes me somehow suspicious.
I’m also becoming convinced that my friends and family are trying to slowly kill me by sending perishable items as Christmas presents — tubs of popcorn, fudge, chex mix, smoked salmon, chocolate cherries, you name it. It’s the only real way to unwind during the holidays after a busy day of work — by ramming fistfuls of comfort food down my pie hole every night.
This time of year I easily get sucked into the skewed mind-set that the things I do to make a living, the people I serve and the trivial docu-dramas that arise as a result each day are more important than they actually are. This may be the only town in America that complains about being too busy, probably because collectively we just about have it figured out.
The nice thing is that we’re serving up good product to our guests right now. Not great, but good. After all, it’s still early season. Ultimately, though, it takes something bigger to remind me what’s really significant, like the passing of an old friend, the birth of a child, a quiet moment with family, or a contagious smile from a complete stranger.
Email Lorenzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.