Can we all agree that it’s been one of the most beautiful falls in Aspen in a while? Even for a super-jaded, faded local like me. There was something about how quickly the leaves turned this year that took me by complete surprise. It seemed as if all of the foliage in the mountains went from dark green to obscene in a matter of two weeks. And now we get to witness fall 2.0 — the last hurrah and changing of the valley floor — best viewed from Smuggler Mountain in the afternoon.
When it comes to things to do with nature, in general I fancy myself a cautious pessimist. That means always expect the worst and all the while preparing yourself mentally to be pleasantly surprised. I’m that way for fall colors and predictions of winter snow. So when the colors turned out more vibrant than memory could recall, a celebratory spirit was in order. Especially considering that a lot of the cottonwoods were browning and then shedding leaves prematurely. That was a bad omen.
The cold snap that burned a lot of the Aspen tree leaves up in the high country; turning them a rust color had me convinced that the fall colors were going to be lackluster. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was a three-day window before it snowed where you could feel a heightened sense of urgency to get out and hit the trails for the peak viewing. It just goes to show what I know about forecasting fall colors — jack squat.
Everyone’s been really giddy to see the early season snow and that’s a good thing for this classic American ski town. Bookings are up. The annual ski swap is today and that’s always an early gateway to winter. I even heard of some brave souls making turns on an equal mixture of rock and snow up the pass, ruining perfectly good pairs of skis in a sacrificial gesture to the snow gods. This enthusiasm is good and all, but my advice is don’t peak too early. Winter is the longest season of all.
Fret not about the nonstop monsoon since Independence Day that has seemingly hijacked our Indian summer and held it for ransom. Everyone is saying that this pre-season snow is a good precursor for the upcoming winter ski season. I couldn’t disagree more.
There will be absolute hell to pay weather-wise for all of the moisture we’ve been getting. It’s guaranteed to come in the form of at least a monthlong dry spell starting any day now. The upside in all of this ominous, yet perfectly typical Colorado weather is that the rivers look fuller now than they did in July, so that’s a good sign for snowmaking. Let’s just hope I know as much about forecasting weather as I do about predicting fall colors.
I’ve heard a lot of people muttering the word “off-season.” I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the off-season, or the contemporary version of it that just ain’t cutting it for me lately. It’s business as usual it seems. The sanctity of off-season is lost on most people these days. That bums me out.
The city should consider forming an off-season preservation committee, complete with funny hats and a clown car that roams downtown construction projects stopping traffic.
Off-season is in danger of disappearing entirely. A lot of people think that’s a good thing. We as a community should be more concerned that our priorities have shifted. It’s almost as if we have an obligation to employ more people than are actually necessary. Without the wildly successful employee housing program we have here, we’d be sunk. A lot of the modern day Aspen gripes and problems ultimately stem from one thing and one thing only — over population. Off-season used to be a cherished time to recharge and get ready for the next wave of being attacked. What is happening now economically and physically sure feels like an assault to me.
I read the other day that the August sales tax revenues were generated by sales of over $395 million — $50 million of that by retail alone. Think about that for a second. That is a staggering sum of money to be generated in one month. It’s obscene. Especially for a town that doesn’t produce and export any actual product, except BS. I actually find it kind of embarrassing. How much longer can this goose keep laying golden eggs? To think that this much wealth is being generated and then spent in this town, and all of the problems associated with and created by it lead me to believe that we are actually profoundly unsuccessful on a lot of fronts. What about all of the transactions that aren’t taxed, like drugs and sex?
There is a disturbing new vision for Aspen being played out in the downtown core that is financially mistaken as the second coming of Fritz Benedict and Walter Paepcke. They can’t screw up the mountains, but by all means keep trying. The actual legacy builders in Aspen are the small businesses, volunteers, teachers and those elected officials with sincere, selfless agendas — the ones responsible for keeping the vitality here. The job gets harder for them every day. If this town is so anti-growth, it’s got a real funny way of showing it.
While the off-seasons may be an endangered species, the spirit of the real Aspen lives on in those lazy weekend days where we regain a sense of ownership, rediscover our town and are subtly reminded why we moved here in the first place, or stayed — beautiful falls like this one and actual off-seasons.
Contact Lorenzo at email@example.com.