What a fussy little bunch we are, here in Aspen. We’re like the Goldilocks and the three bears of resort occupancy. On a weekend powder day we exclaim in a huff: “The mountains are way too crowded!” During a drought year we humbly opine: “The mountain’s not quite busy enough.” Then in off-season we greedily tell ourselves: “This little mountain has juuuust the right amount of people!”
Have you been following any of this angst directed at the Ikon pass holders this winter? It’s fascinating to me that people who live here are just now figuring out all this resort/town symbiosis stuff. But what’s disappointing is the-two faced nature of the complaints; we always pride ourselves on how inclusive we are, then go on to disparage people looking for a bargain, eating brown paper bag lunches and staying downvalley — like that’s some kind of crime here in Aspen. After some light digging around on the internet, one of the “resistance” slogans was “Keep Aspen exclusive.” Gross.
Those are the very negative stereotypes about Aspen that I personally work hard, on a daily basis, to contradict, to shatter. The backlash against the Ikon pass cements and re-affirms the equally repugnant theory that Aspen is full of rich, snooty assholes. The problem now is that the grievance of low quality tourists, or “poor people” is coming from locals. That sucks. Not only that, it’s not true. It’s an unfair representation of the Ikon pass holder.
Besides, didn’t the guy who ate a sack lunch, or ate condiment saltine sandwiches at the Merry-Go-Round used to be considered a hardcore spirited skier on some level? Wasn’t it about the passion for the sport? We used to hold that guy on a makeshift pedestal. And people staying in hotels downvalley then skiing in Aspen or Snowmass? Sorry to break it to you, but that’s been happening for at least 20 plus years. Just ask the owners of the Aspenalt Lodge in Basalt.
Isn’t a good portion of our day spent looking all over the place for a better deal? Whether it’s at the market, which gas station is cheaper, shopping on the internet, getting estimates from different service providers — in Aspen we are always looking for the pro-deal. So isn’t the Ikon pass holder is doing the exact same thing? If anything they should be applauded, not shamed. And you can make a cogent argument that the Aspen Skiing Co. is actually doing a good job of regulating the flow of Ikon pass holders by not allowing unlimited use here.
We’re always looking to ostracize some segment of our tourist base. Frankly, to me, it reeks of classlessness. We used to pride ourselves in Aspen on being a place where a normal schmoe like you and me could saddle-up next to a multi-millionaire in a bar somewhere and have a gay old time.
Technically, doesn’t the Ikon pass encourage that very type of interaction? Regardless, there have always been, in one form or another, promotions to get more people to come to Aspen. What do you think the purpose of all the events we always host here are? And if the Ikon pass draws a technically lower-income tourist, then again, where is the infraction? Don’t like crowds of “regular people?” Buy a season pass and ski on weekdays.
Lets face it; Colorado is growing quickly. Interstate 70 is crowded. Aspen is popular. Business surges on weekends. The Brush Creek intercept lot, which used to serve primarily as overflow event parking, is going to play an important role in our normal day-in day-out transportation and parking roles in the future. And most importantly, the Ikon pass is no different than the Classic pass, or newspaper and TV ads, or any number of promotions that used to be directed at Front Range skiers in the past. Where was the outrage then? And people want a four-lane highway into Aspen? I don’t think so.
If I bought an Ikon pass and came here for the first time in my life to check it out and heard that the locals were pissed-off that I was here, I’d be bummed out. If you bought an Ikon pass and you’re here skiing one of the best seasons in a long time, welcome! And do me a favor, come back next year with your friends, and the year after that, and so on, and so on. And if you’re one of the locals complaining about the Ikon pass, do better. If you want to blame anyone, blame me. Last year, I didn’t ski. This year with my High Society Pow Chicka-wow-wow 185-length, 122-underfoot skis, I’m worse than two snowboarders.
The defenders of Aspen will float-out terms like “industrial tourism” or the “carrying capacity” of Aspen like it’s a concert venue. But by far my favorite is the notion that when the town’s busy, it’s somehow “unlivable.” Perhaps it’s better to question what our own role in this riddle is. The modern day version of the ski bum has to be a shape-shifter; know where to go and when to go there — and if you inevitably find yourself in a line or traffic, that’s a good time to practice the inclusive, tolerant mindset we preach.