The sh*t you hear riding the Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain during the holidays is unbelievable. It's difficult to describe the details of conversations and interactions that focus on narcissism, conspicuous consumption, status seeking, social climbing, deal-making, love-making and more. The 3,267 vertical foot, 18 minute top-to-bottom ride for 6 can be illuminating or it can seem like an eternity.
A few insights about Aspen Mountain. Other than a few strategic "prime time" days (ie: Christmas / New Years) ...there are no lift lines. First tracks on a big POW day can create a traffic jam...but the Silver Queen's speed and uphill capacity dissipates the crowds pretty easily. During the holidays things change. First everybody's a BIG shot. Today, an unusual anomaly occurred; the private lesson line, which receives preferential treatment was actually longer than the regular line. Riding single usually eliminates the need to stand in any line at all...but then you've got to deal with the luck of the draw, and take it as it comes...for 18 seemingly never ending minutes.
The 1% Car: It was a mixed bag. 2 from Miami, 2 from NYC, one social climbing realtor from Aspen and me, AspenSpin...a ski bum with a Kjus. By the time we got to the top...my head was spinning. $8 million lots in Mexico...private clubs, private golf courses, private planes, private schools, private chefs and other problematic domestic staffing issues. Well known names from the social register were being dropped without any consideration for diplomacy. Do you know so & so...blah, blah blah. For example, the secretly gay interior decorator with the gorgeous hair...who's married (to a lady) with children and having an affair with a guy. The name dropping and social posturing was fast and furious. I almost stuck my own ski pole in my eye to ease the pain.
THE AVALANCHE EXPERT: This vignette took place on the F.I.S. Lift (lift 6) which is only a 4 minute ride. I dropped into Bear Paw a short, steep, rocky, snow filled run in the famous Aspen ski area known as "The Dumps". The beauty of Bear Paw is that you can do quick laps and get back to the lift...without skiing all the way down to the Gondola. Ski and repeat There was only one other skier on the run... but the guy was "pig farming" and skiing like a weenine ...which means he was monopolizing or "hogging" all the fresh snow and tracking up all the POW with no consideration for any one else. I stayed away from him and went skiers left where the deeper...more beautiful snow was waiting for me. The other guy was skiers right..and as I overtook him I noticed that he cut right, disobeyed the prominently displayed closed signs and skied the rock-filled line directly below the lift. We happened to get on the lift together...and the conversation went something like this.
A.Party: You're not from around here...are you?
Pig Farmer: Nope, how could you tell?
A.Party: I noticed that you disobeyed the closed signs and skied in the area below the lift. We try to respect the ski patrol's decisions.
Pig Farmer: I was just following the locals
A.Party: Really? There's only one set of tracks through there. You probably didn't realize it, but that area below the lift is prone to slide. In fact...we had a small avalanche there last year...took a patroller down...luckily no one was hurt.
Pig Farmer: How dare you. Don't lecture me. I've been skiing for 37 years...I know what I'm doing, I know all about avalanches, I lost my best friend in an avalanche.
Not another word was spoken.
THE BLOWHARD: It was a full-on "Chinese Downhill" when the rope dropped for Walsh's and Kristi. Best runs of the year so far...if you ask me. All the POW HOUNDS were there. One local guy who's a pretty good skier was touring around with an older, less competent friend. We all dropped into the thigh deep POW POW around the same time. After a siiiiiiiiick run, a short hike and then the long catwalk out of Walsh's I strategically decided to jump on "the couch" or Lift 7 for the return trip to the top of the mountain. The Gent's Ridge lift is a long, old fashioned, slow 4 seater. The guy and his friend were waiting for the chair when I nodded at him and said "wanna ride up?". The guy said... "we're gonna be chatting business, you go ahead" So I jumped on solo. The 15 minute ride gave me a chance to collect my thoughts. Chatting Biz?? Really? I call bullsh*t...the guy has no job, he has no business...and when previously queried about his vocation ...he never has a straight answer. I finally figured it out. Self-aggrandizing is his game and he didn't want me blowing his cover. I was happy to ride the chair myself.
THE SELF-APPOINTED LOCAL: I don't know everybody who's an Aspen local...but after 10 years of skiing every day and partying every night...I have a pretty good feel for who's who. Four of us regulars were in the bucket...hoping the door would close before 2 more people could load on. Almost made it. 2 very well dressed, older women jumped into our car at the last minute. A friendly conversation ensued. " I like your outfit, where you from?" I asked the one lady who was wearing a deep purple, fur collared parka along with matching pants. Her jacket was unzipped and her boots unbuckled despite the 7 degree temps. "I'm from here" she responded. "Wow" I laughed..."I thought I knew all the locals" She checked her phone, avoiding eye contact and offered "Well we split out time between New York, Palm Beach and here". "So you're a part-timer?" "Well, we have a place here at the Hyatt" she admitted. Ah ha..a fractional ...I thought to myself...she's here 2 weeks a year...maybe four...that's cool...but why say you're from here? Everybody wants to be an Aspen local. She proved she was oblivious to the local custom of picking up after herself. She left her newspapers and hand warmer wrappers on the seat in the Gondola. Luckily I was there to pick up after her.
THE SKIN CARE MAGNATE: The gondola car was filled. 2 high school Seniors, a married couple from Miami with very shiny outfits, a non-english speaker and me... A-Spin. Let's Ride. The lady made severeal quick calls demanding information and services and mentioned names, dates and locations. Her Husband sat silently. When she finally clicked off and began texting...the girls mentioned they were from Miami too. "What part?" asked the attractive 50ish Floridian. The girls mentioned a private gated waterfront community..."do you know the yada, yada,yadas. "My dad is yada yada yada" "Oh I'd love to meet him. I don't want to be pushy but my skin care line is in all the best stores"...and she rattled off a list that sounded like the tenant mix at The Mall at Short Hills. Turns out the one girls dad is a huge international retailer and the Skin Care Magnate wants to go world-wide. She kept saying "I don't mean to be pushy"...but she was. The husband remained silent. The next 8 minutes was one of the most agressive sales pitches I have ever seen..including free samples. By the end, the High School senior had no choice but to promise to set up the meeting with her Dad. Intense.
THE DALLAS YOGA INSTRUCTOR: I was riding with a whole group from Dallas. One of the topics was the male yoga instructor who is so flexible..that he actually can do...what a dog does...lick his own balls. Apparently he's very well known by the ladies from suburban Dallas.
I'm not making this stuff up.
So you get the picture. Our little town at the end of the road gets a little harry around the holidays. Lots of "very important people" visit Aspen. It gets crowded (96% of capacity according to the local paper). While we all like to claim Aspen for ourselves...tourism makes the town go. The guests make the economy in Aspen hum. So for the 10 days surrounding Christmas and New Years...we share our little slice of heaven with everybody else. But I must admit...at AspenSpin we are looking forward to New Year's and the mass exodus that follows...and as always...we're praying for POWPOW.