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Micro-Managing Aspen

I LOVE ASPEN.  While AspenSpin is usually focused on the good times, I want to share a few frustrations about Fat City. There are some burrs under my saddle.  I'm going to Micro manage Aspen for about 1000 words, just to clear the air.  It's been a mediocre ski season and I feel the need to get a few things off my chest. I don't want to be a whiner, so rather than write a letter to the editor ...or maybe bi-atch slap someone in public I will share my observations here on AspenSpin....where no one really cares about it. 

I'm not sour grapes, but my shrink is dead.....  and... here goes. 

ASPEN CHAMBER RESORT ASSOCIATION.   What a bunch of morons.  Sure, individually they are probably good people...but collectively the leaders of this organization can't stop embarrassing themselves. The bureaucracy is deafening.   According to their own website they are "dedicated to supporting businesses and enhancing the visitor experience".  As an outsider looking in...they support SOME businesses...the one's they consider worthy and that are owned by their cronies. What about the other ones...the non-cronies?  As we all know...for most members...the discounted ski passes are the most important benefit.   ACRA receives an extra $1 million annually for their marketing budget from the new lodging tax...but we have yet to see a creative, well constructed marketing campaign. What's our brand?  Aspen: where the rich people go".   The latest flap with the American Chamber of Commerce...who doesn't believe in climate change...is typical.  ACRA sent out a survey of their members to determine whether or not to boycott the national organization....we were told 11% of the the surveys were answered and the question was so one-sided that it could only be answered one way.  Now they face a P.R. SNAFU no matter what.  What can you expect from people who work 9-5 (ooops 10-3.30..but no one is counting).  The Christmas lighting survey is next.

WAGNER PARK.   What a beautiful centerpiece to our town.  Is it a park ..or an event space?   The park gets a ton of use for sports, families, dogs etc.   That is when it's open and not fenced-off by the unsightly plastic barriers .   Wagner Park is still recovering physically from Snow Polo that was held there 2 years ago.  Luckily that event got moved to the more appropriate Marolt Open space.  Unfortunately the rugger-fest took place in the rain..which led to 2 months  of closure mid-Sept through Nov.   Now the park has been closed, from mid-March.  They need  to prep for Food and Wine which is in June.  Will Wagner Park be closed through June?   I dunno --will it?    HEY...let's keep the open spaces...open.  Also,  I'm a dog lover, but those masters who "forget to pick up" are going to ruin it for all of us.

JOHN DENVER SANCTUARY and RIO GRANDE TRAIL.   This is one of my favorite places in Aspen.  However it's been under construction for a year or more.   Huge bulldozers and construction debris have inhabited this usually pristine setting for more than a year.   Good news.... another $1.4 million was just earmarked for the area to complete the job..hopefully.  At least  the signs that  say "trail closed for Summer"  don't need to be replaced...they're still up there from last year. The Theatre Aspen site is clearly a debacle....it looks worse than a third world country over there.  The uncovered steel frame and the blowing white tarpaulin look horrible next to the Rio Grande Trail.  Stay classy, Theatre Aspen...always be creepin'.

ASPEN SKIING COMPANY.  I know it's BIG biz and its a private company and all.  I also know that Aspen is a  company town, but, HEY i'm a customer.  I surely don't want to get banned from the ski hills...but WTF??   Why do they have such a thin skin??? They cannot accept critisim in any form, even if it's constructive.  Last year they banned the Aspen Daily News from their properties.  Last Fall, a woman in the check out line at City Market made a negative comment about the poor early season conditions.  That inncident  blew up into a front page story (slow news day, i guess) because one top Ski Co. Exec made a public statement about locals always complaining.  HELLO...it's America...non-employees are entitled to an opinion.   And why are they such bullies???   They fired Dan Sheridan for singing a song about rich people.  You're fired!!!  They fired (and banned) Lee Mulcahy  (maybe he deserved it for his actions?)...but when it was all said and done...his points about wages and labor were valid and Ski Co. had to adjust their policies.    I used to like it when Ski Co. focused on up-hill transportation and mountain management.  Now they have their tentacles on almost every aspect of Aspen.  Food and bev, lodging , event plannng, retail, and even fishing and Yoga.   I guess we're lucky...it could be Vail.  

NON-PROFITS.  Hey, I think philanthropy is awesome.  I love to "give back" both with my time and my money....but really,  how many non-profits are based in our Valley?   More than 400 is my guess, and new ones are popping up every day. Everybody's a non-profit now.  Many of Aspen's NPO's do fantastic work helping less fortunate people, sick kids, the environment, wildlife, the  mountains, rivers and streams and so on.   Many of them do not.  They collect contributions which are than converted to salaries and overhead and foolish spending.  Many of the NPO's are duplicitous in their missions.    Take a look at Robin Hood Foundation in NYC.  100% of the monies collected are used to do good deeds.  All the overhead and costs are underwritten by the Robin Hood Board.  I hold them out as a role model for local charities. 

F.A.R. (floor area ratio) HO's   I understand...some people view Aspen as a business opportunity on which they can capitalize.  Others simply see it as a wonderful place to visit or live, work and play.  I get it ...greed is good. I have no problem with change and controlled growth.  Replacing some of the dumpy 60's style buildings is not a negative in my viewpoint.  But building lot-line to lot-line??... with no setbacks...maximizing every inch.  Our town is losing character and individuality...soon the whole core will look homogeneous.  Take a ride down I-70...around mile marker 180 for an example.  Big, square buildings with unoccupied penthouses.

SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT.  Aspen is a very complex society with a highly nuanced social hierarchy. There are lots of great people...and lots of bogarts.  Locals wear their years in Aspen like a badge of honor.  Statements like "I've been here for 30 years" or "I came in the 60's" are repeated over and over. Tourists bring their crap from the cities and act like they own the place.  That's all cool...but The City of Aspen enacts their laws and policies for a reason.  The problem is...the rules only seem to  apply to some people.  The idling law... is just one good example.  The beater Ford pick-up truck with the broom in the back can idle...while the Range Rover with Florida plates can't. There are many other examples of selective enforcement.  If you're going to have rules...enforce them equally for everyone.

NUFF SAID.  I've gone over my budget of 1000 words..and I feel the need to ski. Day #98.

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Reader Comments (3)

Right on brother; but then again your preaching to the choir. Johnny Boyd said it best---the Crowns' Skico is becoming a joke. LOL: I like Vail and Beaver Creek, the people aren't so less than ridiculous; but then again, I'm from Texas. Aspen Skollie says it best:

This is the story about a small town folk singer and his “anthem for local working people.” It’s about corporate bullying, irony and karma. It’s the story of “Big Money.”

Dan Sheridan, a 20-plus year Aspen local, released an album in 2003 that included a song called “Big Money.” While the song has been popular among some locals, Sheridan has never gained much notoriety past the Aspen corridor of Highway 82. That is until recently. On January 1, 2010, Sheridan played a gig at Sneaky’s Tavern in the new and incomplete Snowmass Base Village. [Yesterday’s front page story was: Skico accused of fraudulent actions in Base Village condo sales. It was written by local author Brent Gardner-Smith.] A group in the small crowd requested “Big Money” and Sheridan obliged them by playing the song. Sheridan said he had noticed “dudes in full-length fur coats and cowboy boots” but that he “got the feeling that everyone wanted to hear it.”

While no one ever heard from the man-fur sporting tourists, there was apparently one person in the crowd who did not want to hear it. An Aspen Skiing Company Vice President complained to the Director of Food and Beverage, and on the following Monday Sheridan was fried. By that Wednesday the Aspen Times published a story detailing the events, and Jeff Hanle, the Skico’s spokesman, was quoted as saying, “An artist can express himself how he wants. But that doesn’t mean we have to provide him the stage.” Suddenly everybody was talking about “Big Money.”

The newspaper was flooded with letters to the Editor with such headlines as “Censorship by Skico,” “Downright Pathetic,” and “Boycott Skico,” and by Thursday the Aspen Skiing Company was calling Sheridan to say that he could come back and play any song except for “Big Money.” Aspen Daily News printed the story “Skico welcomes Sheridan back without “Big Money””. Hanle called the incident a “PR debacle” and said that he hoped Skico could put the incident behind them and move on.

Unfortunately for Skico, that was just the beginning. More letters poured into both Aspen newspapers,… and even Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield dissed the Skico for all to see on Grassroots TV. The original story became the most read article on the Aspen Times website, and it was picked up by Denver’s Westword.

Skico moved on and decided to ride the holiday wave by promoting Aspen Snowmass in major cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A. The company took its first billboard ads since 1958 with the headline “It’s Time to Fly” featuring hometown sweetheart Gretchen Bleiler. However, the story would not die.

While the Skico was posting billboards along the 405 in L.A., the L.A. Times was printing an article titled “Folk song strikes a touchy chord in Aspen”, which can now be found on their website under Home/Collections/Wealthy People. Instead of giving Sheridan a quiet warning and letting a couple of urban cowboys take offense at a small show, Skico officials alienated Aspen locals and undermined their own major advertising campaign. Corporate karma can be a real bi#ch.

The story finally reached Gawker: “Take heart, hippie communist folk singer Dan Sheridan… you are quite correct. Big money ruins everything. And that’s gonna suck for the rich, if they ever leave their cocaine-and-expensive-hooker-strewn Jacuzzis.”

The good news is that Dan Sheridan is now a folk hero, and everyone wants to hear “Big Money.” Still, is an apology authentic if it only comes after you have been called out? Would Sheridan still have a job if the Aspen Times had never printed that story? No one at Skico has yet to take responsibility for the firing of Dan Sheridan. There is no transparency and no accountability, and perhaps that is why this story continues to play.

You have to wonder what is going on at Aspen Skiing Company. In a new story Curtis Wackerle for the Aspen Daily News ask why Skico has stopped delivery of the newspaper to its hotel properties. Hanle is quoted as saying that the amount of newsprint on display at the properties “was just overwhelming” and that it had nothing to do with the Daily News running the story “Skico’s green efforts didn’t include Residences at The Little Nell.”

“An artist can express himself how he wants. But that doesn’t mean we have to provide him the stage” sounds a lot like “A newspaper can say what it wants, but that doesn’t mean we have to provide it the circulation” or advertise with it. It’s not so much a bullet to the Daily News as it is a sucker punch. Skico fail.

-Skollie Life

well Lee you set a new record for longest comment. i'm not surprised.

March 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterAspen Spin

The silence is deafening
by Johnny Boyd, Aspen Daily News Columnist
Monday, December 17, 2012

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The sale of the Snowmass Lodge and Club to the Toll Brothers creates more questions than answers in Snowmass. The lack of developable land would disqualify this venture from the definition of an extreme money-maker. The only true benefit that I can see is that it gives maverick artist Lee Mulcahy one more place he can visit without fear of arrest. Money can’t buy the lack of headlines.

Lee Mulcahy’s ongoing drama is exposing Aspen for what it is — a town with an amazing lack of balls. The idea that Aspen could sit back complacently and allow one person to be persecuted by the most powerful interests in town is reprehensible. Aspen used to rebel against the company town image, now it defines it.

The silence from the community appears to condone the loss of rights by one of its members. Does this mean the loss of rights by anyone the company deems unfit is acceptable? The SkiCo has attempted this crap before with Dan Dunn and the chick formerly known as The Princess. In both of those instances it had the power to pull the offender’s ski pass and fire them. What’s next?

Nothing justifies a total ban from public lands of any taxpaying American. SkiCo can keep Mulcahy from riding its lifts, but hiking on national forest land? I’d love to see the lease that says a taxpayer can’t use his own land because the corporation that leases it says so. If such a lease exists, as a taxpayer I want that clause removed the next time America renews it. It appears that the Forest Service is as ball-less in the face of billionaires as the company town.

Perhaps Mulcahy has used the wrong rhetoric to describe his fight against the SkiCo. On his Facebook page he urged everyone to attend his recent hearing by likening it to the “gunfight at the OK Corral.” Anyone who read the report on that court appearance would never compare it to the infamous Tombstone shoot out.

It was SkiCo executives who engaged in histrionics about how scared they are of Lee Mulcahy. It was Mulcahy making impassioned speeches to tolerate his protest in the name of free speech and protecting his rights. It was a judge showing amazing common sense in shooting down (sorry SkiCo, hope that didn’t scare you) the restraining order the SkiCo was seeking. Mulcahy’s fight with the SkiCo was nothing like the battle between the Clantons and the Earps, although “Earp” might describe the noise SkiCo executives squeaked when Mulcahy showed up with his Alamo trailer.

Mulcahy may well become an Aspen legend. He is suing a billionaire for a dollar. Do I need to repeat that? He is suing a billionaire for a dollar! That’s the best punch line to the stupidest joke I’ve ever heard and the billionaire is taking it seriously and sending out an armada of high-priced attorneys to fight him. The entertainment value from this lawsuit alone will keep this column stoked with subject matter for years.

In a civilized society the ability to criticize our masters is the last bastion of freedom. It’s obvious that the SkiCo’s intent is to silence any dissent in its ranks and the community by culling one poor sap from the herd and destroying his rights completely. The complete silence by the other lambs headed for slaughter is deafening. Even if you think Mulcahy is an ass, you should stand up for his right to be one without being stripped of basic freedoms.

I have to give Lee Mulcahy credit. He has protested for his rights instead of slinking away after the corporation exiled him. The restraining order against him at the Aspen Institute proves that he isn’t about to stop. He has fought valiantly against overwhelming odds with little backing from anyone except a few friends. The lack of support for such a brave individual illustrates how few brave individuals there are. When they come for you, don’t whine because you didn’t speak out.

Don’t be part of the herd. Speak up. The SkiCo can’t be allowed to single out citizens for punishment. It’s petty. It’s cowardly. It’s unconstitutional. It’s embarrassing. It’s going to make a great movie after I’m done writing the screenplay. Working title: “Aspen: The Quiet Fears.”

Grow a pair, Aspen.

Email Johnny at snomasokist@msn.com.

January 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny Boyd

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