Aspen would be a pretty cool place if everybody (else) would just leave. That’s the message loud and clear that an increasing number of public and private personalities are delivering all over Pitkin county.
I received a letter from a friend last week. He’s a cutting edge musician who doesn’t use email or computers. Instead, his recording engineer/bass player/office manager, Justin, manages his website and navigates his cyber-correspondence.
The first time I accidentally stumbled upon the Jerry Garcia shrine on Aspen Mountain, I felt as if I discovered a secret garden of pop culture iconography while skiing through a snowy and psychedelic Xanadu. While gliding in solitude through the peaceful tranquility of a forested ridge, I was not expecting to suddenly discover a grove of trees dangling with pictures, dried roses, memorabilia, and assorted miscellany of the legendary Grateful Dead front man. Thankfully, no one was within earshot because the odd discovery inspired a quiet Garcia refrain: “Going where the wind don’t blow so strange/Maybe up on some high cold mountain range.”
Despite a fairytale image, Aspen has not been impervious to the tsunami of distressing economic news. In a certain sign of the times, headlines in the Aspen Daily News or the Aspen Times hint at gloomy economic conditions: the turtle-like crawl of vacation real estate sales, raising unemployment rates, and lower-than-average hotel occupancy are common themes littering the local headlines. Even in fantasyland woebegone national news of corporate bankruptcies, gloomy markets, bailout quagmires, foreclosures, and bank buyouts contribute to a crestfallen public consciousness.
As off-season transitions into summer high season, there are signs of a silver lining to the doom and gloom. Warm weather means Jimmy Buffett melodies, backyard grilling, rafting trips, shorts and flip-flops, and the opening of the narrow, 12,000 foot switchback over Independence Pass, making Aspen immediately accessible to historic Leadville. Although everything isn’t peaches and blue bonnets in this alpine resort town, a gang of intrepid Aspen-based entrepreneurs, business-owners, and organizations are still swinging for the fences by opening up shop or preparing for a superlative line-up of festivals and events occurring over the summer. Here’s a list of new and noteworthy shops, restaurants, and events debuting with giggly excitement for the summer 2009 season, economic torpedoes be damned.
ASPEN, CO - Billionaires are a part of the Aspen experience, in one way or the other. Love it or hate it, this simple yet controversial reality is a flattering testament to Aspen’s international magnetism and gravitational pull.
ASPEN, CO -“I don’t take photos at things, I take photos of things,” says world-renown portrait photographer and humanitarian Norm Gershman, reflecting on his latest work, before a captive Aspen audience. “I don’t photograph war, destruction, murder…I photograph people. Good people. Many years ago, my wife and I were at dinner and she was talking about a horrible attack in Central Park the night before. I said to her, ‘You know what else happened last night? 3 million people made love. Which should we focus on?’”
Such is the hopeful outlook which fueled Gershman’s six year adventure and revolutionary new project, finding, photographing and documenting the stories of Muslims in Albania and Kosovo, who sheltered Jews from the Nazis during WWII. Gershman visited Aspen on Friday, June 18, as part of the Aspen Institute’s Fireside Chat series. The book is "Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in WWII" and is now available, world-wide, while the documentary film of the adventure, "God’s House", produced by the award-winning JWM Productions, is slated to be released in late 2011.
Visiting a seasonal destination during the more subtle season is an advanced travel move, reserved for the more adventurous traveler seeking a more authentic cultural experience. You see people who cater to you during the on-season -teaching you skiing, pouring your wine or driving your raft shuttle, doing none of these things.
What makes dining in Aspen so special? According to chef Mario Batali, it’s because of a “kind of hippy, laid back approach to local and serious food.” Known for colorful television appearances, best-selling books, signature Orange Crocs, and a sophisticated coterie of Italian eateries in New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, I caught up with Batali via e-mail before touching down in Aspen to attend the 27th Annual Food & Wine Classic.
Aspen, CO - If you're going to steal a car, do it in Aspen; only an amateur desert thief rolls the dice somewhere like Phoenix. There is a complex web of competing philosophies on the purpose of jail – punishment, rehabilitation, to deter, to preserve the rights of the innocent, or some hybrid – none of which I care to get into with any depth here; there are entire books devoted to the ethics of incarceration. No, I aim to point out a vast dichotomy that exists by comparing two nearly opposite institutions. Even while disagreeing on what constitutes just punishment, we can all recognize that the type imposed on a criminal may vary drastically depending on nothing more than location. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the geography of justice.