Posh, perfect or just filled with posers
ASPEN ” If perception is reality then Aspen is two-faced, according to hundreds of skiers and riders from out of town.
Some see Aspen as one of the most thrilling, if not most expensive, playgrounds in the world. They revel in its glitz and glamour.
Others write it off as a pretentious haven for the self-absorbed. They vow never to return.
Love it or hate it, Aspen certainly stirred strong emotions among respondents to SKI magazine’s annual ski area rankings this summer. Aspen was ranked the eighth-best ski resort in North America. It slipped a spot from 2004. Snowmass placed fourth, also down one spot. Aspen Highlands fell from 13 to 21. Buttermilk didn’t draw attention in the rankings.
A sampling of more than a hundred anonymous comments, supplied by SKI, shows just about everyone has strong feelings about our little town.
“Great apres-ski hangout,” wrote one survey respondent. “Good-looking, stylish people, not like the duck [sic] tape crowd in Jackson Hole.”
Another SKI reader also loved hanging with the beautiful people of Aspen. “Doesn’t everyone want to experience Aspen?” the person wrote. “First-class expensive everything. Glitz, glamour, great steeps.”
But another respondent turned the tables.
“Holy swank town!” the person wrote. “It was hilarious watching all the people trying to out-glamour each other.”
When asked by SKI to identify a strength for Aspen, that same person wrote, “Chance of meeting a millionaire.” When asked to identify a weakness, he or she wrote, “Hollywood of the mountains.”
Not all respondents kept their sense of human about the ol’ town. “Aspen is unbelievably overrated,” wrote one curmudgeon. “Everyone looks the same.”
Another wrote that Aspen is living on its reputation.
And another lamented the loss of good apres-ski hangouts. “It seems to have been taken over by aging yuppies,” wrote the respondent.
Even people who love Aspen said it was too expensive. Those who disliked the town really drove that point home.
“Feels like you are being gouged,” responded one person to SKI’s survey. “Terrible accessibility. Been there before, might be last trip.”
Then there was a respondent who hit us where it hurts. “Snow can sometimes be a little slow in coming,” wrote the person. “Guess that’s why I sometimes see so many green CO license tags when in Utah but not vice versa.”
But those who loved Aspen really loved Aspen. “The whole banana! Be seen and happy,” one person gushed. “Village is all inclusive. Undisputed number one all around.”
Another stated that Aspen is “always perfect.” In the strength column, the person wrote, “town is not a resort.” In the negative column, he or she wrote, “My bank account.”
Another survey respondent was even more succinct. In the strength column the person put, “It’s Aspen.” And in the weakness column, he or she wrote, “It’s Aspen.”
Aspen Highlands didn’t solicit nearly as many responses as Aspen Mountain, but there were obviously some loyal fans among SKI readers. (Though not enough, as the drop to 21st shows.)
One fan wrote “best ski area in North American, bar none” thanks to the terrain. But the fan vilified changes made there as a “dastardly sell out to Aspen Skiing Company – via Harvard U. double-dealing – and subsequent ritzification of base area.”
Another loyalist also claimed Highlands has been “modernized and is losing its personality.”
Yet another wrote, “I was partial to the old base.”
But by-and-large, the people that wrote about Highlands raved about the terrain. One labeled Highland Bowl “mind bending.” (Wait until he or she experiences the expanded version this year.)
“A favorite. Under-rated. Could be the best at Aspen,” another wrote.
Despite its highest ranking among the local resorts, Snowmass sparked fewer passionate responses among SKI readers. Numerous writers lauded the vast amount of terrain and its variety. Several complained about the lift system and the dullness of Snowmass Village.
“A total surprise. I wish I’d spent my week here instead of Vail,” wrote a Snowmass fan.
“Lifts are pathetic,” countered a critic. “One hour to get to the top of Big Burn from base.”
Another called the village “overdeveloped and getting worse.”
While Snowmass fans credited the ski area for having more expert terrain than many realize, more survey respondents drooled over its groomed intermediate runs.
“The Colorado benchmark for long blue cruisers that make you ‘grin out loud,'” one respondent concluded.
The latest edition of SKI, with complete list of rankings and a few select comments about the top resorts, will hit newsstands later this month.
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