Zalaznick: Vive l’Aspen! |

Zalaznick: Vive l’Aspen!

Matt Zalaznick
Vail CO, Colorado

Aspen is France. Vail is the U.S.A.

Not because Aspen is full of tormented poets and impressionist painters (it isn’t); not because the resort has helped shape literature or Democracy or anything that important (it hasn’t); but because, as my uncle says about the French, Aspenites spit on the ceiling.

I’ve never been sure what that means, but it seems to fit Aspen, too.

I guess it’s got something to do with having your nose up in the air all the time? Or being so fond of your own saliva you’re compelled to slather your ceiling with it and have it drip back down on top of you?

Oh, we’re snobs in Vail, too, but, just like Americans, we’re a little more comfortable with it, which is easy when you’ve got the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin.

Skiing China Bowl, leaping off Blue Sky’s cornice all weekend puts a little mellow in our mountainous megalomania.

Aspen thinks of itself as the anti-Vail. But its animosity is just like that of the French, who, even as they line up at McDonald’s and flock to Hollywood movies and look cool at jazz clubs and love to hate our president (we hate him as much as or more than they do), consider themselves the Great Anti-America.

Aspen works hard not to be Vail. And they’ve been very successful ” both resorts have swarms of bugs eating their trees and are overrun by real estate agents, both suffer from exorbitant housing costs and labor shortages, and both have residents who aren’t doing a whole lot to combat the global warming that threatens to shrink our ski seasons.

I wonder which town has more Hummers? Well, I’ll put the Vail Valley’s ability to gobble up fuel against Aspen any day, though Aspen may have the edge. The commutes in the Roaring Fork Valley are a little bit longer ” and everyone knows how authentic long commutes are. Why a three-hour round trip to work fluffing pillows and hanging drywall goes all the way back to the early days of skiing.

Plus, for all Aspen’s greenhouse grousing, they wish they had an airport as big and busy and air-pollution spewing as Eagle County’s.

And so what if Aspen gets Karl Rove and Colin Powell to speak publicly in town and we don’t? Dick Cheney, after not inviting anyone to his secret symposiums in Beaver Creek, is fond of shutting down our highways when he drives to the airport.

I’ve seen him slumped and sneering in the back of a limo as he passes the market in Edwards ” and that’s as useful as any speech for understanding the mindset of the Bush Administration.

And why do we get blasted for having a few more high-speed chairlifts? Skiers and snowboarders at Aspen aren’t exactly riding those squawking snow kangaroos from “The Empire Strikes Back” to the top of their mountains or sleeping in the carcasses when they keel over and die.

Though, this summer, Aspen has attracted a few more bear carcasses than Vail. Perhaps Aspen’s unsecured, poorly managed trash is a bit more sumptuous than ours is.

But somehow, Vail, and not Aspen, the playground of celebrities, has become the poster child for resort town excess and artifice, leading some East Coast professor to coin the phrase “Vailization.”

I don’t think this academic meant it is a compliment, but I think we should be proud to be an eponym for a movement. And that movement is second-home owners driving the middle class farther and farther down the far side of the Western Slope.

A true Vailizist asks “Who needs the middle class shaving all the powder of the slopes and taking tables at the sushi bar and insisting on shopping at Wal-Mart and riding public transportation?”

But I’ll bet Aspen has as little use for working stiffs as Vail does.

Speaking of Joe Sixpack, even allegedly blue-collar Summit County ” which has more second homes (and pine beetles) than Eagle County ” likes to feel superior to Vail.

Hey, I love the prices at the outlet malls, but a Gap crowded with bargain shoppers from Idaho and Alberta is not exactly part of an authentic ski town experience.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or

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