Vail Daily letter: Apples and oranges

Respectfully, like comparing apples with oranges, it’s impossible to compare Aspen with Vail.

Aspen has a unique, fascinating history. Its charm comes from the fact that it is an old silver mining town that boomed for only 12 years and went to sleep for half a century! In 1943, one could stay in the Hotel Jerome for 50 cents a night, many buildings were vacant, boarded up and available for back taxes. Its population was down to several hundred from 11,000. Were it not the county seat of Pitkin County, Aspen might well have become a ghost town. Unlike Leadville, it only mined silver, not gold, zinc, lead, copper or moly.

By 1893, Aspen had 13 schools with 1,000-plus students. It had two railroads, 10 passenger trains a day and countless ore trains. It was the first city west of the Mississippi to have electricity (needed for the smelters). It had phone service, the Hotel Jerome, the Wheeler Opera House, an armory, Elks Club, many churches and countless Victorian homes of all sizes waiting to be revived.

Although Aspen and Vail both have well managed ski areas, Vail, only 50 years old, probably has the best ski terrain in the world! It has 5,289 skiable acres, two gondolas and 37 chairlifts. Aspen Mountain has only 675 skiable acres with one gondola and six chairlifts. FIS officials have indicated that Beaver Creek has the best downhill course on the circuit. Aspen has the Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. It may have its rich history but it still takes almost four hours to get to Denver! In spite of the so-called glitz and glitter, there are real down to earth, hard-working, community-minded people in Aspen the same as in Vail.

Let Aspen be Aspen and Vail be Vail!

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Dick Dirkes


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