Dissecting paradise 851 

Dissecting paradise: Aspen

An examination of what makes mountain resort communities click

First in a series

I have a strange obsession. And for the past 12 years it seems to have overtaken most aspects of my life. It affects where I live, recreate, work and how I converse. This time of year it seems to intensify as the shelves of local retail outlets display ski and snowboard magazines with feature articles like "Drop in on your favourite mountain spots," "The best ski town in North America," and "Life as a ski bum."

I am addicted to learning about what makes mountain resort communities click. My chosen profession as a planner allowed this indulgence to flourish. First, working in Whistler during the early ’90s boom gave me the curiosity to learn about different resort towns; what was it like to live there, how did they deal with similar problems, could there be an ideal resort community?

Second, the now defunct Snow Country Magazine and ski journalist Leslie Anthony had the ability to spur my fixation with articles, photos and local legend biographies on great ski towns. Early articles considered the likes of Aspen, Breckenridge, and Jackson Hole, but as affordability became beyond the reach of middle America, less glitzy and more gutsy towns like Leadville, Bend, Nelson and Hailey became the norm.

For me it didn’t matter. I dreamed about moving to other ski towns and experiencing the life first hand.

In 1997, on a whim, I got the opportunity and moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Not only was I able to live in the heart of the U.S. Ski Country, but in less than four hours I could visit and experience life in Aspen, Snowmass, Vail, Leadville, Breckenridge, Copper, Keystone, Loveland Pass, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass, and Avon/Beaver Creek. Add on a few more hours on the road and I could enjoy Telluride, Monarch Pass, Crested Butte, Durango and even Taos and Park City.

While in The Boat I loved meeting with policy and decision makers from other resort communities, learning about their initiatives and sharing problems. It made life and work in a resort more of a communal thing.

Two years ago I returned to Canada, re-established roots in Whistler and had my second child. It was my hope that British Columbia would now be the ski industry’s North American Mecca. Despite Whistler’s dominance and B.C.’s ski product, there is still a long way to go before B.C. is able to provide the diversity offered by the towns in the U.S. Rockies. So leaving Colorado, I realize that I miss the information, I am out of the loop. I hope to change this by writing series of articles for Pique Newsmagazine that gives you the scoop on other resort towns. This first installment focuses on Aspen and other snipits of information coming out of Colorado. In the future resort towns all over North America will be featured.

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