By G.D. Maxwell
A journey of a thousand turns begins with a single step. For the journey I was about to embark on, the first step was getting over my Coloradophobia.
Growing up south of Colorado was not the source of my phobia. In fact, growing up in New Mexico, Colorado was a place held in high esteem, a place, even, of both inspiration and aspiration. After all, we had Texas to hate; we didn’t need Colorado for that. If anything, we were envious of Colorado. It had beautiful people, iconic ski resorts, a string of 14,000 foot peaks in the San Juan’s and, of course, the Rockies running riot over the state. By comparison, New Mexico seemed, as Aldous Huxley wrote, a savage, wild place. Other than Coors beer, there wasn’t really anything I could find to hate about Colorado.
My Coloradophobia traces exclusively to the years I’ve lived in Whistler. Like most phobias, it is real — in an imaginary sense — and it is rooted in groundless misconceptions, fear of things that go bump in the night, and a healthy dose of chauvinism. After all, in the them-and-us wars for ski resort supremacy, Colorado is most assuredly “them.”
And lest we overlook the obvious, Colorado is home to Aspen and, as all Whistlerites know, Aspen is home to all those things we DON’T WANT TO BECOME! Not too many years ago, we sent our elected officials and top staff people on a fact-finding trip to Colorado to observe first hand all the mistakes made there by those other ski towns. We made sure they paid special attention to Aspen because we were worried to distraction we might be headed down the road to Aspenization, a less virulent strain of Disneyfication but something, nonetheless, to be avoided if at all possible.
So it was with no small amount of trepidation I prepared to embark on my Virgin Tour of Colorado’s great ski resorts. Not all of them, just the Big Two: Vail and Aspen. Mentally, I felt a special kind of kinship with ignorant sailors of old who charted courses to the ends of the flat Earth, the land marked “There be monsters here.” I didn’t know what I’d find other than, I assumed, good skiing, overly fashion conscious people, celebrity dilettantes, overpriced real estate, underhoused employees and the ghost of Hunter Thompson. The irony of that list sounding very much like what I find in Whistler — less the ghost of Hunter Thompson — was not lost on me.
The trip was organized and, I feel compelled to say, underwritten by the very nice people at Destination Resorts. Destination Resorts operates — and were kind enough to lodge me in — places so luxurious I felt like as though at any moment I’d be discovered for the interloper I was and asked to leave. In Vail, Snowmass and Aspen, I stayed and was warmly welcomed in places I’d normally feel more at home being kicked out of, so lavish were the appointments, so comfy were the suites. I really can’t say enough nice things about Destination Resorts… so I’ll just stop now hoping I’ve adequately held up my part of the bargain.