May
2017
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Michael Cleverly, VIle's Aspen Bureau Chief
Submitted by: Editor

Original Company Town - Part 4

“Company Town” traces the evolution of the influence of the industries that have driven Aspen’s economic life from its boomtown silver and gold mining days to its growth into one of the premier ski resorts in the world. It also traces the changes in Aspen society, from its mining days, when basically no one had any class, to the freewheeling 70’s when the place was so democratic as to be a classless society, to today, when the entire town is essentially a gated community. The gates are not made of steel, they’re economic, and the society now is far from classless.

Looming carpetbaggers

The Aspen “hippy wars” of the early 70’s didn’t last long and youth prevailed. Peace was restored to the Roaring Fork Valley and though Aspen was a company town, it was a benevolent company town. By the mid-seventies the most outrage Aspenites could conjure was to protest the Ski Company’s head honcho, DRC (Darcy) Brown Jr’s raising the price of a full season’s ski pass for locals to $250 a year. Laughable by today’s standards, as in 2011 that kind of money will get you two days skiing with about enough left over for a burger and a beer each day. Moreover DRC Brown Jr. was born and raised in Aspen. His father DRC Sr. had come over Independence Pass in a wagon and was one of the original settlers of the valley. Despite, not particularly serious, lynching threats there was no question that Brown always had the town’s best interest at heart. Unlike subsequent Skico owners, 20th Century Fox millionaire Marvin Davis, who slithered in from Hollywood, and the current owners of The Aspen Skiing Company, the Crown family, who carpetbagged their way in from Chicago on private jets, Brown was home grown and that counted.

Winds of change never stop blowing and it was probably inevitable that eventually they would bear an unpleasant odor. In the late 70’s while Aspenites were discoing the night away under the influence of all the popular substances, the more down to earth fun lovers, the skiers and the worker bees began to notice that new arrivals in town were displaying a fondness for precious metals not seen since the devaluation of silver. The dance floors glittered and the people with that stuff hanging around their necks actually seemed to think it somehow made them better than those without it.

Red Mountain lay behind Aspen and was a neighborhood that was home to the exceedingly wealthy. They nested there like snakes balled up for the winter. These were the days before all wheel drive SUV’s were ubiquitous, and the rich tooled around in big gringo rigs with crappy traction. At the base of the steep road that wound up Red Mountain was one of those seasonal signs that flipped down in the winter cautioning, CHAINS REQUIRED. One dark night someone did a beautifully professional job of adding GOLD to the admonition. It can be safely assumed that more than a few motorists skidded off the snowy road, completely baffled because they were sure they had the ”gold chain” thing covered.

Part 5: Who are these people?

Posted by Editor on 03/27/11 at 01:26 PM •  (0) Comments

Tags:  wealth, aspen, cleverly,

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