Halfway through last winter, it was clear that Colorado was having a banner year for snowfall. In mid-February, I got the call to go to Aspen to tell the story of the town’s ski bum scene. Despite all the new snow, I argued against it, presuming the story of Aspen had been told a thousand times. “Aspen Extreme,” “Dumb and Dumber,” the annual media frenzy at the X Games, and previous articles in POWDER and every other ski magazine… “Let’s go somewhere new,” I said. “Let’s find a story that hasn’t been told.”
A week later, I was crashing out in the historic Skier’s Chalet, an old ski lodge turned into affordable housing just steps from a chairlift in downtown Aspen. I’d heard about the chalet before. Ian Fohrman, a POWDER correspondent, wrote a haiku about it in the magazine a few years back, but it wasn’t until I arrived that I learned what the chalet represented. As Chris Tatsuno told me, “The Skier’s Chalet is one of the last vestiges of ski bumming in America.” What I found was a story about ski bum culture that has refused to die despite the many steep challenges of living in one of the most expensive zip codes in the country. But not only is it surviving at the chalet, it’s thriving—an honest reflection of Aspen’s core skiing heritage. At least, that is, until it gets torn down in the next few years, as is expected, becoming yet another example of what happens when a ski town evolves beyond its rustic roots.
“The Skier’s Chalet is a cool little chapter in the remaining story of how Aspen was built into ski town,” says chalet tenant Will Cardamone, who produced this web edit. “It’s a reminder that this is what it was like in the beginning.”
And that’s a story worth telling.