THE END IN FAT CITY

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About the author: Andrew Travers is the former editor of The Aspen Times.

Here in aspen, the air is thin, the snow is perfect, and money is everywhere. This is a singular American town in many respects. Among them is this: Aspen had, until very recently, two legitimate daily newspapers, The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News. At a moment when local newspapers face manifold threats to their existence and more and more American cities become news deserts, Aspen was the opposite: a news geyser. The town’s corps of reporters covers small-town tropes like high-school musicals and the Fourth of July parade. But Aspen’s journalists are also the watchdogs and chroniclers of one of the richest towns in America and a site of extreme economic inequality, the exemplar of the phenomenon that academics call “super-gentrification,” where—as the locals often say—“the billionaires are forcing out the millionaires.”

I joined The Aspen Times as an editor in 2014, after a seven-year tenure at the Aspen Daily News. The Times has published since 1881, when Aspen was a silver-mining boomtown, through its postwar rebirth as a ski resort, and now as the home of ideas festivals, wine festivals, $50 entrees, and an awe-inspiring collection of private jets, many owned by billionaires deeply concerned about climate change. The paper, which was based for much of its history in a purple-painted building between a drugstore and the Hotel Jerome, developed a reputation for shoe-leather reporting and accountability journalism.

On Thanksgiving 2021, the start of ski season, the Times editorial team numbered 13, including four reporters who had been covering our town since at least the 1990s. We were treated well by our parent company, Swift Communications. Our paper was profitable, owing largely to real-estate advertising. We seemed to be a safe harbor for small-town journalists.

We were wrong.

My story is populated by blue bloods and thin-skinned billionaires, including the owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a litigious Soviet-born developer, and the wealthy cousin of a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Its drama unfolds in a superficially idyllic mountain community where a 1969 mayoral candidate’s slogan, “Sell Aspen or Save It,” still sums up its core conflict. (The following year, Hunter S. Thompson mounted his “Freak Power” campaign for sheriff; upon losing, he gave a concession speech at the Hotel Jerome in a Founding Father–style wig. “I proved what I set out to prove,” he said, “that the American Dream really is fucked.”)

~~~ CONTINUE WITH THE ATLANTIC ~~~

4 thoughts on “THE END IN FAT CITY

  1. This will become a colossal mess for many
    years to come.
    This town will get bent and stretched beyond
    what any cosmetic surgeon / global banker
    or city planner will be able to reconstruct.
    This drama will become Aspen’s Columbia
    shuttle disaster.

  2. Not sure the article should have been entitled “end times”. To me it reads more like business as usual in the tempest in a teapot that has always been Aspen. Welcome to the real world, Aspenites. Anyone familiar with the last seventy years in Aspen knows that this sad tale has been played out many, many times over the years beginning when American Can first sponsored the Aspen Institute with some very mixed motives (American oligarchs have been washing their reps in the town for decades).

    The Nuttings are just doing what the media has been doing for ages, pusillanimously self censoring to tip toe around lawsuits to preserve their biz. Spare me the “freedom of the press” posturing, please! Gorsuch has a very long history of cashing in on ski resort development. He doesn’t have a great reputation among the ski resort proletariat but he’s not a crook. Doronin is what he is; a Russian shithead taking advantage of our legal system.

    I don’t mean to minimize a very big problem here as this sort of thing is a huge problem for our society but casting it in the terms that article uses trivializes it. When you live in one of these resorts you make a pact with the devil. The assholes pay the bills and the wages and lifestylists suffer the consequences. Aspen was a wonderful, stimulating place 60 years ago but the dynamic the article whines about was already well developed. Nothing to see here lads, keep moving and don’t waste the nostalgia.

  3. I have to agree with Burt. Call ir Telluride, Crested Butte or Aspen, the oligarchs are pushing (cashing) out the billionaires who pushed out the millionaires who bought out the miners who… As Ben Bradlee said, “ the champagne is flowing like the Potomac in flood”.

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