Something happened on the way to Aspen
It’s a five-hour drive from Telluride to Aspen through America’s heartland. It starts off beautifully, then for about three hours of the five you could imagine Jerry Springer coming here to find the talent for his: ‘I married muh momma and cheated on her with muh sista’ episode. It should’ve given me a clue. But when I saw the hitch-hiker standing there in the snow I felt sorry for him. From a distance he looked harmless enough, he looked young and he seemed to be wearing snowboard clothes, just a poor, young boarder, I reasoned, freezing his butt off in the cold.
Then he sat down without looking at me and stared straight ahead. But I got a good look at him and what I saw terrified me. This was one scary looking American, yessiree, if his mumma wasn’t also his aunty, I’d have given you a dullah. He reminded me of a young Fred Kruger and he carried a strange-looking bag with something protruding from the end.
“Where you going?” I asked him warily.
“What’s that mister?” he asked.
“Where you heading?”
“Oh me, I’m headed thattaway,” he said pointing to somewhere in the future.
“Anywhere in particular?” I asked.
“I’ll tell ya when we get near.”
Something else happened on the way to Aspen
Sometimes when you’re driving in a country where they drive on the other side of the road you have a lapse of concentration where you forget for a minute you’re in a country where they drive on the other side of the road. Taking the turn-off to Aspen from the Denver Interstate was easy enough, remembering to stay right at the second turn wasn’t so easy. I sorted it out, trouble for me was a highway patrolman just happened to be watching my mental block. Sheriff John Brown, I imagined he was called, approached me: “can I see your driver’s licence, sir?”.
“What’s this?” he said pointing somewhere between the waratah flower and my five-year old picture.
“It’s my licence,” I said.
“Australia?” he asked. “What you doing here?”
“Snowboarding sir,” I answered.
“What are you doing on the wrong side of the road? Are you drunk?”
“No sir, in Australia we drive on the other side of the road and sometimes you forget when you drive on the right side to stay on the right side.” I prayed he didn’t have a breath-tester on him, I was still tipsy from the night before.
“Okay, I’m going to let you off with a warning, but make sure you remember what side of the road you should be on.” He smiled and waved me on.
“What was that?” I wondered. A friend of mine (incidentally, who’s black) said he got handcuffed in Texas for doing five miles over the limit. Another friend said the police made him lie on the ground for not stopping at a red light. I drove on the wrong side of the road and all I got was a warning. I decided this was not cool and considered telling you all a lie. I should’ve, it would’ve read better.
Was that Paris Hilton?
A five minute walk up the main street of Aspen and I’ve already seen my first movie star. Bruce Willis and his kids are walking by the side of the street, near the pharmacy. Across the street Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander are arguing with some big guy over a parking spot. Goldie Hawn is yelling at them to move on.
“Wow, it’s just like I imagined.”
Wrong, take all your perceptions of Aspen, toss them in a big, green garbage bag and start again.
You’re more likely to run into movie stars in Bondi (unless, of course, you holiday here at Christmas or are invited to the kinds of exclusive clubs Cher frequents).
Aspen feels more like Byron Bay, with snow, it’s classy, but comfortable, here you pay $1 an hour for parking and right next to Christian Dior is a thrift shop.
Locals frequent the same night spots night after night, beers only cost you $3 and after a few nights, like Cheers, everyone knows your name.
It might look like something out of a movie set, especially at night when the trees are all lit up like Christmas and jazz quartets play beside raging fires in the main street, but it feels kind of like a cosier version of the town you grew up in.
For every $80 steak there’s a $3 hot dog, for every $50 brandy, there’s a $2.50 glass of beer with your name on it. But that wasn’t going to stop me, oh no, I was in Aspen, I was going to find me some movie stars. I would ask locals where to find them, they’d know.
Dean Hill, an Australian snowboard guide who’s worked Aspen for years, told me he once nearly ran over Michael Douglas. Cool.
Another Australian told me he’d told Antonio Banderas his lights were still on in his car (“Unfortunately, they were lights that turned themselves off so I ended up feeling like a dick.”).
A local American girl told me she saw Johnny Depp in the toilets (I didn’t think to ask her what she was doing in the men’s toilets). Another local girl tells me she’s seen Tom Cruise plenty of times, and Oprah Winfrey, at Telluride. Both have homes there. Someone else tells me about the time he ran over Kurt Russell’s leg.
On one precious morning, atop Aspen mountain, aging sex symbol Kevin Costner cut me off going down a double black diamond chute. He nearly killed me too, so I chased him, I didn’t care how many millions he had. I followed him to the lift line, I was excited, but still a little angry, I wasn’t sure how’d I tell Kevin Costner where to go.
“Fuck off you wanker,” was one consideration. Too Australian. “You might dance with wolves pal, but don’t fuck with snowboarders” was far better. I tapped him on the shoulder, ready to erupt. Kevin Costner was actually a real estate agent from Texas called Brian. But he’d seen Kevin Costner up here once, with his fiancée and his kids.
Yeah, everyone in Aspen has a movie star story, but if you come looking for them, you won’t find a damn thing.