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Champagne, Rockslides and Rock and Roll: A Fine Time to be Stuck in Aspen

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

Some spent the evening sequestered in the splendor of the Viceroy, swilling champagne, savoring the flavor of Eight K’s menu samplings and cheering Jeff Bridges at Aspen Film’s Oscar Party in Snowmass; some friends and I opted for a quiet, cozy night at Markham’s Bar at the Hotel Lenado, where we kept the bartender company and rearranged the potted plants for better viewing of the bed and breakfast’s TV screen. We made ourselves at home, reveling at Ben Stiller’s freakish antics, cringing through the dance number and wishing we three had a group Snuggie like Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Little did we know that the Oscars were to be the least of the evening’s excitement.

Shortly after midnight, some excessively large and plentiful boulders, “the size of a semi”, says CDOT, toppled onto 1-70 in Glenwood Canyon right around mile marker 125. As we slept through the snowfall and dreamt of the fickle spring skiing that was Sunday, we awoke to rockfall and a 17-mile stretch of closed interstate. An estimated 28 boulders were marooned on the highway, with no sign of removal anytime soon.

National traffic ramifications and logistical quagmires aside, a closed highway is kind of similar to being snowed in and all in all, it’s not a bad time to be stuck in Aspen.

My Oscar-watching friends are visiting from Sydney and Italy, respectively. They used to live in Aspen and are here for an old-school reunion. I opted to work today but they kept me posted on the ski conditions via text: “It’s bloody bucketing down up here!” Julie likes to bust out words like” bloody” and “wanker”, even a “nutter” or two, every now and then, to really emphasize the craziness.

And yesterday was a crazy weather day. A bluebird, sun-filled morning gave way to sleet, snow, dare I say rain and then wind with a final ray of sunshine before the next round of snowfall, still blowing, blew in.

High Times off the HighwayHigh Times off the Highway

Esmeralda called when she got off the hill: “I can’t get out today due to the snow!” She sounded kind of excited. This week brings some winter concert highlights to Aspen. Salvador Santana, as in son of, comes to the BellyUp tonight with his positive, high-energy sound, alongside one of my new favorite outfits, The New Master Sounds. I discovered them late-night at JazzFest in New Orleans, one fortuitous 3 a.m. House of Blues special, and I’ve pledged my allegiance ever since. I'm looking forward to tonight's show because I’ll probably be more awake this time.

Tomorrow, March 9, one of the best live bands of the day, Gomez, hits the BellyUp. They’re truly in their element on stage, and off CD; a Gomez appearance in Aspen is a good reason to stick around. Back-to-back concerts are a tall order for Monday and Tuesday but really, we’ve nowhere else to go, this side of Glenwood Canyon.

Wednesday night, the Banff Mountain Film Festival will find it’s way to the Wheeler, interstate snafu be darned, to give us a glimpse of high-mountain adventure beyond Mile Marker 125. And, as luck would have it, it’s Champagne Week in Aspen! The Ritz-Carlton Club will pop the corks around 4 p.m., as Veuve Clicquot hosts an exclusive, complimentary Vintage Champagne Tasting and “scrumptious champagne-infused appetizers” from Willow Creek’s Jamie Flatt. Finish your ski day at Highlands and look for the bubbles at the base. What better way to toast the rockslide?

No planes are coming in and out at the moment. That will change as quickly as the weather, no doubt, but between the big boulders and the decreased visibility, my international girls might be stuck here a little longer than anticipated. I’ve filled their dance card through mid-week, while my weather service friends have thrown in “periods of occasional snow” and “mix of sun and clouds,” just to keep it interesting.

If they’re still here on Friday, I’m calling for some sunshine to shed a little light on all the goodness. And live music from the always uplifting Ozomatli, once the sun goes down.