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I’m With Stupid – December 7, 2012

by Todd Hartley

Years ago, when I first embarked on my career as a columnist, I made it my goal to be as corrupt and easily influenced by gifts, perks and other free swag as was humanly possible. I like to think I’ve stayed fast and true to that mission; I feel I’m every bit as corrupt today as I was a decade ago. It’s just that the perk bestowers on whom I depend have done a fairly wretched job of keeping up their end of the bargain.

In a way, I understand this. Though I can offer a modicum of free publicity, I’m guessing the sort of press one gets from a snarky, cynical humor column isn’t exactly the kind of promotion that appeals to most entities. That being the case, I’ve grown accustomed to not being offered much.

So you can imagine how surprised I was recently when an Aspen-based public relations firm, Ecoe Marketing, sent me an invitation to spend a free night at the newly opened Westin Snowmass Resort, complete with dinner and breakfast.

Mind you, I harbor no illusions as to why this happened. My wife, who was also invited, is a very accomplished travel and ski-industry writer and editor, and the head of Ecoe Marketing is a lifelong friend of one of my old roommates. Still, I was thrilled I’d been included, and I even managed to convince myself it had something to do with my journalistic skills, such as they are.

The Westin, which sits slopeside on the Snowmass Village mall, existed for years as the Silvertree Hotel before undergoing a major remodel over the last seven months. I never actually stayed at the Silvertree, but I was familiar with it from my years as a Snowmass ski instructor and the occasional moonlighting I do as a standup comedian.

Back when I was teaching skiing, the Silvertree had a ski-in, ski-out restaurant called Brothers’ Grille that would give a free meal to any instructor who brought a ski school class there for lunch. Nothing appeals to a ski instructor (or most Aspenites) quite like free food, so Brothers’ was quite a popular place back in the day.

In fact, Brothers’ was such a hit with instructors that our supervisors had to issue an edict declaring that anyone whose class could ski blue runs was not allowed to eat there. As luck would have it, I was constantly stuck with first-timers who couldn’t get off Fanny Hill, so the edict didn’t apply to me, making me a Brothers’ regular.

The Silvertree also had a small performance venue called the Cabaret Room that I knew of because I actually performed there. Three winters ago, two of my colleagues organized a series of comedy events at the Silvertree that didn’t work out particularly well for anyone with a financial stake in things. But for me, who had nothing to lose, it was a lot of fun, and I have fond memories of my time on stage.

I was eager to see what had become of my two old haunts as my wife and I pulled up to the Westin. I even entertained the notion of trying to organize some comedy events of my own if the new management was willing.

Alas, it was not to be. The Cabaret Room was gone, replaced by the Westin’s excellent new restaurant, Snowmass Kitchen. I was a little upset that the stage on which I only bombed slightly was no more, but my disappointment was quickly assuaged by the very tasty six-course dinner we were served. Free food, as I mentioned before, is a balm to the soul of any former ski instructor.

We were given a tour of the hotel, during which I discovered that Brothers’ Grille was also gone. It had been dismantled so the space could be used for three grand, $2,500-a-night suites. I would have been a little dismayed about this had my wife and I not somehow been given one of the suites for the night. Rarely has a dirtbag like myself been surrounded by such opulence.

So my visit to the Westin was a little bittersweet, but it was by no means the fault of the resort itself. Truth be told, the Cabaret Room was a waste of space, and the food at Brothers was never much more than adequate. The improvements far outweigh what has been lost.

Still, don’t be surprised if you walk into the lobby some day and see me cracking jokes just for old times’ sake.

Todd Hartley is happy to consider free invitations to any other luxury hotels.


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