December 8, 2019
One local concierge dished on some of his most only-in-Aspen moments, and here are our favorites.
Concierges spend a lot of time answering questions about activities in the Aspen area, and, of course, that can be a rather wide ranging topic of discussion. If a guest asks about hiking, for instance, we will ask a few questions to probe the guest’s request to tailor our response to what type of trail might best suit them. Regardless of their answer, the concierge will always tell them they should do the Hunter Creek-Smuggler loop.
That’s only a small exaggeration.
We, long ago, gave up trying to explain to guests how to find the Hunter Creek trailhead, and quickly offer that: “One of our drivers will drop you off at the trailhead, and when you finish the hike, call us, and we will send a driver to pick you up at the bottom of Smuggler,” and then we hand them a hard-copy printout of how to navigate the loop, including a map.
Why? Because hiking is very confusing to people who have only lived in cities.
Here are some examples of things we hear:
“How will I know what the trail looks like?”
“How will I know when I am finished?”
“What happens if I get off the trail?”
In one event, a guest called the hotel to say that they were lost on the loop. I tried to ascertain the guest’s location, and then finally just asked the guest to text a picture of where they were. The guest texted a picture of an aspen tree. I responded that I wasn’t familiar with that tree, but there are aspen trees on the hike and they would probably be OK if they just kept going. Also, since they had a phone signal, could they try using the Maps app?
If a guest asks for a really easy hike or a “nice walk,” we suggest the Rio Grande Trail, or the East of Aspen trail, both of which we usually recommend should be done as out-and-back walks.
Often a simple concept like that can still be confusing.
On one occasion, I described the beautiful, flat, East of Aspen trail through the North Star Nature Preserve, and the guest agreed that they would like to do it. I explained that it is 3 ½ miles one way, so they should just go as far as they wanted and then turn around. The guest then asked me how they would find the trail on the way back, and then to make it even more awkward, asked me how long it would take each way.
I had to respond, “Return on the same path, and it will take exactly as long as it took you to get to the point where you decide to turn around.”
You can’t always say what you want to say as a concierge in response to questions that are basically unanswerable, but there is some leeway with certain activities.
For instance, when discussing paragliding, it is almost inevitable that the guest will ask if it is safe. Insofar as you are hanging by tiny ropes with nothing but 3,000 feet of air below you, it is very safe (as far as I know, no one has ever died in Aspen paragliding on a commercial trip), and I highly recommend it.
However, there is no way to say any activity is safe. Sled dogs can get hungry, after all. That’s part of what makes adventures fun. So it is very hard to assuage their fears without using an absurd response to have the guest rethink their question.
In regards to paragliding, I reply with a straight face: “Absolutely, very few people die paragliding in Aspen every year,” followed by a pause and then a laugh. That usually does the trick to make them realize that no one would be able to answer that question with certainty.
Who said work isn’t fun?
Photography by: Oskanov/iStock.com