"Aspen is so athletically competitive it gets downright depressing sometimes," says Burt. "Daily, for years, I tried to convince the coaches and players to ease off; I cornered them one at a time in bars. Finally, last year, I think we may have got some place."
Whether he did and whether the change will be a lasting one remains to be seen. The new supervisor, Gary Speckman—who originally initiated the program—is an efficient administrator with an outlook on softball described by an acquaintance as, simply, "crazed."
"Aspen is certainly sports-conscious in the sense that the people stay in shape so they can admire their own bodies," says Peter Looram, whose favorite summer sport is kayaking, "but in terms of commitment, I don't think it is so sports-conscious. There are a lot of expensive bicycles on racks and new kayaks on car-tops around here, but a lot of them don't get unstrapped very often; it's for show, like wearing jogging shoes to go barhop-ping. I think Eugene, Oregon has a much purer attitude toward sports."
It is hard to separate the Aspen athlete from the Aspen pseudo-athlete by sight; there is a lot of athletic posturing on the streets. There are men who walk around with hunched shoulders the way high school boys do when they want to exaggerate their muscles. And it is a bit startling to see a man in rugged mountain clothes wearing a unisex hair style. Foster's Lager, a rich Australian brew, is big in Aspen. "I think it's because it comes in 25-ounce cans," says a liquor-store owner. "Those big cans are rugged, man-sized. I once got a shipment of Foster's in 12-ounce bottles and nearly had to give it away."
"The real beauty of this town lies a few layers down," says Bruce Gordon, a former collegiate soccer player who has been on mountain-climbing expeditions in Mexico and Nepal, where he climbed Makalu, the world's fourth highest mountain. Gordon helps coach the kids' soccer teams in Aspen. He was raised in Brooklyn and now lives in a cabin in the woods and thinks a lot. His dress runs toward mismatched socks and corduroys with holes in the knees. "The trouble is that the shallow sports scene is the one that is the most visible," he says. "But for every jock who struts around town with a football under his arm, there is another one with a disciplined attitude toward sports."
One of the men Gordon could be talking about is the supervisor of the kids' soccer program, a student of sports named Roger Moyer. Moyer, 36, is 6' and 160 pounds. In high school he lettered in football four years; baseball, basketball and track, two each; wrestling and gymnastics, one each. He is proficient at bicycle racing, rock climbing, kayaking, Alpine and Nordic skiing, water skiing, volleyball, tennis and soccer. He concentrates a lot on yoga and aikido nowadays; someday he plans to try modern dance. As superb an athlete as he is, many of the jocks in town have never heard of him because he avoids bars and is generally low key.
Moyer is a painting contractor and has organized his business so he can take off for a month or two if the mood strikes him. In the summer of 1976 he was in a kayaking mood and he kayaked around Europe with Peter Looram. Kayaking is extremely popular in Aspen; there are two enterprises in town offering kayak expeditions or day trips along the Colorado or Arkansas Rivers, and there are about a dozen excellent runs through nearby gorges, canyons and valleys. One section of Aspen's Roaring Fork is navigable for 40 miles when there is a heavy mountain runoff in early summer—the best season for kayakers because of the rushing streams and warm weather—and it includes one of the most challenging runs in the world, a seven-mile stretch called Slaughterhouse.
The Colorado Whitewater Association holds eight or nine kayak races in the Aspen area during the summer. Says one non-resident, "Aspen has more kayakers than anywhere. We used to pooh-pooh them, but now they're developing into good boaters, especially in the big waters. There's a terrific potential in Aspen because the Roaring Fork is right there for them, and many of them ski, which has tremendous similarities to kayaking—especially the same body control, sort of an extension of the hips. Then there's that Aspen attitude that goes, 'See if you can do this, see if you can do that; anything you can do, I can do better.' Consequently there are a lot of very brave boaters in Aspen, and eventually they may be the very best in the world."
Roger Moyer travels around by bicycle, which is common in Aspen and is another reason the townspeople are so fit. Given the high cost of living, automobiles are an expense many can't justify.
Aspen has its own bicycle racing team, and its own race. The Aspen Alpine Cup reaches the highest elevation of any bicycle race in North America, 12,096 feet, and is generally considered the most difficult in the country. (Until 1976 it was also the biggest, but now the Red Zinger Classic in Boulder, with its $25,000 purse, attracts more competitors.) The Alpine Cup is a three-day, 250-mile race; each of the first two days consists of a long, mountainous leg. The first leg crosses Independence Pass along a narrow, winding road bordered on one side by cliffs and a few guardrails; top riders have been known to cover one downhill four-mile stretch of this leg in four minutes. On the final day there is a 40-mile criterium on a 2.2-mile course. The criterium follows the streets of downtown Aspen and spectators line the curbs to whoop and cheer like kids at a Fourth of July parade.