A 19th-century mining camp in a remote corner of a remote state, the quaint village of Aspen, Colorado, population 6,658, has a peculiar distinction. The Wall Street Journal named it “The Most Expensive Town in America”, saying, “The median price for single-family homes is the highest in the country at $4.6 million, surpassing the Hamptons, Beverly Hills and Palm Beach.”
When the snow is on the slopes and the skis are on the snow, Aspen is America’s answer to Gstaad—the mountain air is suffused with the bracing scent of liquidity. The sleek-but-ever-so-understated Mandarins of Manhattan, their offspring off for spring break, wing out to the Rockies and pack the pistes. It’s all very cozy, très en famille; there’s none of that frantic socializing one sees in Palm Beach. Just a swoosh down the mountain, followed by an après-ski cocktail around a roaring fire, and dinner with the kids. The routine is simple, but this kind of simplicity doesn’t come cheap.
Last week, Easter week, semana santa it’s called in more tropical climes, there was a respectable representation of Upper East Siders in Aspen. And that’s always fun – one doesn’t mind encountering a familiar face on a cobblestone street and then meeting up for a nice hot toddy on the plush sofas of The Little Nell. That 5-star hotel is so canine-friendly that the scene at tea time looks like an outtake from “One Hundred and One Dalmatians.”
Drawing attention everywhere he sauntered—he’s so darn friendly and easy to talk to—was the onetime bench-presser and governor of our largest state, the once-and-now-again movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a man who leads a charmed life and makes his own luck. Now and again he takes a false step—think Mexican housekeepers—but he always recovers and does the right thing. Next season Arnold will be the host of The Apprentice, steeping into the shoes of you-know-who. (But that was not the candidate he endorsed for president–just before the Ohio primary, Arnold campaigned for John Kasich and made a crucial contribution to his victory in the winner-take-all contest.) When Arnold wasn’t on the slopes of Ajax Mountain, he was posing for selfies with his many fans.
The owner of the New York Jets was there, Band-Aid heir Woody Johnson, with his popular wife Suzanne. Woody is an influential Republican fundraiser, the nucleus of a coalition of donors who follow his lead, and this year he went all out as national finance chairman for a guy he knew well and believed in, Jeb Bush. But it just wasn’t written in the stars. The ancien régime is yesterday’s news; the Barbarians are at the gate. Sometimes the Alpine air of Aspen is a good place to clear one’s head.
Also in the compact but cosmopolitan city were Alessandro Fendi and his wife Fe. He’s the scion of the illustrious fashion empire and she is the self-starting but never self-promoting philanthropist. Among the crème de la crème in this town, it just doesn’t get any creamier.
Gillian Miniter, the social stalwart who has done more for Central Park than anyone since Frederick Law Olmsted, was slipping and sliding and sipping hot chocolate with her two teenagers and her husband Sylvester, the strategic investor. It must have been a relief for her to escape the prying lens of the paparazzo stalker Bill Cunningham.
Did we forget anybody? Oh yes, witty real estate dealmaker Billy Macklowe (“Don’t call me Bill; a bill is something one pays”) and his vivacious wife Julie, the ex-hedge-funder turned beauty entrepreneuse. And somebody said they saw Aerin Lauder and Dayssi Olarte De Kanavos. All in all, a very smart crowd.
Were John Paulson, Roman Abramovich, Denise Rich, David Koch and Leonard Lauder in their magnificent mansions, which they visit only a few days each year? Possibly, but if so, they were keeping a low profile. In Aspen, the code is “If You Got It, Don’t Flaunt It.” Sweet, no? And so unlike The Hamptons.