Talking politics and backcountry marathons with Aspen’s new mayor
Aspen Sojourner: On June 4, you were elected mayor of Aspen. How does it feel?
Steve Skadron: I’ve never been so popular. Just after the election, I heard someone ask, “Is that our new mayor?” “Our” really struck me. It reminds me that I represent—and have a relationship with—an entire community, and that the decisions I make and how I act affect people’s lives. I take that seriously. And I get to meet with billionaires.
AS: Your predecessor, Mick Ireland, was a political juggernaut but also a fairly divisive ﬁgure. What’s it like following him?
SS: He’s a legend. Like him or not, his commitment and sacriﬁce helped create the Aspen we all claim to love. I feel fortunate to have served with him—except for the bike shorts he sometimes wore to meetings. On inauguration night, I wore a suit and tie, and people noticed. Apparently, my sartorial expressions will be a deﬁning feature of the new administration. I hope it reﬂects a more digniﬁed—and handsome—ofﬁce.
AS: It’s true: you’re quite dapper when you want to be. Now that you’re mayor, you’ve got to be Aspen’s most eligible bachelor.
SS: I’m ﬂattered—and blushing. I’m ﬁfty, and I never dreamed in a million years I would be at this point in my life and not be married. I come from a good family, traditional, and expected to be married with kids, living the suburban lifestyle. Who was I kidding? But like Aspen itself, the untamed maverick-cowboy-ski bum in me seems to win out. But I’m still hoping.
AS: Aspen does have a lot of spouse-worthy singles. Why is that?
SS: I think it’s got something to do with the ﬁerce independence of this place. Aspen asks that of us: connect to the mountains, value the community’s free spirit—it’s a personality trait. That’s why some people make it here, and some don’t. It’s not a place for everybody.
AS: How do you connect with the mountains?
SS: I take my backpack and hang out in the backcountry for a few days, drink from mountain streams and live by headlamp. I also love an evening run into the Hunter Creek Valley and the summit of a Colorado fourteener. I’ve climbed almost all ﬁfty-four. Buckskin Pass at sunrise reminds me why I live here. I do the Four Pass Loop as a run—that’s my other favorite.
AS: Isn’t the Four Pass Loop a camping trip for most people?
SS: It’s a three-day pack trip, but I do it as a day run. It’s a twenty-eight-mile loop behind the Maroon Bells, 8,000 vertical feet, pretty harsh. It takes me about eight hours. I know of a couple guys who do it in about ﬁve or six. I need to train harder!
AS: Note to self: don’t go running with the mayor. What made you get into politics?
SS: It was 2003. The cost of dinner at a restaurant, even with the cheaper bar menus, was becoming increasingly inaccessible to the working class. It got me thinking about the way the town was evolving and if I could have any inﬂuence. It wasn’t a big ideological ﬁght to lead the masses in a new direction; it was about a real person’s relationship with the town. I wanted to see if I could do something about it, so I volunteered for the planning and zoning commission.
AS: Aspen is a global brand that a lot of people want to be a part of. Can local government really control what it becomes?
SS: I learned how important it is that you vote. And when you do, be careful whom you vote for. It matters. Aspen is a global brand because a generation of local leadership had the foresight to inculcate an attitude and a set of progressive ideals that have created the very place we love and ﬁght for. Those ideals started with respect for the environment and resulted in a quality of life second to none. I intend to do my part. So, yes, local government—which is really just locals doing their part—can control what this community becomes.
AS: You have an almost twenty-year relationship with town. If Aspen were a person, what would it be like?
SS: She would be educated. She would be an athlete. She’d speak a second language. And she would be a phenomenal skier, because Aspen is, and always should be, a great ski town.