I am shopping in Gracy’s Consignments. I am looking for something from what I call the Ken Lay Collection.  Hand-me-downs from dead rich guys are the only thing a guy like me can afford in this wealthy resort’s downtown.

I am not alone.

I ask two construction workers eating lunch out of the backs of their pickups where normal people shop in Aspen. They don’t have a clue. They are from Grand Junction, where the middle class has a fighting chance.

Not here.

"I live in Basalt," said downtown shopkeeper Dan Johnson. "I shop in Basalt. Ninety percent of the people working full time here live outside Aspen."

This is not a good thing.

There’s a tipping point for resorts, Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland warns. Aspen has probably passed the fulcrum. That means that without some government intervention or a public-private partnership or two to restore middle-class shopping alternatives, central Aspen will soon be a gilded ghost town.

"There are a lot of values – economic, spiritual and moral – that the marketplace can’t capture," Ireland said.

Johnson, whose T-shirt and kitsch shop bears the ever-so-middle-class moniker "The Shirt Man," has been in business in Aspen for 23 years. But he hasn’t lived there for a long time.

"I lived in town the first four years I was here," said Johnson, who arrived from Ohio to be a "ski bum." "This town was the greatest. It was active. Everyone knew everyone. It’s not that way anymore.

"Along with the wealth, we’re seeing a gradual deterioration of the lifestyle because no one can afford to live here."

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