Alison Berkley: Another snow snob is born
February 19, 2004
OK, I’ll admit it: I’m a total snow snob.
If you need a little perspective on how good we have it here in Aspen, I suggest paying a visit to some of Colorado’s other resorts.
Of course I realize Presidents weekend probably wasn’t the best time to be heading east on I-70, but we had places to go and people to see. Not everyone is self-employed like me, so I am totally willing to accommodate my friends ” even if it means having to go to Vail.
I can’t figure out for the life of me how this area is continuously voted No. 1 in all these resort reader polls. The only conclusion I can make after this last visit is that it’s populated, not popular. It’s not about opinion so much as majority rules.
In that sense, Vail is the shopping mall of skiing, complete with parking garage (Pardon me, I meant to say parking “structure”) and food court (or “quaint base village”). The enormity of the layout is enough to make you dizzy, with infinite options that all sort of look the same. No matter where you go, you never really know where you are. All you do know is that it’s going to be a long way back to your car at the end of the day. Vail caters to the masses, forever expanding the boundaries of their space to accommodate even more people.
The trails we skied looked like the skin of a pockmarked teenager, all bumpy and uneven and scraped off. Hundreds of tourists zigzagged across the fall line with no rhyme or reason, like those sitting-duck things we used to shoot with rifles at summer camp. A lot of these folks favor rear-entry boots, ill-fitting clothes, neck gaiters pulled up to their noses with oversized sunglasses and headbands. Legs straight, they stretch their feet and arms wide apart and stiff like a paper doll’s so that they take up as much space as possible.
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The massive lift mazes looked like congested highways during rush hour. Several-lanes wide, they merged from all sides, filled with hundreds of people who probably have no clue that somewhere not very far away, you can slide right through that sonnnbitch like you’re the only person in the world.
Vail’s glorious Back Bowls face the sun day in and day out, like one of those crusty old tan ladies from Florida who thinks she looks good with blond hair even though she’s like 103 and wears dentures. We found a nice variety of frozen death cookies mixed with the kind of bumps that make your teeth chatter and spine rattle so that all you want to do is make it to the cat track before you end up at the chiropractor’s office again.
Ahh, the cat track, another one of Vail’s most infamous terrain features. Let’s be honest for once. I don’t care how big the place is if it means I have to traverse like 100 miles just to get down to the bar because my calves hurt so bad I need a drink. Thank god my hot skier boyfriend towed me around with his pole, or I’d really be screwed. (I’ll resist the urge for any sexual puns here.) My snowboarder friends who live in Vail tout their “traversing muscles,” meaty definition around the shin bone that formed from a season spent traversing at Vail.
Look, I know the whole Aspen/Vail rivalry thing is tired, but I can’t help it. That’s the point. Being this spoiled kinda sucks. I mean, if Aspen is what I’m used to, I’m ruined.
I’ve grown quite accustomed to buffed-out groomers that are smooth as powder, no need for fresh snow. I expect zero lift lines and wide-open slopes with no people. I prefer steeps that are north-facing and hiking access only, to protect the snow from sun and people who probably shouldn’t be there. I like it when a black diamond means a real challenge, not four turns on a bump run that turns to flat. I love it when beginners have their own lift ” or even their own area ” so they have plenty of room to learn and enjoy themselves without the likes of me flying by. And I absolutely count on those nice people who give out free cookies and cider at the top of the lift. Without them I would surely starve.
No, I am not trying to grovel just to get my job with Skico back. I really mean it!
It was an odd feeling to be in this beautiful place on a perfect winter day, thinking it’s not beautiful enough. I’m talking about one of those days when the sky is so blue you take your sunglasses off to make sure it’s not the tint on your lenses making it so intense. The kind of warm afternoon when everyone’s skin flushes with sun and wind-kissed color, accentuating the brightness of their smiles. The rare occasion that even the lift ops seem to be in a good mood, just happy to be working outside on such a glorious afternoon.
I wish I never knew that it actually does get better than that. I believe now more than ever that ignorance really is bliss.
All those people who exit at Vail will never know what they’re missing here in Aspen. Something about Vail sucks them in, like a huge funnel that channels all those mountain-bound tourists off I-70 and into the “parking structure” of Colorado’s largest roadside attraction.
Eventually, all things merge into one ” and a highway runs through it.
[The Princess is worried about wrinkles from so much sun. Send your best skin regimen to her at firstname.lastname@example.org]
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