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Let the training begin for Summit for Life

It's been awhile since I've hiked the "big hill," so when my friend asked me last week to go up Aspen Mountain, I was a bit reticent.

But I have grown so bored of Smuggler, the Hunter Creek Loop and Sunnyside that I agreed to go do something different.

I once again became reticent to go when I looked out the window last Thursday early morning and saw it puking snow. But we went anyway.

We didn't take the typical summer route via the Ute Trail that then follows the Couch chairlift to the top. We went the winter route, which is up the gut.

You forget about that grunt at the beginning, trudging up the Little Nell ski run. It was extra special because a fresh layer of hay had been thrown down and it was covered with freshly fallen snow. Hay is slippery, and so is snow. We had the forethought to bring ski poles for stability but we opted — for some dumb reason — to not put stabilizers on our feet.

But we are mountain women so we were able to deal with it just fine, although the descent was a pain and took longer than I wanted. It takes precision to walk down snow-covered rocks.

About halfway up the ascent, my friend announced that she wants to keep hiking Ajax with me, which I was amenable to. Then I realized there was an ulterior motive: She wants a friend to train with to do the Summit for Life together in December.

Ugh.

It's not that I don't support Olympian and liver transplant recipient Chris Klug, whose nonprofit puts on the fundraising event that has participants hiking Ajax at night to raise money for organ and tissue donation.

It's that I am not really that much of a joiner, especially with foot races. I used to run and train for marathons more than a decade ago and that suited me well back then for what I was trying to accomplish.

Plus, I really hate exercising at night. The one time I did do the Summit for Life several years ago, I sucked wind and hated everyone passing me.

But I do have a hard time saying no and I do love my dear friend. And I also could get my butt in better shape.

So, consider this is an official acceptance to the offer of trudging up the Big Rock for the next seven weeks in the cold, dark mornings. Sounds awesome!

You are on, Kim Allen. Let the training — and the fundraising — begin.

I can already taste that celebratory drink at the Sundeck when the hell is over.

csackariason@aspentimes.com

Aspen snow count was tough, but ski season still was pretty sweet

For the past five months, I've been listening to the people around me talking smack about this ski season's lackluster snow. I wish it had snowed more, too. And I wish I had gotten out there more. But the times that I have gone up have been quality experiences.

Even when I went to Vail to catch up with old high school friends over Presidents Weekend it was a fairly quality experience (those blackout dates on the Epic Pass work pretty well).

But there were still hundreds of people standing in the lift line at the base, and 20-minute waits on the mountain. So in order to hang with my friends, I had to abandon my policy of not standing in lines (except for a Widespread Panic show or a Pronto Pup at the Minnesota State Fair).

My overall skiing experience in Vail was a positive one. I forget how vast those bowls are. Vail also has public decks at various places on the mountain, some with grills so you can B.Y.O.M.

But at the end of the day, nothing can beat the skiing here. Our product is vastly better than anywhere else. And we owe that to Aspen Skiing Co., its stellar snow management crew, ski patrol and just our general way of life here.

We are spoiled with hardly any lift lines and on-mountain crews who bend over backward to accommodate us. Last Friday, Skico kept the lifts running until 6:30 p.m. on Aspen Mountain. I was one of the lucky ones to get fresh corduroy at 4 p.m. on Upper Buckhorn and North American. And with no lift line at chair 3, I was lapping it up. Thanks for doing that, Skico.

Earlier this year, on one of the few powder days there were, I made an unprecedented decision to stop for free "powder pancakes." I went into the Sundeck to get some around 10:45 a.m. The website said they were available until 11. The look of disappointment on my face when I learned they cut that off at 10 a.m. was enough for the guy in charge to buy my friend and I lunch. He didn't have to do that, so thank you.

I've been to three cabin parties on Ajax this year, and the accommodations given by patrollers have been above and beyond. They schlep food and drinks down to the Buckhorn Cabin via toboggan, then take your trash, and sometimes intoxicated guests, with them.

The nighttime snowcat drivers also will pluck up a random drunk skier when the party went a little longer than it should have. These on-mountain professionals don't have to do these tasks. So the next time you see one of them, thank them for going out of their way to make our experience better than anywhere else.

csackariason@aspentimes.com

#AspenOnTheHill-Saturday, April 15

Sending off our On The Hills for the season on this Saturday here on Aspen Mountain. Anna Stonehouse enjoys the spring slushy conditions in today’s edition of #AspenOnTheHill.

#AspenOnTheHill-Thursday, April 13

Spring conditions are in full force on Aspen Mountain. Anna Stonehouse heads up and enjoys the sunshine, groomers, and slush. See for yourself in today’s edition of #AspenOnTheHill.

#AspenOnTheHill – Hot spring

Happy Wednesday, Aspen! Spring-like conditions exist today on the hill, with temperatures in the high-50s to low-60s, slush and some bare spots over on Shadow Mountain. This is it, folks; time to soak in the finals days of an awesome winter season.

#AspenOnTheHill-Tuesday, April 11

Anna Stonehouse was just cruising along this morning up on Aspen Mountain. The sun was shining with fast conditions this morning with spring slush this afternoon and warmer temperatures. See for yourself in today’s edition of #AspenOnTheHill.

#AspenOnTheHill-Monday, April 10, 2017

“Wooo hooooo; let’s go for a ‘shoe! Testing Eva, the world’s first EVA foam snowshoes on Maroon Creek Road,” says Erik Skarvan, local athlete and owner of Sun Dog Athletics.

#AspenOnTheHill – Friday, April 7

Happy Friday, Aspen! It’s a beautiful, quiet day on Ajax, with temperatures in the low-60s and overall awesome conditions for the end of the season. We recommend sticking to the top half of the mountain for the best snow. Get on out there and enjoy it while you can; closing days are upon on us. Erica Robbie has your #AspenOnTheHill report today.

#AspenOnTheHill-Thursday, April 6

Sunny Thursday out on Aspen Mountain today. Anna Stonehouse takes a couple of runs on this bluebird day and finds a couple of leftover powder stashes but recommends the fast groomers until this afternoon. See for yourself in today’s edition of #AspenOnTheHill.

#AspenOnTheHill – 7 inches at Snowmass!

Good morning, Aspen and Snowmass! Erica Robbie mixes it up this morning and joins Snowmass Tourism’s Sara Stookey and Rose Abello for a few powder-ful turns at Snowmass. The ski area received 7-inches of snow overnight so conditions today are excellent. Temperatures are in the low-30s; the sky is blue and the sun is shining bright. Check it out in today’s edition of #AspenOnTheHill.