Aspen on the hill: First Tracks
February 5, 2019
Kids in ski towns actually do learn to ski before they can walk, it turns out.
My daughter is a year-and-a-half-old and she can't quite navigate a flight of stairs yet or pee in a toilet, but she's already racking up days on her new skis.
For Christmas, Santa Claus brought her first pair — a set of plastic 27-inch Lucky Bums toddler learning skis and poles. (Actually, Santa brought her a pair and her aunt and uncle got her another. So like most Aspenites, this 18-month old already has too many frigging skis clogging the closet).
The idea with these is for kids to have fun playing — stomping around on packed snow and in powder — to gain confidence standing on them and, in the process, get primed for real boots and bindings and chairlift rides by the time they're out of diapers. And if you've seen the little groms ripping fearlessly around the local hills, you know where this leads.
She gets excited about strapping them on her feet — whooping "Ski! Ski! Ski!" — and she'll stand on them and walk for limited stretches of time in the snow. The actual skiing part goes like this: I hold her by the shoulders and push her along a gentle slope and she goes "Wheeee!" It's pretty rad. When she gets tired or bored, she just collapses to the snow and waits for me to carry her inside, as we'd all like to at the end of a big day.
On Christmas morning, she got her first official turns, scooting down the fresh snow on the sidewalk at the Centennial condos. Over the past month, we've taken her around the neighborhood — alongside the mini X Games slopestyle course that the neighborhood teenagers have built — to shred the deep powder that's piling up everywhere ("shred" here meaning I'll pick her up and drop her in waist-deep, which she mostly loves). Periodically, she likes to hop out of her skis to lay down and make a snow angel or throw a handful of it up in the air (the rest of us could take a page from this playful playbook on some of those way-too aggro Ajax powder day mornings).
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The prime toddler skiing spot we've hit so far, though, is up on top of Aspen Mountain on the patches of snow between the Sundeck and the gondola and back toward Richmond Ridge. Of course, setting up there allows moms and dads to swap off and get some turns themselves. But this little run also is the toddler's equivalent of "the Hollywood line" — where older skiers show off throwing aerials for the crowds dangling above on the Ajax Express lift. It's positioned between where everybody gets off the gondola, where everybody straps in, and the perch where tourists snap pictures with the mountainscape backdrop. So it's a constant string of "OMG, how cute!" from passersby. I think it pumps her up.
I don't much care if she ever gets good at skiing, though it seems an inevitability of growing up here that someday soon I won't be able to keep up with her. As the ski sage Warren Miller put it: "Exactly one day in your life your kid will ski as good as you do. The next day, he'll ski better than you."
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