Asher on Aspen: Gondola Gabbing

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen

My New Year’s resolution seemed random and unusual to most people this year.

Going into 2020, I set a goal to have a conversation with everyone I ride with on the chairlift or gondola. The intention was to spark up discussion with the people who accompanied me up the mountain, simply because you never know who you’re going to meet in this town.

I reasoned that the best conversations happen organically and unexpectedly and why would I waste an opportunity to potentially meet someone amazing? If they bluntly ignored me and clearly didn’t want to talk, then I decided not to force it. However, I committed to at least greeting each person and attempting to initiate conversation. There have only been a few individuals who preferred silence — and that’s OK, too.

The idea for this resolution started in early December when I had the pleasure of commuting up Ajax Express with a very wise and witty older lady. She looked like she could have been pushing 80, but her attitude mimicked that of a 25-year-old. I was enthralled with the way she talked. She pushed her goggles up onto her helmet and as soon as she looked up, I noticed her eyes. They looked kind and wise.

I remember that day clearly. I was annoyed with a minor hiccup at work and I fully intended on tuning out everything and listening to music. Without my permission, she commanded my attention and reluctantly forced me to entertain her chit chat. In hindsight, I am so glad that she did.

She questioned why I was alone, and I explained I was on my lunch break. Then, she asked something that I was not at all prepared for: “Do you want to do a run with me?”

I hesitated and then said, “Sure.”

I’ve had many random conversations on the gondola, but no one has ever asked to ski with me, especially right after first meeting me.

Next, she randomly blurted out the following statement with no other context to back it up: “A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.”

At this point, I was a little taken back because we hadn’t even touched on the fact that I happened to be a writer. How could she possibly know this? I asked her where that came from and she explained how she wanted to become a better skier. Apparently, she just picked up skiing the year before.

“Learning how to ski has always been on my bucket list and I probably don’t have that many years left,” she said matter-of-factly.

From that point on, I was wildly intrigued. Her story unfolded as we rode up the lift and I was completely fascinated that she decided to pick up skiing this late in her life. She created this bucket list when she was just 16 years old for a school project and has miraculously kept it and followed it all of these years later. “Now I’m just superstitious about it,” she said. “I won’t let myself die until all of the items get checked off the list.”

She humbly told me about the adventures on her bucket list and what she has been able to check off thus far. I specifically remember her eyes lighting up when she talked about the most epic surprise birthday party that she had thrown for her late husband. She got almost as excited when she talked about her week working at an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai. She was confident with her words, but not arrogant, and I appreciated that.

We took our run together down the mountain and I secretly hoped we could have another ride up the lift together. I still had so many questions. It was hard to believe she only learned to ski a year ago. She glided smoothly down the mountain, confidently taking her time and precisely making her turns. I weirdly felt proud of her, even though I had just met her.

Overall, I’ve had a pretty good experience with this resolution. I’m now in the habit of always greeting people once I sit down and I can normally determine pretty early on if they’re going to be a talker or not. Some are visiting for the very first time and are eager to talk with a local. Others are in the zone and have no desire to converse with a random stranger.

This resolution may sound bizarre to some, but it has led to many fascinating conversations and connections. More importantly, this resolution may help me track down the cryptic bucket list lady. I wish desperately that I remembered her name. Not only did she prove that it’s never too late to learn a new hobby, but she reminded me to never lose sight of my goals.

Mystery woman, if you’re reading this, please reach out. Let’s get coffee and plan your next bucket list adventure. And perhaps take another run together?

Aspen Times Weekly

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