Platts: Powder rule in effect |

Platts: Powder rule in effect


Last weekend brought us more than a foot of new snow to the Aspen/Snowmass mountains and pristine skiing conditions for visitors and locals alike. But what it truly brought us was a huge sigh of relief, and possibly, just a small glimmer of hope for the rest of winter.

By Monday, the accumulation from the past three days could only mean one thing: a powder day. This is when the residents of Aspen put away their work attire, shrug off their weekday blues and head to the mountains. After all, it’s rude not to accept such a thoughtful gift from the Snow Gods.

I woke up on Monday feeling, as I usually do at the beginning of a work week, overwhelmed and stressed. I’d had friends in town the whole weekend and, while it was a ton of fun, it wasn’t a particularly relaxing time. Sleep seemed seldom as there was so much to show these first-time visitors to Aspen. I just wasn’t quite ready for the work week to start.

Then, as if directly answering my woes, I received a text from my boss, “Powder rules in effect this morning!” Immediately, my Monday blues dissipated. I layered up and headed to Highlands.

The powder rule has been a widely accepted custom in this town for decades. My guess is that it dates back to the 1940s when the 10th Mountain Division came here after World War II in search of pow. However, I have little historical evidence to back that up. Regardless, we have accepted powder days as pretty much mandatory for a long time. So long that I believe it to be a defining characteristic of our community.

When I got to Highlands to meet my friends, some locals and others visiting, it was hard to notice anything except the solidified grin on each of their faces. It was still snowing, but the sun was gradually poking out, showing a glistening mountain full of white. My group all had a lot to do that day. One of my friends had to write a story so she conducted her interviews on the chairlift. Another had a meeting with a business partner and took his call as he was heading down a run. And another set an alarm two minutes before a conference call, making it to the base just in time to call in. We worked around our responsibilities as we rode the chair lift up and took off downhill, with soft, easily impressionable snow underneath our boards. Hoots and hollers could be heard all over the mountain, as we all celebrated the new conditions.

Ski time was short, as we all knew we had to get to our commitments, but it was still well worth it. The morning helped break up the monotony of the week, making it feel less restricted, making it feel more unpredictable. We were all left with a comforting reminder of why we live here. It’s for mornings like that.

Everyone who lives in Aspen has a different story for how or why they got here. Some of us work nights at various restaurants and bars in town. A few take on the 9 to 5 day shifts. Others are here for athletic pursuits or possibly entrepreneurial aspirations. However, we all share something in common: we are here to make the outdoors a priority in our daily lives.

And that is one rule we just can’t break.

If she’s not out in the mountains, Barbara Platts can typically be reached by email at or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts. If she is out in the mountains, she hopes to see you there.

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