Platts: The best day of a dog’s life
Sunday, April 12 brought a large amount of hoopla to the slopes. Highlands was closing, and locals and visitors said goodbye to the 2014-15 season with a celebration that some deem as the best day of the year in Aspen.
On a quieter mountain slightly west, a group of 70-plus dogs were having their own end-of-season party with the K-9 Uphill at Buttermilk. From a tiny Yorkie and a young white lab to a long-haired Collie and an eager Dalmatian, all kinds of breeds were accounted for, including our 8-month-old pup Cassius.
This is the 20th year the K-9 Uphill has taken place. The route takes dogs and their people from the base of Buttermilk to the refueling station near the Cliffhouse, roughly two miles and 2,000 vertical feet. The proceeds from the event go to no-kill animal shelters in the Roaring Fork Valley, including the Aspen Animal Shelter. My boyfriend and I adopted Cassius from that shelter and were eager to support it in any way we could. So, while our friends were sipping mimosas and getting dressed for Highlands, we took our pup out for the best day of his life.
When we got to Buttermilk, the atmosphere at the base of the mountain felt almost as frantic as it does during X Games weekend. Dogs of all shapes and sizes were tied up on various railings or poles, yelping and barking while their owners prepared for the uphill. No canine at that base could control their excitement as they peered around and saw scores of furry friends. Cassius was particularly antsy as we strapped on our yak tracks and headed to the start line.
I’ve done a few different uphill races before, like the Summit for Life and the Chris Bove Memorial Uphill. The mood at the start line is always very serious as racers make necessary adjustments to clothes or gear before the race starts. They are eager to place or at least beat a personal goal. That determination, that focus was nowhere to be found at the start line for the K-9 Uphill. Man and man’s best friend were decked out in costumes and giddy with excitement. Every face, human or canine, had a huge smile smeared across it.
The good mood continued during the two-mile stretch to the top, with dogs pausing to sniff one another’s butts, collect large sticks and roll around in the snow. Since Buttermilk closed on April 5, the lifts were no longer running to download, plus the idea of putting non-ski patrol dogs on a chairlift was just frightening. So at the top, everyone took a second to rest, take pictures and collect heaps of dog treats before heading back down to the base. On the way down, some dogs were clever enough to “escape” their harnesses and romp around in the snow with their new friends. At the base, humans and dogs gathered for a barbecue and raffle to celebrate the uphill.
There is something so rewarding about being able to tire out one’s dog, and Cassius was exhausted by the time we got to the base. Feeling like we had just won the Parent of the Year Award, we headed home so he could take a nap in his kennel … while we got decked out in funky outfits and went to celebrate Highlands Closing Day. After all, don’t we all deserve our own mountain party from time to time?
Barbara Platts was not very impressed with her pace up Buttermilk. If her dog hadn’t been there to pull her along she might not have made it. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.