Asher on Aspen: Sledding Off the Grid | AspenTimes.com
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Asher on Aspen: Sledding Off the Grid

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen
(Andrew BroderickCourtesy photo)

 

Lost in a sea of Rudolph-red noses, an authoritative voice caught my attention. It was an early, brisk Saturday morning and I had yet to drink my coffee. I slowly turned my focus to a group of men in red vests with official-looking walkie talkies strapped to their chests. They rallied the group in attempts to make an announcement. We stood outside at the main entrance of T-Lazy-7 Ranch where we eagerly anticipated further instruction.

After a brief introduction, we were each assigned to our designated snowmobiles and I promptly worried about what I had just signed up for. Having never done this before, I didn’t know quite what to expect. My friend who was riding tandem on my sled asked me to drive first, and I willingly agreed. She looked at me nervously and asked, “You know what you’re doing?” I secured my helmet, took a breath, looked her square in the eye and said, “No. But let’s do this!”

A few snow-loving friends and I decided to participate in a ten-person guided group tour where we would explore the vast winter wonderlands of the White River National Forest on snowmobiles — a safe, all-outdoor pandemic outing. The original intent was to ride to the Maroon Bells, but due to recent snowfall and unsafe avalanche conditions, the trail was closed. Our guide switched us to the Pyramid Peak route instead, and it proved to be equally as beautiful and thrilling of a ride.



We were given a quick tutorial on how to operate the sled from an apple-cheeked, cheerful guide named Caleb. He gave us a mittened thumbs-up and motioned for us to follow him. I pressed my thumb down on the gas and without thinking, we flew off into the snowy woods. My nerves quickly subsided when the cold wind hit my face and abruptly woke me up. My eyes began to water due to the frigid temps and I noticed my eyelashes starting to freeze together. Luckily, the adrenaline took over and I barely noticed the cold after we began ripping it up.

The trail was wide and open in some parts, and narrow and twisting in others. We flew through the glistening trees, and it felt like we had the forest completely to ourselves. The sparkling white snow gave off a dreamy, whimsical vibe that appeared postcard perfect. There was so much beauty to take in, and the ride itself was a total thrill. I yelled back to my friend to ensure she was capturing the essence of this moment in a video. Luckily, she already had her phone out and I could tell she was just as impressed as I was.



Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the couple behind us following especially close. Without warning, they quickly zipped past us with childlike delight. Though this passing totally took me by surprise, we couldn’t help but smile at how excited they were to “win” in that moment. They flew over the snow with dramatic speed as they hooted and hollered their way past us.

Suddenly, Caleb raised his mitten and called a halt. Confused by this sudden stop, everyone looked around for a clue as to why we were stopping. The riders shut off their engines and Caleb gestured toward a group of large brown blobs across the valley. Squinting my eyes, I could vaguely recognize the outline of what I thought might be moose. I was impressed.

“It’s not every day you see a moose!” I shouted over to my friends. I always get overly excited when I unexpectedly see wildlife. Even the slightest glimpse of a fox or an elk arouses me. So, you can imagine my joy when a group of the tallest mammals in North America were standing right in front of our eyes. We stopped and ogled for a moment at their massive, majestic glory.

Caleb’s enthusiasm was infectious. He impressed us all with fun facts about moose and wildlife in the area. It was clear at that moment that this was someone who really loved their job. He went on to teach us about the Maroon Creek Valley’s vast history while we explored miles of groomed trails through thick aspen groves and wild, luscious meadows.

Once we neared the end of our excursion, Caleb led us over to a small cozy cabin where he served us hot cocoa and apple cider. I took one sip, and then glanced over at my friends. Their cheeks were chafed red with cold and their smiles were bright. The brisk morning air was now overshadowed with this warm, sweet drink. I thought to myself, “Does it get any better than this?”

To me, this was the epitome of a quality Saturday morning in the mountains.


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