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Buttermilk 101

Eben Harrell

Warning: Today’s column is for novice and beginning skiers.Ah Buttermilk. You probably haven’t read much about her in this space. It’s hard to imagine my expert-skier colleagues at The Aspen Times coming into the office flushed and ready to write about their killer runs down Homestead Road.But Buttermilk is my bride, my baby, my beloved. There’s something so calming, so benign, about the place – even the name, redolent of a mother’s nurturing, makes me feel safe.I’m a true beginner, you see, so if you read this column each day to ruefully catch up on conditions for runs you probably will never have the ability to ski, I’m your man. This column is the first in a series published occasionally about Butter-milking the ski life.As an opener, I’ll start with the basics. I don’t own skiing equipment. So like the majority of beginners, I’m a renter.One thing I’ve learned is to stay away from large ski shops. They’re crowded and you won’t get the service you need. Stick to the smaller, locally owned joints.Aspen’s Stapleton Sports was my choice last weekend. I was helped by Dave Stapleton – a former World Cup racer – who offered me a must-know list for beginners:• Wear waterproof gloves. Mittens aren’t enough. When you’re scrambling upright from a fall, your hands won’t get wet and cold. Gore-Tex only.• When it’s sunny, wear sunglasses. When it’s cold, wear goggles (I wore goggles one sunny day and was foggier than the day after my 21st). • Rent short skis. I’m 6 foot 4, and Stapleton still put me on 140 cm skis. They are worth the embarrassment when they are too small to rest against a ski rack.• Don’t wear cotton anything. When you sweat, it gets wet, and you get cold.

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