First tracks head up the pass
November 14, 2006
I was laid up with a nasty cold all last week – I think Mother Nature’s way of boosting my immune system for the upcoming ski season and life in the petri dish of a resort town. One week of bad television and canned soup had me climbing the walls, though.On my day off Monday, with just a short window without any coughing, I bundled up in warm duds, loaded up the car with an old pair of cross-country skis I bought at Goodwill and headed up to Independence Pass. The snow had been flying off and on the two previous days, but I wasn’t sure it was enough to cover the road. I planned to just slip and slide around a bit anyway – anything but another episode of Oprah.I’d heard after the pass is closed for the winter, the snowbound road gets busy with skiers and snowmobilers, but on a Monday afternoon, in the middle of a light blowing snow, there was not a soul.I parked next to the gate and was trudging up the track and shedding layers in a matter of minutes. No lift line. No ticket checker, and only a few other sets of tracks going up.I remember the pass being as steep as a wall from my late summer bike rides, but sliding up was no sweat, the fish scales of my skis easily sticking to the surface.The snow fell more heavily, and clouds socked in the whole valley. The lower hills were getting a good dusting, and the pines looked like those fake Christmas trees sprayed with white – life imitates art.I crested the hill past the Weller Campground and stopped in a narrow valley – complete silence, the snow thick over my ankles. My breath stilled. Not a cough.I thought of the first pioneers who crossed the pass from Leadville to “discover” Aspen in the 1800s. They used “Norwegian snowshoes” to get around in winter, and here I am 125 years later trudging the same ground (plus a little pavement).They say Aspen’s changed, but just a 10-minute drive from the city can take me back to another time.After the hour trek and with the snow coming down in sheets driven by increasing winds, I pointed my skis down the pass.Just a few pole-pushes and the occasional skate step had me gliding along steadily, leaving two fresh tracks in the shallow powder, my only companion a few curious crows at roadside. I think I’m going to like it here, I thought as I slid along.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.