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Go West, my novice friends

Eben Harrell

I’m hesitant to do it, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret. If you are a beginning skier (like me), West Buttermilk is where you should spend your time. Everyone knows Buttermilk is the beginner’s mountain, but the thing about beginners is that along with being hesitant skiers, we are also hesitant to branch out on our own. This leads to a group-think mentality at Buttermilk, as beginning skiers funnel together from the top, obviously following the “if there are other people around who can find medical assistance when I inevitably crash into a tree or in fact into them, I’m on the right run” philosophy.But as I learned last weekend, skiing on your own can be a joyous experience. First, there’s the absence of guilt, as you don’t have to worry about your double-black-diamond buddy developing hypothermia as he/she waits for you to finish the run.Also, it’s easier (and I’d argue better) to ski solo. For beginners, fewer people mean fewer obstacles. And fewer obstacles mean fewer things to worry about becoming the instrument of your death.West Buttermilk is the perfect place for skiing easy runs on your own. Take the Summit Express and then warm up with some turns on Homestead before taking Westward Ho to the West Buttermilk lift. Start with Red Rover – a long, easy run that’s perfect for working up confidence. There are steep bits, but those sections are invariably followed by more gentle slopes. Feel free to push your speed and fear level knowing it will only last a few moments.On Wednesday, some of the best snow on the mountain was found on Larkspur, where I experienced the strange sensation of being scared for the first time by my own powder spray (I thought it was an approaching skier).After a morning on West Buttermilk, take Tom’s Thumb back to the Cliffhouse restaurant, have a bowl of chili, and prepare to join the foolish masses once again as they make their way down the center of Buttermilk.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com