On the Hill: A silent Sunday
November 20, 2006
I didn’t partake in the early-opening festivities at Aspen Mountain over the weekend, but I did observe the start of the official ski season in fine form.A buddy and I set out from the Divide Road parking lot at 9 a.m. Sunday morning, under blue November skies. With nobody else around, we felt relieved to be “earning our turns” and not fighting crowds to ski 150 acres of corduroy. (OK, I hear they opened Walsh’s, but how many dinged-up skis resulted from that?) It took us roughly an hour of cool, quiet slogging through mixed powder and crud to reach the top of Sam’s Knob, and another hour or so to reach the top of the Big Burn. We saw two other skiers and two Skico guys on snowmobiles.When we reached the deck at Up 4 Pizza, two other guys were chilling in the sun, having skinned up from Fanny Hill. The 2005-06 trail maps were still on the shelf.It was righteous up there, with endless visibility and the anticipation of fresh tracks prodding us through a light lunch. After deciding on our descent route, we peeled our skins, threw on an extra layer and said goodbye to our lunch companions. Of course, the minute we found untracked, consistent snow, our descent route changed. We figure-eighted our way down Dallas Freeway, smiling all the way, pausing briefly just to cool our burning, early-season thighs.The snow wasn’t knee-deep and it wasn’t champagne. It was more like boot-deep and a little on the creamy side. But it skied smoothly, and the overall scene was silent, wide-open and spectacular. It felt like the whole mountain was ours.Next time I visit the top of the Burn, amid hundreds of other skiers and the mechanical roar of the high-speed quad, I’ll remember that sunny, silent Sunday in November.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.