On the hill: Back in the Buttermilk groove | AspenTimes.com

On the hill: Back in the Buttermilk groove

ASPEN – My annual ritual of skinning up Tiehack at Buttermilk before work on Tuesday got under way yesterday, and I am happy to report my skinning partner and I persevered despite numerous hurdles.

First, my trusty old Subaru is in the shop for a cracked head gasket (words you never want to hear your mechan­ic utter) so we had to take my buddy’s newer, nicer Sub­aru.

Second, it puked snow downvalley Monday night, so it made for slow going. My driveway had 6 inches, give or take. I warmed up for the uphill by heading out at 6 a.m. to shovel. Thank­fully my buddy arrived and saved me from further chores after I had only cleared the blobs of snow the plow threw onto the end of my driveway.

Third, midvalley roads were a mess. The commute was slow but steady from El Jesalt. We were surprised to find no one else in the parking lot at the bottom of the Tiehack chairlift.

The fourth hurdle was my conditioning. I strapped on my alpine touring gear for the first time and we waddled uphill. I soon discovered that all the preparation in the gym, at least the kind I do, doesn’t necessarily transfer to good cardio-conditioning for outdoor activities.

I’ve been hitting the Stairmaster religiously twice a week since cycling season ended, but my hips immedi­ately felt the strain of slogging uphill on skis. I got winded sooner than I thought I would, but that’s when you just find a comfortable speed, keep cranking away and even­tually, you find your rhythm. I actually felt better by mid-mountain than I had on Tiehack’s short, steep hill at the bottom.

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Soon, all was right with the world again. There’s some­thing magical about skinning. It goes beyond earning your downhill turns. There’s the joy of finding a good pace on the uphill, shifting into automatic and just enjoy­ing the moment. The snow was slamming down Tuesday, particularly on the upper half of the mountain. The trees were coated in fresh snow. The wind whistled through the pines. The clouds and fog limited visibility and kept us focused on our own little world.

Sure, there will be greater adventures this winter. But it felt good to get back in the groove at Tiehack.


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