On the hill: Bring on the snow
ASPEN – Well, it’s finally January and that means it’s time to start making a better effort to ski. Early season conditions, holiday crowds, busy workdays and the festive season have always been distractions for me to get on the hill before the new year.
Not that I haven’t been up; it’s just been few and far between in recent weeks. The skiing has been superb all the days I’ve gone – from a powder day in Snowmass where I got a half-dozen laps in on Sam’s Knob with 10 below temps in an hour’s time to blue skies over Ajax, which provides one of my all-time favorite views of the Elk Mountain range.
A couple of other sightings have made me smile as well – like the Aspen Skiing Co.’s brass working the front lines, proving that they aren’t above anyone else in the company. Two weekends ago at Highlands, I spotted Jim Laing, Skico’s vice president of human resources, wiping down food trays at a garbage receptacle at the Merry Go Round.
Then on New Year’s Eve day, David Perry, Skico’s senior vice president, was stationed at the turnstiles at the Silver Queen gondola, helping the clueless navigate through and greeting them with a smile.
Even though I dread lift lines, it was nice to see the hundreds of people waiting for the gondola New Year’s Eve day morning and the back-up at the Ajax Express line throughout the day. It proved that not everyone is staying away and there are still some people willing to go on ski vacations.
Despite the crowds, it was a beautiful day to be on the mountain with blue skies and a few inches of fresh powder. I skied a few runs with Mayor Mick and when we discovered the freshies on the shoulder of Bell Mountain, we just kept cutting across looking for more.
We found ourselves in the trees on the nose with virtually untracked terrain below us. It seemed odd that no one had been in there but we didn’t stop for long thinking about it. When I came out on the Copper side, I saw the “closed” sign. I yelled up at Mick to ski out, fearing the ski patroller who we passed minutes before had radioed one of his comrades to shoo us out.
It certainly wouldn’t have looked too good for the city’s top elected official and a reporter to be found in forbidden territory. If we had gotten caught, we would have said it was an honest mistake because it was.
Mother Nature needs to step it up so terrain that should be open at this time of the year actually is open.
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Firefighting officials are on high alert in the Roaring Fork Valley as the dry weather continues, and Friday afternoon a wildland fire started by a lightning strike near Old Snowmass sent firefighters scrambling to the area on the ground and from the air.