On the Hill: No 100-day pin from Aspen, no problem
As the ski season drew to its slushy and sunny end last year, I bought a cheap little free-standing pendant frame. I stuck my 100-day pin from the 2016-17 season and pins from the previous three winters in there and placed it on a bookshelf at home.
I figured that, after four winters surpassing the century mark and earning a pin, my era of everyday riding was over — the framed pins would be a conversation piece and a talisman of my one-time radness. My wife and I had a kid on the way. I figured everything was going to change.
And most everything has changed. I won’t be getting a pin this season. But this winter’s still been pretty rad.
A ski season with an infant, though not 100-day-friendly, is a blast: We still put in a ton of time on Aspen Mountain, doing the “Sundeck Swap” with the baby at the summit; we spent many days cross-country skiing with the kid behind us in her ski chariot; during the dry early winter we did some family hikes in Hunter Creek. And we had a few days at home rolling around on the floor in pajamas, which are days well spent.
I expect to top out somewhere in the 80-day range this year.
My favorite take on the 100-day-quest phenomenon came from Mikey Wechsler, the philosopher king of Ajax ski bums, who pointed out to me once that if you only ski 100 days then you’re missing about one-third of the season and that’s nothing to be proud of. True enough.
I lived here for several years before I realized I should ride every day and started doing it. As a writer, I work weird hours and a lot of nights and weekends. So five years ago I just started suiting up and going first thing every morning, no matter the conditions.
If you live here, and if you have a full pass, and you work irregular hours, then I believe you must ski every day in the winter. It’s always worth at least an hour of your time. And for all the familiar pains in the ass of living in a ski town — the struggle for housing, the stratospheric cost of living, and so on — you may as well enjoy the thing that makes it so.
When you’re up there every day, or most days, the biggest thing that happens is that skiing your mountain of choice becomes, by definition, routine. It’s a routine that’ll keep you grateful. On Ajax, you get to know the lifties and the ambassadors. You start to recognize the family of crows at the top of Ruthie’s and you know to look for the bluebird that appears once in awhile midway up the F.I.S. chair. Your social life revolves around the mountain. After 100 days, you think you know every contour of the hill and how to ride it, but then you explore and find yet more (Aspen Mountain, I’ve found, contains multitudes and nearly all good fall-lines on its compact 673 acres).
Going every day, you end up practicing the inverse of the silly old “no friends on a powder day” concept. You will be on your own through many of the dry spells and the average ski days, but you inevitably have a posse to share in the joy of big snow dumps.
There are no hosannas for you when Day 100 comes. A smirking liftie simply hands you a little pin and sends you on your way (in recent years, Aspen Skiing Co. has sent a letter of congratulations, as well). In that anticlimactic moment, you can’t help but understand it’s about the quest and not about the grail.
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