On the hill: Sunrise surprise
December 6, 2011
ASPEN – At 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, powder runs were the furthest thing from my mind. Or actually, they were very much on my mind – the probability that we wouldn’t be having them any time soon. I had been hearing how rocks and stumps were more abundant than snow on the local mountains. Then I picked up Friday’s Aspen Times, turned to the High Points column – which has vowed to present only a positive perspective – and read about how we had jinxed ourselves into a dud of an early season.
At 7:45 a.m. on Sunday, I was searching for reasons to even get up on the mountain. The clouds were thick and low, the air was cold, and my prospective ski partner for the day was telling me that the previous night’s storm seemed to have left an inch, maybe two, on the ground.
But it was the last day I’d be able to snowboard for a week, and getting on the slopes, even in crummy conditions, seemed the day’s best option. I made my move – told my buddy Alan I’d meet him on Aspen, got my gear in a pile. Soon as I did, Goethe’s promise – about boldness having magic to it – took hold. The clouds began to lift, and if I wasn’t going to have powder, it looked like at least I’d have sunshine. At the bottom of the gondola, the first face I saw was that of Bob Ward, my former Times colleague who I used to see daily and now don’t see nearly enough of. A perfect ski partner.
The first thing I saw at the top of the mountain was a woman showing off a sign: “Sunrise Will Be Open For 5 Minutes.” Bob, Alan and I dashed off to Bell Mountain, and sure enough, a ski patroller was waving people to Sunrise, Sunset. We dropped in – probably among the first 20 people to do so this season – and it was powder galore. A face shot, even.
We rushed up Lift 3 in the hopes of a second lap, but they had been serious about those five minutes. Sunrise was closed. So we tried the back side of Bell and found not deep powder, but soft surfaces, empty slopes, untouched lines through the woods.
If our smiles were extra big, chalk it up to how unexpected they were.