On the Hill: The long wait | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: The long wait

Jon Maletz

I could hardly believe it as I stood in a seemingly endless line behind a man in mesh shorts and a New England Patriots windbreaker. It was Oct. 14, and I was at Loveland, one of a select few to officially kick-start the winter ski season in style.It may not have been a powder day, and the hordes of people made me feel like I was in an amusement park waiting to ride the log flume on a hot summer day. But while friends back east won’t even ponder the upcoming season until mid-December, I had the rock skis on, the ski jacket zipped all the way to the neck. I heard people camped out in their cars and vans for more than a week, eyeing opening day with anticipation. I myself woke before sunrise, hitching a ride with a group of co-workers for the 115-mile drive. There may have been only one run open, a short cruiser crowded with skiers and boarders of all abilities. But once that lift reached its peak, two minutes of bliss awaited. Bliss mixed with a little ice. No one seemed to care or blink an eyelash as the conditions slowly deteriorated. Sheer joy painted every face. It took just a few turns for everyone on the mountain to fall in love once again.For the first time since St. Patrick’s Day at New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee, I was back where I belonged. There may not have been a complimentary pint of Guinness waiting for me in the lodge bar like in March, but I could not have been happier. Now the waiting game has begun. Just weeks after the excitement, the anticipation of my first Colorado winter is killing me. Ski shops on Durant Avenue have only just begun to stock their shelves; boxes still litter the floors.Highland Bowl – blanketed in white and looming over the valley – provides a glimpse of things to come, but I am impatient. On each day’s walk down Main Street, my eyes are fixed on Aspen Mountain, willing snow to start making its way from summit to base.The snow report on the Skico’s website was last updated on April 20, but I keep looking each day. Maybe a storm is developing in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe the flurries forecast for early next week will take us all by surprise.The snow tires are on the Jeep. I am ready to trade in the mountain bike for the twin-tips.I can’t complain, though. It’s not even Halloween. Malls haven’t even started putting up Christmas decorations yet. And I’m already one up.