On the hill: The pain game | AspenTimes.com

On the hill: The pain game

Bob Ward
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Some famous workout guru or bodybuilder once said “No pain, no gain,” and that adage is never more true than early ski season.

Skinning up a mountain is always harder in November and December, when the feet are more prone to blisters and the particular muscle groups haven’t been broken in. Recovering from a recent sinus infection made one skinning excursion into a memorable lung-burner.

And skiing back down can be dicey too. Two weeks ago, I seriously dinged up a pair of skis on Snowmass as I hit bottom on nearly every turn; the snow was fantastic, just not enough of it. More recently, I’ve struggled through track-packed snow on both Highlands and Buttermilk, bouncing over ruts and ridges like a boat on a turbulent sea.

What the hell – it’s all part of getting back the “ski legs” and making the most of the season.

Of course, these marginal skinning days have been interspersed with unusually good days of lift-served skiing on Aspen Mountain, where the first week of the season has been, as one of my ski buddies likes to say, “stupid-good.”

Even those lift-served days have been humbling, however. Last weekend, even Little Nell left my thighs burning, and the Ridge of Bell – which skied magnificently, by the way – reminded me of how far I must travel to reach mid-season strength.

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Of course, this is all part of the journey that each season represents. You begin as a whimpering spaz, humbled by the mighty mountains; you end up as, well, a stronger and more seasoned spaz, still humbled but hopefully better equipped to thrive in the mountains.

In theory, at least, it starts off painfully but gets easier as you go – not unlike learning to ski and gradually, season by season, getting better.

Skiers pay a lot of dues for their fun, don’t they? But somehow it’s worth it, even though there’s always room for improvement. None of us ever attain perfection, but we have fun trying. And the pain of training – especially during early season – is part of the experience.

Dunno about you, but I’m really glad it’s ski season.

bward@aspentimes.com