Aspen’s Sundeck Swap allows new parents to get on the hill
Aspen is a town of snow subcultures. Spend a few winters here and you’ll likely find yourself discovering an increasing number of them.
There are the bowl rats at Highlands and the park rats of Buttermilk, the spandex-clad sunrise uphiller crowd and the Fireball-guzzling full-moon party uphilling crowd, the Buckaroos and The Dogs, the sunny day skiers and the 100-day pin-chasers and the radical splinter sect of grizzled everyday riders who will tell you that if you only ski 100 days you’re missing one-third of the season. And so on.
This winter, the latest little subculture I’ve found myself in is the “Sundeck Swap” crowd.
These are the parents of infants who take to Aspen Mountain on the weekends, ride up the gondola with kids strapped on their chests in baby carriers, then each take over a small patch of Sundeck real estate where the kid can play. From there, over the course of the day, parents swap baby-watching duties and skiing privileges back and forth.
I’ve been learning the ropes of the Sundeck Swap with my wife and our 4-month-old in the opening weeks of this season. We pack a small blanket and some books and toys. We play, we read, we people-watch — she likes it. One of us goes out for a lap while the other hangs out with the kid and with the other Sundeck Swappers — there are several of us there every Saturday and Sunday — and then we trade.
Many Sundeck Swappers are currently pissed at Aspen Skiing Co. for removing the stuffed leather day beds that used to line a portion of the Sundeck along the Highlands-side windows. They’ve been replaced with more tables and chairs. This had been ground zero of the Sundeck Swap scene for years. It was a perfect baby play area, and the Swappers used to take it over (this, of course, is probably why Skico took it away). So we’re all kind of figuring it out, laying down blankets on table-tops or on fireside benches or wherever our kids might not get stepped on.
The word from the parents of older toddlers is that during our first ski season doing the Sundeck Swap, we’ll get a ton of skiing in. But, they say, it gets harder to pull off as the kids get mobile. We assume we can keep doing the Swap until the kid can stand. Once an Aspen-born child can stand, naturally, you put them on skis and join the ranks of another mysterious local subculture: the Buttermilk family skiers.
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The Aspen School District’s budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year is shaping up stronger than the pandemic-bogged finances from last year, according to district Chief Financial Officer Linda Warhoe.“We’re getting our head above water and we’re coming up on shore,” Warhoe said in an interview last week.