On the Hill: Wild out there | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: Wild out there

Catherine Lutz

Talk about uncrowded by design. Our local mountains are truly empty now, for the obvious reason that the lifts aren’t running. But it’s probably one of the more interesting times of the year to be on the hill. Those who want solitude will find it easily, except for the occasional Snowcat pulling a trailer with three shiny new gondola cars on it (the train looks like a giant caterpillar from some parts of town).All sorts of interesting stuff is happening on the mountain this time of year, and I’m not talking about all the lost and discarded stuff that’s resurfacing as the snow melts. There’s the usual chapstick, water bottles and trail maps, and it’s not unusual to find cell phones, skiwear – even cold, hard cash.But what’s more intriguing is how the local wildlife is reclaiming its territory. Head up Aspen Mountain and you’ll be sure to see plenty of squirrels, foxes and other critters. As I was skinning up the other day, a coyote calmly made its way across Copper Connector to a hole in the snow within the confines of the now-defunct ski trail. A family of marmots has made a home on one of the pitches of McFarlane’s – and they seem to enjoy sitting outside their burrow watching the humans zigzag by on two sticks.Now animal tracks and holes of various sizes are branding the local mountains, just like groomed corduroy, ski tracks and moguls are evidence of human dominance from late November to April. It’s reassuring to know that nature can, seemingly effortlessly, take over something again that has been so intensely used and molded by man. And in the midst of all that solitude and wildlife, it’s good to get back to the basics of skiing.

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