On the mountain: Why I ride | AspenTimes.com

On the mountain: Why I ride

Aspen Times sports editor Austin Colbert after a recent shred session on Aspen Mountain.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

My quest for 100 days on the mountain is well underway.


After a blistering start to the 2017-18 season, a concussion suffered Dec. 12 limited me to 35 days last winter. The year prior, my first in Aspen, I finished with a lifetime-best 69 days.

This is my fourth winter in the mountains — I spent my first in Steamboat Springs — and I am more determined than ever to reach the century mark, which is something of a rite of passage around here.

But, this isn’t so much an essay about getting to 100 days. In all reality, I don’t care. I’m someone who rides alone 90 percent of the time — something I both prefer and can’t avoid, as I obviously don’t have enough friends who want to shred with an incredibly below-average snowboarder — so I have plenty of time to think on the hill.

The question I continually ask myself is why I keep going up. Getting to 100 days isn’t about reaching this big milestone, but about forcing myself to continue to get out there day after day.

Yes, in general, snowboarding (or skiing, for those who do that) is a lot of fun. Most days. As someone who spends a lot of time around very talented riders, my own lack of skill can certainly be a downer. I don’t necessarily enjoy riding hard groomers, can’t grind a rail to save my life and I still tend to catch edges on flat surfaces (even though I can send it down the face of the Highlands Bowl without issue).

So, back to that question of why I continue to go up. The answer is mostly because I need to, and I believe this is something we can all relate to. Life can be hard, and I’ve been through my ups and downs this past year, losing two grandparents and suffering a head injury that has impacted me in many more ways than I thought possible.

But going up the mountain is a release from all that. Yes, it’s a lot of fun, especially when the snow is falling, but it’s mostly the ultimate distraction from reality. That’s probably why so many of us live here in Aspen, because it’s about as far from reality as it gets.

A couple afternoons ago, it was dumping snow on Aspen Mountain. It was powder from top to bottom and I was one of the few people up there. What I expected to be a casual lap or two turned into one of the best hours of riding in my life.

I couldn’t stop smiling. I hadn’t ridden that hard and that free in a couple of winters. All of the troubles of life disappeared, however briefly. It was pure bliss.

So that’s why I ride. That’s probably why so many of us ride or ski. It’s an escape to a special place only Ullr can provide.


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