On the trail: The price to ski for free | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: The price to ski for free

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesThe Government Trail winds through the snowy woods between Buttermilk and Snowmass.

ASPEN – My ski pass went unused again last weekend while I went skiing for free.

I passed up a chance to hit the slopes of Aspen/Snowmass despite the first fresh snow in recent memory and, as usual, hit the trail instead.

This could go down as my most expensive ski season ever. I’ve been downhill skiing twice with my $699 Flex Pass. That’s $349.50 per outing. And some people think buying a full-price lift ticket is stupid. I suspect this will go down as the season that finally convinces me to forego a ski pass altogether. Heck, I could buy single-day lift tickets next winter and come out ahead, for all the times I’ll actually go skiing.

It’s time I just admit there are other outdoor pursuits I find more enjoyable.

Saturday found me doing one of them – skinning up the Government Trail off West Buttermilk with friends. After a brief bout with sunshine, the snow resumed falling, and we had the woods to ourselves. The snow was so deep in the trees, and the terrain so gentle, it wasn’t so much about getting turns in the fresh powder as it was gathering some slow steam and then avoiding the tree trunks whenever we chose to jump off the trail during the descent.

We broke trail across a meadow in exhaustingly deep snow, taking turns in the lead and trying not to bury the tips of our skis. Staying upright was my only goal. To do otherwise would spell the proverbial I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up moment.

Sunday took me to Spring Gulch, the nordic area outside of Carbondale. Five of us gathered to ski the winding, freshly groomed trails up to Finlandia, the uppermost trail. All of it had been rolled, but the grooming crew had only some of the classic track set when we arrived. No matter – the new snow was a delight, and the climb had us grinning breathlessly.

The reward at Spring Gulch is the downhill return, via any of a number of routes. Back in town, a waiting pan of lasagna prepared by one member of the party was even better than the downhill cruise.

As usual, I forgot all about that nagging feeling that I ought to be downhill skiing.


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