Roger Marolt: Why Snowmass leaves me feeling flat
I know Snowmass is a great ski area. I see it spread out in front of me every time I look out my living room window. I have a pair of binoculars in a drawer next to my chair so I can get better looks.
I am fascinated by the plumes of snow blown by monstrous gusts off the summit. I never tire of combing the cliffs capping The Cirque and Headwall; my eyes tracing lines that might be possible. I am never unimpressed by its tremendous size and frozen cornucopian variety.
All considered, I can’t figure out why Snowmass always lets me down. I feel no electricity there. I have tried hard this winter to get to know her. I invariably come away feeling that she’s hiding things. If not, she is just boring. I ask those who know her to reveal her secrets. I like her, a good friend, but there is no passion.
I have lain out in print my disappointments and frustrations in never getting past the low-angled veneer that puts just the right glean on her to make her attractive to families and blue square cruisers. I take the blame. Judging by her lift lines, I am the awkward one.
About mid-February I gave up on trying for a meaningful relationship. Gowdy’s was an intense rush, but over oh so quickly; leaving me with the long cruise back to the lift with plenty of time to wonder why I thought this time would be different.
Last Sunday might have been the last straw. Regulars told me the run “Possible” would reveal her hidden secrets. Every other time I sought that exotic trail it was closed. On Sunday it was finally open. Now, I wish it hadn’t been. Despite 8 feet of snow padding the rest of the mountain, “Possible” was littered with rocks at its entrance. And, yes, the headwall was impressively steep, but for less distance than a two-gate slalom course. I damaged my skis and shattered an illusion in four beats of my heart. Although it was pretty good after that, my mind was elsewhere. I had checked out emotionally, forever.
I needed answers. I had to prove that I wasn’t crazy. I could not rest until finding concrete evidence supporting my difficulties in loving the flagship of our local ski areas. I can’t accept that it’s all in my mind. Certainly I could get past that; I am a man of reason, after all. I used to think cilantro tasted like soap. I convinced myself it wasn’t soap. Now, I can’t sprinkle enough of it on my tacos. Now, I think soap tastes like cilantro!
And, just like that, I happened to look at my watch. I only wanted to know the time, but in that glance it revealed itself to me as an astonishing marvel of technology, an accumulator of data, a compact altimeter, inclinometer, speedometer, GPS, heart-rate monitor and thermometer in one. I wear it whenever and wherever I ski! It holds the numbers; the statistics to prove why Snowmass leaves me wanting. The answer lay in that mini microprocessor that cuts off the circulation in my left wrist when I exercise.
It was simpler than I imagined. All you have to do is ask yourself what the most pertinent measurement in skiing is. … Maybe aside from snow depth and lift ticket prices, anyway. It’s vertical feet! This is what separates alpine from Nordic skiing. Without vertical drop, you are huffing and puffing around a snow-covered golf course on skis thinner than City Market sushi. It even tops powder. You can have fun skiing without powder, but not without a drop in vertical feet.
The math in the proof turned out to be simple. I looked at every day I skied and divided the vertical descent for the day by the total time I was on the mountain, including lift rides, excluding lunch. As I might have guessed, Aspen Mountain has the biggest shoes to fill for vertical feet. When skiing there, I average about 6,200 vertical feet per hour. At Snowmass it is around 5,600. Maybe, or maybe not, surprisingly, Highlands lagged at about 4,500. I almost always take a lap in The Bowl when I go there and the hike cuts drastically into the verts skied tally. Considering that Aspen lifts No. 1 and No. 6 are old and slow, and Snowmass has all high-speed chairs, the Aspen Mountain density of vertical feet is even more impressive. It is just plain overall steeper.
Gravity is our opponent when we ski. The skier’s measure of its force is in vertical feet. The more of them we slay, the greater the challenge. At the end of the day, that’s what draws me. It’s not me, Snowmass. It’s you, after all!
Roger Marolt does not hate Snowmass. But now it surely hates him. Email at email@example.com.
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