Marolt: I had a dream; my feet felt like two balloons | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: I had a dream; my feet felt like two balloons

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

I did something this week that I have not done in years. It felt longer than that. I caught the Snowmass shuttle from my Snowmass neighborhood to go skiing on Snowmass. The last time I did it the bus had ski racks and the tips of my kids' skis had edgy-wedgies attached. I stood at the door for a moment too long looking confused and the driver smiled like he was reading my mind. "You can bring them on."

So there I sat, holding my skis between my knees, feeling like I shouldn't be feeling guilty about it. Once I saw how quickly passengers got on and off the bus keeping possession of their skis through the process, I marveled at the ingeniousness of the change. Plus, nobody had to shoulder skis covered with slushy road grime once they disembarked. Why did buses ever have ski racks?

Right then, my desire to be recognized as a local in my own hometown was freeze-dried for future dreaming. I was clueless. I knew it. The bus driver knew it. Everyone on that bus sensed it. They believed I was one of them, and for good reason — I was one of them. If any had been here even a week and skied every day of it, they had racked up more days on Snowmass in the past decade than I have.

I wondered if I had to get off at the transit center, which had not existed the last time I rode the bus, or if the bus still went to the mall, as it did in the old days. I decided not to ask and play it cool instead. If fate should take me past this stop and back to where I started, at least I could get into my car and drive to Aspen Mountain, per usual. That sacred place is to me as Cheers is to Norm sitting at the end of the bar.

Fate may not have been kind, but it was resolute. The bus continued to the mall and dumped its load. I was destined to ski the gigantic bolt of white corduroy rolled out above my home.

It was not completely by chance that I turned the page on the regular Sunday morning playbook. The previous Thursday evening, I had dinner with the local football chain gang. We meet in the winter to discuss any changes in the rule that a gain of 10 yards equals a first down. There never has been, but we play it safe.

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It turns out that my comrades in chains are big fans of skiing on Snowmass. Ken has always liked it. Tim, a recent transplant from Aspen and a Highlands diehard, said Snowmass had the steepest s— around. Dewayne, who builds more than he skis out here, agreed anyway. Bill, voting by proxy, went along with the majority. I listened to the clowns and decided to join the circus.

It was snowing hard. It was windy up high. The lifts had been stopping frequently. I heard the avalanche bombs going off at regular intervals. I got to the top of the Big Burn and the only thing worth skiing that was open was KT Gully. It was a few inches of powder on top of frozen crud, satisfyingly challenging, but, if this was going to be the highlight, I was ready to empty the test tube.

Back up the Burlingame lift, it was even windier than the first lap. Amazingly enough, the patrol had opened AMF for 15 minutes. A group of three local middle schoolers was braving the ground blizzard and heading that way. Above the roar of the wind, I asked if I could follow and they nodded their hooded heads.

The gale practically blew us across the trail. At the top I was nervous. I could not remember how it started. In my mind I had it confused with Gowdy's and I was afraid to launch blindly. I made one tepid turn. After it sloughed, I made another. Then another, and another. I had never skied untracked powder blinded by the white, but I highly recommend it!

I went on to find Rock Island, The Cookies and other goodies I do not know the names of. There was plenty of cruising with plenty of new snow on top. I won't bore you with a turn by turn account, because chances are you already know how it is out here. I had a blast! I saw a new side of Snowmass in zero visibility. It was like a dream. I wonder if I will remember any of this next weekend.

Roger Marolt is not an Aspen Mountain snob, but he is used to the five-star skiing there. Email at rogermarolt@gmail.com.

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