Marolt: Making fun from scratch
November 18, 2014
We got that first real snowstorm of the season. Although it is enough to coax Aspen Skiing Co. into firing up the lifts a little early, no matter how hard it dumps, it's impossible to get them going immediately. So much for structured winter playtime.
Of course kids get out with their dusty sleds on all sections of neighborhood lawns with a hint of pitch. Then they construct a few frosty white forts, roll some snowman body parts, and launch icy grenades at one another until somebody catches one on a numbed cheek that you would think might be deadened to pain, but somehow ends up stinging way more than someone who has never been pegged with one on that rosy red bull's-eye can imagine. Most of the rest of us wander around the house from window to window with a coffee cup soothing our palms and remarking at each stop, "Wow, would you look how hard it's snowing now!"
I remember the days when my own kids were young and gave me an excuse to go out and play in that wonderful spontaneous way. Even though it would amount to the same thing if I went out there today by myself, or worse with a couple of friends, and we started digging snow tunnels and shoring up bobsled courses down the snowbanks, we'd get committed. I miss those days when I could use my kids as cover and we'd play in the snow until our snowpants froze and fingers got so coldly clumsy that we'd need help unzipping our jackets after we reached the point where it was either go inside or freeze to death; always a tough call.
Then there are those who appear to be half grown-up and half kid who just don't give a dang what normal people think. I saw a few in Town Park who started lurking around the mounds and pit landscape feature just west of the combination jungle gym/slide sometime early Saturday morning. So early, in fact, that I doubt they had been out drinking the night before, at least not that much.
What it appeared they were doing was shoveling snow into piles here and packing it out there. What they were trying to accomplish was impossible to tell.
By mid-afternoon, running an errand not important enough to recall, I could see they had made some sort of ramps and jumps course through the mounds and pit. It had to be for tiny kids. The drop from the top of any of the mounds to the bottom of the pit can't be more than 10 feet. The pit can't be more than 30 feet across. Maybe it was going to be a toddler's first day on skis — schuss down into a very non-Highlandish Bowl; no brakes necessary!
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Then, Sunday afternoon, after being cooped up with the Broncos the better part of a wasted morning, I headed to the rec center to force my juices through my veins in a commonly prescribed and structured form of scripted adult exercise. On the road next to the park was a pickup with a long rope tied to the bumper and a few snowboards leaning against picnic tables.
Now it was obvious! There was a protective wrap of somebody's sacrificed winter coat around the trunk of a tree that would act as a pulley. The truck was going to fly down the road and tow these people along a flat ramp to work up some speed so they could fly up and down the ramps and jumps they had built!
I had to stop and watch and ended up glad that I did. First of all, after a few tries, the stunt actually worked. Secondly, watching made me remember that my friends and I used to do this kind of stuff on skis before the lifts opened on jumps we made on golf course greens (belated apology to the greens keeper) — at a time when I was legally an adult but still lived with a kid's heart beating in my chest.
A blizzard of memories drifted back. I observed that, if they drove the truck the other direction and didn't use the tree for a pulley, they could steer their boards perpendicular to the direction of the truck and fly down their snowy track waterski-style, probably leveraging up enough speed to clear the entire gap from mound to mound. They liked that idea.
Unfortunately my rigid adult schedule didn't permit me to stick around to see them try it. I was satisfied, though; my brain can still survey a scene like that and totally relate to the childlike process.
Roger Marolt likes to see people imagining the world as their playground and the playground as their world on a snowy, offseason weekend. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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