Tying one on | AspenTimes.com

Tying one on

Bob Ward
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” We pulled into the parking lot around 7 a.m., and the valley was still deep in shadow. It was right around zero degrees, and Scott and I blamed each other for being there.

But there are some traditions you don’t break, barring a death in the family or a midwinter vacation, and our weekly skin up Tiehack is one of them. Except for a few years that I spent in Utah, we’ve had this weekly wintertime ritual for about 12 years; other friends occasionally come along but mostly it’s just us, and perhaps a dog.

Most of the time it’s an invigorating, early morning pleasure to skin up Buttermilk Mountain and ski down, but some mornings are bone-chilling. The coldest I can remember was 13 below, but we soldiered out of the car and up the hill that day, like all others, knowing we’d feel better once our blood really started pumping. And we did.

In December the trip tends to be colder, not just because of the temperatures but because of the late-rising sun. By the time March rolls around, we usually spend part of the climb in direct sunlight.

These excursions used to occur on the main side of the mountain, but as X Games has gradually taken over the main Buttermilk base, we’ve moved east for the relative quiet and the better ski terrain. We don’t even have the “Buttermilk or Tiehack?” discussion anymore; the Tiehack side is just nicer.

And Wednesday morning was a fine one. The zero-degree temperature was attributable, of course, to the crystal-clear sky. The moon was setting in the west and, as we made our way up a groomed track and then cut through the partially-skied powder on Ptarmigan, we could see the morning sun hitting peaks in the distance, from Basalt Mountain to the Continental Divide.

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The sun had risen above the western ridge of Aspen Mountain by the time we reached the top, and it warmed us as we skinned the final few hundred feet. As we peeled off our skins and buckled our boots for the descent, Pyramid Peak sparkled above Maroon Creek Valley and, as always, we were glad we came.

The feeling only grew when we hit the fluff, some of it deep and uncut, in Timber Doodle Glade.

There is no better start to a day of work.

The Aspen Skiing Co. reported 2 inches of new snow within the last 24 hours at Snowmass and Aspen Mountain, and an inch at Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, as of 3:38 a.m. on Thursday.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s Wednesday afternoon report for the Aspen zone: Above treeline, the avalanche danger is considerable on north, northeast, east, and southeast aspects and moderate on other aspects. The danger is an overall moderate at and below treeline.