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Uphill options

Charles Agar

Why would anyone trudge around on cross-country skis when there are comfortable, high-speed lifts servicing miles and miles of some of the best alpine terrain in the known universe here in Aspen? I found out last weekend.Ever since I got a blurry photo of my melon taken at the base of the gondola in November and hung my premier pass from my ski jacket, I’ve felt like “Charlie with a golden ticket” to Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory on the four mountains around Aspen.But I’ve been missing something: aerobic exercise.I’m in good ski shape, and can shred the mountain top to bottom no problem, but Little Annie’s meals and Johnny McGuire’s sandwiches seasoned with stories of on-mountain epic moments aren’t the greatest fitness regime.So in hope of fulfilling my same old New Year’s resolution – to get all fit and mean like Bruce Lee, or something – that I dusted off my nordic skis this week.My friend Rich, who cross-country skis almost every day, was shocked when I finally said “yes” to an invite to join him on the Aspen High School course.Sure, the high school’s crack nordic team skating by was a shot to my confidence, but as soon as I clicked in and skated around it felt great. As we followed a steep uphill track alongside the high school’s chairlift to Highlands, Rich ratcheted up the two grooves of the traditional tracks, while I daffy-ducked up the steep groomed in a herringbone step.Out of breath and having stopped twice to lose a layer, I finally rounded the top and followed Rich past a clutch of über-homes (do those things just breed or something?) and down Zoom Flume, a good long stretch of downhill.There’s something fun and ridiculous about skiing downhill on nordic gear like Bambi-on-ice, and after a fall or two and plenty of struggling up and down the more than 5 km course, we paused on a ridge for a downvalley light show of a sunset.A great workout and another good (and free) option in a valley I’m learning is the Chuck E. Cheese of the outdoor sports world.


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