Andersen: One day, four mountains
I’ll never enter the Power of Four — the toughest uphill/downhill event in Aspen. The Power of Four would have me on all fours, crawling to the finish line.
Still, I like the idea of skiing all four mountains in one day, so I decided to do the Power of Four the easy way — by bus and chairlift. It seemed like the perfect way to use my last pass of the season and get an overview of the upper Roaring Fork resort complex while I was at it.
I mentioned the idea to a few friends, but got lukewarm replies. The only one to latch onto the concept was my stalwart buddy Michael, a hale-fellow-well-met who once agreed to circumnavigate the Flat Tops with me by bicycle.
Ever since surviving that weeklong cycling odyssey, MT has been game for almost any absurd game plan originating from my fertile imagination. I count this as a sign of deep friendship, blind trust and terminal naivete.
Getting out of a warm bed early that Sunday morning was the first challenge. My stirring did not go unnoticed by my slumbering wife, who mumbled a warning, “Unless the house is on fire, don’t wake me.”
I tiptoed through a meager breakfast of cold cereal and weak coffee, only to knock over my skis in the hallway with a terrible clatter. I was out the door before serious spousal repercussions occurred, picked up MT and together caught the upvalley BRT.
The first lift up Aspen Mountain was a walk-on, despite a few inches of fresh snow and a bluebird day. The Ajax crowd, still in deep REMs, apparently was too jaded this late in the season and too effete by nature to make an early start for anything under a foot of pow.
We were kings of the hill for several top-to-bottom runs, arcing down Copper, then down Ruthies, dancing along with gravity on ballroom groomers. Skiing this historic mountain on a perfect spring day, I envisioned myself as a blend of Friedl Pfeiffer and George Hamilton. Talk of delusion! But that’s the fatal spell of Aspen.
We caught a bus to Highlands, arriving to a scene best described as the apogee of athletic-youth culture. This was evidenced by “Highlands Powder Posse” members exulting over the number of laps they already had done in the bowl while techno music blasted from lifty boomboxes.
Shouldering our skis, we marched in line with them up the windswept ridge, balancing precariously on the narrow, boot-packed trail, the void dropping off below us in a head-spinning plunge.
After taking in the views, we skied off the summit and plunged into the enormity of what has to be one of the great ski runs. Our hearts pounding like drums and our lungs pumping like bellows, we supped from the bowl the spiritual tonic of unfettered elation. How high can you get on skis?
The next bus took us to the Aspen Recreation Center, from where we skied across the high bridge over Maroon Creek and caught the chair at Tiehack. Suddenly we were among hoards of Obermeyer-clad munchkins skiing in conga lines behind playful instructors or tucking in front of cautioning parents, all celebrating a spring Sunday with unfettered enthusiasm.
The West Buttermilk parking lot had all the hallmarks of a beach party, complete with barbecues, beer, burgers and brats. The mountain air was scented with alluring fragrances that called to us like the Sirens that beckoned to mast-bound Odysseus. Somehow we resisted the carnal temptations and marshaled on.
The next bus took us to Snowmass where we had just enough time to ride to the top of the Burn and take in one of the most expansive ski mountains in the U.S. We had the upper mountain to ourselves and made huge arcing turns across miles of open runs, through gladed forests and finally to the slushy morass of Fanny Hill, where skiers of all stripes were congregated en masse.
Our day ended with the bus back to Basalt and a realization that the Power of Four needn’t punish, cripple or intimidate. Doing it our way added up to a beautiful four-mountain day.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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