Aspen Princess: Happy New Year, Kitty Cats!
Time to make all those reservations — I mean resolutions — you won’t keep, to start those diets that will only screw up your metabolism and to aim to change things about yourself that, let’s be honest, will never change. Most likely, you’ll keep forgetting to write “2015” on your checks for at least two weeks, and that’s about it.
If you buy the hype, you will need reservations more than resolutions because, in case you haven’t noticed, town is at capacity and even the billionaires are having a hard time landing in Aspen. Our little airport is so congested with private-jet traffic that the commercial flights (the ones that are actually on a schedule) can’t land and end up circling around until they get rerouted to Grand Junction or end up right back where they started in Denver.
Just trying to fathom what each of these aircraft represents in terms of cost is mind-boggling and, frankly, kind of gross when you consider the vast resources being expended so the ultra-wealthy can enjoy the privilege of traveling comfortably. What makes that even more offensive are the horrendous conditions the rest of us are forced to travel under, especially those people who want to add “New Year’s in Aspen” to their bucket lists but aren’t lucky enough to know someone who can get them here in style.
Except maybe for my friend Ashley.
“I might be coming to Aspen,” she said, the Southern twang still detectable after living for more than 20 years in San Diego.
This was highly unexpected. Ashley is a tropical animal, a surfer with white-blond hair to her waist and a lithe, lean body with no body fat. She is the kind of petite that means shopping in the kid’s section, like she did for the leopard-print jeans from Target she wore last night. She has high cheekbones, bright green eyes and dimples that fire on both cheeks when she smiles.
She married a tall, skinny surfer dude, an artist with a beard and long, shaggy, blond hair that’s never combed and that’s bleached on the ends but somehow still looks good. Together they made a little surfer baby named Noah, who is now 10 years old and had never seen snow.
“When are you coming?” I asked, holding my breath. Ashley had only been to Aspen once, and that was for my wedding.
“Tomorrow,” she said nonchalantly, as if this were as simple as a jaunt to the grocery store.
It turned out she had the chance to fly in on a private jet with a friend who worked for a private-jet company. She boarded the plane at Carlsbad airport and (drumroll, please) ended up landing in Rifle on account of too much traffic coming into Aspen.
Anyhoo, Team Goofy (the whole family surfs goofy foot, with their right foot forward) finally made it, and it was funny just to see her bundled up in so many clothes. Noah was out in the yard within minutes of his arrival with a plastic sled in tow, finally getting to see what all this white stuff on the ground was about.
I won’t hesitate to admit that I was looking forward to seeing Ashley out of her element and to be the one to teach her about the mountains the way she had schooled me about the ocean. I learned to surf from her, watching the way she’d swing her arms wildly about on the takeoff like a little spider, kicking her feet and propelling herself into the face of the wave the same way every time, smooth and efficient with no hesitation or fear. I remember seeing the way she maneuvered her board with her back foot, carving through the water the way I’d ride powder on my snowboard, and finally understanding how to turn on a wave.
“What do you look at when you’re taking off on a wave?” she asked me one day when we were out in the lineup together.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess I’m looking down.”
“You need to look at the wave and decide where you want to go,” she instructed.
“You mean like, pick your line?” I asked.
She nodded, her eyes aglow with enthusiasm and mutual understanding. She taught me the single biggest thing I needed to know. So from then on, I might not have surfed that well, but at least I surfed with my eyes open.
So imagine my disappointment when, within 30 seconds on cross-country skis, she was nailing every downhill reserved for laughable wipeouts with grace and ease. When she got off the lift at Buttermilk, her first time snowboarding in 10 years, and didn’t even bobble. When it became clear, within a few short hours, that this family of beautiful surfers didn’t need the dang bunny hill. When my silver Bogner jacket, the one with the fur-lined hood, the one that never fit me quite right but cost a million dollars, looked amazing on her, like she was the one meant to wear it all along. When my favorite pink Volcom snowboarding pants, the ones that fit me for about 10 minutes when I was smoking more than I was eating, fit her the way they’re supposed to, loose on the hips with room in the leg.
Yes, town is insanely crowded and the traffic is insane and the private jets are over-the-top and in-your-face with their opulence, but it was one of those needle-nose Citations that brought my dear goddess of a friend here, and for that I am grateful.
If there’s one thing Ashley has taught me in the 20 years we’ve been friends, it’s that I don’t need resolutions or false fresh starts or fad diets to be the best I can be. I just have to open my eyes and drop in.
The Aspen Princess wishes you and yours a happy new year. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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