Aspen Princess: It’s all uphill from here
December 11, 2014
Like skinny jeans, it appears the sport of uphill skiing is here to stay.
The idea of walking up a mountain with skis strapped to my feet appealed to me almost as much as skintight jeans. Let's just say neither is preferable for the short-legged breed.
So while all you skinny go-getter types were running up Aspen Mountain on Saturday night, being both athletic and charitable, I was at a dinner party with a pug, a pregnant lady and two gay guys, eating homemade pizza and drinking way too much beer.
Yes, I saw all the photos you posted on Facebook with your wholesome smiles and your race numbers wrapped around your gazelle-like legs, arm in arm with your community of 500-plus gorgeous athletic friends who ran up the mountain with you. Yes, I know it took you winners just over an hour even though in the summer in running shoes it takes me just under two, and that's with my heart slamming into my chest so hard I'm afraid it might break all my ribs and I might die.
I know you weren't skinning up. I know it was firm enough to use stabilizers. I know, I know, I know.
So this uphill thing: Last year, I got hooked up with a set of Dynafit bindings, and I have to admit that it was a game-changer for me. Skinning no longer felt like dragging a ball and chain up the mountain so much as dragging my own ass up the mountain. Don't get me wrong — it's still a chore, but at least the heavy load is more evenly distributed and not just attached to the bottoms of my feet.
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There were even stretches when I'd forget what I was doing altogether, so entranced was I by the rhythm of my own heart and legs that I lost track of time and suddenly discovered I'd covered a lot of ground.
So I get it. I do.
But like all things Aspen, you can't just skin up the mountain. Now you have to do it longer, faster and with all kinds of technical, lightweight equipment and skintight Lycra and wraparound glasses and the almighty hydration pack.
So there I was, out there just trying to enjoy the day, to enjoy that feeling like you're asleep even though you're awake and your body is working really hard because you're in the zone, you know? And then one by one, these alien-looking creatures with shorter skis came blasting by me and disappeared over the horizon within seconds because they were going that much faster than I was. They looked sort of awkward in the tight-fitting clothing and the short skis and the way they kind of ran up the mountain instead of gliding, like scuba divers on the beach flopping around in rubber fins, just without a snorkel. Even though they looked utterly ridiculous, they were going at least twice as fast as I was. I definitely did not see anyone else around when I started, and I did not see them coming, and then I only saw them for a few seconds before they passed me, and then I couldn't see them anymore at all. So yeah, they were going kind of fast.
In what is so not true princess fashion, I have sort of patched together this setup with skis that are 10 years old and skins I got maybe a season later, and I don't remember when I got my boots, but it wasn't that recently. The only new things I have are the bindings.
Suffice it to say, this is not a lightweight setup. But still, I'm not going to use that as an excuse. As I slowly ascend the mountain at a pace that is probably only just slightly faster than crawling on my hands and knees, I tell myself I am getting a better workout. I am getting stronger than the pelican-looking guy who just passed me going so fast that his skin was stretched taut across his face, or maybe that's just because he doesn't actually eat — it's hard to be sure.
I count my steps to distract myself from the effort, like a prisoner who draws lines on the wall for each day they're in jail. It is so much fun.
Recently I went skinning at Highlands with my friend Tim. He gave me lots of tips. It kind of reminded me of yoga when they teach you how to breathe, only he was teaching me how to walk.
Just as I was wondering, "Is this ever going to end?" we'd reached the Merry-Go-Round, where I was feeling very merry because that's also where we'd planned to turn around.
So there I was, feeling pretty proud of myself. I thought maybe I would allow myself a half of a Luna bar as a reward or maybe a couple of strawberry-flavored Shot Blocks. I had earned those 90 calories! Just as I was peeling back the wrapper and anticipating that first delicious bite of sugarcoated hay, I saw a couple pass us and continue up the steep run above, higher, faster, longer. I folded the wrapper over the uneaten bar and tossed it into my pack. Only wussies go halfway up the mountain — no wonder I'm so slow.
Just when I started wondering how this could possibly get any more fun, we got to ski down, following a pristine ribbon of plush corduroy on a mountain we had all to ourselves. Considering the high temperatures and the lack of any new snow, it was as good as it gets.
Tim quoted a friend of his who said, "There is no such thing as bad snow conditions for the uphill skier." And despite my blown-out hip flexors and the tendonitis flare-up on my left Achilles tendon, I had to agree.
Who needs a chairlift? It's become increasingly clear; it's all uphill from here.
The Princess is thinking about going Paleo. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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