Aspen Princess: With each new year, everything really is awesome
The Aspen Princess
Happy New Year, Aspen!
Just in case you weren’t at the coolest party, let me clue you in on a little secret. It’s not about hype of New Year’s Eve, but the clarity and optimism of New Year’s Day.
When I met Ryan on New Year’s Eve 11 years ago and we got together officially (however you choose to define that) just after midnight on January 1, we henceforth considered that our anniversary. From the day we met, we were madly in love and knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. It’s a nauseating story, I know. But I do have a point, so hang in there a little longer.
For years, we celebrated our Jan. 1 anniversary by going for the late seating for lunch at the Pine Creek Cookhouse. We’d enjoy a beautiful cross-country ski followed by two orders of momos with spicy tomato dipping sauce and a memorable lunch. I love the grilled quail salad and Ryan prefers the bison patty melt. There would be lots of drinks, those enormous bloody mary’s with all the fixings, glasses stuffed with huge stalks of celery and doused with hot sauce, chased with hoppy, handcrafted beers in giant pint glasses, or fruity Champagne cocktails. The food was always outstanding, the location as close as I need to get to heaven on Earth. The afternoon sun would bathe the entire dining room in warm light, our cheeks flushed with good food and alcohol.
We’d stuff ourselves silly and get a solid buzz on before heading out for the ski back in the shadows of a midwinter afternoon. We’d always hike up to take that black diamond run, the one with the long downhill that’s bound to provide some cheap entertainment via a spectacular wipeout or two.
We got engaged up there exactly two years after we met, on Jan. 1, 2011. It was freezing cold. Every mile we drove up Castle Creek, the temperature dropped another degree. By the time we pulled up to Ashcroft, it was 10 below zero. Ryan was totally freaking out. We’d brought our 108-pound German shepherd, George, with us and were worried how he’d fare in the freezing-cold temperatures, but Ryan had wanted him to be part of our big moment.
Since we had our dog with us, we had to ski on the road. I was surprised to discover I didn’t really notice the cold. That’s something Ryan and I had in common from the start — we are both built like bears and somewhat resilient to the cold. Once we got moving, I forgot all about it, but Ryan seemed agitated, almost impatient.
“Oh, screw it,” he muttered and stopped dead in his tracks. He spun around, flipping his skis upright to turn to face me. He got down on one knee and brandished the little velvet box girls dream about all their lives.
He opened it and inside was a ring so beautiful, it took my breath away.
After a beat or two, I realized I wasn’t listening to a word he was saying. I had to shake myself out of my stupor. As his words came into focus, I could tell from his tone he was about to wrap up the speech that I’d missed.
“Will you be my partner in crime for the rest of my life?” he said, bracing for the big finale. “Will you marry me?”
You know I said yes, hugged him, cried and then admired my new ring. I could not take my eyes off it; my birth stone, a large aquamarine set in diamonds on a band with diamonds and emeralds, his birthstone. I still wear it every day and love it now as much as I did then, even if it will never shine as brightly as it did that day.
We went on to the Cookhouse and told everyone who would listen that we just got engaged. We drank insanely expensive Champagne. On the ski back, everyone in the horse-drawn sleigh cheered for us. It was magical all around.
For many years, we celebrated that day, New Year’s Day, with our annual lunch at the Cookhouse. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me; not only because we got engaged, but because it shifted our New Year’s celebration from the night before to the actual first day of the year, which made so much more sense. Why start the year off with a horrible hangover? Why not celebrate the New Year on the day the new year actually begins? After many years of disastrous New Year’s Eve experiences (I liked to call them “bad prom nights” because I almost always got embarrassingly drunk, cried and then puked, mascara running down my cheeks, eyes bloodshot, hair a rat’s nest. I was really pathetic), this was a revelation.
Our tradition waned over the years, mostly because the Pine Creek Cookhouse got so crazy and crowded, it was almost impossible to get a reservation (though we still love it very much and always will, so help me god), so we’d go to Highlands instead and hike the Bowl. Then we moved downvalley and turned to other venues, like Avalanche Ranch (don’t tell anyone, but even if you do, they limit the number of people who can go there, thank god). Then we had Levi, and now we do stuff like go sledding until naptime. It’s a real party!
No, I wasn’t at the fireworks display or at any of the cool parties. I did make a special meal, seafood cioppino with lemon gremolata toast, and even indulged in a few strong local IPAs while I cooked. Dinner was over by 7, and by 8 we were piled on the couch with Levi and the two pugs watching the Lego movie for the umpteenth time. The movie’s theme song summed it up quite nicely: “Everything is awesome.”
The Princess is ready for a cleanse. Email your love to email@example.com.
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Like the trails we hike and ride upon, our forest journeys can be capricious, going down an intriguing path, unintended in the beginning, but bringing a sweet, or bitter, experience before we’re through.