Aspen Princess: Where did the winter go?
I would say I’m happy to see spring, only it felt like winter never really arrived.
It’s like when you go to a party expecting to see someone and they never show. You try to have a good time anyway, enjoy the people who are there and whatever else is going on, but you can’t ever really seem to push it out of your mind that the one person you were hoping to see isn’t there. You have fun in a way, but there is still a part of you that feels disappointed.
That’s what this season felt like.
When December and then January passed without any real snow, I was able to rationalize the various reasons why it didn’t bother me: I have a 2-year-old, so I’m not skiing that much, anyway. I live downvalley, so it’s not like I’ve sacrificed a lot to be close to the lifts. I don’t have to put up with the annoyances the ski season brings (traffic, tourists, et al.) without getting the goods. I’ve seen my fair share of powder days, I’m good. It’s Colorado, it will snow again.
I knew it was bad when I ran into Christy Mahon at Clark’s Market back in January and she was complaining about the lack of snow, not just in Colorado, but everywhere. Christy Mahon never complains, not ever. So that was bad.
It did snow, eventually. Of course it did.
I had one of the best powder days of the year at Snowmass, where I was skiing with my best friend and her 9-year-old twin boys. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to snowboard on a powder day in all that playful terrain, the double fall lines and the easy pitches and the perfectly spaced trees that feel like they were made for snowboarding. It’s such a big area with long runs that, when you don’t know exactly where you are at all times, seem to go on forever.
I’m such a Bowl rat, it doesn’t even occur to me to go anywhere else. I don’t even care about the snow conditions. I just love being up there. I love the way my lungs burn and my fingers swell up and feel all fat in my gloves as I top out just above 12,000 feet. I love the lightheadedness and the reward that comes with the effort. I love stopping by ski patrol headquarters and pretending I need something. It is, and always will be, one of my favorite places in the valley.
But this year, circumstances changed and I found myself spending most of my time at Elk Meadows, which is the best place ever if you have a 2-year-old who is learning to ski. It’s comfortable, convenient and pleasant. It’s always warm and beach-like, and whoever decided to put upholstered seating on the patio deserves a medal (unlike the person who came up with the idea to make little shopping carts for “customers in training” at Whole Foods, which is a nightmare for anyone with a little boy under the age of 4). It’s got to be one of the more scenic beginner areas anywhere in the world.
Let’s just put it this way: If you’re sacrificing Bowl laps to teach your kid how to ski, it’s the bomb.
It turns out that teaching your kid to ski doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. It’s a thrill. It makes your heart expand and your cheeks hurt from smiling. In the 400 videos we shot of babe doing essentially the same thing, I have this super-shrill, high-pitched voice as I cheer my kid on like a crazy person because I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I didn’t think that at 2 he’d be able to stand up on his own. I expected he’d be all flimsy and bendy and need to be held up between our legs. I didn’t think we’d be riding chairlifts, either. But on day one, there we were. Ryan let him go on the leash, and off he went. I bet birds feel the exact same way the first time they see their chicks fly. I guess it doesn’t really matter how deep the base of snow is when you’re focused on grooming your toddler to become a ski bum.
But still. Highlands closing day is Sunday and it doesn’t feel right. My feet aren’t tired of being smashed into snowboard boots and ski boots. I don’t have that bone-weary feeling you get at the end of the season, when your skin aches all over for the sun. I don’t have the urge to pack away all my winter clothes and unearth my spring wardrobe, partly because I’ve been wearing it all along. My platform sneaker collection has seen plenty of days, without socks, down here in the tropics of Basalt. I’ve even left the house on numerous occasions in flip-flops, though mostly for hot yoga and pedicures. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve probably spent just as many days at Iron Mountain Hot Springs as I have skiing, though it appears that everyone who drives on Interstate-70 now pulls off in Glenwood to go there. So much for that.
I guess if there is anything good to come out of this, it’s that every day I did get out in good snow, I felt the thrill of an early season run when the sensations still feel fresh and new again, when your body still craves the movement and the pull of gravity the same way it does food when you are hungry.
If this season did anything, it left us all with an appetite for more. Hopefully we’ll all get our fill next year. Or maybe I spoke too soon — it is springtime in the Rockies, after all. The biggest storm of the season could be yet to come.
The Princess is itching to get to the beach, or at least get on an airplane soon. Email your love to email@example.com.
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Before the season winds down this weekend, I wanted to take the time to extend some appreciation to the Aspen Skiing Co. As always, the grooming has been exceptional and the ski patrol has done…