A ride in the whambulance | AspenTimes.com

A ride in the whambulance

Alison Berkley

My friend Steve broke his ankle the other day telemark skiing on Ajax. He said the pain was so bad he was dry heaving, but rather than concede to what in his mind is probably some kind of defeat by hitching a ride with ski patrol, he side-slipped all the way from the Face of Bell to the bottom of the mountain, where he was thrown in a plastic cast and put on crutches for six weeks.That might put things into perspective for those of us who are less than pleased with the lack of snowfall so far this season, those of us who need to bitch and moan about rocks and thin coverage and da-da-da, but I’m sure Stevie B. would be more than happy to hear the sound of P-Tex on rock about now. So quit yer whining before we call the Whambulance.Believe you me, I know all about being spoiled and having high standards and unrealistic expectations. And I also know that attitude almost always is what gets between me and a good time. I lived in Jackson Hole for the 1998-99 season and woke up almost every morning to the sound of bombs going off on the mountain. It was like an alarm clock that went off every morning at 6:30 a.m. and said, “Jump out of bed, girl. It’s going to be yet another powder day!” It was simply so good that it ruined me for any other resort. I got used to the endless winter storms, the sick terrain, the untracked snow, and 4,000-plus feet of consistently steep, top-to-bottom vertical that meant never having to suffer through a long traverse. After living in Jackson, I remember being in places like Verbier, Switzerland, thinking the snow was too heavy; in Snowbird, Utah, thinking the runs were too short; in Crested Butte thinking everything was just too damn flat; and cruising my favorite line through the trees in Steamboat with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back thinking it was just too damn easy. That’s about the time I packed up all my stuff and moved back to California to focus on surfing. I dropped out of the snowboarding scene altogether and got a job at a surf magazine and traded the mountains for the beach. Who could complain about boat trips to Fiji, monthlong stints in Hawaii, or working for a guy so cool and good looking it made going to work fun every day? That worked out just fine for a while. But sure enough, I got spoiled once again. I grew tired of two-dimensional surfer boys with four-word vocabularies (Default responses to any/every question: “It’s all good.”). I got frustrated with the excess of plastic-surgery-perfect women (It was like, “Hello? Doesn’t cute with a B-cup count for anything around here?”). And I became bored with static weather and lack of seasons (talk about too much of a good thing – even 70 degrees and sunny gets old in a place where rain makes the evening news). So before bitterness cast its shadow over my little paradise, I packed up all my stuff again (the whole mountains vs. the beach thing was a dilemma that lasted about eight years) and came to Aspen, where I could have it all: a small mountain town, more guys than girls, and enough designer boutiques per capita to rival Madison Avenue.And guess what? It worked. What I would have considered a boring intermediate run before (I’m thinking of Sneaky’s on Snowmass) became the longest left-hand wave I’d ever ridden. I can snap cutback after cutback on that awesome double fall line that is, in my opinion, one of the best runs for snowboarding in the world. What I might have scoffed at as small acreage or short vertical at Aspen Mountain became a plush, even luxurious experience. (Moguls? On a snowboard? When they’re that perfect, hell, yeah!)And what possibly could have been viewed as less-than-perfect conditions at Highlands opening day on Saturday was a holiday, a yearly tradition of locals coming to celebrate the raw energy and immaculate beauty that makes Highlands unique. We’re talking about dancing midafternoon on the deck of Iguana’s with a DJ in a Santa suit; catching a ride up Loge Peak with the coolest-of-all ski patrol; kicking it on the deck at Cloud Nine to admire Pyramid Peak; and bouncing down the super-soft steeps of Deception over and over again. (I don’t know what was going on over at Snyder’s, but we had so much fun on the Oly Bowl side we skied it like 10 times and never got bored.)Here’s a news flash: Snow is beyond anyone’s control – even Mac and his super-dialed crew of gruff, sexy, ski patrol. Those guys work their superhero butts off to get the bowl open for us year after year no matter what the conditions are. Early season conditions – rocks, bare spots, ice patches and what have you – are part of the fun. It’s like making a connection with that person you’re really attracted to and knowing it’s only a matter of time before you’ll end up in the sack. The wait will make it even better in the end.Steve wasn’t sitting around complaining (even if he was throwing back White Russians like they were milkshakes), despite having to crutch around the Aspen Times Christmas party on his peg leg. He just smiled and wagged his head at his misfortune, enjoyed the company of his friends, and rest assured that when he does get the goods almost two months from now, it’ll be worth the wait.We are spoiled. If the rugged and raw of Highlands isn’t your style, you’ve got options. Unlike most resort towns, you’re not committed to one mountain. And that’s the power of more. Love it or leave it.The Princess wants to give a big shout-out to everyone at Highlands who works so hard to make it the local’s choice. E-mail the Princess at alison@berkleymedia.com