Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Forget about food, look out the window, kitties! It’s obvious there is a lot to be thankful for.
I’ve got my list and it starts with the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol. I seriously can’t believe they just open the lifts and let every powder-starved shredder who shows up with a functional beacon to pillage the powder in that big, beautiful temple in the sky called Highlands Bowl for the annual Powder Posse.
I mean, think about it: People will pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for access to untracked, powder-filled terrain and the folks at Highlands just give it to us for free. It means people have to show up for work when it’s still dark out. They have to stand around in the cold and wind to run the lifts and protect our safety. And it means Rich Burkley, the guy who runs operations for all four mountains, has to hike the Bowl and ski it. I mean, talk about a rough day at the office.
My point is, anyone who thinks Aspen is a place for stuck-up rich people has no idea what it really means to live here, a magical place where the best things in life really do come for free.
The best part of Powder Posse is hanging out at PHQ with all the cute, scruffy patrollers. I’ve said it before: These guys (and gals) are the last of a dying breed of mountain men who have the biggest quads and the biggest lungs and are just so cute and cool. I just love the whole duct tape-worn Gore-Tex look and the way they have those vests with the radio strapped to it like a gun holster and the look in their eyes that says, “I’ve seen plenty, and I’m not scared.”
The second best part is seeing Mac Smith out there at the base, handing out waivers and shaking hands and kissing babies like some celebrity or politician. He is just so timeless with the Old West moustache and ruddy cheeks and never seems to age a day. I swear, he’ll be 102 and you’ll still find him there, at the beginning of every season, doing exactly the same thing. He reminds me of another living legend, my friend Weems the Ski Wizard who literally holds the secret to Brilliance and will teach it to you if you let him. So appreciate and behold.
Speaking of living legends, I am also thankful for my accountants, Steve Marolt and Virginia Ford, who both come from important Aspen families and probably have way better things to do than keep little old me out of jail.
It’s just that I got a little behind on my taxes and let me be the first to tell you those people at the IRS can be really mean. You should’ve heard the way this lady spoke to me on the phone. After waiting on hold for like a half-hour, I should have been the one pissed off, but no. This lady went off on me like she’s known me my whole life and could take personal liberty with her little lecture. She sounded like a math teacher or someone who might work in airport security or as a prison guard, like she might hit me with a ruler or perform a cavity search with blue rubber gloves because she thinks I actually have money and might be hiding it.
She was like, “You listen to me, young lady. If you don’t pay up, you are grounded for one month, no car, no cell phone and no visitors. Am I making myself clear?”
So Steve throws on his cape, runs out right into the middle of Mill Street, jumps over Wells Fargo and flies like five circles around Shadow Mountain. And just as I’m about to be splattered on the pavement after being thrown out of a moving gondola by the Tax Man he swoops in, grabs me by the arm and carries me to the top of Highland Bowl on a powder day where the federal tax agents can’t yell at me.
Can you believe that? Wait, there’s more.
So it seems that all my connections in the snowboarding industry have dried up now that I am old and uncool.
For the first time in however many years, I have to buy my own snowboard, like retail. As I’m hiking up the Bowl, a masked man named Travis McClean from the Magical Kingdom of Radio Boardshop passes me. I tell him my dilemma and, poof! The very next day, a snowboard appears as if it were made just for me, black with a pink heart and cross bones and quilted, patent-leather bindings. Needless to say it made me proud and happy to support a local business run by a local native and I hope you will too. Kisses, Travis! Love you!
Just next door to Radio is the Queen. I’m talking about the Queen B herself, Rita Bellino who is solely responsible for helping me keep my priorities straight and my hair straight. Ladies with the Jew Fro listen up: The Brazilian blowout is the best thing that happened to me since the night I met Ryan.
Speaking of Ryan, I have to thank him for every day he makes my life so wonderful, my cheeks hurt from all the laughter, joy and love. And to all the people in my inner circle who still make the effort to communicate with me since I quit Facebook. You know who you are and I love you all very much. And thanks to the female Superheroes in my life, Jennifer Figge (Super Mermaid) and Catherine Lutz (Super Mom) and Caleah Snow (Super Baby). You all inspire me.
Last but not least, thanks to all my readers for your love and support and for not running me out of town. Love you!