Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

So now that the mountain’s opened, I’m just wondering: How the hell did we live without it?

With all that fun I was having in the offseason between watching Food Network shows and running on the Rio Grande Trail in lung-burning cold temperatures and hanging out at the Eagles Club watching Vikings games with all those crazy Minnesota girls, it’s hard to believe we could fit skiing and snowboarding into our busy schedules.

What’s crazy is how I could forget how much I love being up there. But at the same time, at the beginning of every season, I get to fall in love with it all over again.

Last week we had our first full weekend at home since the lifts opened, and I felt like we were on vacation only to realize this is our life. It never ceases to amaze me this Aspen lifestyle I have when my bank account is like a tire with a slow leak. No matter how many times I fill it back up with air, it’s eventually going to go flat again. That’s when life outside our little apartment tends to come to a grinding halt.

But when you have that little piece of magnetized plastic in your pocket and the pretty light at the turnstile turns green every time you walk by it, the credit never runs out. I love that cool green light and the sound it makes. To think we were alive when they had wire wickets and sticker tickets with the dates stamped on them. And lifties who would sometimes/sometimes not punch a hole in it to designate it as used. It’s no wonder the technology evolved, what with us running everyone up the mountain on one jacket or managing to dodge the hole puncher dude in order to squeeze another day or two out of it.

Since we can see Ajax out our window with this billion-dollar view we get for like, thousands, we decide to head up the gondie on Saturday. My favorite thing about Aspen Mountain is the Sundeck, which reminds me of the country club we used to belong to when I was a kid. You’d go to the pool and everyone would be there, and it would be this big social scene. We’d swim and play around on the diving board and do our thing, and then we’d all go to the clubhouse for lunch. The only difference is we don’t have an account at the Sundeck our parents pay for, but still. I love running into people I haven’t seen in a while and maybe even entirely forgot about.

On this particular day we ran into Bob “Slo Man” Sloezen, the Highlands ski patroller who has been here for like 80 years even though he’s in his 50s. He’s well known and loved by everyone in this town not only for his impressive roster of accomplishments in mountaineering (climbing Everest, Denali, et al.) but also his popularity with the ladies. He is the Man, and can rock the whole scraggly beard and yin-yang earring like no other. Being with him was like being with a celebrity because everywhere we went people were calling his name and the paparazzi followed us all the livelong day, flashbulbs going off in our faces left and right. So we felt extra special to have Slo Man to ourselves. Love you, Bob!

My second favorite thing to socializing at the Sundeck is drinking coffee or beer depending on my mood (or both) and enjoying its rapid and intensified entrance and absorption into my blood stream at 11,000 feet.

The next thing you know it’s time for dinner, and we’re actually out for once instead of sitting at home watching Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown” and becoming inspired to cook something we shouldn’t actually eat, like apple pie or meatloaf. So we end up at Little Annie’s, where we run into our 10 best friends we hadn’t made plans with and end up staying out late even though we said we weren’t going to. The good news on the Little Annie’s front is they’re lowering the price of their burger to (get this) below $10. Dirtbag locals, rejoice! I haven’t seen a burger for under $10, outside the Hickory House, since the J Bar drove everybody out by raising their prices so if you wanted something like a lettuce leaf, it was an extra $2.

Getting back to the skiing, Sunday had us out on the hill once again and able to make our first official apres appearance at 39 Degrees, just in time to watch the Saints come marching in (when there is some emotional context behind it, like seeing the Phoenix rise, I’m all about football). Even I can admit those new waitress uniforms are hot, hot, hot, and the menu is one of the best in town. We got a chance to exercise our foodie vernacular after eating the “nachos,” fresh-made potato chips with blue cheese fondue, bacon, scallions, and tomatoes. Salty and savory, it’s like a fat-and-salt sundae. The Sky is everything I love about Aspen: a touch of class and a touch of sass. Don’t forget to tip your waitress – she had to work hard to squeeze into that tight little black dress.

On Sunday I threw my back out trying to show off in front of Ryan’s skier friends. I like to pretend I can keep up with them, straight running anytime I think I can pull it off without blowing up. I manage a couple of high-speed top-to-bottoms even though my feet were cramping and my legs shaking and it was only my second day on the hill. Of course I was on the catwalk (cat track?) when I felt something tweak and I’ve been laid up ever since.

Oh well you know what they say. No pain, no gain. Or maybe it hurts so good?

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