Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
OK, I admit it. I go both ways.
That can be a tough thing in this town no matter how liberal you think we are. I don’t care if we’ve been hosting Gay Ski Week since the beginning of time. That has nothing whatsoever to do with whether you ski or snowboard, so why even bring it up? Some people wrap their whole identity into their preferred mode of sliding downhill on snow, and I just don’t get it.
So a couple weeks ago I decided to bust out the ol’ skis. It hadn’t snowed in a while but it was super nice out, one of those beach days you don’t want to stay inside for.
The first run I decide to hit is ridge of Bell, just because that traverse is such a pain in the ass on a snowboard. When I’m on skis, I’m all about the traverse. I’m like, “Yeah, baby, let’s travel across the mountain! Let’s go from one side to the other, even it’s just to make like six turns on a 500-vertical-foot steep pitch that runs out to a 5-mile cat track! It’s so totally worth it!”
Ten turns in through the bumps and my feet start screaming so I have to stop and sit down. I’m thinking why anyone in their right mind would even consider putting these torture chambers called ski boots on their feet. I’m thinking I so don’t miss this, not one bit.
But things are going well otherwise. Like, I can ski. And in some ways, there’s no difference between skiing and snowboarding, at least if I don’t think about it. All I see is the fall line in front of me, and where I want to go. Sure, my quads are on fire and my lower back is in spasm and Ryan is laughing at me because he says I ski like Suzy Chapstick, but still. There’s a flow. I’m feeling it.
Next run we head straight over to Walsh’s. My feet don’t hurt anymore and I’m cursing myself for not warming up before doing a top-to-bottom bump run. But it’s not too late. Walsh’s is great. It’s super fun. I actually feel better on the steeps than I do on a mid-angle run. I love being able to separate my feet and use these pole things to keep my balance. The traverse out is not fun or easy as I expected, but at least I have poles.
I’m loving the challenge and the workout. Skiing is ten times more strenuous than snowboarding. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s pretty effortless (as long as it’s not flat) but it’s just easier.
Plus, I can tell it sort of turns Ryan on to see me on skis. I don’t read too far into it, figuring it probably has something to do with the way I stick my butt out. But he’s acting all giddy and smiling like an idiot and panting slightly and I’m loving the attention.
At one point he says, “Honey, we need to get you some real ski pants.”
I’m actually thinking my outfit is perfectly tranny since it’s transitions well from skiing to snowboarding. My jacket is Bogner, for crying out loud. And my pants are by Roxy, which is really intended for teenagers who might not even know their snowual preference yet.
But he’s like, “You need baggier pants.”
And even though I don’t really get where he’s going with this, I love him for saying it because I know he wants me to look more punk than bunny. He is totally the guy that would choose Jennifer Anniston over Angelina Jolie (he even told me that) but that’s another story.
The very next day I head straight up Highland Bowl. I can’t wait to ski it. I want to rip right down the gut just because that’s precisely the place I would not go on my snowboard in these conditions. When there are ruts, even small ones, it’s tough to keep the board flowing through a turn without skipping down the steep fall line. I even find the hike up easier because I get better purchase with my ski boots and every step feels like a leg up.
Skiing the Bowl is awesome. In my mind at least, my feet are super far apart and my uphill knee is bent at like a 90-degree angle as I shred the gnar like I’m Chris Davenport’s twin sister or something. Or maybe I look more like Suzy Chapstick like Ryan says, but I’ll take it.
A few days later, a friend of mine from Minnesota comes to town for his annul sojourn up the Bowl. He’s a snowboarder, so I ditch the skis again and ride with him for the day and it’s fun, too. Maybe it’s because we’re bonding or because I feel so at home on my board, or because I love playing in the lower gullies, but still.
Then I’m back on Ajax and I’m on my board again and I’m frustrated because I’m with skiers who want to ski steeps and bumps and traverse all over the place. I keep saying, “I wish I was on skis,” but that’s not doing anyone any good, especially me.
Then Ryan goes, “They should put a sign at the base of Aspen Mountain that says, ‘open to snowboarders but not recommended.'”
I get all defensive. I’m like, “Ajax is super fun for snowboarding, if you’re with snowboarders!”
The truth is, the “us versus them” mentality is still alive and well. Most people make it a choice, an identity, even a lifestyle. To me it’s really just about a) where you are b) who you’re with and c) what the conditions are like.
It doesn’t matter which way you slide, baby. All that matters is you know how to go down.
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