An early Christmas |

An early Christmas

For most people the perfect Christmas features family, friends, a magical winter wonderland with freshly fallen snow and a little something for the stocking.

On a recent Monday morning I deplaned at Sardy Field, as is my custom this time of year. As I made my way through the terminal, I heard one of the sound bites that they play over the audio system featuring local Aspen celebs extolling the virtues of our town. “Aspen is the best place in the world to live,” exclaimed skier Christin Cooper in her promo. Always glad to be home, I silently agreed.

As I got to the parking lot, I began to see familiar faces. There were Mike and Doug, the guys who run the airport. Next up came my buddy Andy who was picking up an out-of-towner. Having been away, I had not seen these folks recently, and it was like a homecoming to get to slow down and say hello to friends.

Within a few minutes, my wife showed up. A vision with blonde hair and hazel eyes, she is my family. While there are other blondes in this town, none is as beautiful as my baby, and every time I see her my soul heats up.

We headed into town to run some errands and stop at the post office. Not even out of the car, we begin to run into still more friends. There was Mindy and her dog Ruby, getting ready for a romp on the Rio Grande Trail. Inside, more friends, just getting their mail, but still, stopping to chat and catch up. I felt like I was home with folks I care about.

Since the sun was shining, a run on the Rio Grande seemed to be a good idea, so after changing clothes in the parking lot, I hit the trail. Whether it was the altitude or the fresh snow, I don’t know, but something took my breath away.

The sky was a soft Carolina blue (for those of you who know Tar Heels), every tree was coated, every branch wrapped in snow. The river was still in its early winter freeze with smooth ice at the edge of the riverbank, framing the torrent in the narrowing channel. Every river rock was coated in white, and they looked like soft, plump marshmallows in the water. Each time a butterfly flapped its wings, a distant, nearly imperceptible breeze blew clumps of snow off the trees. With each gust a rainbow would reveal itself in the snow dust as the clumps thumped heavily on the trail in front of me.

Done with my run, the stocking-stuffer became the focal point of my day. I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the great moments of each year comes when I pick up my ski pass. It’s just a rush to know that the entire winter lay ahead and the powder days that will eventually be memories are now just figments of anticipatory imagination. Now that the pass was in hand I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Family, friends, a winter wonderland and a stocking-stuffer. The calendar may indicate Dec. 3, but for me a perfect Christmas came early.

As I drove home I remembered Christin Cooper’s sound bite.

“Aspen rules,” she said. She is oh so right.

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