And just like that, we’re as pure as the driven …
December 5, 2007
Thank God for the snow.
Oh sure, for the ski season, of course. The economic havoc of a winter without snow is terrible to contemplate.
So many of us depend on the snow for our living. A winter drought can cause deep and permanent pain. So thank God for the snow.
But that’s not what I’m really thinking about right now. I’m thinking about Aspen itself, not Aspen the economic engine of the valley. Somehow, the town makes a lot more sense with a thick coating of snow.
Without snow on the ground, the World Cup banners on Main Street look pathetic; the ski runs on the face of Aspen Mountain seem naked, foolish.
When the snow finally falls, the town can breath a sigh of relief and recognize itself. It’s like looking in the mirror after having off an ill-considered beard and thinking, “Yes! That’s who I am.”
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The mounds of unplowed snow that line the curbs may be annoying, but they belong here. The ice may be a hazard, but it’s the way it ought to be.
That coating of snow is a solid reminder of what this town is supposed to be: a ski town. Not a real estate investment. Not a battleground for wallets and egos and lawyers. Not a squabble over power. Not a free-form bitch-fest in the mountains.
A ski town.
Oh, I know. It’s more than that, more than just a ski town. But, still, a ski town ” at least a ski town.
And even as I write those words, I feel that honesty requires me to note very clearly that I don’t ski all that much anymore.
I wasn’t a skier at all when I moved here in my late 20s. And once I began skiing I still was never good enough or dedicated enough to be a 100-days-a-winter skier. And now the years of 50-day winters are well behind me.
I’ll be amazed if I hit 20 days this winter.
But a ski town ” a genuine ski town ” is more than just a place where you can ski.
You know that stuff about Water Paepcke’s “Aspen Idea” ” a town to nourish the body mind and spirit.
Well, skiing wraps all of that into one. Sure, it’s great to have the intellectual stimulation of The Aspen Institute and the Ideas Festival. And the spiritual enlargement of the Music Festival, the ballet, the art museum … you know, all that stuff.
But a great day of skiing does it all. A day on the mountain challenges and strengthens body, mind and spirit.
The beauty of the mountains, the fierce chill of the air. The balance and tension of the ski’s edge, carving underfoot. The excitement of reacting faster than you can think, faster than you can be excited about it. The triumph of doing something you might not be able to do, of doing it and escaping the high price of failure.
Body, mind and spirit.
And if you don’t know what I’m talking about … well, never mind. This column isn’t for you. (And not to be snotty, but I have to wonder whether this town is for you either.)
But it’s more than that.
There’s something about a thick white blanket of snow that covers a multitude of sins. Yes, it only covers them for a while, as we realize every spring when the snows finally melt to reveal the tawdry filth of Aspen’s alleys. But, then again, here in Aspen, as we realize every April, snow can endure ad spring can be a long time coming.
As I have mentioned in the past, legend has it that an Aspen surveying company back in the 1960s and ’70s had as its unofficial motto, “Who’s gonna know when there’s six feet of snow.”
For those sloppy surveyors, it meant that their careless errors would be concealed by the drifts. But for the rest of us ” now as it was then ” that blanket of snow can erase a multitude of sins and careless errors of every kind. It can blanket the ugliness that spews from those fights over money and ego, those nasty games of King of the Mountain.
The clouds sweep in and we all become pure as the driven snow.
Snow is, as someone said (in a different context), a sleep and a forgetting. Snow is forgiveness.
And so I say, again, thank God for that.
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