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Aspen’s siren

Tony Vagneur

Accolades to the snow gods are rolling in, people are smiling more than usual, and skiing is, as ever, absolutely fantastic. I’ve been away from the “big mountain” for a while, feeding cows and helping ranchers move their operations, but was back in time for Monday’s “official” 10 inches of powder. A stroke of good fortune, I’d say, but I have to admit I was a little off my game. A friend, standing at the top of an untracked Summit, hollered, “Go for it!” and without hesitation or stopping, I launched off the road, grabbed air and hit the soft snow, skiing the top portion as badly as I ever have. It came together about halfway down and the rest of the day became the stuff of history, filed away with all the other unforgettable days on Aspen Mountain. When I was a kid, Aspen Mountain was it, at least if you wanted one with a ski lift. Hopes, dreams, fears, nightmares – all could be imagined – as a young boy looked at the mountain, bathed in the light of a full moon. Unchanged since, she can thrill you to the outer limits when you’re enjoying her charms and spit you out when you’re spent, but from a distance, the siren song beckons, the allure of her ivory skin tantalizing in a way that can prove fatal to fools and ski bums alike. Once in her clutches, as in a romance of the kind that can drive you crazy, there is naught to do but to see it to the end, even though it may take a lifetime to do so. It may be possible that Carbondale, in a different way, could exist without Mount Sopris, but it’s highly unlikely that Aspen could manage without her namesake mountain. It’s a one-sided but symbiotic relationship that has been forged over the years, born of necessity, and certainly it’s true that if Aspen ceased to exist, Aspen Mountain would remain, metamorphosing into something other than what she is today. Forget the misnomer, Ajax. It’s Aspen Mountain, her seductive views first raped and plundered by the hard rock miners seeking treasure within her depths, then pillaged again by the ski enthusiasts, who in that weird way we do, thought they were helping her recover by adding further insult. But, like a strong, indomitable woman, she has survived the revilement, still gives us more than she receives, and has reached the apex of her beauty in this role, becoming our friend, our confidante and our encouragement.Loving women come and go, mostly go, but some stay and marry mad dashing skiers, becoming the more dedicated and better skier of the two, perhaps born of greater motivation, or put-together successful businesses and never leave, not of their own volition. Men who could have risen to the top of esoteric and interesting professions in another world have anchored themselves and their dreams to the success or failure of this town, grateful to have the precious days they do to ski the mountain. As my good friend Bob says, “There are a lot worse addictions in this world.”And then, on Tuesday, the light was flat, without snowflakes in the air; there was a suspicion that the powder had been skied out, and most people stayed home, or so it seemed. It felt to me, however, that the skiing was better on Tuesday than on Monday; just perspective, I suppose, or could it be the whisper of the enticing song, calling me back, keeping me on the hill the rest of the week (which wasn’t bad) and enforcing the knowledge that the decision to not ski is one that must be made on the mountain, not in the comfort of a warm bed. For diversion, Tony Vagneur will be working on his amplitude in the halfpipe at Buttermilk – after the X-Games. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to ajv@sopris.net


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