Makes you ask: ‘What about Bob?’ |

Makes you ask: ‘What about Bob?’

Alison BerkleyAspen, CO Colorado

So the other day I was on “The Local’s Show” on GrassRoots TV with Erik Skarvan talking about the local of the moment, Bob “Sloman” Sloezen. If you’ve read the Aspen Daily News lately, you know that Bob is a longtime Aspen Highlands ski patroller and accomplished mountaineer who is fighting bladder cancer. There’s gonna be this big benefit for him at Bumps next Friday to help pay for his medical bills. You should go.Let me start by saying I love being on Erik’s show because it makes me feel like at least one person still thinks I’m worthy enough to be on TV. I also adore Erik because he is one of the happiest, chattiest people I know and will sit there all the livelong day talking about everything and nothing if you let him. I told him myself that he reminds me of a giant, happy bunny with one ear flopped over his eye, bouncing around town looking for the nearest carrot patch. He’s always smiling and giddy and has lived here forever, forging a career with his passion for outdoor sports with his self owned and operated company, Sun Dog Athletics.I met him in yoga because he was impossible to miss with what has to be the longest arm span in North America. I’d be willing to bet he’s about seven feet from fingertip to fingertip. So when your mat is next to his you feel like you’re doing yoga next to a praying mantis, all legs and arms and no real body fat to speak of, just huge rib bones and these endless limbs. He’s definitely what I would call a true local in the sense that he’s all lifestyle and no money, the guy whose bike cost more than his car, the guy who is more likely to count how many times he’s hiked the Bowl than play the stock market. He’s also somewhat of a character, touting Airboarding as one of the greatest, underrated winter sports of all time. So we were talking about Bob, and Erik goes, “I saw Bob when I was Airboarding down Hunter Creek last winter and he was like, ‘Skarvan, what the hell is that?’ and I said, ‘Bob, you gotta try it! It’s awesome!’ Bob just kind of rolled his eyes at me and continued on. He was on skis, skinning up the mountain.”I can just picture the encounter. Sloman thinking he thought he’d seen it all – what, with being a ski patroller/ski instructor on Aspen Highlands for a gazillion years and climbing Everest three times – and then he sees Skarvan, a 46-year-old, 6-foot-4 guy hauling ass down the Hunter Creek trail belly down on what is essentially an inflatable sled.I was recounting to Erik how I ran into Sloman at the Woody Creek Tavern a few weeks ago before his illness became front page news.”How’s it going?” I asked.”Not so good. I have cancer,” he said, in the same nonchalant tone someone might complain about getting a parking ticket. “So that’s kind of a bummer.”He was just hanging out at the Tavern looking for some good conversation. “I’m so fricking bored I decided to come over here to find someone to talk to, so mission accomplished,” he said, flashing his signature wicked, gap-toothed grin and pulling at his beard as he spoke. He’s not a very big guy, but there’s something hugely mischievous and rebellious about him that makes him seem larger than he is.He went on to say that he planned to deal with this cancer thing the same way he looked at climbing big mountains, as just another challenge to conquer. Certainly there are many parallels there – the will to push through long bouts of extreme physical discomfort, the determination to overcome a challenge that’s above and beyond the norm, and to maintain unwavering focus on survival no matter what obstacles the universe throws in his way. I told Erik how Bob is one of those guys that makes Aspen cool, one of those true local characters who dispels the stigma of Aspen as some vacuous vacation spot for vapid rich people who don’t even appreciate the outdoors. I mean, we’ve still got guys like Bob, a self proclaimed dirtbag climber who’s all crusty and weird with his long beard and earring, and the way he talks, all slow like he’s underwater, drawing out his words a little longer than most. He’s a freak, sure, but his accomplishments in big mountains are as big as his character. As far as I’m concerned, having guys like that tromping around these mountains is what makes it all seem legit. And as much as I hate to say it, it’s hard times like Bob’s illness that brings out the best in us as a community, gives us a purpose, a cause, and a friend to rally around.That’s why I can’t stand it when gripe about all the lame rich people in Aspen who are unconscious and self-absorbed. I disagree. I think this community has a history and a foundation of people who are progressive and liberal and interesting and cool. The other day I was arguing with a yoga friend about that very thing as I watched at least half a dozen of the people who aren’t like that walk right by us down the street. Seeing everyone you know wherever you go is my favorite part about the offseason. Looking up at the golden aspens glittering on the mountain like, well, gold, I realized this is that time of year when the town shows its true color. I looked at my righteous yoga friend and said, “What about Bob?”The Princess wants to see you at Bob Aid ’07 at Bumps on Friday, Oct. 5. E-mail