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New Years Day bubbly

Roger Marolt

Had I begun this column with an old baited Aspen greeting such as, “What did you do last Sunday morning?” I wouldn’t expect you to read any further. As you know, a query such as that is the harbinger of a brag blowing in on a zephyr of hot air. You would have instantly deduced that I actually care very little for what you did this past weekend because what I did was that much more incredible.Therefore, I won’t begin with those words. Last Sunday morning I woke early with all of the anticipation that a winter storm warning the night before brings. As usual the prediction was wrong and I found my Sunday paper sitting atop a dusting of light powder in the driveway. Some would describe the snow in the air as falling at that moment, but it was plain to see that it was crossing the landscape on the horizontal.As my coffee brewed while my bagel toasted, light came over the mountain and through the dark clouds. It was snowing hard regardless of the direction it was traveling. I remembered that my friend John called the evening before wanting to ski first thing this morning. I committed to memory that I would call him after early Mass. We would both be rewarded by my devotion.The drive to town was atrocious. It appeared that the snowplow drivers had the day off, slept in, or were caught off guard. It didn’t matter which. The snow paid no heed and fell all the more furiously. By the time we got out of church most had worked up a Hickory House breakfast appetite while the snow had furtively accumulated to a noticeable depth. I excused myself for early turns.I called John from my car and told him I would be there in five minutes. Two minutes later I was at his front door and he was rolling out of bed. Ten minutes later we were headed up Lift 1A at five minutes to 9. We were the first on the lift and the last for as long as we could see the loading station fading away under the clouds. The snow was a foot deep in some spots in Corkscrew. There was none in others. The wind and snow had been fighting. The drifts formed dimpled smiles between the moguls, guessing we would be the worse for their war.We decided to take it easy the first run. Making a way through a foot of untouched snow, a lone snowmobile track pulled us across the flats of Ruthie’s. As the pitch increased and the name changed to Aztec, the snow remained still until we passed. The only indication of other humans was the perfectly machined smoothness lying beneath the powder.Back on Lift 8 we were informed that we were only the third and forth passengers of the morning, preceded only by ourselves. At the top we found Red’s trackless. It was nearly a stranger, greeting us with soft, round, forgiving mounds instead of the usual cruel moguls that we have known her to dole out. We followed a couple of others up Lift 6 and sighed in delight as we watched them pursue our tracks towards Aztec. We wended our way down International to the Dumps. Not even the patrol had been there yet. Our choice for untracked powder was limited to the only five runs there. We chose Perry’s, the left side. I would have enjoyed it more only if I could have stopped laughing and concentrated a little bit.After that, we became the first riders on Bell Mountain, avoiding the gondola for the warmth in being a part of the blizzard. Finding Hanging Man’s pristine was no surprise, but realizing that both hands on the clock had passed 10 was. Back up in Short Snort only three sets of tracks had been set. They went right, so we stayed left and never crossed them. Cutting onto the Shoulder we ducked into the trees to discover that little snow had fallen there but two snowboarders had. We passed by quickly, not convinced that we really saw them there.We made two more laps up Bell Mountain and down the Dumps, getting two more Face shots and a trip down Zaugg and Last Dollar without crossing more than half a dozen paths through the snow. It could have been a time warp, but it was only the beginning of a new year.It came after the storm warning and a night of reveling had worn thin. The wind blew most back into bed as danced-out heads pounded hard. The snow came late and kept skiers away early. It was the perfect storm. In 80 years’ worth of season passes between us, neither John nor I had tracked up that much fresh snow in a morning. We may never again.At around noon, the storm began to die, and the mountain came back to life. We slowly woke from our dream as the rest of the town did so from theirs. The sound of powder being crushed was never so obvious. If I had asked you at the beginning of this column whether you had skied that morning and you had answered “no,” you might have expected an incredible tale to follow. It’s the Aspen way to ask first and then proceed with confidence in telling a whopper to someone who wasn’t a witness to the events it is loosely based upon. But I didn’t have to ask you that question, did I? And while I didn’t begin with the intention of doing so, about 5 percent of this story was written with the intention of making you so absolutely sick with envy that you’ll act as if you don’t care. After all, that is an Aspen tradition, too, and I am an Aspenite unable to resist. Admitting that might take away from this narrative so I hope you will look past it. The main reason why I wrote this is that it was a day of skiing that I can’t contain. I hope you get one like it soon.Roger Marolt’s neighbors noticed that his lights went out at 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. He didn’t enjoy his champagne until the next morning. He’s still feeling the buzz at roger@maroltllp.com


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