Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Last Thursday night there were two very different, but at the same time very similar, gatherings in Aspen.

Out at Buttermilk, under the lights, a crowd gathered to watch the X Games. As the athletes soared to ever greater heights (for some reason television has yet to figure out how to catch the “amplitude” that is so impressive in person) up to 15,000 people watched and rooted them on. The average age was probably under 20, and the enthusiasm was palpable.

At the Wheeler Opera House, in the dark, a crowd gathered to watch a benefit showing of the Mike Marolt film “Skiing Everest.” As the cinematic athletes climbed to ever greater heights (the film captured the climbs so well that you actually felt frostbite on your toes) hundreds of people watched and rooted them on. The average age was probably close to 60, and the enthusiasm was palpable.

So what did these very different crowds of very different ages have in common?

Both groups of folks are mountain people. Both groups are passionate about the lives they lead, living for the times when they can get out and experience the joys that come from a peak, a ski run or a halfpipe.

It may seem strange to make the analogy between the X crowd and a group of locals who were at the Wheeler in part to provide support for Jeff Reese and Susan Grove, who are in recovery, physically, emotionally and financially from a horrendous encounter with a drunk driver. But if you took away the age of the people at both events you’d find a bundle of similarities.

The crowds share a state of mind. They love sunrises and sunsets over mountain peaks. They like the feel of fresh snow and the burn in the lungs that altitude brings. They love the thrill of going too fast or climbing a little too high. They both celebrate the mountain lifestyle and cheer on those who rise to new heights, both literally and figuratively.

As I sat in the theater and watched the crowd file in to the Wheeler I couldn’t help but think about how fortunate these people were to have made a home and a life in the shadow of the mountains. Many in the crowd had raised their kids in this valley and spent every free day skiing, skinning, riding, climbing and just enjoying the Rockies.

Later that night in a packed New York Pizza, I couldn’t help but think about how fortunate these young people are. They came, joyous and hungry from the X Games looking for a little nourishment. I was envious that ahead of them was a life where they would spend every free day skiing, skinning, riding, climbing and just enjoying the Rockies.

Two different events. Two different groups. But similar nonetheless.


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