Return to the steeps, snow

Tony VagneurAspen, CO Colorado

The winter season is similar to a fast run down the mountain – mostly a blur of great skiing with a few icy bumps and maybe a fall or hand-dragger thrown in. Upon closer inspection, some things stand out, such as suffocating face shots and the occasional big air. Winter, the time of year when I close my mind down to everything but skiing (well, mostly), had more distractions this time around than usual, but for the most part, they were welcome.My daughter, Lauren, graduated from college at the end of the fall semester, and after several attempts, most of them requiring skilled salesmanship on my part, convinced her to move home and settle into the life of a ski bum. It may have been a successful move, as her last comment on the matter, at least the one I remember, is that perhaps another winter like this one would be to her liking. She and I managed to ski together at least three or four days a week, something we had been looking forward to for years, but had put on the back burner. Be careful, kid, or you’ll end up like your old man.My ol’ ski buddy, Valerie, and I mixed it up together way more days than last year and finally got our groove back. She’s a really good skier, long legs and major energy, unerringly taking the fall line, no matter the pitch, and always coming up with a smile. We did the Bowl, for the first time together, after four years of talking about it, and might make it again with the extra week added onto the season. She’ll shudder to realize I’m talking about her like this in public, but you should also know she’s got her feet moving really fast now, in unison.It wouldn’t do not to mention my regular ski buddy, Bob, the guy who wears that friggin’ Yeti coat all over the mountain. He didn’t ski much this year, although he can still put a zipper on the bumps better than almost anybody, young or old, who thinks they’re really good. His fashion sense remained true – without fault – as he pulled on a spanking new, pink parka, trimmed in black diamonds, the first day of Gay Ski Week. I really felt it was unfair of him, a good-looking hetero, to align himself in that manner, and besides, I think the color looks better on me. He got new boots, too, but who cares?Last week, Tim Cooney (and friends) staged a reunion of the ski patrol/trail crew at the Red Onion. Much as I love the place, it had been a long time since I’d rattled her swinging doors, and walking into a bar full of guys and gals I’ve worked with since even before the early-’70s was, if it hadn’t been so festive, almost a somber occasion. A couple of sharp-memoried dudes I hadn’t seen in years recalled conversations we’d had long ago, late at night over beers, and could also recount the density and consistency of the powder we’d skied the next morning. Tonight, there’ll be a big blowout at the Onion, but a lot of us have already said our goodbyes.And so it goes. Whatever we do, however we do it, it all comes back to the snow and the winters and the skiing. And that’s how it should be. If you’re in the know, you know Aspen isn’t about the town, it’s about the mountain. As my friend Randi Bolton said, quoting someone: “If you have to have a sport instead of a career, skiing ain’t bad.” See you on the slopes.Tony Vagneur doesn’t sound like he’s ready for summer, but he really is, just ’cause it’s a precursor to next winter. Read him here every Saturday and send comments to