Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It’s time to let bygones be bygones. A wrong has been righted. The lemons are now lemonade. There is a new run on Aspen Mountain. It’s time to name it officially after the man who began work on it years ago, before he got fired for it.
Aspen Mountain is an old ski mountain and skiers have been scouting its nooks and crannies for a long time, so it is remarkable that there is a new, legitimate run within its official boundaries after all these years. Yes, they cut a trail named Bellissimo a few years back near the top of the mountain, but the best you can say about that one is that it’s really short, kind of weird, mostly useless, and named with no consideration for character or imagination. Since nobody has ever said, “Hey, let’s get Bellissimo before it’s all tracked up,” I don’t think it even actually qualifies as a run.
The new run I refer to is legit. It’s steep, tightly gladed, and long enough to make you breathe hard. It’s to the skiers’ right off of Aztec and angles through the woods to the bottom of Lift 8. Skico spent a good part of the summer up there with their hybrid bulldozers and solar-powered chainsaws, ripping down trees while wearing steel-toed moccasins so they didn’t leave any carbon footprints on the mossy hillside, all for our enjoyment. And, they did a nice job of it, too. Skiing this new run is such a pleasure that I find myself not really caring whether or not they actually mulched the thick trunks of those felled trees and converted them into smokeless logs to heat Snowmass Base Village with for the next decade. If they’ve perfected running a ski area by crying about global warming while laughing all the way to the bank, I’m happy, too.
Now, I hinted about “wrongs,” “bygones,” and somebody getting fired at the beginning of this piece, and so, no doubt, the astute reader has sensed some past conflict and wants to know more about that.
I don’t know when the controversy started, but it came to a head in the fall of 2001. It was our mild town’s version of a chainsaw massacre. The culprit was nabbed, work-glove handed, in mid cross-cut. A ski bum, acting alone, was discovered scaling Aspen mountain during the summertime months with the sole intent of clearing brush and stumps from the forest in order to create a little private powder stash to make a few turns in during the winter.
The story got more interesting when it was disclosed that the blister-fingered culprit was, in fact, one of Aspen Mountain’s finest; one of the boys in Ralph Lauren; an Aspen Mountain ski instructor! More incredible, he was an American citizen. Most incredibly, we all knew him and his name was Tim Mooney! It was high mountain high drama at its finest. The old men at the Wienerstube finally had something to talk about other than Mick Ireland’s supposed ties to the Communist Party. The papers went nuts!
Public opinion was pretty rough on ol’ Moon for a while, but I think history is treating him better. Retrospect is oftentimes respect with a few more lines through its face. If you’re a skier and deny that you’ve ever driven through the mountains and looked excitedly up at an evergreen forest blanketing the northern-exposed flanks of a perfectly pitched peak and saw it only as an impediment to a potentially great ski run, you’re either a liar or have completely exorcised the spirit of adventure from your soul because it was keeping you up dreaming all night. I’m not too little of a man to admit that one of the items on my list of things I must do before I die is to cut my own ski run. Since I haven’t done it yet, I’ll settle for giving credit to a man who did by naming his run after him.
So, now you’re worried about copycat rogue trail cutters armed with chainsaws hacking and slashing their ways through the pristine woods of our ski areas all summer long, so that someday they might become local folk heroes and have cool ski runs that they made named after them, too. Forget about it. That’s not seeing the forest for the trees.
What Mooney did was wrong. And, he paid a huge price for it. He lost his ski instructing job, which he loved. He lost his ski pass, which he loved more. For months he had to sweat out the possibility that he was either going to get thrown in jail or sued by Skico, or both. And, for weeks he had to endure being the main topic of debate in the smallest town in the entire world with two daily newspapers, during the slowest time of the year. Nobody in their right mind is going to risk all that for the remote possibility that their own story could ever end up being as good as Mooney’s. Come to think of it, his hasn’t even ended up with the great ending yet. I’m only beginning to push for it.
Besides, how many more really good runs could be cut within the ski area boundaries of our mountains? Not many, if any. There are no powder stashes that need thinning out that haven’t been already. The only trees that haven’t previously been chopped down and burned within permitted areas are either on sun-exposed side hills or completely uninteresting flats.
In short, I have never seen anybody’s secret, hand-cut, private mountain powder stash converted into an official run by the Aspen Skiing Co. This is a first for our town. It makes for a good story that will surely be embellished over time, too. That’s what Aspen’s made of.
So, considering all things; the dense woods that the run is situated in, its unique topography, its close proximity to Aspen’s stars yet feeling a million miles away from it all, and considering that the whole thing was a product of a hidden streak of deviancy in one of the most mild-mannered ski instructors that Aspen has ever known, I think there can only be one fitting name for Aspen Mountain’s newest official ski run.
Next time you’re skiing on Aspen Mountain, take a run down “Dark Side of The Moon.”
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.