The simple New Year’s
Aspen, CO ColoradoThe new year has arrived and already the whiners have escaped their bounds, most notably those in the ranks of the cushiest scam in town, the Skiing Company ambassadors. Sometimes we forget that Aspen’s main draw should be its offer of the simple life, not its ability to put us into paroxysms of pissing and moaning, somehow confusing our own vision of self-importance with reality.This time around, New Year’s Eve day was a good one for skiing, the hard snow just about right on a lot of runs, especially in the Queen. My buddy Bob and I didn’t ski too long, but covered some good terrain – Summit (at least twice), the old #1 lift line, Lazy 8, Upper Magnifico, Roch, Ridge of Bell and Silver Queen. And all the stuff in between, which sent me home relaxed.The tail-end of a wrong-ending football game, including overtime, held my attention just long enough to make me a tad late feeding my horses, but they didn’t seem to mind. (Although, their gentle nickers let me know they’d been thinking about me.) The snow was cold and crunchy under their feet, but mostly, they were content to dive their noses into the grain buckets, the twinkling light of a large moon allowing us to function without the aid of electricity.Then I warmed up the Jeep and headed over the hill to a friend’s house for a little New Year’s celebration. The winding road was completely deserted, a good sign, but as we hit the top, the compound of the resident celebrity was almost blinding with artificial light, giving the appearance of an out-of-place movie set in the nighttime Rocky Mountains. Fortunately, it soon graced only the rearview mirror, and as we rounded a wide bend in the icy road, we could look across the valley and see the lights of a snowcat, grooming the reaches of the Big Burn. There’s something idyllic about watching a snowcat work on a cold, lonely, holiday night, but then again, we’re never privy to the cuss words we might hear or the disagreeable music that might be filling the driver’s cab. But it’s certainly intriguing from a distance.People always exaggerate the size of bonfires, so I can’t really say this was a large one, but it did consist of several large cottonwood trees, the remnants of an old house and several cords of unwanted wood, rounded up over the past summer from here and there and all around. It was burning big when I got there, but if you stood with your back to it and ate delicious homemade chili from paper bowls, your spoon hand and face would get cold in the time it took to tell a decent joke or holler at the rambunctious dogs. As my friend Randy said, the air was “colder than a mother-in-law’s kiss.”There was a lot to be said between friends, and the youngsters were oddly quiet in the biting air, tired from a long sleigh ride and not used to dealing with huge bonfires, nervous dogs and funny-looking faces in the flicker of firelight.”Hell, if I still drank whiskey, I’d stay,” I said, mostly to the dying embers, but instead took the offered hands and hugs of those around and promised to begin the new year right – first thing in the morning. My daughter’s dog, Earl, was waiting up for me, and we took a spin around the neighborhood, checking the livestock before turning in. About right for a good New Year’s Eve, I reckon.Tony Vagneur thinks Christmas is probably just around the corner. Read him here every Saturday and send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.