Todd Hartley: Alone again, thankfully |

Todd Hartley: Alone again, thankfully

Thanksgiving, as anyone who skied Ajax that day can attest, was certainly a reason to give thanks unto itself. There was great snow, and our little town experienced the best opening of its namesake mountain since, well, last year, actually, but other than that, it’s been a long time.

For my warmup run I skied fresh turns down the Back of Bell and then cut through the Glades out to Gent’s Ridge, where I found even more untouched snow. By the time I reached the bottom of the mountain I was beaming.

I was also alone, which is odd when you consider that I had started the day with about eight other people. Somehow I’d lost seven of them on the first gondola ride up and the other somewhere on the way down. It’s amazing what an early morning and a trip up the ganjala, if you know what I mean, can do to your short-term memory.

I couldn’t decide whether my friends were ahead of me or behind me, so I decided to observe the old adage “No friends on a powder day” and got in the singles line. Just before I jumped in a gondola car, however, I saw one of my friends, also solo at this point, behind me in the line, and I yelled to him that I would meet him at the top.

When I reached the summit, I waited a good five minutes for my friend, but apparently he’d chickened out after I saw him or fallen off the gondola or something, because he never made it.

As luck would have it, though, just then I ran into a snowboarder girl I know and a friend from work who’d indicated that he wanted to go skiing sometime. The three of us decided to take a run together, and I suggested we go to Walsh’s, which had recently been opened by the ski patrol. Walsh’s was also virtually unblemished, and though it took my snowboarder friend about 15 minutes to climb out of it, we all agreed it was a great run.

I was feeling a little cocky now after so many fresh turns, so I recommended that we head back to Gent’s Ridge, which I knew was in fantastic shape. In addition, I had a devious little plan in mind. I knew that, technically, Jackpot was closed, but I thought there might be a way to access it below all the closed signs via the top of Gent’s Ridge.

It turned out I was right, so I followed a lone set of tracks through a narrow gap in the woods and out to an area known as Uncle Wiggly’s Tree Farm. My friend from work followed me cautiously, wondering aloud if it was such a hot idea.

I looked at the untracked snow below me and let out a little whoop. “Dude, it’s a great idea,” I hollered to my friend. To illustrate the point I shoved off and made one thigh-deep, life-affirming turn.

By the second turn I was skiing on rocks.

I scraped my skis, which were being used for the third time ever, across a boulder, and as I came out of the turn, the tips smacked into an even bigger rock, and I went down. I did a sort of sideways somersault, bruising my hip as I rolled, and came to a halt on yet another rock, naturally.

“I think I’m going to walk back out of here,” my friend yelled down to me, obviously concerned with my well-being.

“Yeah,” I shouted back. “Good idea.”

I picked myself up and started slowly down the rest of the run. As soon as I had I begun, the cell phone in my pocket started ringing, but I decided then probably wasn’t the safest time to stop and answer it, so I continued down the hill, scraping rocks on every turn, until I could cut back out to Copper Trail.

I was mortified, and my brand-new skis were practically ruined, but I consoled myself with the fact that only one person had seen me wipe out and look like an ass.

When I reached the bottom of the run I dug out my phone and checked my voice mail. There was a message from one of the friends I had lost on the first gondola ride.

“Sickening yard sale in Uncle Wiggly’s,” he began. “Just letting you know there’s six of us on this gondola car right now watching you go down. Nice work, buddy.”

Shit. Oh well, at least now I knew where my friends were.

[Todd Hartley is offering a pair of new but slightly shredded skis for sale to any interested buyer. His column appears on Fridays in The Aspen Times. E-mail at]

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