Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

My son’s school was on spring break this week, so we did what any proper ski-town family is supposed to do for vacation and visited other ski towns. This might seem counterintuitive to people who live in, say, factory towns, as they would probably never consider vacationing in similar burgs, but the skiing addiction mandates that when it’s time to take a break from skiing, you go ski somewhere else.

Our first stop was Breckenridge, which I last skied about 23 years ago. My recollections of the place were a little hazy, as I’d gone there as a college student and likely spent the weekend in an alcoholic fog, but I remembered it as a place with very little of interest for advanced skiers.

Happily, I was misguided in my assessment. Breck actually has an abundance of steep, open bowls, and it’s only going to get better next year with the Peak 6 expansion, which will add another 500-plus acres of awesome-looking terrain.

We had good snow conditions and a couple of days of great skiing, but the real highlight came near the end of the second day, when I got to witness firsthand a scene that one normally only gets to see in an old Warren Miller movie.

My son and I were waiting to get on a four-person chairlift when the group in front of us hesitated. We politely indicated that they could proceed, but they shook their heads and pointed to the group in front of them, which was about to board.

That group, inexplicably, consisted of five people, most of whom looked like they had no idea what they were doing. Sure enough, when the chair came around the bullwheel, they panicked a little, and the chair crashed into them like a bowling ball, scattering them about like so many pins.

The lift attendants immediately stopped the lift, but they were too late to prevent the carnage. Four of the skiers lay sprawled across the snow in front of the chair, and one older gentleman was sort of trapped beneath it. He managed to crawl out with his skis still attached to his feet and pick himself up, whereupon the lift attendants directed him to the next chair, but the old guy was so mortified that he just shuffled away through a gap in the fence and disappeared without a word. I imagine he shuffled straight to the bar, which is what I would have done were I in his situation.

Our next stop, after seven hours in the car, was Telluride, which I’d last skied nine years ago in what can charitably be called the worst snow conditions I’ve ever experienced west of the Mississippi. Unlike Breckenridge, however, I remembered Telluride as a place with great terrain that was unfortunately so icy and awful that I hadn’t bothered trying to ski it.

The conditions are considerably better this time around, and as soon as I finish writing this column I plan to go explore the terrain I shunned last time, but what really has impressed me about Telluride is the attitude of its residents.

First of all, of the dozens of dogs we’ve seen since arriving, the only ones on leashes have been ours. Apparently dogs are just free to roam down here. Secondly, nobody who lives here ever seems to be in a hurry to do anything, which is charming but a little maddening.

You’ve heard the phrase “island time,” right? Well, island time’s got nothing on “Telluride time.” Basically, if you want to go out to eat here, give yourself a few hours because while you might be in a hurry, the restaurant you visit will not be.

A perfect example was the ice-cream bar my son and I went to. We both ordered sundaes, and about 20 minutes later, we actually got them. The problem, I think, was that I asked for butterscotch sauce, and the kid behind the counter couldn’t tell which of his sauces was butterscotch and which was caramel. When I told him it didn’t matter, it took him about five minutes to locate a spoon with which to ladle out the sauce. I got the distinct impression ours were the first sundaes he’d ever made.

Ultimately, though, we got our desserts, and they were delicious. The fact that we could have squeezed in an extra two runs while we were waiting doesn’t really seem to matter that much. At least, it doesn’t when you’re moving on Telluride time.

Todd Hartley is pretty sure the sauce was caramel, and he’s pissed about it. To read more or leave a comment, please visit


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