Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
As I write this, the whole state seems to be gasping with bated breath, waiting for the feet of snow predicted by some warped marketing department weather head, location unknown. It’s like a Christmas gift we’ve been promised. That’s OK, we’re in the business, but as I mentioned the other day, if we ever got all the snow predicted for this area, we wouldn’t be able to see the tops of the tallest trees come January.
Big snow isn’t much of a problem nowadays, other than it might delay the opening of the mountain while the ski patrol executes its avalanche routes. On such occasions, the line to the gondola stretches almost out to Durant, and strangely for many, pissing and moaning becomes the order of the day.
Jack Rowland (yes, he’s Roine’s brother) and I used to forego skiing on powder days to grease our bank accounts, even though adventure was our main objective. Four-wheel drive vehicles were as scarce as hundred-dollar bills in the church collection plate and a good snowstorm provided a plethora of possibilities to pull people out of the ditch.
Jack’s dad, Red, had a great Jeep, red in color, soft-top with a winch on the front, always chained up in winter, and though neither of us was old enough to drive, we’d cruise town, looking for stuck cars. There always seemed to be a lot of them and, without fail, people who needed assistance were quite pleased at our arrival. Shooting a little green our way was the most reliable token of their appreciation, it seemed, although we often refused payment, just to be “good hosts.”
If things got a little slow in town, we’d drive out to Maroon Creek Road, which was guaranteed to have more stuck cars than the one or two wreckers in town could handle. If they weren’t buried too deep, Jack and I could pull two or three cars out before anybody else could even elucidate a plan. The professionals gave us a lot of dirty looks but they were too busy with their own problems to thump us very hard.
Naturally, it didn’t always snow, but we had other diversions to keep us busy. If we weren’t driving around town in my grandmother’s green and white Chevy, we were hunkered down in Dougald Sullivan’s car, a large, dark gray Plymouth it seems, or maybe a Chrysler. Those were big four-door cars with plenty of room for high school girls, and we loaded them up.
Believe it or not, traffic used to seem far worse in town over Christmas, and our favorite trick was to pull out into the middle of an intersection and turn off the engine, blocking traffic in most of four directions. We’d throw up the hood, as though it was a serious problem, and try to look perplexed. Horns would start honking, others would volunteer their help, tempers would escalate, and importantly, we kept a sharp eye out for the cops. Using both cars, we shut down Main Street a couple of times.
We finally got busted, not bad, but we got the message that the law wasn’t going to treat any future pranks with a simple butt-chewing. It didn’t matter, though. High school gets busy and we didn’t seem to have as much time for nonsense.
Age was creeping up on us; we finally got driver’s licenses, and instead of loading up our cars with sweet-smelling girls, we each tried to zero in on the one that might like the ride a little better than the others.
Cars can handle the snow a lot better today, and they don’t seem to get stuck very often, either. So what the hell, give us all you got, big snow god, we’re going skiing, anyway. And while we’re at it, Merry Christmas.
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High Points: “Now I don’t want to be an apologist for the Aspen Skiing Company, but to me $199 to ski the crown jewel of American skiing during the height of what is traditionally the busiest time of year is a total bargain.”