Try this Bowlathon
January 24, 2007
We all agree that being a better skier or boarder than someone else doesn’t mean that you are a better person. But this is Aspen, and which is more important anyway? You got it! That being the case, I thought that this week I would unveil my annual midwinter on-slope challenge to test your worth in Aspen currency – legs, butts and lungs.Now, this isn’t some testosterone-induced competition to see who the best skier in town is. That pot was stirred and the fat drained off in December. The truth is that you only have to be better than the people you ski with.I believe in the spirit of impromptu competition that this time of winter is an outlet for the adrenaline flowing through your veins from watching the X Games. That’s a tough act to follow, so I recommend finding your competitive outlet somewhere other than Buttermilk Mountain, or you might end up looking foolish or worse yet, old, by comparison.The first challenge I gave you two years ago was to see if you could wend your way down the run “S-1” on Aspen Mountain from the top all the way into Spar Gulch, in less than 60 seconds. It was gratifying to see so many turn out the following Saturday morning waiting for a turn to try. Unfortunately, it ended up that mass enthusiasm was severely counterproductive. By 10 o’clock, the moguls on S-1 were so large that many people got lost in them and ended up on completely different runs. There were no new members inducted into the One Minute Club that year, at least not in skiing.Last year, in an attempt to keep you motivated, I provided the layout for the Black Diamond Challenge, the object of which is to ski all 44 expert runs on Aspen Mountain, top to bottom, in one day. Unfortunately, through a scheduling error on my part, the event conflicted with an excuse disguised as the Wintersköl Parade, and turnout was paltry. Allyn Harvey, the soon-to-be former managing editor of this paper, displayed marked enthusiasm for giving it a go this year; however, he talked it up a little too much with his co-workers and created so much pressure on himself to perform that eventually he had to quit his job over it. (Good luck in your future endeavors, Allyn.)So, with the preamble completed, I offer up this year’s local skier/boarder, hiker/whatever challenge. This event is so simple and obvious that I previously overlooked it. It could be the best one yet!Hike the Bowl. That’s it! The incredible beauty of this is that it is completely free of all unwritten local rules that you have to follow … ahem, except you can’t ride the snowcat in lieu of hiking the first section of the way up. The test is to see how many times you can do it in $82.00 (full retail price) worth of skiing.Now, as I said, this is not a serious competition. You are just trying to determine the pecking order in your own little group of chowder chickens. To make sure that the intensity level doesn’t get out of hand, I recommend trivial wagers, such as allowing the winner to take first tracks every run before noon on the next three 12-inch powder days.For the edification of serious Highlands regulars and wanabees, the record for most laps in a day is seven. I know that this Bowl thing is just a simple undertaking among friends, but if anyone should want to see if they can possibly make a go at breaking this record, if the conditions are just right some fair day, I have gathered a few tips from the record-holder that might come in handy:1. Be the first one on the lift.2. Carry plenty of food and water because you won’t be able to stop at all.3. Know ahead of time that you are physically able to pee off of the lift since you’ll have to do it once or twice before becoming completely, and mercifully, dehydrated.4. Get lots of rest several days beforehand, and5. Prepare to suffer as if your small right toe has just been ground up underneath the blade of a snowplow.It’s that simple. I would like tell you who the record-holder is, but he was born and raised here and completely loves Aspen and skiing, and for some reason that rubs a few newcomers the wrong way. So, to avoid adding to the inherit stress of those who so despise “the local” that they completely misvalue their own priorities to the point where they would give absolutely anything if their own children might one day become one, his identity will remain concealed.Anyway, I caught up with this Bowling legend and asked what the most difficult part of doing multiple laps above timberline is. He said that it is the skiing. I was doubtful. My own experience has been that, after panting and puffing my way up the Bowl, the skiing is delightfully relaxing. The record-holder smirked and told me to try it, full speed and nonstop.Well, explode my legs like water balloons on hot concrete. I tried this experiment and truly wish I hadn’t. I shot down the middle of Ozone after hiking up with a rest just long enough to click into my bindings. Not even off the ridge, my legs were metaphorically (I want to get this fact straight) aflame with an intense burn. Halfway down I was no longer concerned with carving turns and began linking sloppy windshield washers (again, a metaphor) through terrain I once loved to ski.I made it down to the bumpy flat section below the steeps. Mentally I consider this the bottom, but topographically it might not be halfway there. I tried going straight to give my legs a rest. However, speed consumes strength like moguls consume ski classes, and my effort increased. The ball-knocker bumps right before the catwalk were killer! I massaged my thighs the rest of the way to the lift where, at last sitting down, my knees locked up like the Sundeck doors for a private party on a glorious spring afternoon.After the short lift ride, rather than making another trip up the Bowl, I opted for sipping out of the steaming hot kind at the Merry Go Round. I had to think this through. I could use the quintessential wimps’ excuse that I prefer quality over quantity in my ski experience. But, racing to do multiple Bowl laps is an opportunity for both, in massive excess! And, after all, that’s the Aspen way. I have to try again.Roger Marolt believes that eight is too much. Prove him wrong, and then let him know at email@example.com.