Glendenning: Aspen puts the tranquility back in the ski experience
The Aspen Times
I’ve only been in the valley for five months, and I admit, I was skeptical of the hate-spewing toward Vail that I immediately heard upon my arrival.
“Where’d you come from?” people would ask me. Over time, I dreaded telling them that I moved here from Vail because I didn’t want to hear all of the negativity that would ensue.
Five months in, I get it — not the hate-spewing, but the superiority complex is starting to make more sense now. It was most obvious to me this past weekend as I skied some of the best powder I’ve skied in two seasons.
On Saturday late morning, my boyfriend and I leisurely headed over to Tiehack and parked about 50 feet from the lift, or so it seemed, and did several laps on what turned out to be really fun terrain. Lift line wait time: zero seconds. On a Saturday!
On Sunday, I got up and thumbed through my Sunday New York Times and then headed over to Snowmass to meet two friends, both of whom live in the Front Range and had originally planned to ski Vail but changed their minds when they saw how busy it was (there were 500 cars parked along Frontage Road on Friday — and that’s the overflow parking for when the town’s two parking garages are full). Snowmass’ 10-inch Sunday morning snow report also helped sway their decision.
It was almost noon by the time I met them at Elk Camp, and the powder we found over the course of the afternoon just didn’t make sense to me. It defied logic — or the logic I previously knew to be true about weekend powder skiing (I’m actually a snowboarder, but it’s more natural to say and write “skiing.”)
A weekend day at the I-70 resorts means the untracked powder is basically gone by noon, and oftentimes much earlier. Sure, you can get into the trees and find little hidden treasures, but you really have to know where you’re going. There’s the occasional joy when Vail Pass closes at just the right time, preventing the Front Rangers from making it over. The Vail locals truly love those days.
Sunday was my fifth or sixth day at Snowmass ever, and I found powder without knowing where to look. It was just there, tons of it, all day long. There was a moment when I realized how lucky I am to be here.
My friends realized it, too. One of them had been a housemate of mine back in Vail about six years ago. All day, she kept saying, “What have I been doing? What was I thinking?”
My other friend is from college who echoed similar questions and statements throughout the day. He has a seven-day Classic Aspen pass but is already talking about increasing his days here next season, willing to trade the shorter drive to the I-70 resorts from Denver for a better-quality skiing experience in Aspen.
Our first run as a trio Sunday was in Dikes and the hooting and hollering became constant.
We later hiked to Hanging Valley and skied beautiful runs filled with powder puffs and perfectly spaced trees caked in snow. We saw a few other skiers and snowboarders, but we mostly had the terrain to ourselves.
Oh, and every lift “line” we got in over the course of the entire afternoon had either no wait at all or a mere 30 seconds were spent shuffling into the gates.
Allow this former Vail girl to soak this moment in and appreciate what it means for the quality of my ski days. No lift lines, or worst-case scenario is I’ll have to wait in short lift lines (I used to think a short lift line was 10 minutes).
I won’t spew hate at Vail because what’s the point of wasting energy on that? I also happen to love Vail and the terrain there — when you’re lucky enough to enjoy it without the company of half the Front Range.
But I will spend my energy enjoying the steep and deep terrain at Aspen’s four mountains and the lack of time it takes to get there. I finally understand the reasoning behind those jabs at the I-70 resorts — and trust me, I’ve had some fun with my friends in Vail ever since I moved here — but in realizing our greatness, I just don’t find it necessary to be a hater. We’re (really) better than that.
Lauren Glendenning is the editor of The Aspen Times. You’ll find her riding the Silver Queen Gondola this week for ski breaks, bragging about how quickly she can get some runs in while in the middle of her work day. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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