Hosting hang-ups on the mountain
What do you do when you know a grown man is a ski run away from a toddler-style tantrum? Do you respect his wishes and indulge him for a potential 30-minute escapade, featuring multiple stop-and-unstrap catwalks? Or do you overrule his request and start apres? This is one of many precarious situations that face people hosting friends in Aspen.
One of my seasonal goals living here is to get as many friends as possible to visit. I don’t care if you can’t ski, haven’t skied in a decade or are a powder hound, I’ll dole out or accept any invitation to come enjoy a couple of days on the slopes. The key is, however, knowing your own and your friends’ limitations.
Like, if you’re going to spend all day on the bunny hill, maybe stay sober so you don’t lose a glove, fall asleep at 8 or provide half-assed snowboard lessons. To be transparent, I only ticked off boxes on two of those three boxes.
Another piece of advice is to not only listen but stay observant because some friends, in the interest of self preservation, won’t admit when they’re ready to call it quits. They’ll say they’re fine but their ferocity faded five runs ago, which is usually evident by how slow they get up after a fall or strap in following a ride up the lift. It’s kind of like when a child goes from having fun to tired in like a five-minute span.
You’re having dinner, chatting with friends and all of the sudden Delia is under the table losing her mind because there’s no cheese on her pizza even though she took it off three minutes ago.
Learning to snowboard or trying to keep up with someone who’s riding circles around you is “I suck at golf and my friend is shooting par” frustrating. It’s compounded when you straight line and then stop before hauling down another pitch until braking and doing it all over again. Chances are they’re exhausted because, in addition to trying to keep pace, snowboarding uses muscles that rarely get worked and ruins them like a high school hell week.
Try to stay close and positive without coming off like a kindergarten teacher. Encouragement is one thing; reassuring someone that they’re “Doing great” when they suck is disingenuous. It’s a tricky balance and one reason why I’d never be a ski instructor. Also, I feel like ski school is designed to push your comfort boundaries with hopefully a healthy respect for the teacher.
My friends don’t respect me (partially because I don’t respect them but that’s by design) and won’t hesitate to unleash a stream of profanity. Sometimes a guy is content doing a falling leaf. I know it took me a while before realizing my thighs need a break and the only way to get better is to incur a physical beating.
Also, and this is very important, don’t try to do the first chair-last chair routine. I haven’t done that all season and seven or eight hours straight on the hill will leave most locals sore and freezing, let alone tourists. How much downhill for your dollar are you actually getting when half the group is trying not be miserable and the other half is actually miserable.
It happens to be the same thought process for a group lesson, which is about as much as a full-day lift ticket ($174 for a lesson compared with $169 for a ski pass). The only other places I’ve been where you spend $300-plus for an ego check is the strip club and the casino.
Lift tickets are ungodly expensive, especially for my ilk who would stay home if not for my hookup on rental passes and a free place to stay. I always recommend a half-day session.
You’re out there for three to four hours straight before it’s time to have a few beers. With a full day, you’re out three for the time before spending gourmet prices on a slice of pizza prior to suiting up with wet gloves and cold feet for another hours long stretch. That’s not even factoring in waking up early when you’re on vacation.
I know when I take time off, the last thing I want to do is be harassed about catching an ice-cold first chair, a seasick-inducing fishing boat or whatever else people do that doesn’t involve food and a beverage.
Speaking of beverages, a non-skiing related tip for hosting in any situation: You should never count your alcohol intake by random house trinkets. As in, man, we definitely didn’t need that second conch shell of mai tais. Or, why did we order that third fish bowl?
This is about the point in the column when my local friends are saying, “Hey, Sean, you only straight line when we run groomers.” To which I’d like to say, you live here. If there was ever a good reason to improve your on-mountain abilities it’s to show your friends around when they visit. Well, that and so you can spray them with waves of snow.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Email him at Sbeckwith@aspentimes.com.
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