Marolt: Pity this fool who isn’t suited to skiing at Snowmass

Roger Marolt
Roger This

There are certain things I would never say because I would sound like a spoiled ski brat. One of them is “Snowmass stinks.” The other thing is that I live in Snowmass Village, so I have my neighbors to think about — although secretly, I believe a lot of them feel the same way I do.

I will say this: Snowmass is a terrific ski area that lots of people love and I am grateful for that. It is the daytime highlight for many of our winter visitors. It is the engine for the valley’s daytime wintertime economy. I hope people keep coming to Snowmass to ski. Any circumstances that have prevented me from enjoying the vast ski area as much as the masses do certainly have everything to do with my makeup and not the mountain’s.

For example, the other day I skied at Snowmass for the first time all year. Many factors played into my decision to do this, but the chief impetus is that my kids are home from college and they got up early, one went to Highlands and the other to Aspen Mountain, and left me without a car. Snowmass Village has an excellent bus system, but I don’t really enjoy riding in buses all that much. Voila! The problem is me.

The other thing that prevents me from fully enjoying Snowmass is that I don’t know where “the good stuff” is. Those secret trails are the domain of locals and regular visitors. I’ve had people tell me where to steer my boards, and I thought I followed their instructions to the letter, yet, apparently, I have not found the right spots because when I report back that my experience was lackluster I am told, “Oh, you didn’t find the right spot then.” You see? I can’t follow instructions. My bad!

There have been times when I determinedly followed ardent Snowmass devotees to their favorite runs and powder stashes. Each time, however, we stop at some seemingly random spot on the mountain and my beaming guide says something excitedly, like, “Well, what did you think?” To which I reply, “Of what?” Arrgh, I miss most of the really great terrain out there because I’m not paying attention! Once again, the fault is mine.

But, perhaps you need more specific examples. My one day up there this year (maybe not; just so far), I began by loading onto the six-pack lift. I had not even sat down completely when the safety bar came down and clanged me in the back of the head. I like the footrest down, too; I just didn’t realize it was a race to see if it or I got settled first, which apparently it is in Snowmass. That’s beside the point, though. The thing I wanted to point out is that my head is too large for Snowmass and it just gets in the way; my fault, not anybody else’s.

Did I mention that Snowmass blows? No, I mean in the literal sense. It is really windy on that mountain. It is the western-most situated mountain of our four separate but unequal ski mountains in the vicinity, so it catches the jet stream and breaks it up before it can bombard the other three ski areas. This natural phenomenon makes Snowmass’ exposed terrain, of which there are acres upon acres of it, perfectly suited for those who overheat easily or are dying to experience authentic arctic conditions on almost any seemingly ordinary winter day in town. As for me, I have feet that don’t do well when the wind chill falls into double digits below zero. That’s just me being ill-suited for the big wind burn.

But the icing on the tip of my nose is the aforementioned six-pack lift. Before actual experience with it came into play, my guess would have been that the reason to install such a high-capacity ski lift would be to get as many people onto the ski terrain as quickly as possible. That is not part of the design, though. On my recent visit, the lift stopped six times before it mercifully ejected me at the top of Sam’s Knob, home of the freeze-dried upper lip.

The bottom line is that I can drive all the way into Aspen from my home in Snowmass Village, park the car, walk up the hill to Lift 1A, ride that old bucket of bolts up Ajax, and be making turns sooner than I would if I chose to ski in my hometown. I can’t figure out how this is possible. And that is my fault, too.

Roger Marolt can’t help it that evolution has left his mind and body more suited to the terrain and conditions at Aspen and Highlands.