Marolt: Thumb wrestling with ski gear
One thing that hasn’t changed much about Aspen is skiing. Skis and boots are … I was about to say better, but that’s not right. Skis and boots are different. We make more precise turns more often with modern gear, and we can do it for longer because they sap less of our energy. But skiing is relative, so those things don’t really matter, and with high-speed lifts, we get bored of skiing as easily as we get tired from it, anyway.
Skiing has always been about comparing ourselves with other skiers on the hill, so even if it’s true that we are making rounder turns ourselves, so is everybody else. When shaped skis came out, everyone kind of thought they were the only ones who had discovered the magic, but that wore off as quickly as the factory wax, and we started looking out of the corners of our eyes again. The pecking order held. Good skiers now would have been good skiers then, and the lousy are always the lousy.
The thing I’m getting at is that, despite the antiquated gear, everyone who skied 30 years ago thought it was the greatest thing since radial tires on a sports car with a fiberglass body. It is even a good argument that skiing was more fun back then, as statistics prove that a larger portion of the population did it more often. But, I’m not here to argue the virtues of eras.
Here’s what I’m getting at: Of all things Aspen, even though skiing has arguably changed the least over the years, it’s still way different than it was in the good old days, and I don’t think it has much to do with equipment, ticket prices and private clubs at the top of the mountain.
It’s me. I am the thing that has changed, by far, more than anything else in the equation. It’s not that I don’t like going up on the mountain as much as I used to, either. That still puts the thrill in the chill of winter for me.
That said, I can too easily look back on the times when I skied with certain groups of people or even just saw them frequently on the hill. Where have they all gone? I’m sure there are some who wonder the same about me. It’s like a reunion now to see some of them I used to see everyday. These absences don’t make the experience worse, just different.
This observation got me reminiscing with my brother the other day. What it led to was us not deliberating but knowing that Aspen was not better in the old days, nor was it worse. Yes, I need to explain.
We started remembering the routines we used to follow and the places we used to end up after the lifts closed, along with the regular crowd we would inevitably end up there with. There were the all-day ski marathons from 9 to 4 that were the norm. There were beers on the splintered wooden deck at Little Nell. There was Laco and The Steak Pit for dinner. There was late night at The Tippler, Paragon, Andre’s, Cooper Street, The Slope, Chisom’s, Paradise and, of course, back to Little Nell. It was a great trip down Memory Lane, the only Aspen street that we, like many locals, actually know the exact location of.
Then a funny thing happened. After we got finished smiling and laughing and remembering things that might not have crossed our minds until we eventually cross the edge of this world, we caught our breath. I can’t remember who said it, because we were both thinking it: Would you go back if you could?
There was hardly a second of thought about the answer: no way. As much fun as we had and so fondly recall, we really hadn’t lived very long by the time those times took us. A lot of water has crossed under that bridge dividing then from now, and maybe it’s pure luck that it has flowed in gentle currents that we contently sit beside and lazily skip stones of memories across.
When I am honest enough to stand with my head up in the great shadow cast by Aspen’s mighty past, I see clearly that my life is good today. While I like Aspen’s old buildings more than its new, I would give nothing I’ve gained over the years here away to get anything back; no more my youth than a pair of 210 Rossi Stratos, even though both were a lot of fun.
Roger Marolt isn’t waiting for the next great thing in skiing to bring him contentment. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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