Saddle Sore: Turning back the clock |

Saddle Sore: Turning back the clock

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

It happens every time we get a good snow — people get crazy with their remarks, maybe because they can’t remember from one year to the next, or maybe just because they’re crazy.

“Man, this is the best ever.”

“Have you ever seen a day this good?”

Yes, I have, and I’ve seen better.

“This was the best ski day I can remember,” or my favorite, coined by someone who should know better, “It wasn’t epic, man, it was biblical.” No sense to go on after that last comment.

In spite of the flamboyant rhetoric, it has been nice to see Aspen look a bit like it used to, before the city decided snow was some sort of allergen and started hauling it all out of town like it was the source of the plague or something. My God, winter used to be something to behold, a beautiful feast of possibilities upon the senses, a season to be respected. And now, for a brief respite, we have it back.

Not that many years ago, on one of those “biblical” days that “was the best ever,” a couple of guys skied off the top of Shadow Mountain, a piece of real estate that was destined to become a scenic restaurant until Hans Gramiger died, his dream with him. Maybe it was the same couple of guys that year who skied the face of Red Mountain, although hardly a first, for that was a repeat of some shenanigans we pulled in the ’60s, while on a routine ditch from high school.

Of course, in recent memory, there was the day we thought we’d died and gone to heaven. A friendly dispatcher at the patrol headquarters asked my buddy Bob and me to ski Trainor, just to check it out. Alumnus status has its perks. Upon hearing our report that it was skiing pretty much like heaven might, he instructed us to go back in and hit it some more, just to track it up a little before the public was unleashed on it. Four or five runs later, we finally had to relinquish what we’d begun to consider our own private area.

At the end of the day, unless you belong to the coddled class and have someone do it for you, there is plenty of snow to be shoveled and many are bragging they got their upper-body workouts without going to the gym. My great-uncle, Tom Stapleton, who lived on the corner of Bleeker and Second, was not a man to be trifled with when it came to shoveling snow. With either a dusting or dump, he’d push it all down the wooden walkway to the street, where after a few storms it began to pile up in a majestic fashion, forming a mountain that any kid would be proud to ski. During the very heart of deepest winter, that mound of hand-shoveled snow could be over 8 feet tall and maybe 15 feet long, tapering steeply down and ending on top of the bank pushed up by the city snowplow.

While my parents sat in the house finishing Sunday dinner and visiting, I would be on the dome of snow outside. Operating half in the glow from the porchlight, the other half in the dark, I could make two quick turns coming down that monster before running out of room, or if I took it straight, I could shoot off the city snowbank, landing about 10 feet out in the street. It was a crowd-pleaser for those pedestrians who happened by and it took the final edge off of my weekend energy before school on Monday.

Three or four years ago, although it may have been longer, and after a very similar pattern of snowstorms like this past week, it seemed as though the passion for powder dropped out of Aspen like the bottom out of the recent stock market. Twenty degrees below zero with the third or fourth day of 8 to 10 inches of fresh powder blanketing the mountain, and no one showed up. Now that was a day to remember. We’d ski Dipsy Wall or Hanging Tree and then come back for seconds, turning alongside the first untouched tracks we’d made, almost the only people on the mountain. Face of Bell, the Dumps, Bingo, it was all the same. I’ve been waiting for another day like that ever since.

Skiing is like religion — it requires faith and has to come from within. On the hill, we all believe we’re as good as we think we are. Likewise, if you believe a day was “the best ever” or even “biblical,” who can argue? If you believe it, it’s as good as real to you. Have fun, boys and girls.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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