Sean Beckwith: Days of future pow
I, and so many people, are exhausted by the fear-mongering over the future of Aspen. You can’t open a newspaper in a Colorado ski town without reading headlines about labor shortages and overcrowding.
However, it doesn’t seem to phase most of you. Well let me tell you a fictional about what a possible future could look like if things continue is this direction. Perhaps that will set you straight — or you’ll continue to use this column as kindle for your camp/future wildfires — your choice.
I present to you, “Days of future pow.”
“What up, Justin?”
“Yo,” I said with the hushed voice one uses for the first person they talk to of the day as I moved my backpack that was saving Derek’s spot.
“You see it snowed last night?”
“Yeah, I heard some storm blow through. Always puts me right to sleep.”
Derek’s optimism for snow always waned once we got through Snowmass Canyon. I know how much snow each mountain got, but he still refuses to check the app. Says it’s lied to him too many times. “Pow propaganda” he calls it.
“A few more storms and they’ll open Buttermilk this season.”
“It’s already open,” I responded.
“I meant for skiing, smart ass.”
Giving Derek shit for working at Buttermilk, one of my favorite pastimes, feels especially cruel since he hasn’t checked the snow report. I’ve been riding Highlands all year, well as much as you can “ride” a strip of white carpet from the top of Loge to the bottom of Exhibition, but he doesn’t seem to get too upset considering last year I could count my days on the mountain by adding up the core shots on the bottom of my board.
“What? Already sick of snowshoe tours?”
“I’ll murder you,” he dead panned. “Not everyone can work at one of the fancy mountains with actual snow.”
“Hey, don’t get mad at me,” I retorted with mock innocence. “I didn’t book a ski trip before checking if the mountain I was visiting had snow this year.”
I don’t know what’s worse: The family who insists on a winter vacation even though the conditions are abhorrent, or the family who doesn’t know you can only ski where you stay.
“Yesterday, this family walked in the lobby with ski boots on and you could see the terror in Marissa’s face. They need to hire someone specifically to calm these people down. I went to change and they were still at the front desk when I got back. She was sooooo mad,” Derek said with a chuckle.
“It could be worse, you could always have that job.”
“I just need to make it two more seasons and I’m good,” he said staving off a yawn, putting his hood up and headphones on.
As my coffee cup emptied and the bus filled, I dozed off, dreaming dreams that definitely didn’t end with a shared condo and a metered ski pass.
It’s been five years since the last time any ski area had more than 80% of terrain open and 10 years since an actual powder day, but even that couldn’t kill Aspen. Now that winters are the length of what summers used to be — and the Rockies have some of the only palatable summers left in the U.S. — the busy seasons have flipped.
I’m going to stick a ski pole in the eye of the next “local” who jokes, “Come for the summers; stay for the winters.”
The usual crowd of Skico workers boarded the bus at Willits. You could tell they were temp workers due to their bubbly tones, souls not yet crushed by the stampedes of tourists jockeying for position in lines that are not for lifts.
Had they known what it was like to ski on a base of (mostly) real snow, they would never have agreed to leave Argentina. It’s always funny how ready to go home they are at the end of February. I mean who could blame them. Not everyone gets a Willits unit.
I’m surprised it’s still legal to house workers in a barracks. Derek spent three seasons using locker rooms and eating at a mess hall until he realized that a two-hour bus ride is preferable to gruel and full frontal nudity.
“Hey, Derek, wake up, man, we’re almost out of the canyon,” I said with a generous elbow to my seat partner, giddy to hear his reaction to the precipitation.
“Oh, shit,” he uttered, springing awake like he slept through an important phone call.
Wait for it … wait for it …
“Goddammit, it’s really raining?!”
“Hahahahahahahahaha. Hope you brought your water skis.”
“Wish I did. Then I could ski right down to the river and hope there’s enough water to drown myself. This is a joke. Winter. It’s winter, right? There’s supposed to be snow. You know, when rain gets too cold and freezes? Snow. F—ing snow.”
“There’s some snow up high,” I said, hopefully with enough seriousness to prompt another rant.
“SNOW!? UP HIGH?! They look like brownies with a fresh dusting of powdered sugar! Why? Why do I still live here?” he proclaimed with every bit the emotion of a man in the midst of an existential crisis.
After a few breaths, he turned to me with 100% sincerity: “I mean, why do you still live here?”
Outside I was still laughing, but that was because I didn’t have an answer — and it was hysterical. He was right, though. Not just about living here but also about the mountains. On second glance, they did look like a batch of brownies, a burnt ass batch of brownies, but brownies nonetheless.
“Hoo man,” I sighed, trying to catch my breath. “That’s a good question.”
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times.
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The events of our lives we toast in beloved restaurants are the same events we recall over and over again in all different times and places. They never die.