Tony Vagneur: Quest for Aspen’s 100-day pin takes dedication, and a little luck
The other day, I slid up beside a buddy going through the Silver Queen Gondola gate and he said, “Go ahead, I need to get my pin.” There’s only one pin the gatekeepers give out at the bottom, and that’s the coveted 100-day pin, red in color this year for those of you who haven’t yet hit the mark.
My friend (and his sidekick Snoopy), who has forged an indelible mark on Aspen Mountain (especially my favorite run, Summit) but prefers to remain in the shadows, happens to be 81 years old, as well. Remember that the next time you’re feeling a little lazy about going up.
It’s always seemed a little odd, the way some people stumble up the gondola steps in a near-get-out-of-my-way stupor, going for 100 days on Skico mountains. Before the digital app, I used to mark my ski days on a calendar by the door. The year before the digitization of seemingly everything, I logged 112 days on Aspen Mountain, plus a few Bowl trips. The next year, with the promise of a pin for 100 days, it didn’t seem all that attractive; why add another thing to the clutter of ski memorabilia. I waited until day 105 to collect.
My buddy Bob Snyder, who likes to ski and has the official record for the most laps down Summit in one day (13), is usually one of the first to hit 100, up there with Mikey Wechsler and the gang. Sometimes Bob displays those pins on the front of his parka, looking much like a distinguished general of the “skiing days” armada. In contrast, I keep my meager count in a box on the top shelf of a closet.
It’s endemic in a town like Aspen, where most everyone likes to be athletic, or at least try — who like to be slim and fit, and engage in various outdoor sports. (Whatever happened to whist or poker tournaments?) It’s a competitive world here, and if there’s no one to compete against, there’s always that face in the mirror, the one you can’t always trust, looking back. One hundred days? Hell yes, not everyone can do that. Kudos to those who get it done — it does take dedication — and look at the variable conditions you get along the way.
One of my ski pro friends tells the story of a woman he knew several years ago who was striving for 100 days on the mountain. Something came up, she had to leave town for a pressing issue, putting her quest in looming peril, and with all sincerity asked my friend if he would carry her pass with him through the gate for the days she would be gone, thus assuring her victory on the journey. Needless to say, the request was denied and at this point, it’s unclear whether she reached her goal.
There was a year, not that many eons ago, when by the end of the season, I had accumulated 97 days. What? Couldn’t I look ahead and see what a disaster that was? Poor planning on my part? Actually, none of the above — just the way it worked out that year. However, Highlands had announced it would be open an extra week due to good snow conditions. Aha, reprieve for this schedule-challenged columnist who didn’t plan ahead.
A couple of friends invited me to ski with them at Highlands and I jumped at the chance. This will be good — another pin in the box, almost a gift, if you will. The snow was great, 4 or 5 inches of fresh, to be exact, and the company was fun, people I’d never skied with before. We skied the hell out of that mountain and I went home with the good kind of tired legs that skiing provides. Four more days left in the week, and I was done. Done for the season. 98 days and that was enough — I walked away. Horses and cows were at the forefront of my brain and seasons change. It may not be in line with current thinking, but my attitude is: take it or leave It.
Always remember though, you’re only as good as your last season and next year is always the first year in one’s quest for greatness.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.