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Kaya Williams: The charmed life we’re living

The Aspen Times’ freshman reporter reflects on her inaugural season in Aspen

Kaya Williams, reporter for the Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun

Six months into my time living in Aspen, the whole place still feels a little bit fake.

Not fake as in artificial. Fake as in made-up, imaginary. As in, “It still feels absolutely ludicrous that this is my life.” Surely the TV writers of the universe were feeling charitable when they decided to stick me in Aspen.

Me, the mountain kid who grew up on skis but couldn’t wait to go to school in the city for “the culture” only to realize that I missed the dirt and the sweet sounds of the middle of nowhere.



It’s fitting that my walk to the office now bypasses at least half a dozen art galleries and just as many gear shops; 3,000 vertical feet of skiing is the backdrop to century-old cultural institutions. Charmed life, pinch me, etc., etc.

I have yet to set foot inside the Wheeler, or the Aspen Art Museum, or Belly Up. Those will come with time and growing COVID comfort levels as more of the community passes the fully vaccinated threshold.




But I have spent a heck of a lot of time on snow this winter — 50 days on cross-country skis, 54 on the lifts and six on an uphill setup. I didn’t even ski that many days in a season when I was on my high school’s cross country ski team and we trained five days a week right out the backdoor of the school.

I fine-tuned my morning routine (my record: get out of bed at 8:36 a.m. to get on the gondola at Ajax by 9 a.m.) and booked interviews on the mountain that I could bookend with groomer cruisers. I logged plenty of evening double-pole laps around North Star and forgot my Nordic boots at home on multiple occasions. I drank a lot of coffee — and I spilled a lot of coffee — driving to and from the slopes and Nordic trailheads.

Even on the firmest of crunchy mornings and the stickiest of late afternoons, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. Because in between first tracks and lunch laps and sunset skins, I still get to do what I think is one of the best jobs in the world: I get to talk to people, and I get to write.

That’s not to say moving here was easy.

Before moving into my employee housing here (thanks, Aspen Times), the longest I had ever spent without a roommate or a housemate was maybe a week or two, max. It took awhile to get used to living alone without someone to yell stupid jokes to across the room, or someone to share leftovers with.

And pandemic precautions aren’t exactly conducive to making new friends. I knew two people who lived in the valley when I got here but avoided making plans out of COVID concerns.

In what could have been an overwhelmingly isolating time, the mountain has been a gift.

Through Yellow, Orange, Orange-plus, Orange-plus-plus, Red and back again, I knew I could sit on one end of the Village Express chairlift and find a conversation partner on the other end of the chair. Same goes for the Big Burn, where I often notice riders sliding up next to strangers in the loading zone to catch some chatter rather than ride the new high-speed six-pack solo.

As our office remained a mostly work-from-home setup, I got to meet and actually befriend my coworkers outside of their Zoom squares with morning laps on Ruthie’s and inaugural Highland Bowl hikes.

And on the first bona fide powder day of the season in February, the joy of skiing was well worth the hourlong line for the gondola. (Another perk of living here: Rescheduling morning phone calls on said powder day is not only accepted but encouraged. They’re probably skiing, too.)

Almost every friendship I’ve made here has been forged in gondolas and on chairlifts and on hourlong trudges to Highland Peak. I already miss those chats on the ride back up to the top.

Kaya Williams is wondering if Skico will let her count Nordic ski days for a 100-day pin. She joined The Aspen Times and the Snowmass Sun in fall 2020 and still can’t believe she gets to live here. Reach her at kwilliams@aspentimes.com.


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