Marolt: Feeling the high of low expectations

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

I was thinking that I would write about Base Village, but that has become like writing about the county landfill, and who needs to do that on a beautiful spring day when the sun is shining and the dandelions are in bloom?

Besides, at least they are trying at the county landfill and doing a good job with the mountains of garbage there, and I would hate to discourage them with any kind of comparison.

Instead, let’s talk about skiing. We got a gift this past weekend, and it was partially facilitated by Aspen Skiing Co. opening a lift at the top of Aspen Mountain for the Memorial Day weekend. It’s become tradition the way we completely forget about those who died to give us the freedom to recreate with abandon on a three-day holiday created to remember them. They were Americans, so you know they’d understand and probably wouldn’t want it any other way, if they give that sort of thing a second thought in Heaven.

It was a whole lot of fun being up on the snow under the powerful sun lobbying bipartisanly for summer. It was one lift running to give access to a dozen or so mediocre trails covered with ankle-deep slush. You got to see everyone on the mountain often, whether you knew them or not. I watched a guy do a back flip off every lump and bump large enough to propel him high enough to pull it off throughout the day. Surprisingly, it never got boring and the crowds cheered from the lift every time he started straightlining toward another lift-off.

There were noncompetitive contests going on everywhere. There was no chance of scaring yourself by tucking the short, gentle vertical back to the lift, so why not let ‘em run? You say you’ve never tried a helicopter off a catwalk? Well, with the temperature approaching 70 degrees the muscles and ligaments might loosen enough to withstand the inevitable sideways landing on a first attempt. There were no ski classes snaking across the fall line creating a moving fence of menace and the threat of losing your ski pass for the rest of the summer had no teeth, so all was fair. Skiers wearing jeans don’t look as cool as they are.

It felt like what I imagine skiing on a tiny midwestern hill would be like, if you could move it to the top of a Hawaiian volcano with easy access to a beach bar. If you did it every weekend, you would be bored out of your mind in no time, but if you hopped into a helicopter once a year and came back with an out-of-season goggle tan, you’d have the stuff memories snowball from.

The strange thing was riding the gondola down toward finely leafed trees and soft grasses testing the sincerity of warmth at the end of the day. People are nicer after having gotten their fill of skiing than they are anticipating it on the way up — less bragging, fewer cellphones out; a short glimpse of a wish about the way things ought to be.

Twice we shared a descent with mountain novices, one couple from India and another from Kentucky. They asked us things like, “what are those sticks in your hands used for” and, “what is more important, the skis or the boots.” We explained those things and told them lots of facts about Aspen, most of them true, if only slightly exaggerated. They believed we were experts, and so we were.

I think it all comes down to expectations — the ones you don’t have can’t be un-met, and their absence leaves room for surprises. It makes you wonder if it’s not the days over-scheduled with appointments and meetings and the three-quarters-completed checklists cluttering the center consoles of our cars that cause the stress and unease. Maybe it’s the expectations that bloat so easily and fill our lives with nothing but thin wishes able to shoehorn their ways in between.

On days like these,it’s hard to believe that people aren’t really interested in skiing like they used to be in the olden days, but it’s almost equally hard to believe that skiing at the end of May, confined to using just one of eight ski lifts that serves the least exciting trails on the mountain covered with browning slush, could be so much fun. I don’t know. Life is a funny thing. Oftentimes we don’t get what we paid for. A few times we get so much more.

Roger Marolt is hoping for another weekend of skiing this weekend, but expecting it won’t be until November.