Marolt: It’s better to be healthy than too creative | AspenTimes.com
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Marolt: It’s better to be healthy than too creative

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

It’s been a weird winter. We had a bunch of snow around Thanksgiving and then nothing until Christmas and, now, next to nothing again for an entire month. I suppose if you draw a straight line through the data points, you could say it is an average year. I checked out the Colorado Snowtel website for the official snowpack measurements as of the end of January. It was a big surprise and no surprise at all — the measurements taken on Independence Pass are almost exactly what you would expect for this time of year. But, despite what the milquetoast math and governmental observation indicate, it’s been weird.

For most visitors, it’s been perfect. The storms came and went with them. The exception was the X Games, for which the weather was unseasonably warm and dry, but since most of that crowd does more viewing than doing, even that worked out for the best. Nobody needs a crystal ball to predict that this ski season is likely to be an economic bonanza.

Who cares about money at a time like this, though? Skiing, the sole reason I put up with winter, is currently boring. Being almost wholly uninspired naturally to get up and go to the slopes, I’ve resorted to the time-tested coping mechanism for monotony: The past few weekends, I’ve been fiddling around up there.

One day I took out a pair of 134-centimeter full-on World Cup slalom skis. It took a run or two before I got the hang of them and then scared myself silly. They are not designed to go fast, and they don’t. They are designed to go side-to-side like lightning, and they do! When you let them fly and do what they want to do, it’s like your feet are an echo coursing the Grand Canyon. So crisply did they ricochet from turn to turn below me that I thought they might snap me in two at the waist. As fear of the back surgeon is my great motivator, I set them back in the rack.

Another time, I took out the old downhill boards — 213 centimeters with sidecut as straight as the sun’s path through a cloudless January sky. They are even scarier than slalom skis. Lots of folks would call a ski like this a one-trick pony. That’s utter nonsense. They are a one-trick thoroughbred Triple Crown racehorse! Hold on, pray hard, and try not to think there is no protective netting along the tree lines of Aztec to arrest your progress in the unlikely event of leaning in on the hard pack or that there might be a private group navigating Spring Pitch just out of sight over the roll you are approaching at what looks a lot like the special effect of warp speed in “Star Wars.” OK, there’s a good reason those were gathering dust near the back of the ski rack, too.

I was running out of skiing novelties. And because nobody I talked to had any original ideas, I figured I couldn’t beat them, and so I joined the legions of other bored skiers who head for the bowl to, if nothing else, turn 10 minutes of actual skiing into an afternoon on the slopes. I rode two lifts to the top of Highlands, slung the skis over my shoulder, dropped my gaze to the heels of the ski boots in front of me and clop, clop, clopped a mindlessly slow two-step dance to the summit.

I barely started down the crotch of Ozone before I noticed a trail of haphazardly jettisoned gear marking the path downhill before me. I stopped to look for the victim to see if I could help with the salvage. I looked low. I looked high. Nothing. But there had to be something! I looked across the valley at Aspen Mountain to let my eyes focus at the distance. Then I dropped them and spotted three specks — way down past where the steeps rest and the moguls take over the vast terrain.

I felt sick. I maneuvered the slope cautiously and approached the carnage carefully. I was entirely relieved to see two ski patrollers talking to a man sitting up, shaking what were surely adrenaline-soaked cobwebs from his head. I didn’t inquire and let the three have their moment, believing all would be well as soon as they could haul the victim down, his pants could be changed and he could start telling his story while tranquilizing his nerves with a little beer.

You know, boredom on the slopes isn’t all that bad when you really stop to think about it.

Roger Marolt writes his annual lean-snow-year column every first Wednesday of February. Email roger@maroltllp.com.


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