Roger Marolt: A fool on Snowmass Ski Area
A so-called ‘Aspen Mountain snob’ makes a rare visit to his neighborhood mountain
I have been called an Aspen Mountain snob. I was raised on that shrine to skiing excellence. I often wished I had a day of skiing there for every time my dad told me it was the greatest ski mountain on Earth. By my 60th birthday later this month, I believe I will finally realize that wish.
As a full-time resident of Snowmass Village and rare partaker of Snowmass Ski Area, it is my own fault that I feel like a tourist here in the winter. But it gives me a unique perspective, that of the resident visitor. This year’s experience is summarized as follows.
I wanted to do this day on my own terms, so taking the bus was out. Instead, I drove to the parking lot up by Ditch Trail. I am not sure this is allowed, so don’t take it as a local’s tip. I didn’t get a ticket. That’s all I will say.
I skied down to Campground, rode up Sam’s Knob, and cruised down to the NASTAR course to check that out. A legit tourist blew out on the second turn. It didn’t look serious, but they closed the course until what looked like a ski patrol contingent of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could put him back together again. Just my luck! I took a couple laps on the Coney Glade lift to stay warm.
There were some practice stubby gates alongside the course, so I ran through a couple times to kill time. An official-looking guy didn’t like that and read me the riot act. He said it was private. I suggested he put up a closed sign then. That set him off. He loudly claimed there were closed signs “all over the place up there!” I offered him $10 to show me one. I shouldn’t have done that. His face looked ready to pop at the temples. He ignored my challenge and shook his finger, “And don’t think I didn’t see you the first time you came through!” I mentioned there weren’t any closed signs then, either. He stammered in rage, so I couldn’t understand anything, but it took the shine off NASTAR racing, and I figured I should leave before he got really mad.
I didn’t have more of a plan than that, so I wandered up Big Burn to do my annual jump off Gowdy’s cornice. It wasn’t there this year for some reason. I skied through the crappy bumps and rocks where it should have been, but there wasn’t any adrenaline in that.
From there I went up High Alpine to Hanging Valley. Roberto’s was as rock strewn as ever, but that didn’t take me by surprise, so I went slow and kept the edge and base damage to a minimum. The next longer pitch, of which I know not the name, was excellent. My humble opinion is that this is the best skiing on Snowmass. The praise not withstanding, where do you go from there?
My choice was Long Shot. It had recently been groomed and was side-slipped to bulletproof hardness. I was glad to have my race skis and, thus, enjoyed it. A few others without didn’t look like they were having too much fun.
This was the last bit of joy I found that ski day. The only way I knew to get back to my car at the other side of the mountain was to try staying awake along Adams Avenue long enough to get down to the Six Pack lift. It was a circus without a lion tamer down there. The line was humongous and hostilely disorganized. They were sending up chairs with only two or three skiers on them. People growled unkind judgments at each other. Nobody felt they had chosen the fastest lane in the maze. The singles line was gridlocked. There has to be a better way, and I stewed over this for the next 35 minutes.
Finally at the top of Sam’s Knob again, I was overjoyed with the knowledge that my escape vehicle was within reach. I skied some nondescript flat trail in bliss, assuming it would deliver me to the parking lot. I nearly cried when I rounded a bend and realized I was on my way back to the bottom of Fanny Hill and another self-inflicted wound with the Six Pack. Yes, I am the idiot here, but even for idiots, this punishment is too much. Better luck to me next year!
Roger Marolt has taken several expertly guided tours of Snowmass Ski area to little avail. It must be an acquired taste. Email him at email@example.com.