Roger Marolt: My ski area is better than yours
I could have been wrong, but it sure didn’t seem like it. We got to the “locals’” parking lot, the one where you supposedly whip your vehicle into a wide open spot and then cross the street and you’re on the slopes. “Five minutes, pancakes to powder,” was the promise.
I suppose it could have been like that, except the good spots were all taken so we had to meander back down to the next level and then walk back up the road to where it maybe almost doubled the five-minute promise. Sure, it’s not that much difference, but that’s only if you are not trying to prove points, which we definitely were. The fact is it took twice as long as claimed.
It only got worse — or better — depending on how you looked at it. The line at the Six-pack chairlift was huge! That was bad, if you claimed we would be skiing the good stuff in less than half an hour from the time we left our houses, which is the length of time I know I can achieve skiing nirvana by driving to Aspen and jumping on Lift 1A. I could have viewed it as the 20-minute exercise in frustration that it was, but I chose to smirk a little and gloat a lot inside instead. I was making my point. I could put up with this for one day knowing that next week and forevermore I would be back on Aspen Mountain, assured in its superiority.
But, I need to start at the beginning. I am not a local. I am a transplant who grew up in Aspen and, as many stereotypically label us, I am an Aspen snob. Not in all things, mind you, only pertaining to skiing. In that regard, Aspen Mountain is the world’s benchmark for the sport that a few zealots try to create lifestyles over and billions of others know almost nothing about or very much care.
Fast-forward to last year when I wrote about how much better Aspen Mountain is than Snowmass. Lots of people were insulted and fought back by pointing out the thousands of acres of groomers at Snowmass, which I felt only proved my point. But, one guy took the bold step of calmly challenging me. He was so matter of fact and self-assured in this provocation, that I admit it felt a little like Johnny lending the Devil his ear.
The dare was simple: I would give him my best tour of Aspen Mountain and then he would give me his best tour of Snowmass. We would then sit down and decide the issue about which is the best over beers, however many it might take.
Some might hesitate to make a deal such as this with a guy named “Clint” who happens to manage the town, but he’s a decent guy who embraces honesty and fairness. He’s a good neighbor and has a nice family, so I said “Sure thing you dumb …” Not really. I said, “Great!”
It was decided last winter that we would tour Snowmass first. The morning arrived and we met at the end of our driveways, tromping through about 18 inches of fresh snow. I calculated first and then spoke:
“Hey, Clint,” I said. “I know we are supposed to do Snowmass today, but what do you say we do Aspen first? I heard they got more powder,” I lied. In my mind I was dreading the picture of myself poling across the flats of Snowmass all day, completely wasting the deep dump.
“Sure,” he amicably agreed. Ha! What a sucker!
Needless to say, but I will anyway, we had one of the best days of skiing any skier could ever hope for! The snow was so prodigiously deep that I was able to take Clint down steep, satisfying lines that hadn’t been skiable since I was in high school. It was quite honestly a day of a lifetime (of which we had many last season, ironically). Clint was blown away! He raved about the skiing on Aspen Mountain! And yet he didn’t concede the bet. He remained resolute on giving me his tour of Snowmass, if only for the formality of finishing the contest, I figured.
Then the spring got away from us and this winter had so far, too, until last Saturday. Clint said, “Let’s go,” and so we did. His lovely wife, Erin, joined us as a co-guide, Snowmass ambassador and advocate for more ideas about what to show me.
They quickly got us away from the crowds. The mountain is way bigger than I remembered. They showed me runs I never knew existed that compared favorably to Piss Gulley, Silver Queen Ridge and T1 on Aspen Mountain. We even found a little powder a week after our last storm. I did partially destroy up a perfectly good pair of favorite skis on Rock Island, but, hey, if you want to play in the rough stuff, you have to pay a little extra. It’s what they make urethane epoxy for. It was an incredible day! And, my eyes were opened!
So, of course you want to know: What is the decision? Which is better, Aspen or Snowmass? The rules were followed. All evidence has been thoroughly examined. All that’s left is for the freshly tuned fat skis to sing. Alas, the verdict is not yet typed on the card in the envelope. We haven’t had the beers yet.
For Roger Marolt, skiing Snowmass turned out not to be the cold day in Hell he expected. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.