Colbert: Being thankful for the snow |

Colbert: Being thankful for the snow

Austin Colbert, sports editor for The Aspen Times, enjoys opening day at Snowmass on Thursday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

There were no epic crashes, no bruised ribs, no lingering moments of regret.

Yes, opening day 2016 was a lot different for me than last November.

I accompanied my friend and co-worker Anna Stonehouse to Snowmass on Thanksgiving to enjoy all that Mother Nature provided, which wasn’t much. There was a portion of Fanny Hill and Meadows available for play, as well as beautiful views of ski runs we couldn’t yet touch.

In many ways, it was agonizing.

In other ways, it was magical. Sure, the runs were short and lacked anything remotely difficult (at least the lift lines weren’t too long), but the feeling of being on a snowboard for the first time since April was intoxicating.

Actually, I’d have to go back to maybe March to remember thoroughly enjoying a day on the mountain. I was living in Steamboat Springs at the time, my first winter in the mountains. I snowboarded for the first time a year ago, and it took a solid three months before I began to feel comfortable on a board.

Opening day a season ago in Steamboat — my first opening day anywhere — gave me the feeling of being on a different planet compared to where I was raised in Kansas. It was fun, but intimidating. Even getting off chairlifts and managing the bunny hills without embarrassment weren’t guarantees.

By the end of the winter season last year, I was kind of over it. I didn’t like my board — the edges were completely fried — and I was tired of doing lap after lap on the same runs by myself. Somewhere in the dog days of winter, I lost my joy for snowboarding.

Then came opening day at Snowmass on Thursday, and I remembered why I fell in love with it in the first place. There were a lot of factors, like having Anna by my side — seriously, shredding alone isn’t much fun — and the fact I was competent on the first day and wasn’t flummoxed by the simple runs, my new snowboard having a lot to do with that. Sharp edges, as it turns out, really up your game.

The fresh “powder” from the night before (it was like an inch or two), the snow-dusted trees and the jovial nature of everyone else on the mountain made it impossible not to breathe in the mountain air and not have a smile on your face.

There’s a freedom to snowboarding (and skiing, too, of course) that is unmatched by any other sport I’ve tried. Not many activities can combine the healing nature of, well, nature, and the adrenaline of flying down a mountain, risking life and limb just for the elevated heart rate.

While the weather hasn’t been overly cooperative so far this season, I know Mother Nature will get on our side soon enough. Thursday was, by anyone’s measure, a rather anticlimactic opening day here in Aspen, but even a short run on the bunny hills made me remember why I love the mountains in the winter.

And for that, I am thankful.

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