Aspen: It Is Easy Being Green
Skiing the resort of legends
By Jules Older
I’m sitting on the chairlift with a couple of young dudes, and I’m eavesdropping on their conversation.
“Dude,” says one. “This sucks.”
“It so sucks, dude,” says the other. “Somebody forgot the vertical.”
High fives. Derisive laughs.
The dudes were skiing a high-intermediate run on a midsize mountain on a sunny day. The snow beneath their boards was firm and fun and free of ice. The dudes were whinging about how much it sucks.
I was tempted to intervene, to interrupt their tragic tale. I wanted to say, “You dudes need an attitude transplant. If you can’t have fun on a blue run, you’re missing out on some of the great pleasures of skiing. If you don’t mind me saying.”
Instead, I shut up and smiled. Then skied down with pleasure.
A week later, with a gang of friends and friends of friends, I was skiing Aspen. Aspen, Colorado. Resort of legends.
Because we were a gang of mixed abilities, we all skied the entire first day on Buttermilk Mountain. In the competitive athletic world of Aspen, that’s like saying we spent the day in kindergarten.
Unlike bump-ridden Ajax or massive Snowmass or twisted Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk is Aspen’s learning hill. Its trails are almost all wide groomers, polished to perfection. Here’s what you won’t find on Buttermilk: Sudden surprise steeps. Sphincter-tightening narrows. Taller-than-your-head moguls. Or anything else for dudes to treat with any expression other than contempt. It’s kindergarten. It’s a beginner’s hill.
And on this hill, the sun shone from a cloudless sky on a perfect snowpack. Boulevards as broad as the runways at Denver International Airport rolled down the gentle mountain. The trails were green, green, green. The only diamonds were where the sun sparkled on fresh snow.
Three of our party were pretty strong skiers — later in the week we swept down Ajax and Snowmass with some speed and power. But that day on baby-hill Buttermilk was among the best ski days of our lives.
We whooped and hollered and grinned like stoned fools. We carved sinuous giant-slalom S’s through the corduroy and rode the rails of our skis from one side of the spacious trails to the other. Sometimes, just for fun, we switched to tight slalom turns at the edge of the woods, creating a path as narrow as a hanging bridge.
When we found powder, still unplundered after a storm two days before, we wallowed in it. When we found the terrain park, we played in it. When we found a field of easy, unsteep moguls, we danced through them, laughing all the way.
Our skiing was at its very best and, unintimidated by pitch or trees or giant bumps, we got better. But you couldn’t call it practice, because nobody ever had fun practicing anything, and we were having so much fun, we weren’t sure it was legal.
We played on a mountain that had no intention of kicking our butts, a mountain that made us feel like fabulous skiers.
We were full of grace and delight and gravity-defying sensation.
We were high on green.
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