Here it is, y’all: A blow-by-blow of our week at Snowmass. Thanks for waiting.
A tune-up day for everyone. The Wife had a great time skiing around the Funnel and Fanny Hill areas, and even tackled a gentle blue run in the Two Creeks area. She was very pleased, and rightfully so. The rest of us spent the day on the Burn and Alpine Springs, skiing my folks’ favorite runs. We all had a good time, except for the fact that Uncle Crappy’s skis had so much wax on them — thanks to the idiots at Willi’s Ski Shop in the North Hills — that the tips hung up each and every time I tried to turn. The techs at Gene Taylor’s Sports straightened that issue out with no trouble overnight, but I’d still like to take the time to thank the morons at Willi’s in the North Hills for fucking up the first day of my vacation. That’s Willi’s Ski Shops in Pittsburgh, folks — more wax than Madame Tussaud’s. Fuckers.
Caught up with my folks in the morning, after The Wife forgot to put her ticket on the jacket she was wearing and headed back inside for a while. Mom got tired first, and after Dad when in, something told me I should call the condo, just to see how things were going.
When I turned my phone on, I saw there were like six voicemails from The Wife’s phone waiting for m, but I got the live version on the phone first, and she told me she had spent much of the morning in the ski patrol clinic, getting her ripped-up knee worked on. I flew back to the condo from the top of the Burn and heard the story:
She was pissed off because she had forgotten her ticket, and considered not skiing at all that day. But she went out, skied a few slushy runs down low on the mountain, and was actually going to head in after she got to the bottom of Two Creeks, an area she had enjoyed the day before. But while passing under a bridge, just a few hundred feet from the end of the run, she hit an icy then slushy patch and her accelerating skis just stopped.
An older guy in an Ohio State knit hat was the first one there, and The Wife sent him down to the bottom to call for help from the patrol. She got the full treatment — a sled ride down the rest of the run, x-rays in the clinic, etc. The diagnosis was a torn lateral collateral ligament and perhaps a partial tear of her ACL in the left knee. She got a fancy brace — much nicer than the one she got from OU when she blew her right knee playing softball in college — and, a couple days later, an nice Snowmass Ski Patrol hat — complete with the slogan “You fall, we haul” on the back — from her thoughtful husband.
Fortunately her sense of humor was not injured, not on Friday, when I gave her the hat, and not so much on Tuesday that she couldn’t hobble up to the Snowmass Mall for the annual Mardi Gras parade, an exercise in silliness that a bunch of Groundhogs were quite comfortable with. And Uncle Crappy came back to the condo with about three times as many beads as he showed up with, and all without flashing anybody. Much.
You’ve heard me say previously that I wanted just one powder day. Just one. The rest of my party wouldn’t be thrilled, because to my folks, anything that’s not groomed is to be considered bad snow. I can’t blame them too much, because Dad broke his leg in fresh snow at Boyne Highlands the year before, just two weeks prior to the Snowmass trip.
So when we woke up to six inches of fresh snow at the condo Wednesday morning — and still falling — Mom just said she wasn’t going to bother. Dad gingerly tried one run and headed inside.
It’s been said that there are no friends on a powder day. This is true. Call me a shithead if you want, but I wasn’t too upset when he went inside, because I was able to head directly for some of the fall-line runs on the Burn before they got tracked up. Once they did, I skied a few runs through the Sneaky’s and Powerline glades in the same area. Fucking perfect: No traffic, no tracks, just floating through the pines. This is what I had been waiting for since Juan and I had skied A-Basin in a whiteout as 18-year-olds.
I also spent a lot of time on the lift looking up at the Cirque, which was closed because of avalanche concerns. The skiing up there would be just silly-good when the patrol opened it up … Maybe later in the week…
So I took a few more runs in High Alpine, but the snow had slowed, the temps were rising and the powder was starting to get a little heavy. By 1 p.m. my legs were jelly … so I went back in, rested up and we had dinner at the Woody Creek Tavern, seated just below a Steadman print — signed by Steadman and Johnny Depp — commemorating the cannon shot that blew HST’s ashes all over the valley. Nice.
And then we spent the rest of the evening in the condo, drinking and following the score of the Ohio State-Northwestern game while I frantically refreshed the ESPN page on my Treo. There’s some comparison between our situation and the olden days, when people huddled around a radio. I’m just not sure where it is.
Great skiing, especially for Mom and Dad — all that fresh snow groomed into sleek, soft carpets. We wore Mom out by lunchtime, and I took Dad down Campground, a rolling and not-too-steep black run that had been groomed in the morning. He loved the run and was tickled to death to have skied a black run in Colorado. And I was tickled to have taken him along.
Thursday was also the day I felt guilty as hell because The Wife was home by herself. Nursing the bum knee. She seemed to be handling it better than I was, but I still felt bad.
Until I tried to call her in the afternoon while I was waiting for the bus to Aspen, where we were all meeting for dinner. Mom and The Wife had headed over early to do some shopping, and I was going meet them for a drink. But when I turned my cell phone on to call, I first had to negotiate voicemails from my mother-in-law, who was babbling about … Ringo?
When I got The Wife on the phone, she was almost as hysterical, BECAUSE RINGO STARR HAD JUST WALKED BY HER ON THE STREET IN ASPEN.
Celebrity sightings in Aspen aren’t unusual. The first time I was there I spotted Goldie Hawn and her children — I assume one of which was Kate Hudson, making my sighting a sort of double-in-the-making, since Kate Hudson would have been like 6 and a long way from being famous by her own self — wandering through the Snowmass Mall. As we arrived in Aspen on Sunday, I also saw Chris Davenport, a world-champion big-mountain skier who lives in Old Snowmass, in the Aspen airport.
BUT THE WIFE SPOTTED A BEATLE, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. That beats just about anything.
(Here’s a question for y’all to consider: Who’s more famous than a Beatle? We talked about this at dinner, and could only come up with a very short list.)
And that led into dinner Thursday night, which was the culinary highlight of the week. We ate at Rustique, a relatively new country-French place in Aspen. Um, holy shit, good. Yum. Wow.
Mom wasn’t skiing, so Dad and I kicked around the Burn in the morning. We took one ride up with an instructor, who started talking about the Cirque. Most of the bowl was closed on Thursday as the patrol blew up the now-wet cornices that had built up from Wednesday’s snowfall.
“It’s going to be great up there when it opens,” he said.
I still had doubts. There was no way Dad was going with me, so I’d be skiing alone. I had never ventured onto one of the double-blacks out there, partially because I knew that skiing back there by yourself isn’t a good idea … and mostly because I was scared shitless, by runs that I had never really seen.
So then Dad starts poking at me: “You should go. I’ll wait at Gwyn’s High Alpine where you come out.” He said if I didn’t show up within an hour, he’s assume I was dead and call the patrol. Very reassuring.
OK. Fine. Let’s do it.
Except that the surface lift to the Cirque still wasn’t open, and you could still hear charges being detonated off in the distance. A little dejected, I skied down to the top of Sheer Bliss, a nice blue run that heads straight down alongside the east side of the Cirque.
And then I noticed the gate for KT Gully, a steep chute that runs down into the Cirque from Sheer Bliss. The gate was open. And without thinking much about it I gingerly skied through.
You coast down a gentle slope about 30 yards until you get to the edge, which looks like it drops straight down. It’s bumped up pretty good, probably because it’s much easier to access than some of the other Cirque runs. As I’m peering over the precipice, a guy about my father’s age skis up next to me.
I grin. “Any suggestions?”
He smiled back. “I’ve never skied it either.” And then he hops off the ledge.
OK. If the old guy can do it, so can Uncle Crappy. I sideslip down the first five feet and start my first jump turn, landing on the front of a mogul. Another jump. Another.
And then I realize I’m actually linking deliberate turns down the face of this beast. I’m not in good enough shape to really ski bumps well, and skiing them on a face this steep is a different thing entirely. The East German judge wouldn’t have given me many style points, but after about a dozen turns I was standing at the bottom, looking up at KT Gully.
And that was pretty cool.
I got out my camera and took some shots, both of the run and of the walls of the Cirque spread out around me. And then I headed down this natural half-pipe that led back to Green Cabin and the Alpine Springs area — a trip that was actually more difficult than the descent down KT, lined with more bumps and trees. I was pretty beat when I made it out on to the groomed surface of Green Cabin, but I was pretty fucking happy as well.
Look. This isn’t a huge deal to some — I’m thinking of Dirt Merchant and Kewyson here — but on Friday I crossed a big boundary, one that I had spent years building up. That seal is broken, and I’ll be ready for more next year.
Our last night was spent at Krabloonik, the game restaurant where we had enjoyed a perfect meal the year before. It wasn’t this time — in fact, it was a bizarre experience from start to end — but by that point it didn’t matter much. We had a great trip, despite The Wife’s injury, and were all ready to wrap it up.
OK. There you go. I’ll get some pix posted in the next day or two, although the stuff from below KT Gully doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. And although I wish I had some pictures of nekkid breasts from the Mardi Gras parade on Tuesday, I’m afraid the best I can do is a chick in a gold bikini and body paint. Selah, as Dr. Thompson would have said. See y’all back there next year.