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The Aspen Powder Accumulation Situation

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

Winter has arrived. We had our doubts last week, when the sun was shining but the slopes were decidedly un-winter like, the kind of conditions which call for alternative sports equipment. When the snow’s kind of played out and nothing’s really open but it’s a really nice day and it’s just good to be outside, it’s a great time for alternative sports.

Not Obscure Sports Quarterly, not the kind of thing you’d see on The Ocho, just another mountain sport that maybe you're not that good at but you like to dabble in every now and then. If you’re a snowboarder, maybe you put on skis or if you’re a tele skier, maybe you skin up Buttermilk just for the exercise and then pray to all things holy on the way down because it hasn’t snowed in weeks and it’s not plowed because it’s not open yet and it’s like trench warfare trying to get down in one piece. And if you’re a born and bred alpine skier you resume your reign as Queen of the Groomers and hold court on Dipsy Doodle on your tele skis. At least I do.

A good friend of mine, Patrick, is a really, really good skier. He’s shown me some of the greater powder stashes on Ajax and we’ve shared one or two unparalleled powder mornings, randomly running into each other on the hill.

Patrick really hates it when I tele.

I ran into him up top last week, fiddling with my ski leash near the Sundeck. He asked if I wanted to do a top to bottom and I pointed to my bindings.
"Ah geez," he said, giving me a withering look, knowing I can't keep up on my teles.
I laughed and egged him on: “Now I know how you feel about this sort of thing. I’ll call you when my heel’s down."
He shook his head, smirking: "Yeah, do that."

Early season and shoddy snow is also good for getting it all together: as in, where’s my other glove, that new pair of goggles I scored at Closing Day, my thin ski socks, the charger to my boot heater where the hell is the charger oh well it’s not that cold today anyway, so I think I have everything cool meet you there in 30.

Ski pants?!

My friend Diana called, psyched to ski. She had a babysitter and the afternoon off and everything was in the car and she just had to park and - damn. No way. Really? I can’t believe it James. I forgot my ski pants.

It happens.

It’s the early season shuffle and it takes a little bit to get back in the swing of the gear thing. Storage lockers need to be pillaged – and plundered – and ski jacket pockets need to be emptied out from last season. Hopefully there’s a $20 bill in there somewhere, as opposed to just melted chapstick and a wrapper filled with granola bar bits from those generous Nature Valley folks.

I remember skiing Tahoe every weekend, from junior high till graduation, driving 3-5 hours with chains on the tires and getting there in time for the first chair and somehow staying warm in 100% cotton and earmuffs and Vuarnets. Goggles just weren’t cool.

Now I live about a mile from the slopes; and I have no idea what takes me so long to get to them. Or maybe I do…

Wake up, roll over, try dozing off facing the other way. Check. Coffee. Check. Coffee refill. Check check. Boots in bag, goggles on helmet and gloves in helmet what a great handbag! Wait, probably should put gloves on because I’m taking the bus and it’s dumping out, right. Undo gloves from each other, put helmet on, goggles now crooked. Check. Head out of house grab poles balance skis move bag over neck and shoulder and walk across the street to the bus stop without slipping; I usually allot about 45 minutes for that one.

But I’d been practicing getting it together this past week, we all have; and today, our hard work paid off. “Troops, looks like we got a Powder Accumulation Situation” read my Facebook status update. Many thumbs-up salutes in response. We were ready; the hill was waiting; the new goggles were fastened for takeoff.

I made it to the mountain with all my gear and boarded the Gondi to Winter Wonderland. 6 degrees read the sign. Farenheit. My new super warm jacket was really warm but my face wasn’t; seems I’d forgotten that really unattractive but pretty toasty face warmer layer. On the contrary, My Toaster gloves seemed to have short-circuited because they certainly weren’t toasting anything at the moment and my boot heaters lost their charge after a couple of runs because I never did find that charger. It was the kind of cold where you really had to love skiing to be out there.

And I do. I really love skiing. There wasn’t a ton open but I found the trees less skied, the in-between zones still full of fluffy soft goodness even by the time I managed to show up (irrelevant). It all came back to me: not the endurance the mid-season quad strength, which come later in the season, but the big grin and the involuntary “Woo Hoo"s and the laughter, sure signs of a crazy person having the run all to herself. The first Powder Day of the season.

Heading off the hill, I saw my friend Matt in Gondola Plaza. He’d just gotten back from Mexico, what a shock. He’d been up first bucket and was feeling that first Powder Day burn. “Starving,” he said: “Not used to all this exercise yet!” He shifted his weight, all geared up for the ride home; the bike ride, that is. Skis in carrier, check. Boots over the shoulder, check. Brand new tires ready to hit the sidewalk. He had em. “Studded snows,” he said, with a wink, pointing to the front wheel. Totally organized, everything in its place.

We can't all be me.