New Year’s skiing in Telluride

by Rob Tiller

To ring out the old year, I flew to Telluride CO to see Gabe and Jocelyn and do some skiing. Sally could not be persuaded to go; she said it was too much travel for her after our Bonaire trip. It was in fact a tough journey, with multiple cancelled or delayed flights, and ended up taking 22 hours. I got my wish for heavy snow (so much so that I worried whether we’d make a landing in Colorado), and the mountains were well covered with a 49-inch base when I arrived. I slept for 3 hours, and then got up in hopes of getting first tracks with Gabe and his girlfriend Lindsey.

It was still snowing lightly that morning as I went out to find some rental skis. I found my way to Bob at the Boot Doctor, who seemed to know everything about skis and proposed several options. I wanted to try a hybrid rocker all mountain ski, and Bob set me up with K2 Aftershocks. I ended up liking them a lot. They turned easily and handled well in the heavy stuff.

Gabe and Lindsey made the considerable sacrifice of missing a couple of early runs while I completed my preparations, and were of good cheer when we met at the gondola in Mountain Village. I had not met Lindsey before, and had a little trouble spotting Gabe, because he and most everyone else had covered up their faces against the brutal cold. The reported high for the day was 9, but I’d wager it never reached 0 on the mountain. Lindsey, who’d experienced plenty of cold days skiing in her native New Hampshire, got the shivers after the first couple of runs. We took a hot chocolate break at Giuseppe’s, and she decided to head home.

Plenty of others made the same reasonable decision — which left the mountain largely unpopulated for us diehards. I reminded Gabe that it was my first day going from 300 feet above sea level to 12,000 or so, and my first day of the season on skis. He acknowledged these challenges and proceeded to take me down some of the toughest double-black terrain on the mountain. I suspect he wanted to show off his new skiing prowess, and I was impressed with his accomplishments, as a proud parent should be. I held my own for a few runs, but leg fatigue eventually caught up with me. We skied the last part of the day mostly on groomers.

That evening to celebrate New Year’s, I took Gabe, Lindsey, and Jocelyn to Excelsior’s, an Italian restaurant. It turned out that Lindsey had worked there as a server and knew everyone. We got the royal treatment.

The next morning I felt like I’d gone 16 rounds with the champ — sore from top to bottom. I took a megadose of Advil and headed to my ski lesson with some doubts as to my ability to make it through. Once again, the cold was harsh. But my soreness somehow abated once I got to the top of the mountain. My teacher, Jim Schwartz, was an affable guy of roughly my vintage with a lot of teaching experience. He had some interesting ideas that were new to me, such as focusing on the little toe. We spent the last part of the lesson working on mogul technique. I skied by myself in the afternoon with new confidence and joy.

During one lift ride, Jim opined that people skied for 3 main reasons. Some are excitement junkies that are only happy if they can scare themselves on steep rugged terrain. Others love the alpine beauty. Still others love the kinetic fun of dodging and swooping at speed in a kind of dance. I thought he was generally right. However, I’d add that it’s possible to cross categories. For me, the pleasure is some of all three — excitement, beauty, and grace.