Skiing at Aspen

by Rob Tiller

My trusty ski boots

Last Saturday I got a 6:00 a.m. flight out of Raleigh, made the connection in Houston (barely), arrived in Aspen at 10:15, checked into the hotel, rented skis, bought a lift pass, and got onto the lift at Aspen Mountain at 12:15. It was a clear, cold day, and so windy that many of the lifts were closed. I spent the afternoon working off of the A-1 lift. The snow was good. Toward the end of the afternoon, I was charging down a bump run with rhythm and confidence, right under the lift, and I had the thought: this is how mogul skiing is supposed to look and feel. After years of trying, I had finally got it! And just then, at the bottom of the run, caught an edge and crashed. As the Bible says, pride goeth before a fall.

On Sunday I met up at Aspen Highlands with a couple of friends who live in Colorado and are strong skiers. They knew the mountain well, and took me down some of the most challenging terrain. I felt a new level of confidence, and only an occasional spasm of fear. After lunch, they began referring to taking “a little hike.” I finally figured out they were talking about the hike up the ridge to Highlands Bowl — a trek that took all my strength to finish a couple of years ago. This time was difficult, but not agonizing. When we reached the summit (12,392 feet), the sky was clear, and the view of the jagged surrounding peaks was awesome.

Monday morning Gabe Tiller joined our group at Ajax. His skiing was strong, and I worked hard to keep up. But I was not pathetic! Gabe called it a day mid-afternoon, because of a bad night’s sleep, but I hung in there until the lifts closed. Chuck and I took the gondola up with a fellow who was at least 80 (he’d started out as a ski instructor in 1950) and spent much of his life at Aspen. As Chuck noted later, if we’re still skiing in our 80s, this will have been the early part of our ski career.

We ate Italian that evening at L’Hostaria, where Jocelyn and Gabe sat to my right and left. They were entertaining, and the food was excellent. Tuesday we had ten inches of fresh, slightly heavy snow at Snowmass. My demo skis were DPS Wailer 99s, which were wide and had rocker tip and tail. They floated beautifully. I was flowing, and not wearing out my legs. It had taken a long time, but with several seasons of practice and new ski technology, I was skiing powder with true joy.

Wednesday it snowed some more, and we had first tracks on the virgin snow at Highlands. It was quiet and beautiful and exhilarating.

I’m sorry to say my Sony point-and-shoot expired, presumably as a result of one of my falls that left some snow in the circuits. It was a good little camera. My Aspen photos were casualties. The picture of my trusty Dalbello boots was taken with my SeaLife DC1400, an underwater camera. The boots are now four seasons old. They are hell to get on, and hell to get off, but communicate well with my edges and ski great.