Plan B in Aspen

Aspen was one of the last major resorts in Colorado which I hadn’t skied, so when I got the chance to spend a long weekend there, I had big plans. At the top of my list was hiking and skiing the legendary Highland Bowl. Then over to make a top to bottom run of over 4,000 vertical feet at the massive Snowmass resort. No trip to Aspen would be complete without joining the après ski party at one of the hot spots like 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel. And of course I couldn’t visit Aspen and not enjoy some fine dining at a place with a fancy foreign name like Montagna at the Little Nell. But when I became sicker than I’ve ever been in my life on the night before we left, the plan had to change.

The morning after being up all night with digestive issues at both ends, I got in the car, crossed my fingers and hoped I would feel better in time to enjoy my vacation. My wife and I checked into our condo at The Fasching Haus early on a beautiful, warm afternoon. We had planned to use the rest of that first day to explore the town on foot and get the lay of the land. Instead, I decided to explore the pillow and get some much needed rest.

When I woke from my nap, it was time for dinner. Rather than find some gourmet food, we decided chicken soup in the condo was a safer option. The soup had noodles shaped like Buzz Lightyear and I’m sure none of the fancy restaurants in town could beat that anyways.

On the drive through town earlier, we noticed a stage setup for a free concert just a few blocks from our condo. Since I was feeling invigorated by my dinner of little kid soup and apple juice, we decided to walk down to the concert. Despite the walk being downhill, it took an embarrassingly long time to shuffle down to the party. The headliner for the night was Railroad Earth, a “newgrass” band from New Jersey. On either side of the stage were two beer gardens serving $3 Bud and Bud Light, and $4 Stella Artois. I didn’t expect to find $3 beer in Aspen, and normally I would have taken full advantage of the discovery. Unfortunately, my stomach had other ideas and we decided to call it an early night.

Gravity was being a bitch on the walk back up the hill to the condo. About halfway up, I was out of energy and nauseous. I had to give up and send my wife up the hill to get the car and pick me up. As I was standing in the bushes, leaning against the wall of a fancy hotel, trying to keep my dinner down, a black Escalade pulled up under the portico. The chauffer opened the door for a woman clad head to toe in fur, who glanced my way. I heard her say to her husband “Are you sure this is a five star hotel, I think there’s riff raff hanging about.” Luckily my wife showed up with the car to take me away before security did.

The next morning was warm and cloudless. It was the first morning we planned to ski and I wasn’t about to let my stomach get in the way. I felt good enough to eat a reasonably full breakfast consisting of two Eggo waffles and some apple sauce. Rather than drive or take the shuttle bus over to Aspen Highlands, we decided to walk to the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain so that we’d be close to the condo in case things when south.

Aspen Mountain has no green runs and over half the trails are rated black or double black. The bright sun had turned all the moguls on that expert terrain into an inviting playground, covered in soft corn, but my stomach insisted that we stick to the blue runs. When we ski together, my wife likes to secretly race me down the groomers. Despite gaining a head start by taking off while I’m buckling my boots, and the fact that I never treat it like a race, she had never beaten me to the bottom. That day as I cautiously avoided any unnecessary g-forces, and stopped repeatedly to hunch over my ski poles, close my eyes and focus on digestion, she got her first victory.

Highland Bowl From Aspen Mountain

Highland Bowl From Aspen Mountain

After spending the morning cruising Aspen Mountain’s groomers, and managing not to leggo my Eggos, we stopped for lunch at the Sundeck, the lodge at the top of the mountain. The view through the panoramic windows was incredible. There are seven 14ers (mountains of 14,000 feet tall) in the Aspen area and several are visible from the top of Aspen Mountain on a clear day. I could also see Highland Bowl across the valley, mocking me because I was too weak to ski it. The image stayed with me as I struggled down a few more groomers before giving up and heading back to Fasching Haus for a nap.

The following morning we checked out, packed up the car, and headed to Snowmass for our second day of skiing. The weather had turned and a storm was rolling in. Snow flurries at the top of the mountain reduced the visibility and the lower temperature kept yesterday’s soft corn frozen solid. We made a few runs in different parts of the mountain, looking for better conditions, but soon decided to take advantage of Aspen Snowmass’ partial day policy. If you return your ticket by 12:30, you get a partial refund.

On the long car ride home, I couldn’t help but think of all the unfinished business back in Aspen. Plan B made the best of a bad situation, but skiing groomers, eating soup, and taking naps is not what a trip to one of the country’s premier ski destinations is supposed to be about. Plan A lives on. It will just have to wait another year or two.

- Ethan Young, Software Developer

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