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Aspen's Powder Daze

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

A woman walked across the middle of the street dragging her 3-year old in a plastic sled behind her. The snow obscured the cross-walk, true, yet she was clearly jaywalking, squarely situated halfway between two different blocks, her toddler bumping along on the wet slushy pavement oblivious to the fact that if the flimsy white handle broke and either light changed, sledding down the middle of the street might not be as fun as it looks.

If you convince yourself that dragging your toddler across traffic in a bright orange trash can lid is a good idea, there must be a lot of snow on the ground. She was probably in a powder daze.

Aspen has reclaimed its winter playground and the people who’ve come to play couldn’t be happier. 10 inches, 7 inches, 60% chance of snowfall, winter storm warning, 37 inches over the last 7 days…local snow reports make for good headlines but the fact is, they’re usually conservative. There’s always that much more than the official morning stats and with so much coming down, so many days in a row, you don’t have to search for the powder.

It will find you.

Saturday morning of this season’s big storm was lighter, brighter, and whiter than usual and the line at the gondola was a welcome sight. A friend jumped in two minutes before me, while I adjusted my boots and polished off those lovely cups of complimentary Green Mountain Coffee. She was instantly swallowed up by frenzied powder vultures – after two months of mostly powder-less mornings, powder hounds isn’t a strong enough description; we were all hungry and descending on Gondola Plaza, ski poles like talons clicking their way through the line and ready to pounce when that first car started running.

There was no hope of wading through the throngs at the bottom to reach her but we caught up at the top and took off through the first of four days of snowfall. We skied laps, top to bottom, peeling off layers to air out after the adrenaline-filled charge down Aspen Mountain and peering out the gondola window, salivating over potential new lines below.

I had a group of friends in town, annual visitors from LA, Virginia and New York, respectively; they ski Mammoth, they ski Whistler but they always, always ski Aspen. This year marked a 40th Birthday celebration, as good a reason as any for the plentiful new snowfall. But they credited me for the weather, as usual.

“Jamie Lynn, have you been doing your snow dance?” asked the birthday boy. About a month before his regular visit, he reminds me to tighten up my game and work on my new moves. I confessed to him that I’d been busy and kind of remiss in the snow dance shuffle; truthfully, I’d sort of forgotten what a powder day felt like.

By Sunday night the streets were gone, replaced by accumulation and general ideas of where you would put your feet if you could find the ground. And I finally remembered what a powder day – or two, or three in a row – felt like; my local friends and I hobbled around town, unable to bend our knees and so sore we were afraid to relax, lest we get stuck in an uncompromising position, Tin Man style.

“I can’t walk, is that a bad thing?” I texted my friend Sarah, to which she replied, “So, if I sit down, will I be able to get back up?” I told her to grab the Clapper, just in case.

Then, just when I thought I couldn’t ski another day in a row, I was wrong. My visitors picked me up and personally escorted me to Snowmass – the only real way to ensure I’ll navigate the 25 minutes trek to Snowmass, sadly – and the recesses of Hanging Valley Wall were full of stashes and splendor and splendid, soft, rolling powder fields.

The mountain was mostly deserted; legs were tired by Monday morning. Yet the powder remained. Alpine Springs had untouched lines as late as 3:15 p.m. Even Elk Camp was skiing like an overstuffed pillow, a billowing system of cumulonimbus clouds, any number of other obscure melodramatic powder metaphors. I know the Eskimos have a zillion ways to describe snow but forgive me; I’m still in a powder daze.