I suspect those of you who have been following my “finding the extraordinary in the ordinary” over the past seven years, have picked up that I am a bit of Real Coloradan Snob. I proudly confess that I am!!! My brag list is pages long. It contains: I was at the very first Bronco game in 1960, and there is a creek in Blanco Basin named after my grandmother Opal. I remember driving up I-25 the week it was completely opened from Pueblo to Denver. There is nothing that will get my hubris going about my pedigree more than conversations about skiing.
My first ski trip was on a weekend up the Lake San Isabel road to Glen Broden’s own personal ski resort. This WWII vet installed a rope-tow up the side of one of the Greenhorn Mountains. I was nine years old, armed with lace up boots and wooden skis with cable bindings. It was a YMCA outing complete with meagerly trained ‘instructors’. A rope tow consists of a rope-tow dragging along the ground that you grab with one hand in front of you, and the other grasping the rope behind your back. You would then squeeze your hands on the rope and if your arms stayed in their joints, you would shoot up to the top of the hill for a clumsy dismount.
In 1962 Monarch Ski area opened complete with both a T-Bar and chair lift. My dad became an investor and I still have a life time pass there. That same year Vail resort opened. I remember skiing there that year. There were only two buildings in the entire Vail valley. For the next 50 plus years I was blessed to ski all over Colorado and New Mexico. There is nothing like a morning with blue sky and fresh powder. There is a deep sense of freedom and peace that comes with skiing from the top of the mountain to the bottom.
Now my dive with me into “progress is not always”. What was once an experience that was affordable for many, is being reduced gradually to something for the privileged. Believe it or not, there was a time that skiing in Levis was considered cool. I know I sound like a character from my version of “Grumpy Old Men”. The reality of the ‘monetizing of anything fun’ is the Achilles Heel of capitalism— says the guy who paid $200 for his 1984 Bronco tickets and now pays 12 times that amount for the same.
My last run down the mountain was unplanned. It was eight years ago and I was on the top of Steamboat Mountain. My skiing partner had a
medical emergency and I followed the ski patrol toboggan all the way down the slope. He got through a horrible attack of altitude sickness and I hung up my skis. My bad knees basically said “you are done”.
Tomorrow is New Years Day. Our family tradition during my growing up was to book about 10 rooms at the Circle R Hotel in Salida for a week. My parents and their friends all had “adult” rooms and at least 20 kids were allowed their own space. Every morning we would have breakfast at the Spa restaurant before heading up to Monarch Mountain. I came to know every inch of that top of the Continental Divide perch.
In 2001 we took my dad, Bill’s, ashes up to Monarch’s ‘Sleepy Hollow’ to sprinkle them by a tree in a blinding snow storm. I will never forget the young guys getting my 79-year-old mom up there in a snow cat to join us as we put Bill to rest.
We then skied the rest of the day… and had great Italian food that night in Salida. From that day on I was able to ski at Monarch a number or times. There is a beautiful Spruce tree where his ashes were placed. I would stop there and give thanks for the dad who made sure all four his kids got out on the slopes before ever going himself.
Onward and Upward… and Happy New Year, Mark