Nice to see you again. How ya’ been? Well, that’s good!
Four days returned from the tony ski-resort town of Aspen, Colo., and we have come back, somehow, miraculously, with no lingering injuries or traumas. Plus we brought home a new-and-improved 4.0 rating as bestowed upon us by the incomparable Aspen Ski School instructor Mistah Ned Ryerson. (Yup, the inspiration for the eponymous character from your favourite cinematic work, The Groundhog Day.)
It started well enough. Flew Delta this time, not UNITEd, and that made all the difference. In an era of delayed and canceled flights, this trip from LAX direct to Pitkin Co. Sardy Field Airport departed and arrived pretty much on time — no shorthanded-crew issues, no aircraft-maintenance problems. A real pleasure.
It was late Sunday afternoon. Needed to get the equipment rented and then arrange for it to be transported to Buttermilk to be ready for use on Monday morning. Four Mountain Sports always has been tops in this regard, and they took care of the fitting and logistics efficiently, courteously. Still using as short a ski-length as possible; the technology in terms of the sport is pushing the beginners to pretty short lengths, not much longer than ice skates! Great for control and keeping the skis parallel, with enough leverage to gain decent speed on the straight-lining.
Reacquainted with Mistah Ned Ryerson, 30-plus-year instructor at the Aspen Ski School, in the upstairs cafe at the base of Buttermilk Mountain just before 9 a.m. MST. Taking up skiing for the first time last year at age 54, we continued to prefer receiving expert advice rather than go it alone or have some less-experienced teacher guide us. During our first round of lessons last year, Mistah Ned was a kind and patient soul, with tons of good stories to boot, including some involving the late, great local icon Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. We sought him out again for this year’s trip, and we were not disappointed.
Shifting the kinesthetics to another sport, for a moment: As a 4.0-level intermediate tennis player, we place great emphasis on the upper-body rotation and shoulder turn, both of which are vital to getting sufficient torque and velocity on the groundstrokes. Yet this same twisting and turning are anathema to effective, controlled modern snow-skiing! Mistah Ned continually had to remind us that there should be no leaning, no revolving of the shoulders. It was a bit hard to retain that vital information, let alone get the body to comply.
As well, pointing the nose and eyes in the direction of the anticipated turn was all-important. From this simple and delicate movement, Mistah Ned assured us that the skis at the bottom of our bodies would likewise turn. And he was not wrong! On the mild and gentle slope of the Panda Peak, this theory of his was easy to put into practice to great effect.
After a day of that refreshing, Tuesday had us go up to the summit, via the Summit Express, and we attempted to tackle a familiar menace: the green-run Homestead Road. Its tree-lined trails seemed too narrow and steep a year earlier, and they remained so this time. Some wipeouts, some improvement. Better, but not best.
One more day of instruction, and Wednesday was the first time that we finally got down the Homestead Road pretty much on our own, still some wipeouts, but no poling, no handholding.
The key here was to keep alternating easy, graceful turns to control the speed. The crunch of the fresh powder felt good underfoot. The outside ski needed to be stepped down on, like the downstroke on a bike pedal, with the inside knee relaxing to the point of near weightlessness. All the while having the eyes and nose pointed in the right direction, of course. Once this bipedal, up-down rhythm was established, the skiing was in flow, like a feather gliding downward on a breezeless day. Lovely.
This is the muscle-memory and lasting mental imagery we prefer to retain from this trip. The control, the gliding, the preparation of the turns, the quiet upper body, the minimal twist of the ankles or knees or hips to make a composed change-of-direction.
Drank lots of cider (the adult, fermented version of the juice-box!) plus good strong margaritas. The weather brought sun, snow and wind, but nothing severe. The plane back on Saturday was fantastic again, and the disappointment of the Eagles’ loss in the Super Bowl on Sunday was bearable.
Monday back to tennis here in sunny Southern California, and it was like a zombie playing walking-tennis. The bumps and bruises from the skiing falls became apparent without the usual and necessary morning comboa (comboa!) of aspirin and coffee. Right triceps, right intercostals, right quad, all the right-side soft-tissue areas were feeling sore, with a decided restriction in range-of-motion to keep the pain from getting too severe. It felt something like maybe there was a bruised rib or punctured lung on that side.
But Tuesday we dosed-up strong on the Bayer and mocha-espresso and things were back to normal, full-speed-ahead, living up to our intermediate USTA 4.0 rating in proper tennis, not this pickleball ridiculousness. And now also beginner-intermediate 4.0-level snow-skiers. At this advanced stage of middle-age, we will happily accept these measures; no need to push the needle or the envelope to 9.0 in either sport, though admittedly we do not have the necessary time or resources to get there.
And if you ever get to Aspen, please do seek out Mistah Ned Ryerson, the putative Dean of Aspen Ski School instructors. A very good teacher and an even better human being. He will set yourself straight on the slopes. He is not didactical, and you will absorb the right lessons.
Finally, the stepgrandson put on the skis for the first time in his young life. He hated things the first couple of days, but by the time we left, he was managing pretty well down the Mitey Mite slope near The Hideout, alongside Panda Peak. Surely he will be schussing down Panda Peak by this time next year, Yahweh willing. Shoutout to his instructor, Ms. Joy Kiernan who, like Mistah Ned Ryerson, is a longtime fixture among the Aspen Ski School Hall of Fame instructors.
In sum, Aspen is one of the friendliest towns on Planet Earth, and the drivers and pedestrians are extraordinarily courteous. The public transportation is on-time and ample, and you better know how to speak Spanish or Portuguese since there are a lot of Southern Hemisphere Brazilian, Argentinian & Chilean youngsters holding down service jobs in Aspen so they can ski here in our winter while it’s their summer down there; and then they go back at the end of the North American season and have another four or five good months of winter skiing south of the Equator! Who knew!
The walking is good, and the clean, crisp air will invigorate yourself. People-watching is top-notch, and you will appreciate the physical-fitness levels of everyone around you. Yes, there are plenty, maybe too many, Jennifer Coolidge/Kim Kardashian facial motifs going on, but most of the people there have acceptable intentions.
Next year, maybe an attempt at some of the Blue Trails?
BestLine Racing Society Recap:
Gulf & Tampa earlier.
Gulf 5 went to #5 Ready to Repeat (.309 Win Prob / 2.24-1 Fair Odds / 2.88-1 Premium Odds) at $9.40. Then in the finale it was #6 Free to Roam (.173 / 4.78 / 7.09) coming home in front at $39.20.
BestLine Racing Society Nightcap:
PennNat this evening. PennNat!
#8 Fed Chair (.282 / 2.55 / 3.26)
#10 Krachenwagen (.245 / 3.08 / 3.90)
#4 Cort’n Asong (.247 / 3.05 / 3.86)
#5 Spin Cycle (.188 / 4.32 / 6.45)
#3 Purple Shirt (.187 / 4.35 / 6.49)
#7 Austin Wide Open (.221 / 3.52 / 4.43)
#6 Peach Be With Q (.183 / 4.46 / 6.65)
#1 Ioanna (.145 / 5.90 / 8.66)
#8 Fine Aleigh (.137 / 6.30 / 9.22)
All hail Fearless Leader!
Welcome home and so glad you had a great time and came back in one piece! I had the adjusting table packed and ready to make a cross-country house call if needed!
Doc Gregory, the best Chiro on Long Island! Thank you!