Be careful what you ask for…

I’m not very good about putting together a Christmas list even though I personally like having lists from others to buy from. This year I worked at putting a list together, compiling things on an Amazon wish list. One item that I couldn’t put on the Amazon site was the coffee table book The Man Behind the Maps, James Niehues. This book is a compilation of over 200 ski resort maps that Niehues had been commissioned to paint. The cover of the book is Big Sky, one of my favorite resorts.

I made sure my circle knew this book was on my wish list, because I really like skiing, I really like maps, and the combination is irresistible.

Of course I ended up getting TWO of the books! It made for an awkward moment when I told my kids that I had opened a present from a friend who gave me the book, and THEY had one waiting for me under the tree, but all’s well. I decided to make one of the books an “autograph” book, having ski friends sign it, and one of the books a true coffee table book, pristine and presentable.

It’s been fun having friends sign the book on the pages of resorts they have skied. Signatures have ranged from “Gina was here” to references to old boyfriends, favorite resorts, first time skiing, to a wonderful caricature of me skiing drawn by a long time Sun Valley instructor. I haven’t put my own comments down—yet. I have put in trail maps from locations I have skied. Nowadays, paper trail maps are being phased out and eMaps are the early trend.

One page from my Niehues Maps book with a few signatures. So cool!

Since I can’t remember trail names to save my life, what I really need is a heads-up display in my goggles. Maybe that will be my next new venture…

Glenwood Springs is at the junction of Interstate 70 and Hwy 82 that leads into Aspen. I stayed in Glenwood Springs because by the time I got around to booking a place to stay, rooms in Aspen were going for over $1000 a night. I love to ski, but not that much.

In the past, when I thought of Aspen, I thought of one ski resort. In fact, Aspen is four resorts located near the town of Aspen. Snowmass, Ajax (now referred to as Aspen), Highlands and Buttermilk make up the resort of Aspen. Ajax is the mountain that comes right down into the town. Snowmass is about four miles away. Highland and Buttermilk are closer in, all accessible via a bus that connects the four resorts.

I had skied Snowmass a couple years ago with Andrea Caruso. She had me hike to Longshot, a five mile long ungroomed blue run. I had never hiked to a run before—Andrea said it would take about 10 minutes. I swear it took me 20. But it was well worth it.

This time at Snowmass I had two days to ski the mountain.  It is the largest of the four resorts. I parked in the Town Park Station, where busses are continuously headed up to the village. I hiked Longshot in Andrea’s honor; lucky for me three young bucks were waffling about taking the run. I talked them into it, and one of the guys carried my ski. This time it took me only 10 minutes to hike (what a difference not carrying skis make). The views at the top of Longshot are the best. We all posed for the obligatory photo ops, then I took off on the five mile journey.

I took a mountain tour—always the best way to get a feel for the mountain—and appreciate the vastness and the variety Snowmass has to offer.

I took a day off after Skiing Snowmass, but then wanted to hit Aspen and Highlands before my time ended. So I rose early, drove from Glenwood to Aspen (about 45 minutes) and took the bus to Aspen from the Brush Creek Park & Ride where there are two main lines to look for—the local buses that run between the four resorts and the Roaring Fork Rapid Transit (RFRT) that services Glenwood to Aspen.

I was on the seventh gondola up Aspen/Ajax and got to the top before 9 am. My goal was to hit every chair I could, and ski from one end of the resort to the other. I got it done, and I got my 10,000 vertical feet in before 10:30 am. I hopped the bus to Highlands, and was skiing there before noon. The mountain tours at Highlands are given by the Community Ambassadors at 10:30 and 1:00. I caught the 1:00 tour with Rob and as always, it was great. I especially like learning history of the area, and stopping for the scenic photo op’s that I would normally ski right by. My total vertical for this last day at Aspen was 26,750’, the biggest day in quite a while.

I would have taken the RFRT to Aspen, but every day I had people to see, places to go that the bus didn’t take into account. I met Rod Tatsuno on SSS2 in Sun Valley. Not only is he a fellow Sansei Japanese American, but he taught at the Sun Valley Ski School for years. Rod’s son Chris, following in his footsteps, was taking his level 3 PSIA certification exam (a series of three exams). I was lucky enough to meet Chris at the end of the second exam; the next day he was going to be taking the final skiing exam. I stopped in on Rod, who had moved to Carbondale to be nearer his son, to have him sign my James Niehues map book.

Rod Tatsuno, Hana, and me. Rod is a past Sun Valley Ski Instructor, Olympic torch carrier, artist and ex-ski bum. Now living in Carbondale, CO.

Then I wanted Andrea and Chris to sign my book, so I delivered it to them the next day. Luckily Carbondale is a small town, easy to navigate, and not out of my way. I am so glad I had them sign the book, and I only wish I had the foresight to have the Eagle Caruso’s sign it, too. Next time…

I enjoyed Aspen and getting to know three of the four areas. It’s an exclusive area, with a wide variety of terrain. I recommend Snowmass if your group has a wide variety of skill levels. Aspen and Highlands are both Blue Black only, no Green runs. I didn’t ski Buttermilk, but I understand they hold some world class races and feature events there, and there are more Blue and Green runs.

So, you may wonder (or maybe you don’t wonder) what I was doing on those days I wasn’t skiing? Besides writing and paying bills, I was on a mission to discover the thrift stores that live in these exclusive resort areas. More on that later!













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