It's a strange feeling to stare up at the greatest mountain in the country (or the 14th greatest, actually, according to the latest SKI magazine poll) from my bedroom window but know that I most likely won't ski down it this winter.
I'm not joining the chorus of complainers who've been snarling about the Aspen Skiing Company's decision to change its pass-price structure this season. Because the reality is that unless Skico offered me a full pass for $75 (no, I didn't forget a zero), the new prices play an irrelevant role in whether I'll get on the hill before winter 2010.
There just comes a very adult time in life when decisions and choices need to be made. Pay the electricity bill. Visit family. Save for college and braces. Buy groceries. Or ski for a season.
Being fiscally responsible should feel better than it does though. Like, an Oprah camera crew should pop out from the bushes with keys to a new all-wheel drive car, a check to cover mortgage payments for a year and a full-season ski pass as a pat on the back for doing the right thing. Short of that, it's kind of like the same empty feeling as passing on dessert and realizing you don't actually get to lose the calories you didn't eat, you just didn't gain them. Big deal.
It's not like I'm wired to ski, even though I started when I was four or five. My mom used to take my sister and me to Vermont every year for a winter ski vacation. We'd always do the NASTAR races at the end of the trip. My sister would be apoplectic if she didn't place in the top two. I, on the other hand, was perfectly happy to get one of those other medals that just confirmed my participation (hardware is hardware, after all).
One year my mom took us to Cervinia, Italy, to ski. (Heights and my dad aren't the best of friends, so while he'd occasionally take the drive to Vermont with us, ski trips were generally a girls' thing.) While skiing one day into Zermatt, Switzerland, I fell down on a challenging trail. A crowd formed around me when I wouldn't get up. It wasn't as if I was injured and couldn't move; I was just content staying put.
But except for frigid days or those when it takes too much effort just to leave the house, once I'm out on the mountain I usually always have a blast. There's something indescribably extraordinary about a bluebird sky at 11,000 feet while gliding through fresh, untracked powder. Even if I'm not someone who bleeds snow. And I love that I could ski right up to my back door from Aspen Mountain. (Not that I ever have or will -- the trail leading to it is so difficult I'd break my arms and legs before getting home. But still.)
Right now it feels as if I live at the water's edge but I'm not allowed to swim. Or in a Hershey factory but only get sawdust packed in my lunch box.
Once when I was at sleep-away camp I got mono and was stuck in the infirmary for nearly all of July. My parents were in Europe at the time so I couldn't even go home (not that they necessarily would have taken me home; my mom always said the eight weeks I spent at camp each summer were the happiest weeks of her year).
So while my friends were outside enjoying the spoils of the warm weather, I was stuck inside staring at a sign about cootie prevention ("Share a toy, share a slide, share a feeling deep inside. But never share a hat or comb or lice could make your head their home"). Being left out of the conversation is just that much harder to bear when it's within earshot.
Two years ago I only skied twice before finding out I was pregnant, so I sat out the rest of the season. I barely got out last winter, too. With a new baby at home who was adjusting to me as much as I was to her, it was hard to find time to brush my teeth, never mind ski.
But while I don't live to ski, I live here and it's not just about being part of the conversation, but being part of the experience that I'll miss this year. Sure, I'll live without it this season, but like saying no to a piece of warm chocolate cake, it doesn't mean I have to like it.
Follow Meredith C. Carroll on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MCCarroll