Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas in Aspen

Christmas in Aspen: Nan and John at Aspen Highlands, with Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells in the backgroundFor the holidays this year, Nan and I are house and dog sitting for our friends, the Vaughns, in Aspen. They are in Costa Rica with family and we are looking after things back home. Their dog Hannah and our dog Scout get along well, romping in the snow together and competing for our affection, so the Vaughns are happy to have us stay here instead of having to board her.

Normally, one would expect to pay top dollar to spend the holidays in Aspen, so it was an unexpected surprise to receive this generous invitation. We have made the most of it, dining at a favorite restaurant on Christmas Eve and skiing on Christmas Day. It has been surprisingly quiet wherever we go. The restaurant had several open tables and there were no significant lift lines at the ski areas. During the years when we lived here, the holidays were always extremely busy, with "a head on every pillow in town," as we used to say. The poor national economy and the local emphasis on real estate profits over quality tourist experiences seem to have taken their toll.

The four of us spent Christmas Day with our friends, the Andersons, who live at the base of Aspen Highlands. The guys skied most of the day over at Buttermilk so the kids could play around in the terrain park on the Red's Rover trail. The photo of Jon is from the West Buttermilk chairlift's halfway point loading area, where we waited in the only lift line of the day.

Christmas in Aspen: Jon Anderson in the lift line at West ButtermilkLater, Jon and I caught the shuttle bus back to Aspen Highlands and met Nan, who had earlier taken Scout and Hannah for a cross-country ski up Maroon Creek Road, for an end-of-day top-to-bottom ski run. I wanted to get a good ski photo of Nan and me, and Jon suggested the new Ski Patrol hut at the top of the mountain for its amazing views. The sun was low in the sky and directly behind us, but Jon's photo turned out nicely, with the sun's flare coming from between Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells in the distant background.

The three of us skied the leg-burning thirty-six hundred vertical feet back to the base and then hobbled over to Jon's house for apr├Ęs-ski. When Jon's wife Lori, their kids and assorted guests finally returned from skiing, we all toasted the holidays and sat down to a wonderful Christmas Dinner.

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