One of the things I love about being outdoors in Colorado is the sense of awe I get. Everything seems so much grander, and I feel so much smaller in comparison. When I hear the lyrics of America the Beautiful refer to purple mountain’s majesty, I think of our Rocky Mountains here in Colorado. The mountains, the trees, the canyons, the wide open spaces all seem to dwarf me. The rocks that make up the Rocky Mountains are millions of years old, and I am just a mere blink compared to their longevity. It reminds me of my place in this world, and also seems to summon me to them and remind me that my problems are so small in relation to the much bigger natural world out there.
Skiing at Arapahoe Basin, or what the locals refer to as A-Basin, gives me that feeling more than any other ski resort. A-Basin is perched right on the Continental Divide, and rises up to 13,000 feet. A-Basin is known as a local’s place to ski, mainly because of its lack of a hoity toity village, complete with lodging and various high-priced shops for well-heeled guests (think Vail). It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It has an older, functional lodge at the bottom, as well as a lodge at mid-mountain for eating and hanging out on the deck. There are couple of other spartan spots for mainly getting water and taking a bathroom break, and that’s about it. The other reason A-Basin is known as a local’s place is you need to be a really good skier to ski this place. The trails range from steep, steeper to downright hair-raising. Some of the scariest trails off the East Wall require hiking up steep ridges at 13,000 feet. You know it’s steep when you’re skiing down and you generate snow balls sliding down the slope above you. Needless to say, ski patrol does some pretty aggressive avalanche mitigation during more serious snow storms. Most of the skiing is wide open, above timberline, with views in every direction. While skiing at almost any ski resort provides mountain views, at A-Basin, the mountains are up close and personal, vast peaks soaring high above you as you ski the chutes and bowls. The skiers look like tiny ants making their way across the white, billowy fields of snow. In the midst of all that grandeur, my problems that seemed so dramatic, suddenly don’t seem so insurmountable.
I usually ski A-Basin in the late spring, as it is usually the last ski resort to close in Colorado. Skiing in spring allows me to experience it at its best — the peaks have a full winter’s snow on them, the skies are clear and blue, and the weather is balmy. I’ve noticed that when I am going through a funk, or feeling down, getting outside among the majesty and grandeur of the mountains always picks me up, makes me feel a little less despairing. Today was one of those days, skiing the trails at Arapahoe Basin. Riding the chairlift, marveling at those rugged peaks, blue skies, clouds, and vast fields of snow brought a sense of peace and calm. I’ve been somewhat stressed out this past week, and it’s had an effect on my mental and physical health. Connecting with nature through skiing or any other means helps me feel inspired and a little more hopeful. But you don’t have to be an expert skier to get this connection. Just the driving over Highway 6, Loveland Pass, a short detour around the Eisenhower Tunnel, can give anyone that connection to the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
The following quote by Sidney Lovett captures the essence of what I felt today:
Every now and then take a good look at something not made with hands — a mountain, a star, the turn of a stream. There will come to you wisdom and patience and solace and, above all, the assurance that you are not alone in the world.