The Wicket: Slow Down, Aspen!

Published on

The Wicket: Slow Down, Aspen!

Welcome to The Wicket, FREESKIER’s new bi-monthly column and your home for ski culture, news and general buffoonery. Written by professional amateur ski bum and FREESKIER contributor, PaddyO, The Wicket is a celebration of all things skiing. Click in, drop in and get ready to get weird.

PHOTOS: Matt Power | LOCATION: Aspen Mountain, CO

Dear skiers of the Roaring Fork Valley, chill. Take a turn or two.

If I could, I’d hammer every base and bevel every edge on every pair of skis in the Roaring Fork Valley. I moved to Carbondale, just outside Aspen, four winters ago. During my first winter, I noticed a trend amongst the skiers in my new hometown, one that disgusted me. I now realize, this ski community craze de jour has not faltered or lost its apparent appeal. No one turns here. No one. And that is why I want to pulverize the straight-line-ability of the skis in this section of Colorado. In fact, I’d stomp on every ski in the world if I could. All for the sake of my beloved turn.

I was recently riding Aspen’s Silver Queen Gondola with friends. It was a powder day and the skiers below us were frenzied in pursuit of untracked snow. I get that feeling. I understand it. I love that ski-emotion. It feels like you’ve been shot out of a cannon on Christmas morning while Fourth of July fireworks explode in your heart and you’ve got a plate of Thanksgiving dinner in your hands. But to my dismay, rather than arching creamy turns and relishing the frosty gift from the heavens, Aspenites rocketed through it. Nary a deep angled face shot, nor slow-motion glittery sweep to be seen by any skier below us.

Drew Petersen archs a turn at the 2019 FREESKIER Ski Test in Aspen.

Ugh, no one turns here. I said it without thinking; an emotional and disgusted slip of the tongue. I looked at the eyes of my pals who shared the gondola with me. Most looked confused, but I was met with the understanding gaze of a friend who said, “I know! But…you don’t really have to turn in Aspen.”

He was right. You don’t. If you take offense to this, hold on. Before you grab your pitchforks and torches and get Gaston to hunt me down like I’m Bell’s Beast, let me say a few things. I love Aspen. I love the town. I love the ski community here and feel like I was very quickly invited to join that community. I love skiing here, I truly do. But take a look at Aspen’s terrain. Is it super fun and smile-inducing? Absolutely. Is it super steep and technical? Well…not the majority of it. Yes, there are some on-resort technical shots and there are runs with tons of vertical on all four Aspen mountains in the valley. But the resorts do not offer a lot of sustained technical steeps, if any at all. You can spend an entire Aspen ski day without turning because you don’t need to speed check, navigate fields of obstacles or possess the technical proficiency steeps force.

Donny O’Neill proves turning is, indeed, fun down Aspen’s steeps.

But maybe the Aspen “no turn” ski style comes from the fast and big nature of the town itself. I mean, anyone and everyone who has ever heard of Aspen knows the town has a reputation for big parties and partiers, and the bank account version of a dick measuring contest. Straight-lining doesn’t just happen underneath the gondola. It happens at the Red Onion, the Gucci Store and all over Main Street. I think that going fast and big is Aspen’s version of peacocking or a Bird-of-Paradise mating dance. Only straight-lining is meant to show off how rad you are, not for the purposes of procreation. Well… maybe that’s part of it too, come to think of it.

My passion for skiing was birthed in Telluride, a technical and steep resort where controlled, smooth turns are both necessary and considered to be the purest style of a soul skier. That’s not to say Telluride skiers aren’t fast. They are, but they turn when they buzz down the hill. 

When I was still living there, a few Telluweirdos were watching TV when an Oakley commercial came on. It featured a skier descending the famed San Joaquin couloir, an aesthetically pristine white stripe cut perfectly into the precipitous rock just outside Telluride’s resort boundary. The skier made one or two turns and then straight-lined the rest of the couloir, surely reaching speeds in excess of 57-bajillion miles an hour. We onlookers sat speechless, collective mouths agape, until my pal Mike G stood up and said, “Psssh. What a fucking waste!” As a skier, to this day I’ve never understood or identified with a statement more deeply. Looking back now, I assume the skier was from Aspen.

One of the things I love about my 30s is that I now savor things. I take my time. I cherish moments. Why rush? You’ll only end the thing you’re enjoying that much quicker. This is nowhere better exemplified or practiced than my ski style. Turning and trying to turn as much as possible and as often as possible adds more time, more experiences in your ski experience and more ingredients to your line. Ya know what’s better than scrambled eggs? Frittata. What’s better than chicken broth? Stew. Turning is skiing’s buffet while straight-lining is unbuttered white toast. And turning means more skiing. Plus, it just feels so damn good.

Just look at the joy on Sam Taggart’s face during this turn down Copper Bowl.

Maybe you think to turn is to be scared. That’s not true, but call me a scaredy-cat if ya want. I will gladly be known as the least rad skier in the valley. In fact, I think I turn more than any other skier in the Roaring Fork Valley. Proudly. Want to prove me wrong? Fine by me. But you’ll have to find me to tell me. Look uphill. I’ll be the slow motion, super smiley, wiggle machine descending at the rate of two-year-old honey. I think you should try it too. Come wiggle with me, pals.