Autumn Phillips: Happy New Year


I stared at her for a long time.

The woman on the cover of the New York Times Travel magazine supplement was modeling the latest in "Chic at 10,000 feet."

Even though the sun was glaring down on her from her supposed location on the slopes, her skin was a perfect matte.

She didn't have any of that premature wrinkling you see among real residents of ski towns, and even though her goggles were propped on top of her head, there wasn't a trace of the tell-tale tan line on her cheek. She was wearing a fur collared vest, and she was holding her ski poles in such a way that her bra was showing. Her mouth was open in a half seductive, half "the altitude is getting to me" panting sort of way.

She was perfect.

I've lived here long enough to know that I've never seen anyone like that on the mountain, but for a week now, I have been reading "Whiteout," Ted Conover's account of his year in Aspen, and the ski area had been closed just long enough for me to forget that Christian Dior boots, a lingerie layer and perfect makeup were not what I could expect at The Stoker this year.

Thankfully, what I will see this season is much sweatier and smellier and a lot less matchy, matchy than anything they could reproduce in a Manhattan photo studio.

By the time you read this, days after I have written it, the tension will have broken. The countdown will have ended and five months of happy Sisyphean going up and down the mountain will have begun.

By the time you read this, I will have enjoyed my first gondola ride. I will have re-realized the meaning of the phrase "horrible, stabbing pain in my quads" as my legs reform to last winter's ski shape. Because it takes a few times to remember the routine and the perfect assortment of things to wear and have in your pocket, I may have forgotten to carry a tube of sunscreen and I may very well have a strangely unattractive beardlike sunburn on my face.

By the time you read this, I can officially wish you a Happy New Year, because the beginning of the ski season is, in fact, the beginning of a new year for those with a pass.

The hourglass turns over, and as the first sands or, more literally, the first snows begin to pour into the bottom, it's time to make resolutions.

I promise to ski more days on more terrain this year.

I promise to always have three interesting topics of conversation prepared for the chairlift.

I promise to carry snacks and chapstick.

I promise not to cry as I break in my new boots.

This year, I have five co-workers who are new enough to town that this will be their first ski season.

I want to dance around them, chanting a list of the best runs, the best places to sunbathe in ski boots and gossip with your girlfriends and the best rock with the best view of the valley, perfect for a little alone time and for that "this is why I live here" feeling.

Instead, I'll take them on the mountain this weekend and drag them around in endless loops until they hate me, just like someone did my first year.


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