Today, I’d like to share a story with you that I normally reserve for my nearest and dearest. The story of my trip to Aspen, Colorado.
I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s reading Powder Magazine, a US publication which was always filled cover-to-cover with inspirational photography. You know the sort, some skier in 50cm of powder, charging through frozen trees looking effortlessly cool. The caption simply reads: Snowbird, Utah. Unsurprising, then, that North American powder was all I dreamt about. I had done seasons and seasons all over Europe, but never came close to experiencing the legendary white stuff from the other side of the pond.
Powder so thin, you can’t form it into a snowball. So light, you can ski through it mid-afternoon and blow it off a car roof. So I began organising the trip of a lifetime with a buddy of mine from Edinburgh. A no-nonsense Scotsman by the name of Neil, who I knew would be up to the task of conquering American mountains with me.
Choosing a destination proved tricky; whilst there was a great choice of resorts to pick from, our checklist was a little more sophisticated. We wanted somewhere with nightlife, ambience, good dining and mountain restaurants that didn’t serve you food on plastic plates. A glass of wine would have been a bonus. After lengthy consultation with my friends in the ski press, we soon decided there was only one option: Aspen.
Off we went, landing at Aspen Airport in a snowstorm. A $30 lift into town in a stretch limo (the chauffeur’s client had cancelled on him at the last minute), our skis sticking out the back, left us grinning ear-to-ear. This is what we had come for! Upon checking in, the receptionist in Limelight Lodge flashed us both a knowing smile. Ah, American customer service, I thought to myself. Could it get any better than this? Arriving in our room, I open a copy of the Aspen Times. The headline – Aspen Eagerly Awaits Gay Ski Week?
I jumped off my seat – the receptionist’s smile suddenly made sense. For a couple of single blokes on the pull ( this is a long time ago), it seemed we had picked the wrong week. The two of us would be sharing a room, going out together for meals, drinks, and skiing together for the rest of the week. How would we explain our situation to everyone we met? No matter, though. Aspen was an amazing place. Four mountains, excellent après-ski, a lovely town with great shops (with heated pavements!), high-class restaurants and out-of-this world skiing both on and off the piste.The nearby resort of Vail was only a two-hour drive, so we even managed to squeeze that one in, too.
One dilemma. We weren’t quite sure about how we would tell our friends when we returned home. Make a joke of it and tell them about our disaster or keep it quite? We made plenty of amusing stories out of our surprise visit to Gay Week, which caused plenty of laughs from the locals.
Yes, it had gone excellently. Until the last day, that is.
“Is that Amin?!?” I hear someone scream, as I get ready to board the chairlift. “Amin! What are you doing here??” My heart sinks; with grins on their faces, three ski journalists from three different broadsheet newspapers from the UK ski over to where I am standing. They have been covering Aspen Gay Week. Red-faced, I have to explain to my colleagues exactly why I am at the largest gay festival on the planet with a tough-looking Scotsman as my roommate.
Many years later, I’ve yet to live that one down amongst my friends. I’ve yet to return to Aspen, either. Nonetheless, it remains one of my two favourite resorts in North America (the second being Jackson Hole, WY). I’d love to go back soon. Maybe next time, I’ll check the Aspen Times first!
I did buy a souvenier T Shirt which had the wording: How’s Your Aspen?