Monarch, the week before Christmas

It is the week before Christmas at Monarch. The bar is loaded with family, friends and kids of all ages. Eating, drinking, laughing and passing babies around. It is a time when we reconnect with kids, home from college. It is Tyrol Basin. It is Indianhead.

Like my parents in the upper midwest so long ago, I take a few runs, then sit in the lodge, then go back out for a few more runs. It's not like this all season of course. In the heart of winter, if we are healthy, locals will assault the mountain on the deepest days and be back to work by noon. We will sneak back to town to exchange knowing looks at the bank. We will work a little harder, stay up a little later.

But, this is the holidays when our families expect an all day outing. They want a beer and maybe some nachos, and we locals get to be on a ski vacation. In February we can ski for three straight hours in waist deep snow, but inexplicably we cannot last all day on hardpack.

See, our families are invested in a mindset that demands an all day event, despite the snow conditions. In fact, they will go all day for multiple days. They must compress a whole winter of skiing and riding into a few magical days—and we understand. We get it. This approach defines the Colorado winter vacation for many of our families, and it's why we live here. Those decadent family ski vacations of our youth took place at a time when our middle class parents could go to Aspen or Vail with their families in a station wagon.

We are spoiled and we know it, so we indulge in our families desire to be at the ski area for first chair when there is little snow. We understand, and we are also happy to take a long lunch. But, on some glorious years, like this one, we get to play in powder before Christmas. We are in the snow, at the mountain ready to play just like our brother in law. So, when the snow is great before Christmas, the whole experience engulfs us; A new season, family in town, time off work, kids out of school and powder. This freedom is why we left our homes in the East and midwest to come to the west. The best part of our childhoods are captured on these days.

We know the winter is young. So, we embrace the social event that is skiing. Our visiting siblings clomp about in sweaters and dark blue bibs—their happiness making them oblivious to their dehydration, while packs of kids pour in and out of the lodge; nephews, nieces, and friends from the valley.

We know the world needs our time and our energy, and we give it. The relative complications of the world make the experience richer. We try to be better people, down below this mountain. But, that is later. Today, in this place we are present.

Then, we are back on the lift.

...where we hear music playing through the woods, like the night skiing in Michigan, or Vermont, or maybe North Carolina. We ride the lift, silently, as a fox walks across a slope and disappears. We look at our track from the previous run. Then, four tiny skiers come over the rise, talking as they slay the slope with wide stances and hand me down ski clothes.

Later, we see everyone at Safeway or Scanga. We hug their visiting parents. We smile because we appreciate our good fortune. Around here, the week before Christmas is special because it embodies our community as well as our family. For some, a ski lodge brings into focus that idyllic carefree sparkle that drew us to the west , and to this life, so many years ago.

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