Then I moved to a small mountain town at 7,200 feet in Colorado. In theory, this should make me like winter more. People here don't just like winter; they love it. From November to May, my new(ish) home is a snowy paradise, surrounded by the best of the best (a) inbounds skiing/snowboarding terrain at Aspen Mountain, (b) hike-to backcountry bowls outside of nearby Marble, and (c) endless cross-country and snowshoeing trails in every direction. And yet, (a) a season pass to Aspen is prohibitively expensive, (b) the chance of being buried in an avalanche is at odds with my general enthusiasm for being alive and well, and (c) sure, but I still can't help but spend the winter thinking, "When is all this damn snow going to melt?!"
|Our back porch, circa December-May.|
I blame it on being a trail runner. What's more excruciating than being surrounded by hundreds of miles of gorgeous running trails that are, in fact, only accessible for a few months each year? (First-world problems, but the answer is: not much.) Of course, other trail runners in Colorado have managed to make this situation work for them, swapping their running shoes entirely for skis or snowshoes for six months every year--but, problem is, I really, really like trail running. Like, more than pretty much everything else.
|If I never have to post-hole another day in my life, I'll be happy.|
Since trail running is relatively non-existent here until May, I find other ways to entertain myself. Hiding out indoors all winter, by the way, is not an option when you live in a mountain town; live in one of the most gorgeous places on earth, and people will no doubt find ways to drag you outside and make you appreciate your good fortune.
All this positions May and June well to be my favorite months. I mean, spring is a terrific season pretty much anywhere you go--but, in the mountains in Colorado, it's the absolute best. I can't overstate my enthusiasm for these warm (but not hot), sunny months of long daylight hours, blooming wildflowers, awakening wildlife, growing gardens, roaring rivers, and (finally!) snow-free trails.
|Running with some lovely ladies after work last Thursday. Is it hard to understand why I miss this during the half of year when it's not possible here? Photo by Ann Driggers.|
Given my six-month absence from my blog (yikes), here's a look at my life through the past half year, with specific regard to my (emotional/mental) survival techniques for Colorado winters. (Watch how I sneakily transition from strategies of embracing the snow to ones of increasing levels of snow avoidance ... )
|Winter Survival Technique #1: Buy a pair of old, beater cross-country skis and get your ass out on the snow before hitting the office. Morning sessions at the local XC trails = heavenly.|
|Also good for longer excursions ...|
|... to gorgeous places. Colorado's most photographed mountains, the Maroon Bells, in the background!|
|Winter Survival Technique #2: Play (or, in my case, watch) broomball. Not talented enough on ice skates for hockey? No problem. Wear your tennis shoes, slap on a helmet and some knee pads and hit the rink for some broomball league play.|
Winter Survival Technique #3: Swiss Bobbing. I have no photographic representation of this, but here's what's entailed: Strap some Yaktrax onto your running shoes and a Swiss Bob plastic sled to your back, hike/run up the ski mountain at night under a full moon and in the company of far more hardcore mountain town folk on skis with skins or on fat bikes ... then plop down on your Swiss Bob and sled all the way back down to the bottom. Repeat as needed.
|Winter Survival Technique #5: Put on a silly holiday-themed costume and run the local Jingle Bell race. Photo by Colleen O'Neil.|
|Winter Survival Technique #7: Pretend the snow doesn't exist and go running anyway. Pretend that neighborhood streets are trails.|
|Winter Survival Technique #8: Invite people from Kansas out to visit. There's nothing like a vacationing flatlander to remind you that holy hell, you are a lucky dog and live in an amazing place. Thanks for the ski visit, Dad!|
|I mean, really, the fact that Arches National Park is a day trip from where I live is pretty special. Annie and I were happy girls, the day after running the Moab's Red Hot 33K.|
|Winter Survival Technique #11: Use SkyScanner to find the cheapest plane ticket you can to a warm place (say, Costa Rica) with zero chance of May snowstorms. Hop on that plane, go, wear T-shirts, swim, sweat, lie on the beach, be merry.|
|Winter Survival Technique #12: Take grumpy selfie on mid-June trail run when all you want to do is get up into the high country, but snow's still thwarting your ambitions.|
But! If you can survive the winter in Colorado, the rewards are bountiful. Trails and wildflowers are everywhere. Our CSA (community-shared agriculture, i.e. weekly box of produce from a farm down the road) starts up again this week. The grill's been dusted off. On various adventures in the past month, I've seen: a bear, mountain goat, coyote, lynx, elk, deer, snakes and marmots. And, this Saturday, I'll run my first 50-miler of the season down in Colorado's San Juan Mountains! (Which will, ironically, involve copious amounts of snow, thanks to our spectacularly high snowpack this season, which is still abundant at the altitude at which this race takes place.) Wish me luck.
|Morning runs before work offer spectacular light and views of Sopris. Photo by Ann Driggers.|
|More Sopris. Can't help taking photos of her majestic summit. This one from a solo weekend adventure.|
|Coal Basin trails across the street from our house.|
|All that snow has to go somewhere. Creeks and rivers are raging this time of year.|