Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Keystone: Like Narnia before Aslan

I saw snow very few times in my life until I moved to Colorado, and I never saw snow actually falling until the trip Hulk and I took to move me here - I think we were in northern New Mexico at the time. So when I was a kid, I always thought snow and places where it snowed in winter would seem magical. In reading books where there was snow I would imagine what living someplace like that would be like, but never actually experienced the muffling stillness of a night full of new-fallen snow, or the bright glare off snow in the sun. The first time it really snowed after I moved to Denver I got so excited I pressed my nose to the window and gaped at how pretty it was, how interesting it was in the air currents and drafts. Now that I've lived here a few years, I am much more aware of the downside of snow - but it's still magical to me. My favorite kind of snow is the big ploofs, wet and heavy and dancing like fairies in the air.

Last week I did a training in Denver and then I had to drive up to Keystone for a Big Required 2-Day Meeting. Keystone is one of the lesser-known (i.e., not Vail or Aspen) resort areas up in the mountains and they have had quite a bit of snow in the last few weeks, enough for one of the resorts next door (Arapahoe Basin) to open a run the weekend before I was there. Anyhow, I wanted to drive up while it was still light out (because I wasn't sure what the weather would be like), so I headed out of town around 4PM.

The drive up was only marginally frustrating and very pretty, with some of the aspens still clinging to their shimmery gold leaves, in amongst the evergreens, and with fog and snow blowing around in the valleys between passes. About halfway up I moved into the left-hand lane to avoid a herd of Bighorn sheep, blissfully grazing at the side of the road and spilling into the right lane. This was at a particularly steep and windy part of I70 and I let out a silent thank-you to whomever that I hadn't gone through there in the dark and hit the sheep. Then I did the same thing 5 minutes later, when ANOTHER herd of sheep was hanging out right next to the freeway. You'd think they wouldn't like being near all those cars whizzing past, but I guess people just avoid them. It was cool in that Bighorn sheep aren't seen every day by your average Coloradan - we see a lot of elk, particularly when it snows a lot in the high country, but the sheep are more shy.

So I'm almost to Keystone and it starts to snow a little, and I turn on the wipers of the awesome state car and one of them falls off. All that's left is the arm of the wiper, screep-screeping on the windshield. Luckily, it was the passenger-side wiper. And I got to Keystone and got all checked in to my fancy room in the fancy hotel and worked out in the not-terribly-fancy gym. At least they had one.

I spent two days up at Keystone knitting and then just sitting when I ran out of yarn for my project. The Big Required Meeting was, of course, boring as hell, and I managed to disappear a few times with a work friend who looks about 7 months pregnant even though she is only 4 months. I think this week she finds out if she's having twins - and if so, it would be really odd I guess because Indian women aren't likely to have twins. Anyhow. The chairs were really uncomfortable for her to sit in for any length of time and I accompanied her on walks around the inside of the conference center. It was really cold outside and snowed off and on throughout both days, and as I walked to the meeting on the first morning I realized how much that part of the mountains looks like what I once imagined Narnia to look like, the first time I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. You know, all snowy and evergreens, and quiet stillness? Always winter but never Christmas. They fed us way too much and I ate a decent dinner and then wasn't up for doing the yearly coworker carousing, as I was ready to fall asleep at 9 PM. I looked out my window and watched the crows in the snow and thought that maybe that was what it looks like beyond the wall in George Martin's Fire and Ice series.

The second morning I was in Keystone I wasn't quite awake yet in the shower, and I slipped when getting out of the tub, landing hard on my knee on the toilet and on my chest on the corner of the marble sink area. I'm pretty bruised and banged up, but it's gotten better in the several days - for a day or two there, I couldn't even touch my skin on my upper chest without wincing. I had to replace the wiper blade on my way back from Keystone and was glad I did because it snowed on the ascent to the Eisenhower tunnel and for quite a ways on the other side. It wasn't a blizzard over Vail Pass or anything like last year, but it was still kind of difficult driving. I got home and didn't want to drive any more for a while.

I enjoyed my couple of days in Keystone, for the views and pretty snow if nothing else - at one point, I even drove over a dam road - much weirder and scarier than a bridge. On the one side is water, right next to the car. On the other side? A huge drop. And no guard rails. Just glistening alpine water and nothingness.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I don't think I could drive over a dam road. I was white-knuckling driving over the Hoover Dam (which is also Route 93) to get to the Grand Canyon.

-qir said...

Oooh, beautifully evocative. I remember the last gasps of Aspens, standing their ground against the swirly gray mists of winter.

That was nicely written miss. Sorry to hear about the bathroom accident.

Remember my old Rhymes with Orange cartoon on the refridgerator?

MLE said...

Yup, and I always tell people not to hop in the tub because of it.