The governor of Colorado announced last night at 7pm that all ski resorts in the state are closed indefinitely. Tourists are still in town and they are everywhere. The Mall is full of people and families are skiing on the beginner hill either hiking back up or doing bus laps.
I decide to go for my first day of split boarding. Surrounded by dozens of people doing the same, I run into Dash. He is 89 years old and hiking up the mountain with his snowboard in order to get another day under his legs. While we’re chatting I make sure I keep safe distance between us and I even cover my face with my buff out of precaution, terrified that I could in some way transfer a virus that I might have and not be aware of to him. The thought of it haunts me for days.
I read an article about a guy who started having symptoms 9 days after he was exposed to somebody with the virus. My throat immediately started hurting. Anxiety is a hell of a thing. We didn’t go skinning today. But I grabbed my camera and went for a walk around the village. It’s so eerily empty. And not in a way like it’s empty during off season. The tables are still out at the restaurants, the lights above the ice rink are on and the steam coming off the heated pavement in Base Village makes it looks so much more apocalyptic.
It has not stopped snowing all day. I walked up to the Snowmass mall around dusk, just as the walking area would be full of people heading in and out of restaurants for dinner. There was not a single soul there other than me, no footprints in the snow covering the ground that surely hadn’t been cleared out all day. In the solitude of this moment, as the snowflakes kept piling up on the tables and chairs left intact at the restaurant patios, the only sound was the shutter of my camera. I walked out on the slopes, my feet now buried in almost a foot of snow. What a hauntingly beautiful sight.
Technically we’re not even half way through.
It’s been a full month since we’ve started isolating. Aspen has 34 confirmed cases of Covid-19, about 300 people have self-reported symptoms and 2 people have died from the virus. We are still under stay at home order, masks are now pretty close to mandatory in all public spaces. First bike ride of the year in below freezing temperatures. Anything to get out of the house.
I caught up with Kelly Beairsto on day 47 of her 50 day mission to skin up the mountain. Yesterday, she completed that goal, and based on the topographic maps, she counts she covered 81,611 feet of elevation gain, which is, coincidentally, Aspen’s zip code.
By the end of her mission, there were many creek crossings and some skiing through the mud, but Kelly is grateful to Aspen Snowmass for grooming the runs for so long and enabling her to go out and enjoy the mountains every day. “It is like therapy for me” she sad, as it helped her deal with the situation and get her mind off the crisis and missing her family.
Throughout the course of her mission, Kelly was joined by friends, some of whom tried skinning for the first time, and she also kept a fun game on Facebook called “name that trail” where she’d challenge people to guess which trail she was on based on the pictures.
As I made my way up patches of mud and snow, I admired Kelly and her friend Kat skiing down the mountain on a sunny afternoon in May, after most of us have packed our winter gear away.
When Ashley checked into the maternity ward at the Aspen Valley Hospital in early morning of March 17th, the world was going about its normal pace. But the world she walked back into with her newborn baby was slightly changed. “The nurses at first weren’t wearing masks and then they started wearing masks, so it felt like everything was changing every few minutes.” Ashley remembers the hospital being really busy while they were in there, as the labor and delivery department decided to induce everyone who was even close to giving birth. “I think they had 5 deliveries the day Phoebe was born, and usually they only have 300 deliveries a year. It was sort of chaotic.”
Their 3 year old daughter Georgia threw a huge fit in front of the hospital because she wanted to come in and see them. They had done a toddler class with her where she gets used to the hospital and learns how to be a big sister. But once it all happened, she wasn’t allowed in the hospital. “I think that was the worst part, that she couldn’t be there to participate in any of it when we spent 9 months talking it up to her because we wanted her to feel comfortable and included.”
Ashleys husband, Kevin, recalls how surreal it was as everything was happening at the same time. “I worked the day before, then we went in, and then work shut down, everything shut down. And then the financial panic started.”
Luckily, Kevin has been able to work from home, but that brings its own challenges with a newborn baby and a toddler at home. “Georgia is at an age when she’s just absorbing so much that you want to give her the attention, so how do I get work done and help foster creativity with her.”
Having just moved to Snowmass Village in June of 2019, Ashley and Kevin feel pretty isolated since they don’t know many people to start with. But they both agree that the best part about the whole situation has been all the time spent together. “With Georgia we had visitors almost every night, but now our sole focus is on each other which is a huge difference.”