You’d think after living in Colorado for 18 years I’d know how to dress for an autumn hike — especially one that takes place at high elevation a few days after a snowstorm.
When I got word that nearby Aspen/Snowmass was offering FREE rides on the Silver Queen Gondola up to the top of Aspen Mountain last weekend, I figured the hike down would be a great Sunday afternoon activity for me and my family. (Kudos, by the way to the Aspen Skiing Company for stepping up to provide high-altitude leaf-peeping opportunities to locals and visitors, when the government shutdown effectively shut down the road to the world-famous Maroon Bells.)
Indeed, the ride up the gondola to 11,212 feet brought great views of snow dusting the slopes and golden orange aspen trees.
At the top, we spotted families fully decked out in snowpants and snowboots, frolicking in the white stuff. Since three of the four of us were in sneakers, and I (foolishly) didn’t pack any hiking poles or Yax Trax, I suggested perhaps we back off our plan to descend the snowy mountain on foot, and perhaps hike up the moderate Smuggler Mountain trail, which was perfectly dry. But the kids and my husband would have nothing to do with that (figuring that hiking down a hill was easier than hiking up a hill).
Boy, were they wrong.
Hiking down Aspen Mountain in the summer — when you can clearly see the dirt roads at the top and you can more easily make switchbacks down — is relatively easy (at least that’s how I remember it – it’s been years since I’ve done that).
But in the winter (er, in the fall after a snowstorm), with roads covered in snow, we just picked the path of least resistance, which was pretty much straight down a trampled down trail that some industrious uphill hikers had made.
Basically, it was steep and snowy.
Until we got to the steep and muddy part.
But, as I said, the sun was shining, the kids were able to have their first snowball fight of the season, and we were all outside together enjoying fresh air. Who’s to complain about that?
In fact, my kids never uttered one complaint about our arduous, two-hour hike down in the snow — during which at least two of us had less-than-graceful falls. They never once told me I was a ding-a-ling for suggesting such a cockamamie plan for a Sunday afternoon. My teen daughter at one point even said, “This is fun.”
Indeed it was fun. Never mind that our feet were soaking wet by the time we reached the bottom of the hill. (Okay, my smart husband’s booted feet were dry.) But wet feet didn’t stop us from executing the rest of our Sunday afternoon plan – lunch at Boogie’s Diner with milkshakes to celebrate yet another successful Williams Family adventure.