A tattoo I got when I was 18 symbolized my undying love for climbing, kayaking and snowboarding.
Now it seems my marriage to snowboarding is fading - I only bought a four-day pass to Aspen this season. In high school and college, I easily logged 80 days a year. Now I'm fine with four.
That's all I rode last year, and I had a seven-day pass. Last season wasn't the best for snow, but that wasn't the main reason I didn't go up there.
I used to love the ski hill. When the flakes finally fell, I would be giddy with imagination. I fantasized of floating upside down off a cliff and snapping my board back under me for a landing in deep powder.
The feeling really kicked into gear for me when I saw my first Warren Miller film, "Vertical Reality." I was 10 years old and had never experienced such energy in a theater.
I still skied then but I wanted to snowboard. My dad wasn't jumping to start me on a snowboard - probably because he had already invested years in teaching me to ski. I've always been a boarder, though. I wanted nothing more than a skateboard when I was 6, and I wanted a snowboard at age 9.
The film opened with a snowboarder hucking a back flip off a cliff in slow motion. The crowd in the theater whistled and hollered. The noise didn't stop for the next three hours. Then we walked outside and discovered that a falling blizzard had already dumped several inches of snow!
The next day, I pulled my "Black Sno Surfer" out of the garage and went sledding down a steep hill. The plastic sled had a string to hold on to as I balanced on top of it, but there weren't any bindings. I envisioned a radical line that ended at the brink of a steep ravine, where I'd surely have to bail if I made it that far.
I soon found myself linking the turns, catching air and stomping the narrow landing in the ravine. I looked at the seven-foot drop in disbelief of myself. More snow was already falling and my skiing-snowboarding career was never the same.
I finally got to try real snowboarding when I was 12. My mom and I moved to New Castle my seventh-grade year and I started riding at Sunlight all the time. By 2003, I was on the University of Colorado snowboard team, gliding out of the halfpipe four days a week.
Now what? It seems my love has dried up, perhaps a bit literally, too.
Part of the problem is that most inbounds terrain is boring for me lately. That sounds arrogant, I know, but it's true. The increasing crowds, ticket prices and traffic are also part of the problem.
Backcountry could be a solution, but that requires a whole bunch more expensive gear I can't afford, let alone the proper classes on how to use it. Maybe it's time to pick up telemark skiing or something like that to make "blue" runs exciting again - but then there's still the problem of buying new equipment.
Meanwhile, I already have ice climbing gear. That sport is plenty engaging, plus there are fewer people there. Besides, the warm, dry winters we've been getting make rock climbing a great, year-round affair as well.
So, my fellow humans - who are loving these mountains to death along beside me - keep driving hours to get to the melting snow hills so you can wait in line and talk to hundreds of people about where all the snow went, and I'll continue to make the best of whatever situation presents itself.
I just hope climbing doesn't become as popular as downhill riding, though I've already noticed quite an influx at the cliff in the last decade as well.
What else are we to do? It seems the reality of our verticality is getting diminishing gains where it really counts, but I certainly don't know how to stop. One thing is certain, however - we'll all continue to live the way we always have and simply hope that something else changes.
So I'll see you on the slope ... what's left of it.
- "Open Space" appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.