Point & Click
This holiday season, we’ve experienced a high incidence of deaths among local residents – each one hitting us hard and teaching us something about living along the way. Doug Valley was one such person. My husband, Erik, and I grew up with Doug in Aspen, and attended his memorial service at the Aspen Chapel last Friday.It was sad and, as is often the case with memorial services, somewhat cathartic to attend Doug’s service. Because he was a person so completely full of life, it seemed like he should be walking through the doors to join us, rather than be the subject of our memories. But he didn’t walk through the doors. A lot of other people did, though. The chapel was packed to the gills with a veritable alumni of Aspen High School graduates circa 1970s. At every turn of the head, I saw someone from middle and/or high school, now older, more experienced and with well-earned character lines. We came from far and wide to, as the service’s program said, celebrate Doug’s life. Doug was one of those people who lived life to the absolute fullest – and then some. He lived exactly the way he wanted to – and with an intensity that led to his untimely death. At age 42, after years of truly phenomenal athletic feats, combined with equally hard living, his body gave out. He wouldn’t have done it any other way. At Doug’s service, his letterman’s jacket from high school and his instructor’s jacket from Snowmass Ski School were draped over the altar. It was an appropriate send-off.Doug was an athlete with abandon. He played football and baseball, and excelled at both. He was the guy everybody liked; other guys wanted to be him, and girls wanted to go out with him. He took up skiing at 10 when he and his family moved to Aspen in 1970, and was one of those skiers you’d see busting through the powder, doing aerial jumps and flips, and banging through the bumps like there was no tomorrow. For Doug, that was prophetically true.At Doug’s service, a number of guy friends – after all, Doug was really a guy’s guy – spoke about him. There was a lot of laughter and tears. One friend told about Doug’s winter parking technique. In high school, Doug had an old VW Beetle. He’d see a parking spot between two cars on an icy, snowpacked street and he’d pull up hard on his emergency break, slipping in a 180 right into the spot without a bump or crunch. Another friend told about Doug’s attempts to complete a 360 degree airborne turn on his dirtbike. Since he had mastered a 360 on his skis, he figured he’d be able to do it on a bike. He couldn’t, but he tried plenty of times, and had the broken bones to prove it. I remember seeing him at the end of a skiing day in the 1980s. A group of friends were at the base of Little Nell on Aspen Mountain after a day skiing. Doug walked up, a big smile on his face, looking rather dazed, snow in his hair. “Look what I did,” he said, hauling up a pair of destroyed skis for inspection. Doug had gone off a jump – he was an incredible jumper – and had misjudged the landing. His skis, from the bindings to the tips, were bent outward at a impossible angle. He had bent his skis beyond repair. That’s the kind of guy he was. And he smiled about it. It’s hard and almost impossible to imagine Doug is no longer walking on this mortal coil. His time here is gone. His life reminds me of a quote I’ve never forgotten. It’s from the movie “Breaker Morant:” “Live each day as if it was your last,” it goes, “some day you’re sure to be right.”This weekend, I skied steeps, cranking turns and feeling how good it is to be alive and really living. I sledded with family and friends down curvy, snowy trails, watching the kids giggle with sheer joy over flying down hills, and being outside in the cold. And I thought of Doug, and his wonderful, broad smile, and the mischievous but always warm-hearted look he always had in his eyes.
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