H. Neal Glanville: Crazed hippies doin’ Ajax



H. Neal Glanville

This light snow sure brought back memories of my ski bum days, especially the year of John the Canadian, the Norwegian, Carl Washington and I in Aspen.

It was in the 1960s, and we all lived in an old motel downtown we called “the dorm.”

As life will have it, the “hippie” what-cha-call-it was just starting steam, and we we’re often surrounded by whatever that brought forth.

Three of us were in constant search of trackless knee-deep powder and the giggles that it brought forth when you looked back up the mountain.

Carl was a young man who hitchhiked from the slums of Harlem, just north of New York City, with nothing but a “space blanket” and a chip on his shoulder.

He showed up one fall morning at the drug store/coffee shop we often hung out in, looking for work. As we stared at Ajax praying for snow, he got a job and I got a roommate and free lunches.

Carl had no idea, nor wanted one, of our addictions to snow, but was patient with our stories of this run or that.

My favorite was the time we skied off Independence Pass with no way back to the car. He’d remind us of the single time he’d gone sledding on a chunk of cardboard and how the cold just wasn’t worth it.

Let me skip ahead to the second good snow that year.

John and I broke out our rock skis and walked up the left side of Ajax. The Norwegian was supposed to be our lookout because the mountain hadn’t opened yet.

He failed and we met Aspen’s finest at the bottom. The officers told us to get our skis off and John started laughing as he stepped out of his fancy butt Miller bindings, and I bent over to unclamp my “bear traps.”

Of course, the officers thought John was laughing at them, but when I fell downhill stepping out of my uphill ski they had to feel my pain and kind of laugh along, stopping just long enough to tell us “if we ever see you skiing on the hill again before it opens” something about trespassing laws and how old we’d be when we got out jail.

We, being “dutiful” citizens, nodded our heads a lot and swore an oath to Saint Powder they’d never see us skiing on the hill again until opening day.

We drudged home, giggling of course, to bask in the glory of our close encounter with life in prison and scheming a night run as the snow really started to fall.

Carl couldn’t see the humor in our brush with “the man.” But, we decided we should attack the hill again, “because they’d never expect it.”

John reminded us that he was a guest of the immigration department and didn’t really need to be caught again skiing down the hill, even if it was getting dark and they’d never expect it.

I opened our window facing west and we watched the snow turn to fluff as it fell on the empty lot below us.

I was being torn between throwing myself out the second floor window or life in the Aspen jail when Carl asked exactly what we’d promised, to “never ski down the hill again, until opening day.”

Carl asked us where we’d started our first run and told us to meet him there in an hour or so, without skis.

He was waiting for us, bundled up like he’d borrowed half the warm clothes in Pitkin County, sitting atop three — the Norwegian had been banned — grey busboy trays.

Yup, we walked out far enough to see the street, plopped our butts in the trays, and went for it.

Since grey plastic busboy trays have no speedometers, I can’t say how fast we flew by Aspen’s finest the second time.

I can say, however, their eyes were bigger than De Soto hubcaps when I slid past their car headed for home.

We didn’t leave “the dorm” until opening day and delighted in the tales of the “crazed hippies doin’ Ajax in the dark.”

Merry Christmas, everyone, and thank you.

Hey, you be careful out there.


j4mom7 6 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the column, Neal. Reminded me of my first (and last) experience riding busboy trays down a ski slope and oddly enough, there was a Canadian in mine, too, a couple of 'em. Mine took place at Snowbird a couple years after it opened, and there was law enforcement involved then, also. We were all staying at The Cliff Lodge, and late one night, we were antsy and bored (we shoulda been asleep), so we swiped some trays and hiked ourselves up to the top of the chairlift out the backdoor of the lodge, plopped our butts down and let 'er rip. That was the fastest, most exhilarating and terrifying ride I've ever had...and ever will have! The run we went down ended at the storage lot for the grooming equipment and there was a big, heavy chain across the entrance. We laid low like lugers and shot under that chain with just inches to spare. God must've been smiling on us because none of us got decapitated, or plowed into a Thiokol. We did, however, make enough noise on our way down that the local constabulary was alerted and waiting for us when we got to the bottom. After telling us how stupid we were, they threatened us with parental notification and ski-pass revocation, which had the desired effect. The adrenaline rush instantly evaporated and we swore not to do it again. We didn't know which would've been worse...losing our ski passes...or our parents finding out. Either option made decapitation look good! It's been almost forty years since that night, and your column brought it all back. Thank for the memories, dude. You made me smile...and that's a good gift for Christmas!


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