Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: ‘Keystone or bust’ |

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: ‘Keystone or bust’

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos
Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

As a child, my mother would have to bribe me to get me on the mountain to ski, but when it came to the ocean, I would jump right in.

The idea of flying down a slippery slope at high speeds terrified me, partly because at that age I was attached to my mother, and anything that didn’t include her, like ski lessons, weren’t worth my time.

It is amazing that much like our tastes change as a kid, so do our hobbies and passions as we grow up.

Now, two seasons off the mountain without skiing and I am getting anxious for that rush.

Not being able to ski couldn’t keep me away from the slopes.

There we were on our first trip up to the mountains since moving to Denver, just in time for a very large snowstorm.

We were an unprepared group.

My car wasn’t winter made as the last four years of my life were spent in San Diego.

And, I realized that much like my car wasn’t prepared for a mountain trip, neither was I.

I think that’s why it was so wonderful. Amidst the blizzard and frantic drivers, I asked the couple ahead of us in line, “What is going on up there?”

“Well, winter,” the man said.

While at the time his response seemed cold, he was right.

A closed I-70, high wind advisories and snow-packed roads reintroduced us to winter.

As we approached the state patrol man directing traffic back to Denver and disregarding any jokes we made about letting us just sneak behind him while he could close his eyes, our mountain escape seemed to be coming to an end.

Just when we were about to call the entire trip and turn around, a bus driver carrying 50 passengers across the snow-packed mountain pass approached our car with a smile as one would have on a sunny summer day.

“I do this all the time, we’re waiting it out and you should too,” he said calmly as I frantically fidgeted about my car for blankets and snow scrapers.

In that moment, I realized that I needed to rediscover my mountain girl side.

“Alright, well, I guess this means Keystone or bust,” we all said, in some form or another.

After a busy week, one would imagine that the least ideal place to be would be stuck on the top of a mountain pass along with of hundreds of people looking for the same escape and serenity of the mountains.

But for me, being stranded with nowhere to go, limited cell phone service and a sense of boredom created energy.

At that point in time it was a perfect recipe for happiness.

We waited it out, and caught up on all the heart-to-heart talks and discussions we have been too busy for over the past weeks.

And with time and many stories later, we were on our way up to the mountain.

Our escape to the mountains proved to come just in time amidst the craziness of the holidays.

I found myself not only rediscovering my mountain side, but also the kid within me, which hasn’t been revisited for months. I was throwing the snow up in the air like a child on Christmas morning, I rolled in it, made snow angels in it and threw countless snowballs.

There is something to be said about being consistently happy, even if it means putting a smile on your face when you’re stranded in a snowstorm.

This weekend was full of new faces and new memories and one thing people always tell me whether I’ve known them forever or just for a few minutes is, “No matter what, you are always happy and smiling.”

This weekend solidified for me the importance of this trait that I usually just brushed off.

Everybody has a different recipe for happiness. For me, it is about finding a combination between the ups and downs, and the opportunities to smile at the inconsistencies.