Recently, a best childhood friend came to visit. As somebody whose heart has always belonged to Aspen, once upon a time she finally made the move, promptly fell in love, and had to move away to get married and have children.
It had been way too long since her last visit. Coming from sea-level, the thought of huffing it up to ski the bowl was a bit exhausting for her, but she is athletic and has that type of personality that is always up for everything and anything, and so she came with me. Taking pictures of her as she trudged up the last hump before reaching the prayer flags, I saw a mountain goat running alongside her, the first I’ve ever seen up there. Yelling to her to look around, she saw it, but her sights were set on making it to the peak. The spiritual moment was mine to absorb.
Since then I’ve been seeing mountain goats everywhere; twice along the highway, which never happens to me; on a ski patroller’s skis that were placed in the exact spot where I stopped to take a picture; and in a short film I saw at Aspen Shortsfest on one of the only nights I went.
Living up here in the mountains, these spiritual encounters happen frequently. Mine is not to ask why but to let them radiate through me and fill up my being with positivity and appreciation. I realize that these encounters can be chalked up to chance and probability, but I believe it is more than that, and since that is my choice of mindset, that is also my reality.
For me, closing day at Aspen Highlands is more than a celebration and mutual appreciation for this life we have chosen, but also a spiritual ritual. A last chance to fill myself up with that which makes my soul shine. A chance to physically exert myself to the point where the mountains become my energy and the chattering mind transcends into greater truths.
The day began with the coconut telegraph of texts amongst my ski pack. It was closing day at Aspen Highlands, and a powder day. One of very few this season. Assessing the variables the text chain began, “12 new inches! Powder day, let’s get out there,” and then the hesitation began; high avi danger reports, thick knee-wrenching snow conditions, bowl may not open… But, hiking the bowl on closing day of Aspen Highlands is a ritual that I was compelled to fulfill, regardless of the conditions. I needed to say a final goodbye to my temple for the season.
To realize the bitter truth at the end of the day that as we were giving cheers to our mountains at Cloud 9, a member of Mountain Rescue was being buried in an avalanche right below us in Maroon Bowl, brought somber truths of our existence, and a respect for that which we were celebrating. To celebrate life, our mountains and each other seasonally is a ritual that I hope to never stop, and one that just took on a greater depth. A harsh reminder that life is fragile and to be lived fully every moment, and that nature is as cruel as she is empowering and always to be greatly admired, respected and nurtured.
It is with my deepest sympathy that I offer my prayers for the loved ones of John Galvin, the Mountain Rescue Aspen member who was killed Sunday. Galvin, 57, was a 30-year veteran of the rescue organization and longtime resident of the Roaring Fork Valley. “John helped save lives of hundreds of visitors and locals who were in need while injured or stranded in our mountains. John will be missed by all on our team and in our community,” MRA President Justin Hood said Monday in a news release, as per The Aspen Times.