The facial expression I received in response was essentially what you’d expect from the father of a seventeen-year-old daughter that had never been west of New York. It was August, and I had just come home to Connecticut after living with my grandmother in Cape Cod for the summer. I had exercised my independence to a great extent, traveling solo to Vermont for a week-long debate competition and later moving myself into Dunster House for two weeks at Harvard Summer School. I had put a great deal of time and energy into proving my maturity and responsibility, and now was the time to reap the benefits.
“I don’t think so,” he says, which naturally I interpreted as “convince me.”
I approached the persuasion the same way I approach a formal debate: I began with research, looking up prices for hotel rooms, plane tickets, and lift passes. I explored feasibility, calculating how many hours I’d need to put in at my local coffee shop (and what could be subsidized by my parents in the name of birthday generosity). I introduced a chaperone to quell parental fears, and drew out an itinerary solely for their sanity. When it was time for the final debate, I was ready to present my case.
Four months later, my friend Reilly and I were boarding our flight out of Laguardia, and I was still in utter disbelief that I’d actually pulled this off. The entire day felt surreal. I’d been taking Accli-Mate for a week and spent days poring over what to pack, but it still didn’t feel real until I stepped outside of Denver International Airport. It was 9:00, 11:00 east coast time. I was exhausted, and felt scoliosis was imminent after four hours in the tiny United economy class seats. Nevertheless, I dropped my bags, wrapped my arms around Reilly, and loud enough for Aspen to hear me, shouted, “We’re here!!”
Reilly’s cousin, the designated chaperone, drove us out to Aspen the next morning. Route 71 looked something like a dream to me, and I rarely went fifteen minutes without shouting, “Guys!! Look out the window! It’s so beautiful!” Reilly and Andrew are seasoned Coloradans, and the views hardly phase them anymore. But for me, it was like seeing the ocean for the first time.
Three hours later we arrived, and checked in to the Aspen Mountain Lodge. The woman working the desk was incredibly friendly, and the roaring fireplace on the ground floor kept the whole place warm. We opened the door to our room and spent about two minutes shrieking in excitement – until we realized we’d left the door open for all the other guests to hear. After closing it, we continued to celebrate with ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and Little Debbie’s oatmeal cream pies.
That night we headed out to the games, and saw the men’s and women’s superpipe. Thanks to my uncle and his amazing friends at ESPN, we landed Industry Guest credentials and got to cheer alongside the athletes’ families and friends. We went home, frozen and delighted, and prepared for the next day.
Saturday we headed out to Snowmass for some real-live Rocky Mountain skiing. Back East, all you hear is how spoiled you’ll be after skiing Colorado. These people were not wrong. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions. It had snowed up until Thursday, meaning there was plenty of powder to go around. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the lift lines were practically nonexistent.
The day wasn’t without a few downfalls – Reilly and Andrew are far more experienced skiers, and they witnessed more than a few face plants from me (including one that occurred in front of a crowd when I attempted to get on the Poma lift). I also made the fatal mistake of dropping my phone on the shuttle, shattering the screen. However, these were all forgotten later in the evening, when I went to the Inn at Aspen to retrieve my credentials and found myself face to face with G-Eazy.
For those of you who have no idea what that means (looking at you, Mom and Dad), he is a rapper from California, one who I happened to be obsessed with. I played it cool for a few minutes, like any VIP would, ordering the Uber back to my hotel before turning to him and asking for a picture. I told him how I had tickets to see his shows two years in a row in Boston, and each time the show was snowed out. He asked if I was going to see him perform the next day, and I enthusiastically flashed my wristband for the VIP area. Still in a daze, I said goodbye and got in the Uber.
The Uber, which cost $43, took me about five minutes away to meet AspenRealLife founder and editor Jillian at the Red Onion. She and my dad were good friends in college at Boston University. Jillian introduced me to her sister, her husband, and her friends, and my friendly, tight-knit impression of the people of Aspen was only further confirmed.
We finished the night with a fantastic meal at Mezzaluna, where the tiramisu was so good I didn’t even mind that I’d just paid $22 for spaghetti.
On Sunday, I woke up and realized I was an adult. After half-asleep birthday serenading, we headed to Aspen Highlands. The mountain was the perfect combination of scenic trails for me and death-defying, endurance-heavy trails for the other two. They went off to hike the bowl, and I merrily made my way around the mountain. I had lovely conversations with the woman serving hot cider and the more experienced skiers that accompanied me on the lifts. People were ecstatic when I told them it was my first time in Colorado.
We finished the day at the G-Eazy concert, where Reilly and I finagled our way to the front row. We left Buttermilk with our faces still frozen into smiles, and agreed that this was truly the best birthday ever.