It was 2:00pm, getting close to that magical time of day when the sun casts its warm glow across the valley making the mountains feel gentle and inviting with their soft snow fields and majestic pine trees.
As I put on my skins to hike up Tiehack a man next to me commented on the increase in hiking traffic due to the scaled down ski pass options. I chose not to bring myself down by talking about our inability to ski as a family this year and set off at a rapid pace to enjoy the few hours that I had to myself.
Sadly, many of we locals are going to have to be creative over this holiday season finding alternative choices for entertaining the children to keep them happy and busy.
It is crucial for me to have a daily agenda for the boys for they turn into ghoulish monsters if they don’t get out of the house before the 11:00am witching hour. Just like traveling, it is good to have a goal each day but it is more about the journey along the way.
I was grateful to find that The Aspen Chamber Resort Association is holding a 12 Days of Aspen festival with daily fun events for the children.
I am also grateful that my mother arrived a few days ago, providing wonderful amusement for the children and for me.
We packed up five boys in the car and drove up to Aspen to feel the Holiday spirit and to meet Santa’s live reindeer.
We started off at the Whoa Nelly sledding hill and new outdoor ice skating rink at the ARC.
I spent the first hour convincing the boys that they needed to wear their helmets while sledding. “But nobody else is wearing helmets”, they moaned. “Yeah, well nobody else goes off the sledding hill in search for greater heights and cliffs to jump off of”, I said with the tone of my voice getting sterner with each plea.
I was not going to give in after reading an article in the Aspen Daily News that spoke of the high rate of suicide in youths in Pitkin County partially resulting from parent’s wanting to be friends with their children and partying with them instead of being good disciplinarians.
The snow clouds moved in and the temperature dropped and so we piled into the van to eat our lunch, adding to the preexisting film of filth. Between vainly trying to keep the house in order and fitting in writing, who has time to address the car?
Only Tucker wanted to see the reindeer. “How can you not want to visit Santa’s reindeer?”, I asked in disbelief, tempting them with promises of free hot chocolate.
When we parked, the boys saw the crowd in the mall and took off running in excitement forgetting how they had just wasted ten minutes arguing with me in the car.
There was a mass of people huddled together with strollers, binkies, blankets and good cheer. The Aspen Dickens Christmas Carolers sang the wonderful traditional songs, none of which I knew the words to. I joined in on the refrains of the good ole more commercial songs.
We stood around the reindeer while the boys raced around receiving multiple shots of whipped cream in their hot chocolate cups. We had envisioned majestic reindeer running wildly around the field with their hoofs barely touching the ground but these reindeer were docile and sleepy, obviously resting up for Christmas Eve. My mother pointed out that although the reindeer were different from our expectations they were still moving and beautiful with their magnificent antlers and beautiful big brown eyes.
The Laughing Valley Ranch elf handler sweetly answered all of the questions, “Do the Reindeers have magic?” “Where’s Rudolph?” “Is Santa resting?” He told us that the reindeer came from one of Santa’s base stations in Idaho Springs, “Not many wild reindeer roaming Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Russia, Mongolia and Northern China anymore.”
As we drove home we were thankful that the Aspen Chamber had made the effort to make Christmas come alive for both children and adults and I look forward to attending and documenting more events to come.