[ by Tyler Hansen ]
“What I want to know is how we’re going to stay alive this winter.”
– Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago
As I write this, my blood has not yet thickened to the point where I can comfortably embrace the earliest cold days of winter1. Instead, I’m cold when it’s sunny and 40 degrees out. And, if I’m perfectly honest, I have an impending feeling of dread. Winter at 9,000 feet is hard. While once there were shorts and flip flops and lawn chairs, there is now long underwear and insulated boots and scraping ice off the windshield. In short, from my perspective, there’s not much worthy of Instagram.
And yet people flock from thousands of miles away to partake in this life of cold inconvenience. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re one of said adventurers, like Shackleton rounding up his crew with the promise of hot chocolate.
Here’s the beauty of things. Somehow, we were made to be abundantly adaptable people, even if we approach that adaptability kicking and screaming. I will eventually rise on a gloomy December morning and greet the day with a hardy “well met…you may try to win the day, but I will not let you.” It’s my privileged form of perseverance. Sure, there are people out there with serious handicaps in life, they drive Buicks or follow Elon Musk on Twitter, but have you ever had to push a grocery cart over three-week-old ice at Clark’s? Now that’s hardship.
You persevere long enough and the new normal ceases to be a challenge to be faced and eventually becomes a reality to be embraced. And as it turns out, maybe that reality isn’t all bad. In fact, the notion that you would travel here starts to make a little bit of sense. Wherever you came from may have Chick-fil-A, but here you have an excuse to stay in the hot tub for an hour while drinking straight from a bottle of Fireball2. Yes, you could choose to go to Florida in the middle of winter, though what is the beach but a place for others to see the full ramifications of your potent dad bod in all of its pale, gelatinous glory? Here in paradise, any one of us could be built like Fabio underneath our layers of ski clothes.
So, I take it all back – the complaining, the dread, the self-serving victim mentality. Winter isn’t a season to be survived. It is, as the younglings say, a vibe3. While you’re here, I can’t encourage you enough to do all the things. Go to the sledding hill and have pictures taken where you and your entire family appear high on nitrous oxide. Strut around town in one of those Norwegian wool sweaters with those white furry boots that look like a muppet is slowly devouring your legs. Fully own it. Because you sure as heck can’t pull off that look anywhere else in the world. Try walking down Peachtree Street in Atlanta dressed like that. If the embarrassment doesn’t kill you, the heatstroke eventually will.
Once you’re done pretending to be a model for the Gorsuch catalogue, you can go for a moonlight ski to the yurt for a gourmet dinner, or check out one of our local musicians playing in a dive bar (I know a guy…he’s good). Ice skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, heck…there’s even ice fishing. You can get a custom cowboy hat made or shop for homegrown skin care products made out of free-range, Montessori-educated, sustainably harvested lavender. You can take a watercolor class while drinking Malbec heavily or catch a concert with a surprisingly legit laser show. Like I said, it’s a vibe.
So how am I going to stay alive this winter? I suppose I’ll do it in much the same way I have every winter for the past two decades. After my brief stint of “woe is me” navel gazing, I’ll get out there and let my blood start thickening. I’ll put away my flip flops and embrace my uncooked halibut physique4 (the only people who will see it are people who already love me, so I’m good). I’ll take my boys sledding or ice fishing or just hunker down and watch a storm roll over the Divide from the comfort of my Snuggie®. It’s all there for the taking. Sure, summer’s got some pretty sweet stuff to offer but man, so does winter. And you’re right here with me. You’re the adventurous one who abandoned Chick-fil-A for the thrill of chipping ice off windshields and drinking Fireball in the hot tub. Look at you. You should post something on Instagram.
1. Upon some research, apparently thick/thin blood as a measure of one’s ability to adapt to temperature isn’t really a thing. But I’m going to stick with it and perpetuate the myth, journalistic integrity be damned.
2. For legal reasons, I think I need to tell you it’s unhealthy to stay in the hot tub for an hour while consuming alcohol. Honestly, I think consuming Fireball at any point is probably one small step below following Elon Musk on Twitter.
3. Ugh. I’m 44. Just saying this makes me really uncomfortable. Let’s just move on and pretend like nothing happened.
4. Thanks to my friend Kristina Johnson, I’m borrowing her phrasing.
Tyler Hansen lives in a hobbit house in the middle of an aspen forest with his wife and two sons. A graphic designer and musician by trade, he has not yet given up on attaining his athletic pinnacle while also adoring McDonald’s chicken nuggets, two opposing forces that he’s not willing to reconcile.