I have a confession to make.
I don't ski or snowboard. In fact, I don't even like snow.
While that may not mean much to you, in Aspen that's like saying you're an atheist in a church or a Red Sox fan at Yankee Stadium.
Despite my lack of experience, knowledge or anything that may prepare me in any way, I jumped at the chance to go to the X Games. I had no idea what to expect but I knew it would be like nothing I had covered before.
I flew into Aspen late Wednesday night. I felt kind of like an astronaut flying to another planet. Or at least someone in Avatar.
The following is my first 24 hours in Aspen documented to the best of my ability. Please know how hard it is to take notes on top of a mountain. But I did just so you could kill time at work while reading this blog.
Wednesday, 10:00 PM (Mountain Time): Arrive in Aspen on a tiny plane. The woman seated next to me tells me she will probably throw up. I am pleasantly surprised when we land and I am not covered in puke.
10:20 PM: The Aspen airport is so small, we have to step out of the plane and onto the ground. They provide us with an ice-covered ramp to walk down. I am certain I will fall right down. At least it would be a memorable introduction to the city. I don't fall. But I do hurt my hands from gripping the handrails so tightly.
11:05 PM: Because it is so late, there is only one car left at the car rental. A gigantic pick-up truck. I'm talking Howie Long-endorsed, real man-type of truck. One problem. I'm 5-foot 1. I joke with the staff that I will need phone books to sit on. We all laugh. Then they actually offer me phone books. I respectfully decline.
11:15 PM: My hotel is apparently in the next town over. I begin driving. Approximately 20 seconds into the drive I realize I should have taken the phone books. I look like an elderly woman crushed up against the steering wheel struggling to see over the dashboard.
11:40 PM: Arrive at my hotel in Snowmass. As I mentioned, I don't like snow. But this place is gorgeous. It looks like a fancy ski lodge from a movie. I know it's a nice hotel because there are chocolates on my pillow. Yes, real chocolates. This is just like a movie.
11:41 PM: In case you didn't catch on, I'm not used to nice places. My friends and I prefer to cram five people in motel rooms at places with names like the Flamingo Inn where we can get discounts due to having nice eyes.
Thursday, 12:05 AM: Pass out. I'm convinced I will be getting altitude sickness so I'm hopeful that I can sleep it off before I actually get it. This decision has no actual medical basis.
8:05 AM: Wake up ready to take on the X Games. Although I think my cure for altitude sickness failed as I feel like I have been hit over the head with a sledge hammer. Not that I actually know what that feels like.
9:00 AM: Drive over to Buttermilk Mountain where the X Games take place. As I peer over the window, I am told I am essentially not important enough to park at the venue. Drive to downtown Aspen to find parking.
9:15 AM: Realize, yet again, how huge the truck is and struggle to find a parking space I actually park in. After a half-hour of pulling my hair out, I find a spot on the street. Unfortunately I now can't figure out the meter.
9:45 AM: Discover I can pay for parking over the phone. Temporarily in awe over this revelation when Shaun White walks by. He is with a pretty blonde and another guy. He looks relaxed and calm. I am immediately embarrassed because I discover we might be wearing the same jeans. Still not sure if I was embarrassed for myself or for him.
9:55 AM: Talk to a phone operator about this parking-by-phone business. Turns out it's not as easy as it seems. White and company walk by again. This time he shoots me a look mixed of confusion and pity. I just got pitied by Shaun White? Awesome. I am totally part of the X Games crowd!
10:20 AM: Find the staff shuttle to take me to the mountain. I later realize it wasn't actually the shuttle but just a nice public bus driver who saw I had been standing there for quite some time. When he discovers I am a writer, he tells me in great detail of the children's book he is working on. Mark my words. This dude has a bestseller on his hands. I wish I could tell you his name but when a bus driver from Aspen has a best-selling children's book, know that you heard it here first.
11:00 AM: Meet up my friend and co-worker Shandi who has agreed to be my ambassador to "X". She is a snowboarding aficionado and knows everyone and everything. She also has agreed to help produce some video blogs for me as I bumble around aimlessly for your viewing pleasure. These will be up later this weekend so make sure you check them out. Unintentional comedic brilliance, if I do say so myself.
12:00 PM: Decide to get some lunch before checking out the scene and starting our video work. We enter the catering tent for all X Games staff. The mountains are pretty and all, but this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. There is every type of food imaginable. All free and at my disposal. Now I remember why I got in this business. Free food. I love my job.
1:15 PM: Head out to check out some of the events. Start watching the women's Skiing Slopestyle. We end up standing next to Jamie Anderson, the favorite for Snowboarding Slopestyle. She is undeniably cool. She is only 19 but has the confidence and demeanor of a rock star. I'm impressed and kind of envious. I wish I could have been that cool and accomplished at 19. Or now.
1:50 PM: Decide to start working on a video segment about snowboarding lingo in a "Jay-Walking" kind of style. Shandi writes down a list of common vernacular and we ask people on the mountain to define them. I realize how valuable it is after overhearing someone say they, "hit the tranny" and thinking it meant something much, different than it actually did.
2:05 PM: Get on the chairlift to take us up the mountain. I'm ashamed to say I've never even been on one of these. I realize that we are so high up, we are actually in the clouds. I swear I'm not on acid.
2:15 PM: Make it to the top of the mountain. I have no idea how to actually get off the chairlift so I pretty much fall in my attempt to get off. I see many heads shake. At this point I begin to think of myself as a character in City Slickers. Except I would like to think I'm better looking than Billy Crystal.
2:20 PM: Begin asking people for definitions for words and phrases like, "boned out" and "snow bunny". Shandi tells me "snow bunny" is kind of an insult about girls on the hill. I am somewhat insulted when everyone defines said word by pointing at me. I always thought snow bunnies got to hang out in Jacuzzis and drink champagne. I am doing neither. Thank you very much.
3:10 PM: Go back down the mountain on the chairlift alone. This causes more stares and head shakes. It's a long, shameful ride to the bottom of the hill. I watch Shandi on her board below.
3:27 PM: Shandi spots Louie Vito, the snowboarder and former "Dancing With The Stars" contestant, and calls him over. I'm amazed at how nice and accessible all of the athletes here are. He has no entourage and is more than happy to talk to us. I find myself needing most of the conversation translated due to the advanced snowboarding speak he uses but from what I understood, he is pretty "stoked" to be in Aspen.
4:46 PM: Go watch the women's Snowboard SuperPipe elimination round. I've seen this on TV a thousand times but it is impossible to grasp just how massive the pipe is until you actually see it in person. I have decided one must be certifiably crazy to want to do this for a living. It is unbelievable to watch. I am also struck by the commentators who are talking over the P.A. system. At one point one of the competitors misses her landing and they start talking about how awful that is. I just want to turn around and yell, "she can hear you!". What jerks. At least talk trash about her behind her back.
5:12 PM: Check out the TV production center. ESPN has taken over the entire first floor of a hotel. Standard hotel rooms have been transformed into offices and full production studios. I am secretly hoping to run into Sal Masekela. I mean who doesn't love "The Daily 10"? Don't answer that.
6:00 PM: Do some actual work for the mobile website you are currently viewing. I will spare you the details but you're welcome.
7:39 PM: Watch the Snowmobile Freestyle finals. Imagine listening to every one your neighbors mow the lawn at the exact same time and that's what this sounds like. It's deafening. But I can't look away. These dudes are ridiculous. If you didn't check out any of the action, make sure you check out the highlights on espn.com/action. That will be my first and only shameless plug of the day. I promise.
8:49 PM: Despite being nowhere the Snowmobile event anymore, I cannot get the noise out of my head. It's like a constant vibration in my ears. No way any of the guys in the event have their hearing past 40. No way. Once again, I have no medical basis for the above statement.
10:24 PM: Attempt to seek out the Aspen party scene. This should come as no surprise but I am not a big deal at ESPN. Thus, I have no pull to get me into any VIP-type party. So we decide to just hang with the other spectators at the downtown Aspen bars. I don't see anyone famous and I don't have any great "you're not going to believe what Levi LaVallee did" antidotes but I can say there is a "rad" group of people in Aspen this weekend and I'm "stoked" to be here.
Make sure you check back tomorrow for my Day 2 recap. Maybe I'll even be able to crash a VIP party. Or, gasp, try to snowboard.