Holiday Dawn Patrol


Climbing to Lenawee Ridge at Arapahoe Basin as the sun breaks over the horizon.

I love the holidays. I really love some of those sappy holiday movies like White Christmas, The Christmas Card, Polar Express and The Christmas Gift.  I’ll even occasionally tune in to our local radio station who plays 24-hour holiday music, though they tragically started in early November (I refrained until December). Though I’m not a huge fan of Starbucks in general, I always enjoy getting a cup of Christmas blend once or twice a week during December on my way into work. Even the seasonal red cups make me feel much more “Merry”. And don’t even get me started with those damn festive snowman cookies…ugh, like a siren pulling me onto the rocks.

What I don’t much care for during the holidays are the barrage of advertisements and incessant pressures that makes people feel like they have to give the “perfect gift” to the people they care about, else risk shattering their hopes and dreams. The pressure is constant and enormous. Though I am not religious, I find it kind of silly that a religious holiday has turned into a season of financial overextending and emotional turmoil. I feel so fortunate that most all my close friends and family have gotten past this.

Over the past week or so, instead of fighting the crowds to find the perfect gift for my friends, I’ve tried to spend time with them. I’m extremely fortunate to have a few of those friends living here in Colorado so I can see them in person. Others live in places like China (though is in NYC en route to Dayton at this very moment), others in Japan, California, Washington DC, Mexico, Canada, Washington State, New Mexico, Idaho and Montana. When I say spend time, I obviously can’t be in all those places in such a short period of time, though the logistical challenge to do so is something that definitely appeals to me. What I mean by spending time is letting people know how much they mean to me even if it’s only with a holiday card, a phone call or in the case of my friends here, getting out in the places we love and just hanging out. Sometimes words aren’t even necessary because simply being together in those places is all that needs to be said.

For three out of the last four days I’ve gotten up at 04:30 to go meet friends. One morning I picked up a friend of a friend to take her up to Beaver Creek, someone who I’d never met. I had the incredible fortune of coming away from that day with yet another amazing person who enriched my life by just meeting them. The other two mornings I rallied early to meet up with friends for a skin up one of our local resorts, then we’d ski down, just the two of us, before the mad rush of tourists enveloped the mountain. The backcountry is definitely our preferred place to climb and ski, but this time of year with the snow conditions less than optimal, we earn our turns on the corduroy the resorts are kind enough to lay down for us.

I’ve told other people about these early morning dawn patrol outings and oftentimes it seems pretty silly to most. Getting out of bed at absurd hours, going out in near zero temperatures in almost complete darkness to grind our way up some steep slope for a couple of hours seems like torture to them. Sometimes it seems silly to me. But the second I clip my bindings to my boots and start climbing in amazingly beautiful places with a friend, it all makes perfect sense. I get to be alone with someone close to me, no distractions, no expectations, no pressure. The beauty of being in the mountains when we’re on dawn patrol as the sun breaks over the Continental Divide is special — sharing those special places with someone you care about and who feels the same way is magical. These are the gifts we give each other instead of getting caught up in the material goofiness of the season…the gift of our friendship. Okay, there are cookies involved sometimes, but you get my point.

Regardless of your beliefs, I hope everyone is as fortunate as me to be able to share this season with the people you care most about…if even only via mail, text, email, phone or Skype. From Japan to New York to Washington to Australia (in their quarantined Airstream!) to Montana to Idaho to New Mexico to Mexico, right here in Colorado and all places around the world…Happy Holidays and thank you. Much love.


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