Pixie Morin cuts a big smile as she finds the soft troughs through the bumps on the Temerity side of Aspen Highlands, her favorite mountain.
It’s a Thursday and she is skiing with group of friends, like she has done four or five days a week since 1976, she said.
“I don’t apologize for it,” she said.
The skiing up high was good that day. Highlands, after all, has the most high-altitude steep runs in the valley. It was snowing and the mountain was empty.
“It’s really good, but it usually is,” quipped her friend Paula Moore at the bottom of the lift, reciting one of the catch phrases of the “Chicks on Sticks” posse they have anchored for two-plus decades. (Another favorite: “You’ll never know until you go,” referring to ski conditions.)
Morin has become an expert at making the rest of her life conform to her passion of skiing — an effort that extends even to the Internal Revenue Service. In honor of tax day, which is Monday, Morin is doing what she normally does — filing an extension, so the burden of tax time doesn’t have to coincide with the end of ski season.
In another effort to make life imitate skiing, Morin once asked Aspen Mountain Manager Peter King to change lift operating hours because of daylight savings time, which is no friend of skiers because it means it takes everything an extra hour to soften up, she said. That effort did not go as well as hoped.
Morin, 59, grew up in Denver — she still makes it to most Broncos home games — and started skiing at Copper Mountain. In college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, she began escaping to ski more often.
“First it was on Mondays. Then it was on Mondays and Wednesdays. Then I got the bug and moved to Breckenridge,” she said.
Morin met her husband and moved to the valley in 1980, and has been working jobs — usually restaurant and bar work — that keep her days free for skiing.
“My husband has a real job — and he’s really nice,” she said with a laugh, explaining how she’s been able to pull it off all these years.
The memories that stand out are all the beautiful runs, and all the friends she’s made along the way.
“That’s what makes it special,” she said.
Morin loves Aspen Highlands’ duct-tape spirit, its array of difficult skiing and the fact that she has a locker at the bottom. She became a devotee of Highlands when it was still independent of the Aspen Skiing Co., and her loyalty remains.
She got on early as a “pro packer,” ski packing the steep avalanche start zones of Steeplechase, and making friends with ski patrollers and other mountain regulars.
“I know every rock on this mountain,” she said.
In the early days, there weren’t as many female ski bums. And so it was about 20 years ago, when a new girl who could ski well moved to town, and everyone kept telling Morin they would have to meet. Morin was standing in line and watched a girl ski down, and immediately sized her up — “Are you Paula?” she said. “Are you Pixie?” Moore replied. They’ve been skiing together ever since.
The Chicks on Sticks are so well versed in Aspen Highlands that at one point, the mountain manager asked them to be a part of a focus group concerning terrain expansions and mountain improvements. They have their own shrines on the mountain, on both the Steeplechase and Oly sides, and ski patrol this year threw them a party at the patrol headquarters.
Such are the benefits of scheduling life around the rhythms of a ski day.
“I don’t feel 59,” she said. “It’s just weird to think. ... We gave up the dream of being rich, but we have fulfilled the dream of living richly. And we really are living the dream.”
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