It was perfect timing for me to repeat the question we four females had debated the night before at the Thai restaurant in Aspen. We stood on top of Marble Peak, our skis perched over the edge of the perfect powder run, knee deep and light, 2,000 feet, no wind, blue skies."Well, whaddya think - is powder skiing better than sex? And if sex is better, would you take off your skis at this moment, forfeit the run and go get some?" The snow was impeccable, crystals shimmering in the cold afternoon light. I couldn't wait to feel the rhythmic dance down what I knew would be one of those you-can't-make-a wrong-turn descents. Definitely a little bias toward powder skiing.Asking this popular question in the backcountry rather than where you hear it more often, in a hectic ski resort, gave us a little extra time to really think hard about our answer. Of course, the deck was stacked in favor of powder - the nearest husband was 100 miles away, we were on day three of unreal skiing, plus we had a new male friend who had kindly shown us how to get to this secret spot, so we had to impress him. Love was looking to take a backseat. Sorry, boys, but powder skiing won. To be fair, I will indeed ask myself this question in the heat of the moment someday (powder has some tough competition, though, when it comes to my honeybun and his libido of two 18-year-olds). Of course, our token man had to throw in that he couldn't just totally give up on sex. We sprayed him with snow and stole the first tracks.The question of powder skiing versus sex has been bandied about since the birth of the sport. Fatter skis and stiffer boots duke it out with the latest tantra techniques and Good Vibration catalogs. Life is getting better in all categories. But this was the girls trip, and we had scored. The first couple days were incredible. Even though reports back home told us Breckenridge was packed, Aspen Highlands, despite 10 inches of new each day, was empty. It quickly rose to first place as my favorite Colorado ski resort destination - easily some of the longest, steepest terrain in our state. Not as steep as Crested Butte, a little bumpier than Vail, but get it on a powder day, and this mountain is stellar. The half-hour hike to the top of Highlands Bowl was of course the highlight. It felt so good to hike again. Actually, this is where we did find some crowds; Aspen locals like to hike.And now, day three, we were living the backcountry ski dream. That morning we had no clue where to go, and our first stop was the Forest Service office in Aspen. Ex-Alma resident Martha Moran directed us to the shack next door, the new home of the Roaring Fork Avalanche Forecast Center. There we met avy dude Jimmy, who had just gotten off work, and when we mentioned we wanted to ski around Marble, he perked up and said, maybe a little too quickly, "Marble? I'll go ski Marble." Despite knowing absolutely nothing about our backcountry skills (always a risk), somehow he became the guide for the day. Three hours later we stood on top of Marble peak, 2,000 feet above the quaint town of Marble, about to ski a line I've heard much about and always dreamed of skiing. I soaked in the views of the Elk Mountains and the Raggeds, two beautiful ranges next to us.This was a trip the gals had planned for a while. Sue needed it more than any of us, after a difficult semester of acupuncture school in Boulder. She was amped. Elke and Caren, my two friends whom I can count on for spontaneity, joined us last minute, and I was living the dream - 20-year resident of Colorado, and this was my first time skiing around Aspen.After four days, satisfied and leg wearied, we still debated the age-old question. What is better ... sex or powder skiing. I guess it all depends on where you are, and whom you are with. Powder skiing lasts longer, but sex isn't seasonal. Hmmm ...Longtime Breckenridge resident Ellen Hollinshead writes a biweekly Monday column on the outdoors. Report your feelings on this question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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